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Paul’s Labor for the Church October 11, 2012

Posted by flashbuzzer in Books, Christianity.
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Here are my thoughts on Colossians 1:24-2:5.

Summary: Paul begins by suddenly giving thanks to God for His mercy – even if he feels overburdened by his calling; thus, he suffers to build up the church, as Christ has allowed his followers to suffer to that end. He builds up the church since God has made him an administrator of it – to preach fully the Gospel. Indeed, the Gospel has now been revealed, especially the great truth that the Gentiles can participate in the New Testament covenant. God was pleased to exhibit among the Gentiles the glorious manifestation of His wealth, which is Christ given freely to the Gentiles.

Now Paul states that along with proclaiming this great truth, the preachers admonish and teach all people using the fullest wisdom so that all people may be admitted to the secrets of the Gospel. To accomplish this goal, he trains intensely.

Paul then tells the Colossians that he wrestles in prayer for:

  • them
  • the believers in Laodicea
  • the believers in Hierapolis and all others who are unknown to him.

His aim is for them to be confirmed in their hearts, being united in love – that they may know Christ, who contains the full riches of complete understanding. By knowing Christ, they can understand all truths and reason about them – forming logical connections in the process. He is telling them these things so that the false teachers will not lead them astray by false reasoning. Paul concludes by asserting that although he is not physically present with them, he is spiritually present; he rejoices in – and beholds – the fact that they form an orderly array and a close phalanx in Christ.

Thoughts: This passage is analogous to Ephesians 3, which I’ve blogged about. Perusing those posts reminds me of the difficulties of fully comprehending Christ and His love for us. Now this passage, especially verse 3, highlights the fact that Christ is the repository of all “wisdom and knowledge.” This reminds me of the insights that I have acquired from listening to Ravi Zacharias’ Let My People Think program. The speakers on that program, including Ravi himself, stress that a deeper knowledge of Christ leads to a deeper understanding of thorny issues such as, “why do evil and suffering exist?” and “where did man come from and what is the future of mankind?” Indeed, when we see that Christ impacts all knowledge – instead of limiting His impact to one school of religious thought – then we can gain a holistic understanding of life.

In verse 24, we see that Christ has allowed His followers to advance His kingdom by their suffering. Lightfoot offers some insights on this point:

…it is a simple matter of fact that the afflictions of every saint and martyr do supplement the afflictions of Christ. The church is built up by repeated acts of self-denial in successive individuals and successive generations. They continue the work which Christ began…This being so, St. Paul does not mean to say that his own sufferings filled up all the “lack” but only went towards filling it up. These “lackings” will never be fully supplemented until the struggle of the church with sin and unbelief is brought to a close.

Believers should be encouraged by the fact that Christ has allowed them to play a role in accomplishing His purposes – instead of fully accomplishing them by Himself. Yet this encouraging note is tempered by the sobering realization that accomplishing God’s purposes necessarily entails some degree of suffering. While I have not suffered to the extent that Paul suffered, I have occasionally denied myself and struggled internally as a result. In each of those instances, I have benefited from hindsight – which requires some temporal separation from that struggle. Indeed, hindsight allows me to remember that God has used me as a conduit of His blessings in each of those struggles.

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