Grace For The Journey
The preeminence of Jesus Christ is both a fact and the key to experiencing true life. Lasting peace, joy, purpose, fulfillment, satisfaction, and meaning are found exclusively in Him. This is a truth stressed over and over in Paul’s letter to the Colossians. And it is a truth especially highlighted in Colossians 1:24-29. God makes His home in the Christian. He “takes up residence” in the Christian’s body and soul. He dwells within believers. Are you a believer? Then Christ is in you. And “Christ in you” is the key to everything.
It is . . .
1) The Key to Suffering in Life.
Like other Christians, Paul was persecuted for his faith and had suffered hardships. He suffered economic hardships and relational hardships. He was ostracized, beaten, and ridiculed. He suffered physically and emotionally as a Christian and yet, he says in verse 24, “I now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up in my flesh what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ, for the sake of His body, which is the church.”
Before we talk about how Paul can rejoice in his sufferings, let’s consider the often misunderstood phrase “and fill up in my flesh what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ.” Some have taken this phrase to mean that Paul is talking about something lacking in Christ’s suffering on our behalf. Others have used this verse to teach the unbiblical idea of penance or even punishing oneself for sin because Christ’s suffering on the cross was seen as somehow lacking.
The notion of Christ’s suffering on the cross as somehow insufficient is totally contrary to the entire teaching of the New Testament. We have previously noted that Paul’s main point in this letter is . . .
That the Christian is complete in Christ.
Christ in you is the key to everything.
This verse is not teaching that Christ’s sufferings on our behalf lacked something; that we needed something else to atone for our sin. In fact, the Greek word for suffering in verse 24 is never once used in the entire New Testament to describe Christ’s sufferings in His atonement for us. Rather, Paul is teaching that . . .
Christians – The church – will suffer.
If you are a believer, then you will suffer
Similar hardships to that of the apostle.
It is what our Lord Jesus promised in John 16:33, “In the world you will have tribulation,” you will suffer.
So this phrase, “filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ” is Paul’s teaching that . . .
The suffering endured by the church
– The body of Christ – continues.
Christ suffered once for all time
In His physical body and He is now
At the right hand of the Father.
The church here on earth
Is the meaning of the word
“Body” in this context.
The church continues to suffer
And endure hardships here.
Paul adds in verse 25 that it is this church, “Of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God which was given to me for you, to fulfill the word of God.” Paul was divinely commissioned to serve as a minister. God called him to preach the gospel and to plant churches.
He suffered as a Christian minister, enduring hardships and difficulties as he went about the ministry of proclaiming the Word of God. And yet, he says in verse 24, “I now rejoice in my sufferings.” How can he rejoice? Because Christ lives in Him: “Christ in you, the hope of glory (verse 27).”
That Christ was in him was a fact
He was experiencing presently
And a fact that
He would enjoy forever.
And this is a fact that
He is proclaiming to others.
Consider that Paul’s sufferings were the means God was using to bless other people with the gospel. That is clear given what Paul is saying in verse 25. So, make the connection:
If Paul’s sufferings were the means God used
To bless others and bring glory to Himself
– How does God intend to work through
Your sufferings to bless others and glorify Himself?
When you go through hardships and difficulties for Christ, would you not be encouraged knowing that your sufferings served a greater purpose? Would it not be encouraging to you if you knew that your sufferings for Christ would be the very means God was using to bring a loved one to faith in Christ? Would you be encouraged to know that your sufferings may well lead to somebody else’s being blessed by the ministry of Jesus?
There is no suffering
Of yours that is wasted.
No suffering is meaningless
One of the keys to getting through suffering or enduring suffering is to know that God is at work through our suffering. He works to make us more holy through our suffering.
James taught a similar truth in James 1;2-4, “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance, the ability to stand, and let endurance have its complete work so that you may be complete, lacking nothing.” Paul teaches here in Colossians 1 that . . .
Another way God works
Through our suffering
Is to spread the Good News,
To spread the gospel.
If you’re a Christian, one day you will be in heaven and imagine Jesus taking you around and showing you people who came to faith in Christ largely as a result of your suffering.
2) The Key to Meaning in Life.
“Christ in you” is the key to the very meaning of your existence. Paul describes this notion of Christ in us as a mystery in verse 26, “The mystery which has been hidden from ages and from generations, but now has been revealed to His saints.” The word “mystery” is not “mystery” like we usually think of it. It does not mean something like a detective show where you have to figure out who committed the crime (the more clues you are given the easier it is to identify the person). The word “mystery” as used in verse 26 is a word that describes a thing that was once concealed but now revealed. It was there all along; you just could not see it fully figure it out with your own reasoning and deductive ability.
I usually think of my experience in looking for something in the refrigerator. I’m making nachos so I’ve got the chips and the cheese and I open the fridge door and I’m looking for the jalapeño peppers and I know we’ve got some, but I don’t see them. And I look and look and look, but I can’t see them. My wife comes over and immediately points them out. They were there all along, I just couldn’t see them.
In a way, that’s a bit like Paul’s use of the term mystery here.
He is describing something God has done,
But it is something that could not
Be fully seen until God revealed it later,
Revealing it “to His saints,” to believers.
Paul adds in verse 27, “To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is – (and now here it is; the thing nobody could see until God revealed it) – Christ in you, the hope of glory.”
The mystery, the thing nobody could have anticipated or discover on their own, was that . . .
GOD WOULD LIVE IN US WHO BELIEVE!
This is the key to real meaning in life. Christ lives in the believer and guarantees the believer’s future in heaven. Christ in you – the hope of glory. Remember that New Testament hope is . . .
A fact, an assurance, a guarantee.
You could just as well say,
“Christ in you; the fact of
Your future existence;
The hope, the guarantee
Of your future forever in heaven.
Why are you living? You live physically for maybe 80 or 90 years. If that’s all you’ve got, what good is that? Your life is a vapor, here today, and gone in a moment (James 4:14). If all you are living for is this life, you’re wasting your life. If you are crossing your fingers and hoping there’s some kind of life after death and you are just kind of taking your chances, you are wasting your life. The glorious good news of the Gospel is “Christ in you, the hope of glory!”
There is no news greater when a Christian loved one dies than to know that Christian is now in heaven. We can say, “Praise God for Jesus, the hope of glory!” Our loved one is in heaven. Are you headed there?
But the gospel is not just about the hereafter,
But about the here now.
Living in the here now is shaped
By the truth of the hereafter.
Christ died for you that
He might live in you.
Christians live their lives
In the truth that God lives within them
And empowers them for every work
He calls us to do.
Have you ever sensed that God was working in you and through you as you shared the gospel with someone? As you talked to someone about Jesus? As you prayed, as you read the Bible? You sense the presence of God!
Christ DIED FOR you
That He might
LIVE IN you
As Jesus said in Matthew 10:20, “It is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you.” Christ in you, the key to everything. The key to suffering in life and the key to meaning in life. One more:
3) The Key to Growing in Life.
Every true Christian is growing.
Paul writes in verses 28-29, “Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect (or complete) in Christ Jesus. To this end I also labor, striving according to His working which works in me mightily.” For Paul . . .
It was not enough that
The Colossians had accepted Jesus Christ
As their personal Lord and Savior.
That was not enough.
That was just the
Beginning of their experience.
He reminds Christians that there
Is so much more to learn.
The ultimate goal of ministry is “to present every man perfect (complete) in Christ Jesus.” That includes “warning” and “teaching,” and doing this “in all wisdom.”
Coming to faith in Christ is just the beginning. We go on growing in all wisdom. God intends to grow us all, and to make us look more and more like Jesus with each passing day.
One reason you attend worship services and small group Bible Studies is to consider the “warning” and the “teaching” of the Word “in all wisdom” that you may grow into completion.
In verse 29, Paul describes Christian growth as hard work, “To this end I also labor, striving according to His working which works in me mightily.” The word “striving” is the word from which we get “to agonize.” It is the picture of an athlete running, or competing, and everything in him tells him to quit. But he digs down deeper and says, “I’m not going to stop! I’m gonna push through.”
It’s much like Romans 8:18, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” Just like Paul we must strive forward as we grow. Don’t stop. Push through. Don’t get comfortable in your Christianity and just rejoice in the victories. Keep pushing. Keep sharing the Gospel, keep growing, keep running. And don’t stop in the face of your failures. Push through past failures.
Feel like you have failed the Lord recently? Who doesn’t?! Battling sin and temptation? Who doesn’t?! Push through. Dig down deep and keep moving. Remember the key: Christ in you, the hope of glory!
This is God’s Word …
This is Grace for your Journey …
Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!
Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”
Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”