In 1922, Howard Carter discovered and then entered the tomb of King Tutankhamun, the first tomb of a Pharaoh to be found. It is hard to imagine the feeling of entering a tomb filled with priceless golden treasures that has been sealed for 3,300 years. It is hard to imagine, but we have something greater.
Paul wrote to the church in Colossae, a church he had never visited, with a letter designed to point their hearts to Christ. Whatever specific false teaching was influencing the church at Colossae, it faced the same great temptation found in every church: that is, to be busy with Christianity, but to let Christ drift from his position of preeminence. We all face that temptation every day. So, it is never a bad day to reread Colossians.
Christ Supreme – In the first chapter, Paul offers a hymn of Christ’s supremacy that is about as high a Christology as can be found anywhere in Scripture. Adolf Deissmann famously stated, “When I open the chapel door of the Epistle to the Colossians, it is as if Johann Sebastian himself sat at the organ.” So, Paul celebrates the supremacy of Christ over all creation, and also over our salvation.
Servant Ministry – As he proceeds beyond the great hymn, he writes of his own ministry. He was a servant of the gospel, that Christ might be proclaimed to every creature (v23). And he was a servant of the church, to present all the Word of God (v25) and to present all God’s people fully mature (v28).
What was the message that Paul proclaimed to this church in ancient Turkey? He proclaimed God’s glorious plan for them to enjoy an incredibly close connection to Christ. Twice he writes about his own suffering in ministry, before proclaiming the wonder of the mystery. In v24 he rejoices over his suffering as he participates in the mission of Christ (not because Christ’s suffering on the cross was insufficient; it clearly was), but because his servants get to participate in the afflictions necessary to the spreading of the gospel in this age. In 1:28-2:1, he again returns to his ministry, this time writing about how he was strenuously contending for these believers whom he had never met.
Revealed Mystery – Notice how after each of these ministry descriptions, we get a glorious glimpse into the mystery – God’s now-revealed plan. (By the way, we tend to think of the word “mystery” like we do a murder mystery – that 50 minutes of being in the dark as to who committed the crime as we watch our favourite TV drama. Instead, when Paul uses the word mystery in Romans, Corinthians, Ephesians, Colossians, etc., he is referring to something that is now revealed. We are now living in the age of A-ha! at the end of that drama – only much better!)
Close Connection – The first part of that formerly hidden but now revealed mystery is just seven words long, but infinitely profound: “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” Notice three things.
First, God’s plan, formerly hidden but now revealed, is not just for the Christ to be a king and a deliverer leading his people from the front. It is for Christ to dwell in his people. That is as close a connection as it is possible to have.
Second, God’s plan, through the indwelling Christ, is for his people to have the hope of glory. Whatever we may be facing right now, this is not the end of the story. And if Christ would choose to live in us now, then we can be confident that he will want us with him in the future too.
Third, this mystery is made known among the Gentiles, it is not just for the Jews. “Race relations” is not a 21st-century invention; God was there way before any of us! Gentiles equally brought into the body of Christ with Jews – a formerly hidden plan now revealed through Paul in Ephesians and Colossians!
Close Connection II – The second part of that formerly hidden but now revealed mystery is just one word long, but is the most profound statement of all. Just as Paul revealed God’s plan for Christ to find a home in you, so Paul also revealed God’s plan for you to find all you need in Christ. His objective was for all God’s people to be presented fully mature in Christ (1:28).
So, they needed to realise that the full riches of complete understanding were theirs if they would know the mystery of God. What is this infinite treasure trove of wisdom and knowledge? Is it a training course, a degree program, an online seminar, a special edition book? No, everything they could ever need was theirs in knowing God’s mystery now revealed – Christ! (See 2:2-3)
Conclusion – They would be assailed by impressive alternative versions of Christianity, but they should never allow the supremacy of Christ to diminish and drift in their faith. Later in the second chapter, Paul would remind them of the supreme victory of Christ on the cross – they should never lose sight of that. Neither should we. What difference would it make to our confidence if we pondered anew the wonder of Christ in me, the hope of glory? What difference would it make to our maturity if we investigated afresh the riches of knowledge and wisdom in Christ himself?
God’s plan was for Christ to find a home in you, and for you to find all you need in Christ. God’s plan was for an incredibly close connection between you and Christ. Our union with Christ really is the chief of doctrines. As Paul went on to write, “just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith (in him) as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness” (2:6-7).
What is God’s plan for each of us as we head into another new month, and another annual celebration of Easter? It is that we would be continually more marked, shaped, stirred, and matured, as we fix the gaze of our hearts on the wonder that is Christ himself!
Recent short video in Psalms Today series: