“Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I do my share on behalf of His body (which is the Church) in filling up that which is lacking in Christ’s afflictions.”
Wow! The apostle Paul has now made a statement that goes deeper into the spiritual realm than most of us are willing to go, for our flesh always comes forth in rebellion when it comes to discomfort and persecution, at least mine does. When I was a young child, my mother and father religiously took me to Church, not just on Sundays, but often to revivals that lasted for weeks. When it was cold, we sidled up to a pot bellied stove to get warm before finding our place on a hard pine pew that only got harder as the hours passed by. When it was summer, we simply opened the windows and endured the heat while the pastor preached with a towel in hand, continually wiping his face and brow from the sweat that poured down. Often the preaching was on hell, and the excessive heat made it easy to come to a decision that I did not want to go to hell. Those were temporary discomforts, but they are a long way from the type of suffering that Paul was talking about. Paul had received thirty nine lashes with a whip not once, but on five different occasions. He often endured the elements, being both cold and hungry; he was imprisoned numerous times; he was continuously ridiculed and mocked; left for dead after being stoned, and if that were not enough, suffered ship wreck on three of his journeys. Yet Paul, said, I rejoice in my sufferings. Let’s not miss this: Paul did not rejoice because of his sufferings, he rejoiced in spite of his sufferings. He did not allow his flesh to dictate his spiritual walk and neither should we. Finally, Paul suffered much, but Christ Jesus suffered all the more. Christ suffered as no man has ever suffered, but He willingly did so for payment for my sins and your sins. Therefore, let’s not take advantage of Grace, knowing that our flesh is always at enmity with the Spirit.
Vs. 25 “Of this church I was made a minister according to the stewardship from God bestowed on me for your benefit, that I might fully carry out the preaching of the word of God”
We might say, “That is wonderful that Paul was made a minister, but God has not called me to be a minister,” and to some degree we may be correct, but God has clearly called every born again believer to be a “Ambassador for Christ (11 Cor. 5:20). Like it or not, you and I are God’s representatives, and like it or not, people are watching and drawing conclusions as to what they think of Christianity based on what they see the body of Christ doing. It has often been said, “We are the only bibles that many people will ever read.” A few years ago, my wife and I went see a movie at a theater that could only show two movies at one time. The one we went to see was G rated, while the other was a popular R rated movie. When we were leaving, a young man came over to me and said, “We (a group of teenagers) we watching to see which movie you went into.” People want to see if our walk aligns with our talk. If that were not sobering enough, Paul now begins to dig much deeper, reminding us that we are also stewards of the things that God has so richly bestowed upon us. Jesus gave a parable concerning stewardship, and He did so to remind us that we will one day give an account for the blessings received here on earth. In a small way, the following makes this point. On the way home from a short trip my wife and I stopped to get gas and a quick cup of coffee. Before I could get out of my car and shut the door, a man walked up to me and began asking for financial help, saying that his children were in the car and he did not have enough gas to get them to their destination. I offered to buy him gas, but instead, he asked that I give him the money, to which I decided not to do. God wants us to help the needy, but we must be good stewards of what he has entrusted us with. The bottom lines is this: We are not bystanders or bench warmers, at least that is not what God has called us to be, and we will never be really happy sitting on the sidelines. True happiness is always tied to our obedience.
Vs. 26 “that is, the mystery which has been hidden from the past ages and generations; but has now been manifested to His saints.”
God spoke through the prophets concerning the future work of the Holy Spirit and God’s intent to bring life to the dead spirits of man, but they were not able to fully grasp what that meant. Not only did God’s prophets not understand, but neither did Satan. That is why the Church is referred to as the “mystery of the ages.” Satan knew that God had promised to bruise him on the head, but he was clueless that it would occur through the Cross of Calvary. We can be certain that he has now gotten more of a revelation, but the Lord’s Saints can shout “Hallelujah!” because the atoning blood of Jesus has brought salvation to millions. We are not saints because of what we do, we are saints because of what He has done.
Vs. 27 “to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory”
At times we tend to forget that Gentiles (us) did not have a covenant relationship with God. Until the Cross, only true Israelites could boast of that. Ephesians 2:12 reminds us that “we were separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.” Not long ago my wife and I were at a luncheon and found ourselves seated next to a precious and well known Jewish woman who had made Jesus her personal Savior and Lord. I jokingly said to her that we were Jewish as well, and I could tell by the look on her face that she knew that our earthly DNA was not Jewish, so I quickly said, ” We are not really Jewish, we are gentiles that have been adopted into Israel by the blood of Christ.” Not only do we have salvation, but we also have an inheritance as sons and daughters because the same power that raised Jesus from the dead now lives in us. He indeed is our hope, for unto Him the Father has given all glory.
Vs. 28 “And we proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, that we may present every man complete in Christ”
Our number one assignment as Christians is to proclaim Jesus to our loved ones, our friends, and to those who are lost and without Jesus. Jesus is the perfect and unblemished Son of God. He is also the One by whom we should measure ourselves, not others to whom we can point to as not being as “spiritual” as we are. For sure, there are those who lead ungodly and amoral lives, but they are not our example and we are not their judge. Christ alone is our example. Moses sinned; Abraham sinned; and we sin as well, only Jesus lived without sinning. Thankfully, we have been purified and justified (made sinless spiritually) because of Christ’s blood and forgiveness, but as long as we are on this earth, we will from time to time find that we still sin. That is why Paul said that the Word (Jesus) admonishes every man. Let’s be careful here, because most peoples minds go to the negative when the word “admonish” is used, but the full definition not only includes warnings, but it also includes exhorting, urging, inspiring, advising, and recommending. Let’s remember that we are all a work in progress, and in chapter two we will see the distinction that is made between the flesh and the spirit. In the flesh we are a work in progress, becoming complete; in the spirit we have been made complete.
Vs. 29 “And for this purpose also I labor, striving according to his power, which mightily works with me.”
The purpose that Paul is referring to is the proclamation of the Gospel of Christ, the almost too good to be true news that “Grace has appeared, bringing salvation to all men” (Titus 2:11). We must be careful that after receiving God’s Grace that brought salvation to our soul and regeneration to our spirit, that we don’t stop laboring (striving) to do good and share the gospel of Christ with others. We will become dormant if we wait until we “feel” that we are qualified, and we will be afraid to lay hands on the sick if we wait until we “feel” his power working in us. Several years ago Penny and I were in Atlanta to attend the wedding of some close friends when the mother of the bride came into the lobby of our hotel suffering greatly from a migraine headache. There were still several things she needed to attend to, but she simply was unable to do them. Without thought of where we were and who was watching, I laid my hand on her head, and said, “In the name of Jesus” and before I could finish my sentence, she cried out, “The headache is gone!” Dear Reader, it was not me that healed her, it was the power of God that healed her. We cannot go by our feelings, we must depend on our faith and our knowledge of God’s willingness to heal. Many brothers and sisters become discouraged and defeated because they go by their feelings, not understanding that it is not in what we do, but trusting in what He has already done. We don’t have to call the power company every time we want to turn on the lights, we simply flip a switch because we know the power has already been supplied. In the same way, His power is already inside, waiting for us to access it by faith. Mark 11:22 says, “Have faith in God.”
We will continue in chapter 11 of Colossians next Friday. Until then, we encourage you to read and mediate on God’s word. We continue to invite you to send us questions and prayer requests.
In Christ Jesus, Don & Penny.