Today we wrap up the first chapter in the book of Colossians so that means we are about a third of the way through our Colossians Remixed series that started two weeks ago and will run until the end of February.
Two weeks ago when we stated Colossians Remixed we looked at Colossians 1:1-14. In this text we looked at the recipients of the letter, the purpose of the letter, the heresy that has been called the Colossian heresy and we talked about two main parts of the text: Paul’s prayers for the Colossian believers and what the true nature of the gospel really is.
Last week we looked at Colossians 1:15-23 and walked through probably one of the most Christologic sections in all of Scripture. We talked about Paul basically saying in the poem that Caesar isn’t Lord, that Jesus is. That all the images that the Colossians saw each day that were pointing to Caesar being the true Lord, true Savior, true deliverer, and true redeemer, were pointing in the wrong direction. That Christ is the true Lord, true Savior, true deliverer, and true redeemer. That Christ is supreme and preeminent. And we also looked at the last part of the text and what the true nature of the gospel really is, that it is about reconciliation. You will notice a continuing theme all throughout the book of Colossians in regards to what the true nature of the gospel truly is, as Paul is combating the heresy that was cropping up in the Colossian church. And what better way of combating the false beliefs than by: 1. Lifting up and putting Christ as preeminent. and 2. unpacking the true nature of the gospel.
So let’s turn to our text this morning and see what it might say to us about Jesus, the gospel, and our role in living the gospel out in our day and in our age (which as we talked about two weeks ago, isn’t honestly that different than what the early believers at Colossae were dealing with).
This morning we are looking at Colossians 1:24-29 which says, “Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church. I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness— the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the Lord’s people. To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ. To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me.”
These verses that Paul lays out at the end of Colossians 1 are all about identification. Paul is asking the believers at Colossae who they identify with. What King doe they identify with? Do they identify with King Caesar or with King Jesus? Paul is laying in out at the beginning of this section of the first chapter that he is identifying with King Jesus. How is he identifying with King Jesus? Just look at verse 24. “Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, the church.” Paul is saying that just as Jesus is recognized by his suffering, his people are to be recognized by the suffering that they endure. Paul, as I mentioned, in our first week, was writing this from prison, most likely in Ephesus. In a way he is drawing the enemy fire, and suffering so that the young church can grow and develop. So Paul is suffering in some way not merely on behalf of the young church but actually instead of it. And so Paul is seeing his suffering as part of what he calls “Christ’s afflictions”. This is not to be seen as an addition to Christ’s own suffering, rather, it is to be seen as coming from his suffering. In other words, an extension of Christ’s suffering. Paul makes the crazy, amazing, upside down, radical and unbelievable statement that he was rejoicing or having a party or a celebration in his sufferings. Can you imagine someone who is in prison writing a letter and saying that he or she were rejoicing because of their imprisonment? Can you imagine writing a letter to a church, caring more about people that you have never met, more than you care about what is happening to you as you spend each and every day in prison? This is what Paul is doing. He is rejoicing in the suffering that he is enduring, all the while being a shepherd and encourager to a church that he didn’t plant, didn’t pastor, but deeply cares about. And so Paul understands that identification with his Messiah, who was a suffering Messiah, means that in some way he will suffer. And so we need to realize that when we identify with this suffering Messiah that we will also suffer in some way (internally or externally). That is what it means when Jesus himself says in Luke 9:23, “Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.”
Paul then transitions from identifying with Jesus through suffering to probably the very reason that he identifies with Jesus in the first place. Because of the call that was placed upon his life by Jesus. We read these words which spell out this calling upon Paul’s life, “I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness” And so we see that Paul is a servant both to God, first and foremost, but then to the church as well. In fact, I truly believe that you can’t be one or the other. If you are a servant of God, then you need to be a servant to his body here on earth, better known as the church. If you are a follower of Jesus this morning that you can also say the exact words that Paul said. That you are a servant by the commission God gave to you to present to others the word of God in it’s fullness. Commissions, callings, vocation isn’t just big words and only reserved for those who a “full time pastors and missionaries.” In fact, all of us, have been commissioned and called as full time pastors and missionaries. You might be a full time pastor or missionary in the form of a college student, a teacher, a social worker, a stay at home mom, or fill in the blank. Whatever you do, you are called and commissioned to be a servant of God and a servant of his body. And so it is because God is at work that Paul is at work. He is at work proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ. And so it is with us. That every Christian is to proclaim Jesus is Lord and Caesar is not. That is our central calling in life, no matter what we might do as a job or vocation. What does it look like then to proclaim Jesus is Lord in the context of being a student? Being a teacher? Being a pastor/missionary? Being a graphic artist?
We need to look at that question but we also need to look at exactly what it means to proclaim the gospel and we also need to look at what the gospel message that Paul is proclaiming and that we are also called (commissioned) to proclaim as well. And now here in these next verses is where Paul shows his missiological skills, his understanding of what is taking place in the church at Colossae. Paul continues, “the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the Lord’s people. To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” The word mystery that Paul uses here twice is a word that was a popular pagan religious term used in the mystery religions. In fact the Colossian heresy featured this idea of secret knowledge and the gnostics boasted about this. The word mystery, in the pagan religions of the day, refers to secret information available only to an exclusive group of people. Paul flips this on its head and changes the meaning radically by saying that we are making it known to all people, not just an exclusive group of people. That Christianity is not just for the Jewish race, or a select group of people. Christianity should be an inclusive, for all people. Because God has chosen to make Christ known to all people. And he used Paul, and now he is using you and me to proclaim Christ, the hope of glory to a world that needs hope. He is using the church, the body of Christ to proclaim Jesus as Lord and Savior and to proclaim that by definition then, that Caesar is not.
But what is the hope that Paul has for the believers at Colossae when it comes to his proclamation that Jesus is Lord and Caesar is not? And also looking two thousand years into the future, what is his hope for all followers of Jesus, including you and I as we sit here today? Let’s look at the rest of the text to answer that. “He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ. To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me.” Paul states it pretty clear that our proclamation is about Jesus and his Lordship over all, including Caesar. And the hope of the proclamation of Jesus as Lord is so that followers of Jesus may become fully mature in Christ. And that is why Paul worked so hard. That is why he was suffering in Jail. That is why he prayed, fasted, and contended for the young believers at Colossae. So they would grow up into mature followers of Jesus. That they wouldn’t stay as infants in the faith, and be susceptible to the heresy that was cropping up in the Colossian church. But then a question comes to my mind. What does a mature follower of Jesus look like? What does it take to grow up into maturity when it comes to following Jesus? And how do you help others grow up into maturity in the faith?
These questions that I just asked along with the question about proclamation of the gospel of Jesus are what we are going to unpack and remix together now. So let’s talk about these things and see how we might apply Colossians 1:24-29 in our day and in our age.
1. What questions, thoughts, ideas, connections, etc.. does the Scripture and the message raise in your mind?
2. What does a mature follower of Jesus look like? What does it take to grow up into maturity when it comes to following Jesus? And how do you help others grow up into maturity in the faith?
3. What does it mean, what does it look like to proclaim Jesus is Lord and Caesar is not today? What does it mean to proclaim Jesus is Lord and Caesar is not in your context (teacher, student, graphic artist, social worker, etc…)? And who might God be calling you to proclaim that Jesus is Lord to?
4. What is God saying to you and what are you going to do about it? What is God saying to us and what should we do about it?