24Now I rejoice in what was suffered 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. 25I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness - 26the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the saints. 27To 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.
28We proclaim Him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ. 29To this end I labour, struggling with all His energy, which so powerfully works in me.
1I want you to know how much I am struggling for you and for those at Laodicea, and for all who have not met me personally. 2My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, 3in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. 4I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments. 5For though I am absent from you in body, I am present with you in spirit and delight to see how orderly you are and how firm your faith in Christ is.
As Christians we know how important it is to live a Christ-centred life. But how do we do that? One of the ways we keep Christ at the centre is to keep the gospel front and centre in all that we do.
We all know the value of hard work, but we also know the frustration when we work hard at something that doesn’t pay off. There are many things we can devote our energies to in this life. Some are worth it, and others we discover are really not worth it in the long run. But one thing that is always worthy of our best efforts is the gospel of Jesus Christ. The gospel is the culmination of God’s plan for eternity. The gospel is the reason we are here today.
At the end of our lives, as we breathe our last breath on this earth, only one thing will matter. Our eternal destiny rests on Christ, and on nothing or no-one else.
This is why nothing is more important than sharing the hope to be found in Jesus with people. The gospel is worthy of our greatest efforts.
In verse 23 Paul declared himself a servant of the gospel. Now he describes what that means as far as his labour for the Church.
Probably the greatest lesson we’re able to learn from Paul’s example is that no sacrifice is too great for the gospel, and therefore we should work hard for the gospel as well.
The first thing Paul does is to present God’s word in its fullness. He writes in verses 24-27, “Now I rejoice in what was suffered 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 saints. 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 talks about suffering for the body of Christ. If no sacrifice is too great for the gospel, then we need to be willing to suffer for the same cause if necessary.
Not only is Paul willing to suffer, but he rejoices in his sufferings for the gospel. No sacrifice is too great for the gospel, and if anyone ever sacrificed for the gospel, it was the apostle Paul.
He writes in 2 Corinthians 11:23-28, “I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. I have laboured and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the Churches.” That is quite some resume…
What sacrifices have we made for the gospel lately? As far as I know, none of us here today have been shipwrecked, stoned or flogged for sharing the good news of Jesus, but the freedom we currently have in this country to proclaim Biblical truth is slowly, but surely being challenged and restricted. There are some very influential people in our country who hate Jesus Christ, and if they get their way, it won’t be long before those who speak and preach Biblical truth will be charged with the crime of hate speech. We need to be aware of that and be ready for it.
Paul tells the Colossians he is not only suffering for the gospel, but he is suffering for them. Now we might wonder how Paul suffered for the Colossians when he had never even met them, but he is alluding to the suffering he endured to preach the gospel. If Paul had avoided the suffering, the Colossians would never have heard the gospel from Paul through Epaphras.
And then Paul makes a remarkable statement in verse 24. He says: “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.”
It is very important here to understand what he means and what he does not mean. First of all, he does not mean that there was anything lacking in Jesus’ death on the cross to pay for sins. The Bible is clear that His death was sufficient to pay for all the sins of mankind. Hebrews 10:12 and 14 says, “When this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, He sat down at the right hand of God. By one sacrifice He has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.”
There was nothing lacking in Jesus’ death that Paul had to complete with his own sufferings.
Paul is not speaking about suffering for sin here, but rather the inevitable suffering that accompanies those who preach the gospel to an unbelieving world. In Philippians 3:10 he calls it “the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings.”
Although Jesus endured all the suffering necessary to pay for sin, that does not mean there is no suffering left for those who follow Him. In John 15:18 Jesus says, “If they hated me, they will hate you.” That is exactly where we are headed in our country today.
Working hard for the gospel means presenting God’s word in its fullness, and people will not always like it when you share God’s word with them. In fact, they will hate you. Todd Friel says, “We’re Christians. And our message to a sinning soul or a sinning government is ‘Repent, believe the gospel, or you will be judged by God.’ The first time Jesus came, He came to slay sin in men. The next time, He comes to slay men in sin.”
We must be willing to suffer for the body of Christ.
Presenting God’s word in its fullness also means explaining God’s plan. Look at verses 25-26 again: “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 saints.”
In verse 23 Paul called himself a servant of the gospel, but here he calls himself a servant of the Church. And he has become a servant of the Church by God’s commission in his life to present the word of God in its fullness.
Paul goes on to describe this word of God as a mystery. The word mystery in this context means something that was hidden and undiscoverable by human means. It is something secret that can only be known when God chooses to reveal it. Paul said something similar about the gospel in Ephesians 3:3 when he called it: “the mystery made known to me by revelation.” It was something that God revealed.
Paul says this mystery is one that had been kept hidden for ages and generations but it has now been revealed through Christ.
A key point here is that this mystery is disclosed or made known to the saints, in other words, all believers in Jesus Christ.
Why is this important? Because part of presenting God’s word in its fullness is explaining God’s plan, sharing the whole counsel of God with others. Which means we need to know exactly what the gospel is.
Remember, the gospel is not about trying to live a good life. The gospel message is that because of our sin which has offended God, we are doomed to eternal death, but the good news is that Jesus Christ suffered that death for us on the cross. If you repent of your sin, turn to Christ and receive His forgiveness offered by His grace, you will be saved from the eternal damnation you deserve. That’s the gospel, and that is why it is so offensive to so many.
Not everyone is called to the ministry of preaching, but all Christians are called to be connected to the Body of Christ, and one of the best ways you can do that is to belong to and support a Church that preaches the whole counsel of God and does not water down the truth of God’s word. My earnest prayer is that this fellowship of believers would be such a Church.
Paul summarises the mystery of the gospel so well in Romans 8:10-11 when he writes, “If Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit, who lives in you.”
In Colossians 1:27 he simply calls it “Christ in you, the hope of glory.”
So what exactly is this mystery, this secret that has been revealed to believers in Jesus Christ?
Part of the mystery of God’s plan is that salvation has gone out to all people. Jesus came as the Messiah for the Jewish people, but the gospel is for Jews and Gentiles alike. But the truly amazing part is found in these words: “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” That is the true mystery of the gospel. Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God, living in you and in me.
Jesus is God in all of His fullness, yet by His Spirit, He indwells believers in all His fullness.
Nothing can compare with that, which is why no sacrifice is too great to share this truth with others.
Christ in you is the hope of glory. If Christ is within you, then you can be assured of your future resurrection to glory.
It is this glorious hope that we present in its fullness. As we are willing to suffer for the body of Christ, we explain God’s plan of salvation, and we point lost sinners to the hope which is theirs through Jesus Christ.
Paul writes in Colossians 1:28: “We proclaim Him.” Once again Jesus is central. Yes, there are many things we can learn from God’s word, but we primarily proclaim a person – the person of Jesus Christ.
Paul continues, “We proclaim Him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom.” To admonish means to warn or correct. That is not easy, but we are called to warn people that there is a coming judgment, that they will be condemned for their sins. We are called to correct people – to tell them what the Bible says is sin and to call them to faith and repentance in Jesus Christ.
And this good news is for all people. The Bible teacher Frederick Bruce wrote, “There is no part of Christian teaching that is to be reserved for a spiritual elite. All the truth of God is for all the people of God.”
Sharing the whole of God’s truth is a daunting task – if we think it is up to us and our efforts, but God always has done and will continue to equip those who respond in obedience to His call.
We are just weak human vessels, which is why we must rely on God to do God’s work. As Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 4:7-9, “We have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.”
Whatever task God has for you to do, He will supply the power. Whatever gift He gives you, He will give the power to exercise that gift. A gift is a manifestation of the Spirit of God in the life of the believer. As long as you function in Christ, you will have the power to do whatever task He calls you to.
So Paul exhorts his readers to present God’s word in its fullness and to proclaim the gospel to all.
A final point he makes in our passage today that we as the Church are to protect God’s people from false teachers.
The first means of doing that is to promote unity within the Body of Christ. In Colossians 2:1-2 Paul writes, “I want you to know how much I am struggling for you and for those at Laodicea, and for all who have not met me personally. My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding.”
We are to be encouraged in heart and united in love. The word translated united here means to knit together. As we remain united in love, we will grow spiritually, and one of the benefits of being grounded in God’s truth is that we will better be able to discern false teaching and false teachers.
Unity is essential to the Church’s health and witness. satan’s strategy is to divide and conquer, and so the first step in protecting God’s people is to promote unity within the Church.
And why do we do that? Paul has the answer as he continues, “so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments.” (Colossians 2:2-4)
The purpose of unity is to help us grow in our understanding of God’s word, and the purpose of our growing in understanding is so that we may know Christ in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Heresies and false teachings always distort either the person or the work of Christ, so it is vital that we keep Him at the centre of our worship, our teaching, and our witness.
Paul tells the Colossians and us to not go looking anywhere else for wisdom and knowledge, because all the treasures are found in Christ.
Jesus Christ is central, and keeping Him at the centre will protect you from false teachers and their twisted doctrines. That’s what Paul means in verse 4. “I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments.” If you don’t want to be fooled, keep Jesus at the centre.
Hebrews 3:1 says, “Therefore, holy brothers, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, the apostle and high priest whom we confess.”
I want to close by going back to verse 27, as it contains such a rich promise and overflows with the encouragement we need in this Godless world – Christ in you, the hope of glory. The indwelling Christ is the believers’ hope of glory. We have no other title to heaven than the Saviour Himself. The fact that He indwells us makes heaven as sure as if we were already there, so don’t give up. Hold onto Christ and His promises to you. Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus.
Homegroup Study Notes
Read Colossians 1:24 – 2:5
Paul’s struggles and suffering he experienced as a direct result of sharing the gospel is well documented.
What can we learn from his story?
How have you experienced opposition, ridicule or even persecution when trying to share the truth of Jesus with non-believers, and how did this affect your faith?
In verse 25 Paul speaks of presenting the word of God in all its fullness.
How does this conflict with the mistaken idea that that we should make the gospel “less offensive” or “seeker sensitive” to non-Christians?
What are some of the dangers in not presenting the full story of the gospel?
How do we protect ourselves from being deceived by “fine sounding arguments?” (See 2:4)
Discuss some of the wonderful promises we find in 1:27.
What is your understanding of “Christ in you, the hope of glory?”