Paul’s Labor for the Church (Col 1:24-2:5)
24 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. 25 I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness— 26 the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the saints. 27 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.
28 We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ. 29 To this end I labor, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me.
2 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. 2 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, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, 3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. 4 I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments. 5 For 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.
Paul refers to the gospel of Jesus Christ (that is, the message of His good news of salvation available to all) a number of times as a mystery. I cannot think of a better term myself. Because what is the message of salvation, if not mysterious. It is a concept so wild, so unexpected, so radical, so humbling, that it is unbelievably mysterious. The mystery is why a sovereign King would care so much for His creation that He would be willing to be it – creator taking the form of creation – in order to redeem it. Redeem us.
There are many opinions about Paul. Many accusations even. But one thing that is clear is that Paul was committed to sharing the mystery, the story of Jesus Christ, with whoever He could, whenever He could, in whatever way He could. This is what these verses today are about. They are aptly titled “Paul’s labor for the church” – because He was so committed to the bride of Christ.
What is so special about the way Paul shares this truth, is that salvation was originally for the Jews. But the new covenant ushered in salvation for ever person regardless of nationality, culture, race, language, gender. As Martin Pohlmann, Principal of the Baptist Theological College’s book title explains, this was “equally good news”.
Can we learn from Paul’s passion? Can we dwell on this mystery, this gift, this treasure, and keep it to ourselves? Or should we, too, speak with passion about the mystery of Jesus Christ’s sacrifice for us? Can we speak so much of it that it becomes for us a struggle, too, that people would be encouraged by the message of God’s love?
A CALL TO ACTION
Very often, it is left to the “full time ministers” to share the story of Jesus Christ. Somehow, we find talking about Jesus to be something intellectual, something systematic, something complicated. We also, I think, believe that the call to share the mystery of Jesus Christ is always an evangelical call. In other words, with the goal of getting people saved. On the contrary – Paul is sharing the mystery with people here who were already saved. He was sharing it to encourage them
So today – why not decide to simply have a conversation about Jesus. Talk about His gift of salvation. Talk about His miracles. Talk about His love. Find someone willing to listen, and spend some time marvelling together about the goodness of Jesus Christ.
A PRAYER TO PRAY
Lord Jesus, thank you for the mystery that is your gift of salvation. Thank you that it truly is equally good news for everyone who hears the story of your love for us. Please bring someone along my path today that I can speak to about you, so that I (like Paul) can encourage them with the good news of the gospel. In Jesus name, amen.