Colossians 1:21–2:7comment (0)
April 28, 2011
By Cecil Taylor
Related Scripture: Colossians 1:21–2:7
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Dean, School of Christian Studies, University of Mobile
EXPRESSING THE TRUTH
Here the apostle Paul applied the general idea of Christ’s reconciling work specifically to the Colossians.
Before their conversion, they were “alienated” from and “hostile in mind” to God, resulting in “evil deeds.”
At their conversion, they were reconciled “in His fleshly body through (Christ’s) death.”
As a result of this reconciliation, they stand before God “holy, and blameless and beyond reproach.” This presentation may be yet in the future at the Last Judgment or what God through Christ already did for believers. Actually it is both.
Evidence of reconciliation is continuing faith. In the original language, the phrase “if indeed you continue in the faith” expresses confidence instead of doubt. Paul offered three reasons for remaining true to the faith. First it was the message “heard” when Epaphras initially preached to them (Col. 1:7). Second it was “proclaimed in all creation under heaven,” probably meaning all the great centers of the Roman Empire. Third it was the very message Paul preached.
Paul’s reference to himself as a “minister” (Col. 1:23) led to a fuller discussion of that ministry.
The sufferings he endured formed an important part of his ministry. First these sufferings were for the sake of others — “for your sake” and “on behalf of His body.” He suffered in getting the gospel to the Gentiles, a benefit in which the Colossians shared. But his sufferings also benefited the whole church. Had he not suffered imprisonment, he might never have written this very letter. Second they were linked to Jesus’ sufferings. It is not that Paul suffered to redeem sinful men as Jesus did but that He suffers when His people suffer (cf Acts 9:4–5). “That which is lacking in Christ’s afflictions” does not suggest His work on the cross is deficient but that Paul was filling up the quota of suffering for Christ’s sake yet remaining for Him to endure. Third they were for Paul a source of joy.
It was by God’s “careful stewardship” that Paul was appointed to minister to the Colossian Christians and other Gentiles. Paul’s mission was to “complete the word of God,” i.e., either geographically by extending it to all nations or theologically by explaining the gospel’s full significance.
The “word of God” Paul defined in terms of a “mystery.” In the New Testament, this word never means a “whodunit” tale but always refers to a truth not known to past ages and generations — and undiscoverable by men — but now revealed by God. This glorious “mystery” God wanted the nations (“Gentiles”) to know is “Christ in you,” i.e., the indwelling of Christ in His people whether Jews or Gentiles. Christ’s presence in a believer is the “hope of glory.” In the New Testament, “hope” is never a tentative desire that may never be satisfied; it is confident and joyous expectation of “glory.”
Paul’s goal was to bring into God’s presence at the last day fully mature believers. In its pursuit, he “labored,” i.e., toiled to the point of exhaustion, and “struggled,” i.e., agonized like a wrestler in a match. Yet in it all, God’s power energized him “mightily.”
The “intense struggle” (in the original language the word pictured a wrestler straining with all his might against an opponent) Paul mentioned was related to prayer for the Colossians, the Laodiceans and other converts whom he had never met.
He wanted them to be “encouraged,” i.e., strengthened, either for trial or against error. Also he prayed for them to be enriched with assurance and understanding that comes from full knowledge of “the mystery of God, namely, Christ.”
His anxious concern and ardent prayer was sparked by the threat posed by false teachers at work in Colossae. Their arguments were deceptively persuasive but absolutely wrong. How long has it been since you agonized in prayer against heresy in your community?