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Title: Laying Hold of the Mystery of Christ in Us
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Laying Hold of the Mystery of Christ in Us
“(1) Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timothy our brother,
(2) To the saintsand (the) faithful brethren in Christ who are in Colosse:
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
This was a phrase borrowed by Paul from the Emperors of Rome as well as greater Roman society at large repurposed for the gospel.
Grace is the Greek word Charis which at its root means a gift, usually from a greater to a lesser. Some Roman Emperors would give their soldiers a charis, that is a financial bonus from their own personal treasury. It was a way of rewarding good service and offering a type of guarantee against treachery. It denoted a powerful relationship between a giver of gifts and the recipients of those gifts.
The word was adopted into common use as a type of high greeting. Something akin to “all the best be yours”.
So Paul took the best of these applications and wove it into the Christian message as applying to God in His free, underserved yet lavish gifts He bestows upon us. One of the primary gifts being His influence over our hearts and resulting evidence of that influence in how we live our lives unto Him.
So in saying “charis to you” it was a statement with at multiple meanings. It meant “all the best to you” from God the Father which included not only the ongoing benefits of salvation, but the also the increasing means of it by the influence of God’s Spirit upon the innder man.
It was coupled together with the word “peace”, a Greek synonym for Shalom and represents a state of conscious reconciliation with God and all the blessings which accompany and flow from that reconciliation.
So far from being a simple opening greeting to his letter, it was the gospel of Jesus affirmed upon their believers in capsuled form. He then unpacks this statement in his opening words to these saints in Colossae.
“(3) We give thanks to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, (4) since we heard of your FAITH in Christ Jesus and of your LOVE for all the saints; (5) because of the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, of which you heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel, (6) which has come to you, as it has also in all the world, and is bringing forth fruit, as it is also among you since the day you heard and knew the grace of God in truth; (7) as you also learned from Epaphras, our dear fellow servant, who is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf, (8) who also declared to us your love in the Spirit.
(9) For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, DO NOT CEASE TO PRAY FOR YOU, and to ask that you…
- may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; (10)
- that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him,
- being fruitful in every good work
- and increasing in the knowledge of God; (11)
- strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy; (12)
- giving thanks to the Father Who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light.
“(13) He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, (14) in Whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.
(15) He is the image of the invisible God, preeminent over all creation.
(16) For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him.
(17) And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist.
(18) And He is the head of the body, the church, Who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence.
(19) For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, (20) and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross.
(21) And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled (22) in the body of His flesh through death, TO PRESENT YOU holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight—
(23) IF indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard, which was preached to every creature under heaven, of which I, Paul, became a minister.”
So here Paul lays out the entire focus and point of this letter which is nothing less than the pleasure of God through these believers which requires their fruitfulness.
Paul had never physically met these believers and wanted very much to solidify their faith and keep them from getting distracted or sidelined.
Much like the third heart in Jesus’ parables of the heart soils, he did not want them to get entangled and overcome by the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches or the desire of anything else creeping in and choking out the effectiveness of the gospel message in their hearts and lives.
“(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, (25) 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, (26) the mystery which has been hidden from ages and from generations, but now has been revealed to His saints.
(27) To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: WHICH IS CHRIST IN YOU, THE HOPE OF GLORY.
(28) Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus. (29)
To this end I also labor, striving according to His working which works in me mightily.”
“(1) For I want you to know what a great conflict I have for you and those in Laodicea, and for as many as have not seen my face in the flesh,
(2) that their hearts may be encouraged, (by) being knit together in love, and (by) attaining to all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the knowledge of the mystery of God, both of the Father and of Christ,
(3) in Whom are HIDDEN all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
(4) Now this I say lest anyone should deceive you with persuasive words. (5) For though I am absent in the flesh, yet I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good order and the steadfastness of your faith in Christ.
(6) As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, (7) rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, ABOUNDING IN IT WITH THANKSGIVING.
(8) Bewarelest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ.”
Now this will help you as we go through the letter. Paul offers examples by which they could get sidestepped or derailed in their faith or at very least in their progress in the faith. These include two things:
- Traditions of men – like the Judaizers (Jesus came against)
- Defining work on sabbath as healing or walking too far.
- Basic principles or elements or ways of the world
These as opposed to Christ.
It is very much a statement of maintaining a proper and scripturally rooted world view.
Paul does not deny that these other views have an appearance of wisdom, but they are devoid of power!
“(9) For in Jesus dwells all the fullness of the Godhead in bodily form; (10) and you are complete in Him, Who is the head of all principality and power.”
So Paul begins by addressing the all-sufficiency of Jesus! In Jesus dwells everything which constitutes the entire godhead and in Him They dwell all within His human body – we are complete in Him or rather are filled with Him.
In the Greek it is more clear that this word “Filled” is being held up in stark contrast to the emptiness they used to have in the world as mentioned in verse 8.
This is essentially pointing out the fulfillment of Jesus’ high priestly prayer, “You in Me and I them – that they might be complete in Us.”
Let’s read that because I believe it will allow you a greater understanding of what Paul was praying for these believers and by extension for all of us – himself included.
John 17:1-23,“(1) When Jesus had finished saying these things, he looked upward to heaven and said, “Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, so that Your Son may glorify You – (2) just as you have given Him authority over all humanity, so that He may give eternal life to everyone you have given Him.
(3) NOW THIS IS ETERNAL LIFE – that they know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, Whom You sent.
(4) I glorified You on earth by completing the work You gave Me to do. (5) And now, Father, glorify Me at your side with the glory I had with You before the world was created.
(6) “I have revealed Your name to the men You gave me out of the world. They belonged to You, and You gave them to Me, and they have obeyed Your word.
(7) Now they understand that everything You have given Me comes from You, (8) because I have given them the words You have given Me. They accepted them and really understand that I came from You, and they believed that You sent Me.
(9) I am praying on behalf of them. I am not praying on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those You have given Me, because they belong to You.
(10) Everything I have belongs to You, and everything You have belongs to Me, and I have been glorified by them.
(11) I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to You.
Holy Father, keep them safe in Your name that You have given Me, so that they may be one just as We are one.
(12) When I was with them I kept them safe and watched over them in Your name that you have given Me. Not one of them was lost except the one destined for destruction, so that the scripture could be fulfilled.
(13) But now I am coming to You, and I am saying these things in the world, so they may experience My joy completed in themselves.
(14) I have given them Your word, and the world has hated them, because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world.
(15) I am not asking You to take them out of the world, but that You keep them safe from the evil one.
(16) They do not belong to the world JUST AS I DO NOT BELONG TO THE WORLD.
(17) Set them apart in the truth; Your word is truth.
(18) Just as You sent Me into the world, so I sent them into the world. (19) And I set Myself apart on their behalf, so that they too may be truly set apart.
(20) “I am not praying only on their behalf, but also on behalf of those who believe in Me through their testimony, (21) that they will all be one, just as You, Father, are in Me and I am in You.
I pray that they will be in Us, so that the world will believe that You sent Me.
(22) The glory you gave to Me I have given to them, that they may be one just as We are one – (23) I in them and You in Me – that they may be completely one, so that the world will know that You sent Me, and You have loved them just as You have loved Me.”
“(11) In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ,
(12) buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, Who raised Him from the dead.”
The words “raised together” in the NT, points to a condition or work effected by union with Christ in His resurrection, taking place in and proceeding from it.
Baptism, being the sign and seal of salvation, testifies of this work (Romans 6:4).
This is again why the word used for taking the sacrament of the last supper is called communion or Koinonia. It is a shared experience!
If One died for all, all died. We have died with Christ, yet nevertheless we live. And the life we now live in the flesh we live by faith in the Son of God Who loved us and gave Himself for us!
We will pick back up here next week!