DUNCAN/Christ in you: The hope of glory
Please turn in your Bible to Colossians 1:24-28. Paul has been speaking about the sufficiency of Christ in his letter to the Christians at Colossae. And in this part of the letter, he transitions to tell the Colossians something about his ministry so that they will be confident that the message that they have heard is the fullness of the truth. He is emphasizing that he has not secretly kept something back from them that they needed in order to grow in their spiritual lives. Thus, there are three truths in particular which Paul addresses in this passage. First, we see that by virtue of our union with Christ, we share in His sufferings. Secondly, we see that the gospel plan is an open secret, a revealed truth, made known by God. Thirdly and finally, we see that our hope is in our union with Christ.
I. By Virtue Of Our Union With Christ, We Share In His Sufferings.
In verse 24, Paul says, “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, 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.” In other words, Paul is asserting in that phrase that he is suffering for the sake of the Colossians and, by extension, for all believers and that he is supplementing Christ’s sufferings. By his use of the phrase, “filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions,” Paul does not mean that Christ’s sacrifice was insufficient. What Paul means is that the sufferings endured by the body of Christ while Christ is at the right hand of God are not done yet, and therefore all believers participate in those sufferings in this world where there is affliction and where there is persecution. And so when he speaks of what is lacking in Christ’s affliction, he is speaking of the sufferings which we endure as the body of Christ while our head, the Lord Jesus Christ, is at the right hand of God. Paul’s words remind us that no suffering or no affliction endured by a Christian is meaningless. We must never forget that our affliction is precious in the sight of the Lord because our affliction – as those who believe in Christ – is now part of the fellowship of His suffering. Furthermore, we must take care to minister to those who are afflicted and especially those
who are persecuted for the sake of Christ. When we see a brother or sister in Christ persecuted for the sake of the gospel, we are seeing with our own eyes the sufferings of
the body of Christ and cannot but be concerned to minister to one who is participating in the affliction of Christ.
II. The Gospel Plan is a Revealed Truth Made Known by God.
In verses 26 and 27 Paul speaks of the mystery that has been hidden from the past ages and generations but which has now been made known among the Gentiles. Paul is contrasting two ideas of mystery. Paul knew that there were some of these new teachers at Colossae who were teaching the Colossians that they had a mystery, a secret knowledge, that they needed to know if they were going to have a deeper knowledge of God. In response Paul says, “Well I have a mystery, but this mystery is an open secret.” For Paul, a mystery is not a secret code. It is something that we could not have known unless God revealed it to us. Specifically, Paul says that a mystery is something that has been hidden in past ages but which has now been revealed. Furthermore, he says, “I have been given a stewardship to preach that mystery to the Gentiles. It is a proclaimed truth that would not have been known unless God had willed to reveal it.” And the Apostle Paul says in verse 28 that the goal of his preaching of that mystery is that we would be complete in Christ. Again, he says to the Colossians, “If my job and my goal is to make sure you are complete in Christ, why would I have held something back that you needed to know in order to be complete in Christ? That makes no sense.” The Apostle Paul reminds us that we are complete in Christ and He has given us the fullness of the gospel we need in order to walk in Christ. It is a special thing that the Apostle Paul was appointed to preach this word. Paul, the one who hated Gentiles, who hated Christians, who hated those Jews who were not committed to their faith, is the one who was appointed to be the apostle to the Gentiles. God works in such ironic ways that Paul, the Jew of Jews, becomes the preacher of grace to the Gentiles. It is something that ought to cause us to praise God.
III. Our Hope is in Our Union with Christ.
In verse 27, Paul tells us that he has been given this mystery to preach, this open secret, the thing that God has revealed. The mystery that Paul has been given teaches us that our hope is in union with Christ. Paul expresses this truth in the phrase, “ Christ in you, the hope of glory.” In other words, Paul is saying, “the revealed secret that I have been given a commission to preach is that Christ in you is the hope of glory. You who are apart from the promises, apart from the covenant, and who have no part of the preaching of the prophets or the hearing of the law of Moses, Christ in you is the hope of glory. Christ has been revealed to you.” This is the message that the Apostle Paul has for us as well. Union with Christ is the only hope of glory. There is no other place where we can go to find our satisfaction. Christ is the hope and Christ is the way. Christians find their enjoyment, their satisfaction, in Him. If you find your satisfaction in Him, it is a sign that the Spirit has united you to Christ. He has brought all Christ’s benefits to bear for you. If you have never trusted in Him, the only hope you have, Paul says, is “Christ in you.” The only hope you have is to cast yourself upon the Lord, to go to Him, to rest in Him, and to receive Him as the only way of salvation. As we do this, we find that Christ has worked faith and repentance in us because we have been united to Him and our faith and our repentance is only a reflection of the fact that we have been united with Him. May God enable us to live in light of our union with Christ, our hope of glory.