Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Colossians 1:24-2:5

Read it here.

Early on in this passage Paul's love for the Colossians is shown again. He rejoices in his sufferings for their sake (v24), not something one would say if it were not out of love, you'd think. This the length of Pauls commitment to the gospel, that he will suffer for its sake, to make it known to the people of Colossae. That's how much he loves them, that he will suffer for them to bring them the gospel.
Paul then seems to make an outrageous claim about his sufferings and the sufferings of Christ. In the second part of verse 24 he says he is 'making up for what is lacking in Christ's afflictions'. Hang on, whats lacking in Christ's afflictions? What can Paul do that Jesus can't? What does Paul really mean here, he can't be saying that there is an area where he is more able than Jesus. There is, of course, nothing lacking in the afflictions of Christ. Nothing that His death on the cross didn't achieve, nothing that His father held back from what is Paul talking about? Well, did the Colossians actually see Christ suffer? No. So how does Paul make up for what is lacking in Christ's afflictions? He suffers where the Colossians can see him, to bring them the gospel. Christ suffered to bring the gospel to the world, and so people can see Christ. Paul says he is suffering for the sake of the body, the church. Why does Paul suffer for the church? Why would anyone suffer for the church? To make known the 'mystery hidden for ages and generations, but now revealed to the saints'...what a privaledge! Paul is writing this letter to make known the mystery that was hidden for ages, but that is now revealed to the saints. The mystery that 'prophets and Kings desired to see' (Luke 10:24). So what is this glorious mystery that Paul is carrying to the gentiles in Colossae, that we can see every time we open the bible, because of Christ and the people He called? Christ in you, the hope of glory...that is the mystery. Christ. In you. The hope of glory. If that mystery isn't glorious, if that mystery isn't light then I don't know what is. How can we win our battle with sin? Christ in us the hope of glory! How can anything separate us from God, we have Christ, the hope of glory in us. Praise the Lord. This is not an encouragement or an exultation, this is a simple statement of fact. The riches of the glory of the mystery is Christ is us, the hope of glory. End of story...nothing else can stand next to that truth. Christ in you, Christ in me, Christ in us. Christ, the God of the whole universe in us. Christ who said let their be light, has shone His light into our hearts. Woo! And in Christ in you the hope of glory. Nothing else, not you in you, not money, not lust, not rules, not longings after wordly things. Christ. Thats it. This is especially relevant to the Colossians as they struggle with being told that there are other ways. That observing rules and worshiping angels is as good as Christ. No no no! Christ in you the hope of glory. That's it. So no more nonsense from my generation about how much you read the bible, or go to church, or pray. Yes, these things are important, but they are not your hope of glory. Christ is!
So what's Pauls response to this? We must proclaim Him. How can we not? We must 'toil and struggle' on His behalf, for His glory, to present people mature for Him. We need to be mature in Christ, knowing and loving Him, 'stable and steadfast in the faith' (1:23). That is our calling, that is the only right response. But how do we do that? How can I possibly do that. Christ in me, the hope of glory. Excellent. That's all I need! The Colossians need to be mature in Christ because of the false teaching going on all around them because of the lies and deceit is being peddled in their city. Christ in the Colossians, the hope of glory.
Paul wants the Colossians to know how much he is stuggling for them (2:1). Why? Not for his glory, not for sympathy, but so that the Colossians would be aware of how much Christ is worth, especially in relation to the deceptive philosophy all around them. I think its fair to say that there is little doubt that the false teachers and angel worshippers in Colossae would be going through the same persecution for their beliefs. He wants their hearts to be encouraged by the full assurance of the knowledge of the mystery of Christ. Do we have that assurance? Are our hearts assured by this knowledge alone? Because I know mine often isn't, I know I try to justify myself far too often therefore insulting the cross of Christ. Christ is all we need. In Him are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (2:3)...its all there. Wisdom and knowledge, something that all the Greek world sought after. Something, it seems from verse four that the false teachers in Colossae are making a big play of. But where is it? All in Christ. Not in 'asceticism and angel worship' but in Christ. Colossians, you want wisdom and knowledge? Well its all in Christ. Verse four hold this argument together. Why would Paul tell the Colossians specifically these things? So that no one may delude them with plausible arguments (v4). Surely that is the point of 'continuing steadfast in the faith' (1:23) of being 'rooted in Him' (2:7), of 'walking in a manner pleasing to Him' (1:9) that no one may take us captive, so that no one may take the Colossian hearts captive so that we hold firm to the teachings, life death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The same Jesus Christ, who you have in you, as the hope of glory...

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