We have come to the third of Paul’s five major flows-of-thought in Colossians. In this part of the letter, Paul personally introduces himself to the Colossian church. We are going to look at this introduction in two sections:
1. Paul tells the Colossians about who he is, his mission, and his present circumstances (1:24-29)
2. Paul explains to the Colossians what his mission means to them (2:1-5)
Overview of Verses 24-29
In this passage, Paul gives the Colossians personal insight into his life and ministry. The apostle explains that his present suffering is on behalf of the church (1:24). He goes on to discuss his responsibility to make the mystery of the word of God fully known (1:24). This mystery is the personal presence of Christ within his people (1:27). Paul explains that his labors have a specific goal: that all of God’s people would become mature in Christ (1:28-29).
Break it Down: Verse-by-Verse (ESV)
v24a: “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake,”
Let us remember Paul’s chains. He is in prison for crimes he did not commit. Since becoming Jesus’ apostle, Paul has endured a great amount of hardship (see 2 Corinthians 11:23-28). But in spite of this intense suffering, Paul practices what he has preached (Philippians 4:4; Romans 5:3-5) and rejoices in his afflictions.
May we follow our apostle’s example, and be completely content in our communion with Christ. May the Spirit empower us to become the kinds of people that find inexpressible joy in our God, even in the most painful seasons of our lives.
v24b: “and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church,”
We should not take this to mean that something was lacking in Christ’s work on the cross. Paul is clear: through the cross, Jesus has reconciled all of creation to himself. We have already been rescued and redeemed.
The church is called by God to embody Christ to the world; even his suffering. The church is closely identified with Christ. About twenty-five years before writing this letter, Paul (also known by his Jewish name, Saul) was violently persecuting the church of God and trying to destroy it, until the risen Jesus confronts him and asks: “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” (Acts 9:48 ESV).
It was not Jesus of Nazareth that Paul had thrown in prison. He did not have Jesus stoned to death. Paul did not consider himself to be persecuting Jesus, but the church. Yet, Jesus asks him, “why are you persecuting me?” Jesus has a profound and mysterious union with his people.
Christ dwells within each of his people by his Spirit. When a Christian suffers, Jesus suffers with them. As the King says: “…as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me” (Matthew 25:40 ESV).
Paul considers his sufferings to be for the sake of the church. His trials have come as a direct result of his God-given mission to establish and strengthen local church communities throughout the Greco-Roman world.
v25-27a: “of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints. To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery,”
Paul refers to himself as a minister (or servant) of the church. Some of God’s people are called to devote themselves to building up the church and to humbly shepherding God’s flock. Paul is one of these people.
The apostle has been given a great responsibility: to make God’s message of the crucified-and-risen Messiah fully known among the Gentiles. This message was hidden for ages. Israel’s prophets searched intently for more details but found none. Instead, they were told that this mystery would be revealed one day to a future generation (1 Peter 1:10-12; Cf. Luke 10:23-24). The time has come; God has revealed this glorious mystery to the world through his church.
v27b: “which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.”
The mystery is the personal presence of Christ that lives within each Christian through the Holy Spirit. The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, promised his disciples: “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you” (John 14:18 NIV). The Holy Spirit is the greatest gift we could ever receive on this side of eternity.
Later that night, Jesus taught that his disciples would be better off having the Spirit inside of them than they would be if he were physically present with them (John 16:7). The Spirit gives us a taste of the age to come, which gives us hope that there is even greater glory to be revealed to us.
If you have never received the Holy Spirit, and want him to come into your life: hear these words from the apostle Peter: “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38 ESV).
v28: “Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ.”
Let us learn three things from this verse about helping others become mature in Christ:
1. We must keep Jesus at the center of our message. May it be him we proclaim, above all other things.
2. We must warn each other of the dangers of sin. Sin that is left unchecked can wreak havoc in the lives of individuals, families, and communities.
3. We must not only warn of the dangers of sin but teach a better way. The church is called to wisely teach God’s people to live Spirit-empowered lives that reflect the character of Christ.
v29: For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.”
Paul works hard in his ministry efforts to help believers become mature in Christ. He does this through the energy and power of the Holy Spirit within him.
Let us learn from our imprisoned apostle that Christ does not promise us earthly comforts or prosperity; Paul is in chains in an imperial dungeon on false charges. What he does promise us, however, is himself. He promises that his Spirit will be with and powerfully work within his struggling saints.
Our closing prayer is for the thirsty soul that longs to know the Living God:
~Lord Jesus, we want to know you deeply. We have had a taste of the fruit of the Tree of Life and dimly seen your glory; we ask that what we have tasted and seen would keep us persistently seeking your face and knocking at your door.
Now to the one who is above all things, through whom and for whom we exist: to the one who dwells in unapproachable light and yet also within his people; to him be all glory in the church throughout all generations and for eternity in the Age to come!
This post is the sixth in our series on Colossians.
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Next Post: Knit Together: Colossians 2:1-5 ( https://theologyforreallife.home.blog/2019/10/05/knit-together-in-love-colossians-21-5/ )
The Bible Project – Overview: Colossians https://youtu.be/pXTXlDxQsvc
The Naked Bible Podcast – Colossians (https://nakedbiblepodcast.com)
John Chrysostom – Homilies on Colossians (http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/2303.htm)
N.T. Wright – Colossians and Philemon: Tyndale New Testament Commentary (https://bit.ly/2Houfit)
Matthew Henry Commentary on the Whole Bible – Colossians (https://www.biblestudytools.com/commentaries/matthew-henry-complete/colossians/)