Summary: Big The Supremacy and Sufficiency of Christ, part 7 Paul's Service to Christ's Church Colossians 1:24-29 Idea – The central focus of Paul's life was Christ and his Church.
We are in the seventh week of our series on Paul's letter to the Colossian church, called “The Supremacy and Sufficiency of Christ.” This letter was written to help us see Christ as supreme over all things that we struggle with and sufficient for our every need. So far, Paul is thankful to God for the work of the gospel in the church and prays for them to be filled with all spiritual wisdom for fruitful lives. Then he paints a picture of Christ as preeminent overall things and will reconcile all things to himself. He then describes the depth and power of this reconciliation in their lives. Today we look at “Paul's Service to Christ's Church,” Paul models for us a life in which Christ and his church are central.
Big Idea – The central focus of Paul's life was Christ and his Church.
Paul Suffered for Christ's Church (vs. 24)
Paul rejoices in his suffering which he sees as filling up Christ's afflictions for the sake of Christ's Church. He only rejoices in suffering because it was 'for your sake.' In other words, he rejoices in his suffering for the Colossian church because they benefitted in some way. The New Testament never extols suffering for its own sake, there is always some larger redemptive purpose. So his suffering benefits the church even though he did not know them! When we are gripped by Christ we will live for the benefit or well being of his church. To love Christ, the head, is to love the church, his body. So in what sense did Paul's suffering fill up what is lacking in Christ's afflictions? Paul's sufferings complete Christ's afflictions not by adding anything to their worth but by extending them to the people they were meant to save. Christ's afflictions are not deficient as if they could not sufficiently cover the sins of all who believe. Rather, what is lacking is that the infinite value of Christ's afflictions is not known and trusted in the world! They must be carried by those who proclaim the word and as they do they fill up or complete what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ by extending them to others. The sufferings of Christ fully satisfied God's wrath, but there is lacking a personal presentation by Christ Himself to the nations of the world. In doing this, Paul 'filled up what is lacking in Christ's afflictions.' So Paul's suffering for their sake led to the gospel message coming to the Colossians! Paul finished what those afflictions were designed for, a personal presentation to people who do not know their infinite worth, in this case the Colossians. Paul suffered for Christ's church because he was a servant and a steward of the church, 'to make the word of God fully known.' The central focus of Paul's life was Christ and his Church. He was a servant and a steward to the church to make the word of God fully known. In other words, Paul kept the word central.
Paul Kept the Word Central (vs. 25-27)
Paul's stewardship was to make the word of God fully known, which he describes as 'the mystery that was hidden in ages past but now revealed to the saints.' Paul was driven to keep the gospel moving forward, reaching new territory, covering new ground. Wherever he went he made the gospel known. The word is described as 'mystery that was hidden in the past but now revealed to the saints.' Then he expands upon this mystery, 'to them (the saints) God chose to make known how great among the Gentile are riches of glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.' Paul is explaining God's plan to include the Gentiles in the New Covenant that was not clear under the Old Covenant. Under the Old Covenant, to become part of the covenantal community, one had to become a Jew. They had to be circumcised, go to the temple, follow the law, participate in the festivals, etc. In the jewish mind, when the Messiah came he would deliver them from their oppressors, in this case, Rome. But Jesus' message was that all humanity are under much crueler oppressors, sin and Satan. Both Jews and Gentiles can only freed from this oppressor by faith in Jesus. Those who came to faith in Christ, Jews and Gentiles, formed the church, fulfilling Israel as the new people of God. The inclusion of Gentiles was so foreign to the Jew that it infuriated the Jewish leaders. Paul develops Jesus' teaching by saying that in Christ there is no longer any ethnic distinction between Jew and Gentile and that the whole Old Covenant institution pointed to Christ and is fulfilled in Christ. Then Paul sums up this mystery as Christ in you, the hope of glory. In chapter one we saw that this hope is eternity with God. Paul's service to Christ's church involved keeping the word central and the word is the tool that Paul used to make disciples.