The Cost of Hope – Colossians 1:19-29

Posted: May 12, 2008 in Colossians

Introduction:

Paul has just initiated an in-depth description of who Christ Jesus is. He is the image of the invisible God – the 1st born over Creation – the Creator – the Head of the church – 1st born from the dead – the Preeminent One… With that as the foundation, Paul moves the discussion to what Christ Jesus does & what Paul’s role is in proclaiming it.

So is this just an academic exercise? Is Paul simply instructing the church patiently in the theology of our faith? No – there’s profound application that Paul is driving at here. The Colossian church had allowed major heresy to come in & throw them off their theological bearings incorporating both legalism (Judaizers), and mystical dualism (Gnostics). The faith that they had started to embrace was a pretty far cry from the one true Gospel…so what did Paul do? He instructed them in doctrine (for sure!), but more than that – he shows them the VALUE of the doctrine…why the “pearl” is of such “great price.”

Example: If you ask to borrow a watch & I hand you a pocketwatch, you might be grateful & go about your merry way. But if I tell you that the pocketwatch had been handed down to me by my great-grandfather & was a one-of-a-kind timepiece from a master maker in Switzerland, I bet you’re going to care for it a little better. Why? You understood the value of it.

We NEED to understand the value of our salvation! Sometimes evangelism has been cheapened to a sales-pitch for “good-times-with-God”…but it’s vastly more valuable than that! That’s what Paul is trying to convey to Colosse – he’s telling them, “Before you so easily let go of the gospel, you need to understand what it is you’re letting go of.”

– One last description of the Person of Christ as Paul transitions the subject…

19. For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell,

A. What does this say about Jesus’ person/being? It says that He’s God. J No ifs, ands, buts about it – no qualifications of Him being “less than” – no questions about Him not having every “capability” of God…all of the “fullness” of the Father dwells in the Son. IOW, there’s no characteristic or ability that God the Father has that God the Son does not…Jesus is FULLY God.

B. Who did it please? God. Technically, the word “Father” does not appear in the Greek text – scholars unanimously agree that the word “please” is relying upon the context for a subject, which either takes us back to vs. 12 (Father) or vs. 15 (God). [] Personally, this emphasizes the fact that our God is bigger than our understanding. There are certain things about the Trinity that I just cannot wrap my mind around…and praise God for it! J

C. So how long does Jesus contain the fullness of God? Was it just for eternity past & did He give it up when He emptied Himself (made Himself of no reputation – Phil 2:7)? No! Jesus did not empty Himself of any characteristics of the Godhead because the fullness dwells in Him. dwell” indicates a permanent place of abode. From eternity past to eternity future, the fullness of the God dwells in Christ Jesus, has always dwelt in Him, and will always dwell in Him.

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.

A. Not only does Christ have the person of Deity, He has the ministry of reconciliation. This was His stated purpose – Luke 19:10 (10) for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” [] Our relationship with God was damaged because of sin (as we’ll see in verse 21) & Jesus came to change all that.

B. What does He reconcile? all things” – some see a limitation here because Paul doesn’t mention “things under the earth”, but that seems to go against the whole idea of “all things.” One definition of “reconciliation” is to “bring back to a former state of harmony” – and that’s exactly what Jesus does. (Robertson) “Sin has somehow put the universe out of joint. Christ will set it right.”

a. Is Paul teaching universalism here? No…NT teaches quite clearly about the fate of unbelievers elsewhere… To state that Paul teaches universalism on the basis of this verse is to ignore Paul’s theology through the rest of his letters!

b. Paul seems to be contextually referring to Creation as a whole. There is a general sense in which ALL of creation will be reconciled back to God through the New Heavens & New Earth… Romans 8:21-22 (21) because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. (22) For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. []

C. To Whom does He reconcile them? To Himself. Note Jesus is not reconciled to us; we are reconciled to Him. Important distinction! We are the ones who rebelled against God, thus we are the one who need to be reconciled back to God.

D. By what does He reconcile them? By/through Himself…speaks of what power He did it by. Jesus is fully sufficient in & of Himself to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him (Heb 7:25). He needs no help & requires no assistance.

a. This speaks volumes about our vain attempts at legalism! When people get the idea that they can somehow “improve” upon their salvation through works, they neglect to remember that we are reconciled to God by Christ alone – it’s only HIS work that has any value for salvation.

E. What does reconciliation do? It made peace…and note this peace came through violent means: “the blood of His cross. It’s interesting to me that God didn’t sit down one day & proclaim a decree that we were forgiven – sometimes skeptics claim that if God truly loves us, then He should freely forgive us without the shedding of blood. [] But as much as God DOES love us & IS love (1 John 4:8), God is also holy & righteous & just. To forgive without judgment is an affront to His justice…it simply compounds the issue of sin. [] Thus God DOES forgive & offer peace & reconciliation, but it only comes through the “blood of His cross” because there justice was meted out & now forgiveness could be truly offered in love.

a. Note “His” cross: it couldn’t have been just anyone’s cross. There were 3 on the hill that day; only one mattered.

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 irreproachable in His sight

A. Why did we need reconciliation & peace? 3 reasons:

a. We were alienated: As Gentiles we were estranged from the promises of God, and as sinners we were excluded from any relationship with God.

b. We were enemies in our mind: People often claim that they’ve got their own relationship with God, and He doesn’t care what they do. Not true! Outside of Christ, we’re not merely estranged from God, we are at war with Him! NT uses the same word “enemy” to describe Satan… People may not realize it, but in their sin they are actively opposing the things of God.

c. We were enemies by wicked works: The works of our flesh merely bear out the sin in our hearts & minds. Want a list? Galatians 5:19-21 (19) Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, (20) idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, (21) envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. [] And that’s not even exhaustive! Which of that have we not engaged in at some point? (Either in the mind or in the act.) THIS is what we need to be reconciled from!

B. How were we reconciled? “in the body of His flesh through death”. Gets kind of gruesome, doesn’t it? 1st we need His blood; now we need His dead flesh. Paul’s point isn’t to gross us out; it’s simply to show that real sin has a real price & it had to be paid by a real person in Christ Jesus. The wages of sin is death (Rom 6:23), thus SOMEBODY had to die. Not a figurative death; not a pretend death – Jesus of Nazareth was physically crucified to a cross & actually died for the sin of the world.

a. Don’t miss the dig to the Gnostics. Paul’s saying, “Guess what? The Creator God of the Universe put on human flesh in His incarnation. He was really real!” If Jesus is less than fully human, then He could not serve as our High Priest. If Jesus is less than fully God, then He could not pay the price for sin. Jesus MUST be (and is) both God and man.

b. BTW – Should sound familiar to us through the Lord’s Supper…this is exactly what we celebrate during Communion…

C. The results of reconciliation? The way God sees us is completely changed!

a. We’re holy: We’re set apart/dedicated by God – we’re made saints…

b. We’re blameless: “without defect” – like the sacrifices that were to be offered to God, we’ve now been given the righteousness of Christ Who was truly without blemish/defect

c. We’re irreproachable: Not that we’ve never done anything wrong, but simply (and wonderfully) that we can no longer be blamed for it. There is One Who has borne our blame already!

d. Gotta emphasize that this is ALL done through the blood & body of Christ! []

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.

A. if”: little word; BIG impact… Is this an “if” or a “since” or something else? The Greek is actually a conditional, which means this “if” means “if.” Some would claim that what Paul is about to say is a foregone conclusion – but the “if” shows that it is definitely not…which means it’s definitely worth paying attention to.

B. If what? If we “continue in the faith”… As we saw earlier, Paul’s trying to underscore the value of their faith in Christ. Jesus has been proclaimed to be God who has reconciled us & made peace after all of the evil stuff we’ve done. We were deserving of true judgment, but God forgave us. This isn’t something we’d want to depart from! We need to “continue” – actively abide & remain in the faith we received. Further described as “grounded & steadfast” – like a building established on a solid foundation, we want to be established & grounded on the true gospel…and remain there!

a. ‘But I prayed a prayer when I was 12!’ Good for you, but that’s not what Paul is asking here. Are you continuing in the faith? If you prayed a prayer at an emotional rally & then walked away from Christ the rest of your life, then that’s the sign of a false convert. A ‘prayer’ cannot save you; it’s the God you pray to that does…[] Do you know Christ & does Christ know you? (Matt 7:23)

b. ‘So is this a Calvinist or Arminian prooftext?’ Yes. J The Calvinist would claim that if a saint continues in the faith till the end, they have persevered… The Arminian would claim that if a saint continues in the faith, they haven’t become apostate & thus remain saved… Either one would give the same exhortation: KEEP WALKING! Hebrews 10:23 (23) Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. []

C. Notice what the gospel brings: hope! Paul’s not talking about an emotion here… “Hope” in the NT speaks of confident expectation…contextually here of heaven & everlasting life with God.

a. Why can we be so confident? Because our hope isn’t based in ourselves; it’s based upon Christ!

D. Question: Had the gospel really been preached to “every creature under heaven”? Of course not (using hyperbole), but the gospel had gone into every major area of the Roman Empire (which was basically the known world)…and it’s definitely meant for the entire world.

a. That said, the entire world HAS been given the testimony of a Creator through creation, so that we are without excuse (Rom 1:20), and the law of God has been written on our hearts in our consciences (Rom 2:15)… That doesn’t excuse us from the responsibility of the Great Commission – but God WILL make Himself known to every man & woman in all history.

E. What does it mean to be a minister of the gospel? Simply a servant! Gk διάκονος (deacon) = “one who serves”. Ministers minister; Servants serve…that’s simply the job description! J

——-

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,

A. Takes a break from discussing the work of Christ to discussing his calling as a minister. Why? Paul is bringing a TON of doctrinal correction to the Colossian church – so he needs to establish some groundwork first. He’s not trying to get Colosse to listen to his teaching in order to build up a following or puff up his pride; he’s simply doing this because this was his calling from God. [] Keep in mind that Paul probably hadn’t been to Colosse, so this might be extra important without the context of a relationship.

B. What’s one way Paul served in his ministry of the gospel? He suffered. Paul’s not talking about some sort of superficial stress…he actually suffered for the ministry physically & emotionally. Yet what was his response? Joy! [] Paul could rejoice because he was participating in the fellowship of Christ’s suffering (Phil 2:10). So much so, that he writes that he could complete in his “flesh what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions. What on earth does that mean?! There’s no question that if the Lord Jesus still walked the earth, He would be persecuted & afflicted…Paul is simply participating in them.

a. (Vaughan) “ ‘What is still lacking’ is not an intimation of deficiency in Christ’s own sufferings but a reference to what is yet lacking in Christ’s suffering in Paul. In his experience as a prisoner the apostle was filling up the sum or quota of suffering yet remaining for him to endure.”

b. Nobody desires suffering…yet there is a fellowship we have in Christ when we suffer with Him. Jesus knows what it’s like to have His body afflicted with pain – Jesus knows what it’s like to be mentally anguished – Jesus knows what it’s like to be betrayed. As we suffer with Him, we can identify with Him as He continues to shape our character. (James 1:2-4)

C. What does Paul suffer for? Christ’s body = the church. (2nd mention of this – Col 1:18). If Paul suffers for the sake of the church, ultimately he’s suffering for Christ Himself. What we do to the body, we do unto the Lord.

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.

A. Ministry wasn’t a career path for Paul (he had his own before Jesus called him!), it was a stewardship. God had entrusted His word to him, and Paul’s job was simply to dispense it out at God saw fit. As he wrote to Corinth, he was a servant of Christ & steward of the mysteries of God (1 Cor 4:1).

B. His point? Saying, “I’m just a servant!” Paul’s not trying to “put one over” on the Colossian church – he’s simply doing what God has called him to do. No more; no less.

a. No matter what it is God has called us to do, we are stewards of that gift/responsibility! (Parable of the talents)

C. Vs 26 is the basic definition of a Biblical mystery: that which once was hidden in the OT & now revealed in the NT through Christ Jesus…

a. Another dig at the Gnostics. They had “secret” knowledge; God’s mystery was an “open secret” – it’s been revealed to everyone in the church.

27. To them [the saints…] 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.

A. The mystery? Christ in you, the hope of glory! This same Jesus in Whom dwells the fullness of the Godhead – by Whom we are reconciled – through Whom the universe was created – THIS Jesus is in us. What an astounding thought! God has revealed the riches of His glory through Him in that we have been brought into the family of God & been made co-heirs with Christ…His riches are our riches, and we experience the abundance of eternity through Him. Thus our hope rests in Him & indeed IS Him.

a. There is no better promise in all religion! Other systems might promise emotional experiences or mystical rituals, but none other than Christianity opens up the riches of the glory of heaven & actually produces salvation!

B. How does this take place? By the will of God. Not through ritualistic legalism nor through secret knowledge nor anything else. There’s not an act in all the world that can produce the reality of us being in Christ & Christ being in us. That is a miracle of God done in each believer in Christ done solely through the will of God.

a. That’s why it’s called grace!

28. Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus.

A. What do pastors/ministers do? Or at least, what are they supposed to do?

a. Preach Christ: Show & proclaim Jesus in the whole of their teaching. Among the Corinthians, Paul resolved to know nothing except Christ & Him crucified (1 Cor 2:2) & it was the same in every city & every epistle. When pastors teach, they should be proclaiming Christ & His word & nothing else.

b. Warn every man: NIV translates “admonishing” – but contextually to the Colossians, “warn” is vastly more appropriate. Why would we need to be warned? Because there’s a TON of people teaching false doctrine. There will always be false religions & false gospels proclaimed – there will always be ‘ministers’ looking to tickle the ears of the masses (even in the name of Christ) – and thus Paul (and every pastor) has the responsibility to warn believers to stick to the truth. (Consider yourselves warned. J)

c. Teach every man in all wisdom: The logical follow-through to “warning.” If we’re going to be warned away from lies, we need to know the truth…

i. This is why we teach verse-by-verse…

B. To what end? Maturity. present every man perfect Perfect isn’t speaking of blamelessness (that only comes through Christ); speaks of completeness. Remember Paul (and every minister) is a steward – he dispenses the word of God to the people of God in order that they might grow in God to maturity. And he worked hard at it…

29. To this end I also labor, striving according to His working which works in me mightily.

A. labor” = “to grow weary/tired or exhausted”… striving” = ἀγωνίζομαι (agonize)

B. Paul labored; God worked. “working” = ἐνέργεια (energy) = effectual working… Paul could strive as hard as he wanted to in the ministry – he could pour blood, sweat, and tears into each church – but without God working, it would have all been in vain.

Conclusion:

Covered a lot of ground today! Paul labored, agonized, and toiled to present ONE thing to Colosse: Christ. Our salvation, reconciliation, and peace with God is completely wrapped up in Christ Jesus & without Him we’re hopeless. Without Christ, we remain enemies of God & doomed to eternity without Him.

But IN Christ, we have hope – the hope of glory! Jesus as the fullness of God has reconciled all things back to Himself through His body & blood & WE are the proof in the pudding! We’ve been forgiven, made holy, blameless, & irreproachable…amen! So our response to that? We want to stay grounded in the gospel of Christ! What we have been given is without value – it’s beyond worth – so we want to continue in the faith & not get distracted by false gospels, revivals, fads, or anything else. We want to simply rejoice in the simple gospel of our incredible Savior!

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