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A SERVANT TO PRESENT THE WORD OF GOD

Colossians 1:24-2:5
Key Verse: 1:25

In the first lesson, 1:1-14, we learned of the kingdom of the Son, which is the kingdom of light, righteousness and peace and joy in eternity. In the second lesson, 1:15-23, we thought of who the Son is. He has the supremacy in everything: he is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation…the firstborn from among the dead. There is tenfold emphasis regarding the supremacy of Christ. Then he has become the sufficient sacrificial offering through his blood shed on the cross for the reconciliation and peace between God and us and all things. In today’s passage Paul talks about himself, who has become a servant of the church, the body of Christ, to present the word of God in its fullness. His life was so closely related to Christ that talking about himself would eventually turn out talking about Christ. May we probe into the heart and life of Paul, whose primary purpose was to reveal Christ, the mystery of God, through the word of God, which is also mystery in the sense that it was hidden for ages but has been disclosed to his people.

First, Paul’s service for the church (1:24-29). In 1:23 it is written, “This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant.” Then Pauls says in verse 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.” Here Paul’s suffering is related to his present imprisonment. We see Paul’s view of suffering in Christ. No one can rejoice in his suffering. But when one knows the meaning of his suffering, he can do so. That was the case of Paul. He knew that his suffering came in the course of serving God’s flock of sheep. His suffering was in Christ. So he rejoiced. And he wanted to suffer more for the church to participate in the sufferings of Christ to the full extent (1 Pe 4:13). As for him suffering for God’s sheep and the church, which is the body of Christ, was a practical way to participate in Christ’s suffering. As he loved Christ, he could love the church and was willing to suffer for the church.

Then Paul said in verse 25, “I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness--” In this verse we notice that Paul’s main service for the church was to present the word of God in its fullness. Jesus, after healing many one evening in Capernaum, said, “I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent” (Lk 4:43). On one occasion Jesus taught people the parable of the sower. Then the disciples came to him and asked, “Why, do you speak to the people in parables?” Jesus replied, “The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven/God has been given to you, but not to them.” (Mt 13:11; Lk 8:10). We can say that Jesus came to present the word of God to the people so as to reveal the secrets of the kingdom of God. The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of God would be given to those who are humble in heart. After Jesus, Paul was commissioned to present the word of God.

After saying in verse 25, “…to present to you the word of God in its fullness”, Paul continued in verse 26, “the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the saints.” This is Paul’s view of God’s word. The word of God did not come suddenly out of one’s mind. It had been kept hidden for ages and generations and then was disclosed to the saints, the Lord’s people. Jesus said in John 5:39, “…the Scriptures testify about me.” The words of God were given in the Old Testament, but the true meaning was found in light of Christ Jesus. For example, in the desert the Israelites complained a lot and spoke against God and Moses in their hard life. Then the LORD sent venomous snakes among them; they bit the people and many Israelites died. In that desperate situation the people came to Moses and asked him to pray that the LORD would take the snakes away from them. So Moses prayed for the people. But God did not take away the snakes. Rather, God told Moses to make a bronze snake and put it up on a pole so that anyone who was bitten could look at it and live. Those who listened to God and believed his word could look at the bronze snake and live (Num 21:4). Then the true meaning of this event was found in Jesus. Jesus said in John 3:14, “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that anyone who believes in him may have eternal life.” The bronze snake on a pole points to the cross of Jesus. And each of the two events requires people to have faith in the word of God. Strictly speaking, the word of God refers to the gospel. Romans 16:25-26 says, “Now to him who is able to establish you by my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past, but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God, so that all nations might believe and obey him--” Yet, God’s word of the gospel is darkened to the minds of unbelievers (2 Cor 4:4), and the word of God’s secret wisdom is hidden to the rulers of this world (1 Cor 2:8). It is also hidden to those who are wise and learned in merely human standards (Mt 11:25).

Look at verse 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.” As we studied, the word of God is the mystery in terms of hidden and disclosed. The gospel is also the mystery kept hidden and revealed. Then the ultimate mystery is Christ living in each believer. Who is Christ? He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. He is the Creator of all things, and the sustainer of the whole universe. He is the reconciler through his blood shed on the cross and his prayer, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” to make peace in reconciliation between God and man. Now he lives in me. This is truly a mystery. In the Old Testament God was with the Israelites in the tabernacle and then in the temple. In the desert he was with them through the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night. He was with the chosen nation and delivered them from strong enemy countries time and again. He was with several chosen servants personally, such as Moses, Joshua, Samuel, David, etc. But now. But at the time of Jesus’ birth, Matthew wrote, “…They will call him Immanuel, which means, “God with us” (Mt 1:23). People down through generations would called him Immanuel. Now Christ dwells in each of his people even among the Gentiles Paul expressed this mystery in 2 Corinthians 4:7-10, “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body” Those who know this mystery want to have richer and deeper fellowship with him through the word of God and prayer and the life of faith, especially at critical time in life. He lives in us to guard us in every aspect of life each day, and to transform us into his likeness. In the end, he will completely change us into his glorious image. We will be like him and live with him forever in the kingdom of God. This is our hope, the hope of glory. Paul wanted the people of God among the Gentiles to know the glorious riches of this mystery. This is the reason he was commissioned to present the word of God in its fullness, “to make the word of God fully known” (ESV).

In history and in our times more people try to cover the revealed Christ, even denying the very existence of Christ and even more getting rid of him. To make Christ known through the word of God is a spiritual battle. Then Paul said in verses 28-29, “We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect (fully mature) in Christ. To this end I labour, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me.” Certainly, Paul proclaimed the word of God, yet to the point he proclaimed him Christ. And his goal was to present everyone perfect, fully mature, and for this he laboured and struggled hard not with his own strength but with the energy of Christ (cf. 1:11). We remember what Paul said in Galatians 4:19, “My dear children, for whom I am again in the pain of childbirth until Christ is formed in you.” He also said in 1 Corinthians 4:15, “Even though you have ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel.” This is truly a beautiful life in this world. This beautiful life starts with serving one person with the word of God. Preparing Bible notes to feed one soul is definitely a part of this beautiful life. It is also a part of this beautiful life to go to campus again and again overcoming rejection to get one Bible student, to pray for God’s flock and God’s work unceasingly, and to speak the word of God to friends and neighbours. May we all walk on this track of beautiful life growing in knowing the glorious riches of the mystery, which is Christ in you and me.

Second, Christ, the mystery of God (2:1-5). In 2:1-3, “I want you to know how much I am struggling for you and for those at Laodicea, and all who have not met me personally. My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” We see again Paul’s shepherd heart for God’s people, which is extensive. Regardless of many things which would discourage them he wanted them to be encouraged in heart and united in love. That itself would be great. Yet, Paul’s heart for them did not stop there on the horizontal level. His heart and purpose for them was much greater and higher. He said, “…so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ…” Here we notice the importance of understanding in our life of faith. Faith never ignores understanding. Rather, when our faith grows, understanding grows. In Colossians, the word “understand” was written very meaningfully. He said in 1:7, “…All over the world this gospel is bearing fruit and growing, just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and understood God’s grace in all its truth.” Here God’s grace needs to be understood in all its truth as well as to be accepted by faith. And he said in 1:9, “For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding.” God’s will is also to be understood to fill our hearts (cf. Eph 5:17) as well as to be obeyed. Faith/obedience and understanding go together. According to Matthew’s gospel the good heart soil is that of the one who hears the word of God and understands it (13:23). Here Paul wrote, “…they may have the full riches of complete understanding…” When we understand something that we have not understood, we have inner joy and satisfaction. With complete understanding, we can have the full satisfaction and riches of such understanding. How about having the complete understanding of God’s word and God’s grace! How great the riches of that complete understanding will be!

Paul wrote continually, “…in order that you may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ.” We learned in the previous part that Christ living in me is the mystery. God wants to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery. Now Paul says that Christ is the mystery of God. We know that the creation is full of mystery. Man can make a Robart that moves here and there. But how about making a Robert that can taste various kinds of flavour? It will be a totally different level of story. As science is developed, we realize more and more the mystery of how our body functions. Indeed the creation is filled with mystery. Then God is full of mystery. And the very mystery of God is Christ. As we studied, he came to this world he created and lived in time and space, making the invisible and infinite God known, his love, power, holiness and righteousness, and his eternal kingdom. He did the works no one else could do. Before him demons trembled and driven out of people. He spoke the words no other men could speak: “I am the bread of life”, “I am resurrection and life”, and “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” He knew when he was going to die, why he had to die and how to die. He knew he would rise on the third day. Indeed he died on the cross for man’s sins and rose again from the dead according to his promise. He promised that he would appear again in power and glory (Col 3:4). Christ’s life on earth, his death and resurrection, and the promise of coming again are forever mysterious. When he comes again, this mystery will be completed. At that time we will see him face to face, though now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror (1 Cor 15:12).

The Paul said, “…in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” It means all the precious things for which man have been seeking and searching for man’s true happiness are hidden in him. The false teachers threatening the Colossians claimed to possess a secret wisdom and transcendent knowledge available only to the spiritual elite. In sharp contrast, Paul declared that all the richness of truth necessary for salvation, sanctification, and glorification is found in Jesus Christ, the mystery of God. He himself is God revealed.

Knowing Christ greatly impacts anyone who encounters him. When Paul found Christ he regarded everything a loss in order to gain Christ (Php 3:8). Since then his master passion was to know Christ. Even in his old age he said in Philippians 3:10, “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his suffering, becoming like him in his death.”

One day an insurance salesman had an opportunity to sing in an NBC open stage. His song moved the hearts of people nationwide, and they praised him. Suddenly he became a famous star, and many contracts were waiting for him. His future was guaranteed with success and money. But he was filled with fear rather than joy. So he bowed down and prayed. His mother also prayed at the very time when he prayed. Then his mother left one small note on his table. It was a Christian poem by Rhea F. Miller, his mothers favorite. While reading the poem, he was moved by the Spirit and shed tears. He began composing the music that was coming into his mind. Then the song was made, "Id rather have Jesus than silver or gold; Id rather be His than have riches untold...Id rather have Jesus than mens applause...." One day he sang this special song in Amsterdam in Netherlands where all Christian leaders of the world gathered together. After his song they all got up and praised him. But he said, "Thank you very much. But I do not want to exchange Christ with your applause and cheers." He is George Beverly Shea, Dr. Billy Grahams lifetime coworker.

While living in this world, people seem to seek many things. What is truly valuable? Jesus said, “What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self?” (Lk 9:25). Christ, the mystery of God, is the glorious treasure and the source of everything we need. Christ is the one we should seek. When we have Christ in our hearts, we are the most blessed persons and the richest persons in the world, even though our worldly treasures may be few. On the other hand, even if we have many worldly treasures, if we do not have Christ in our hearts, we are very poor people. Yesterday, there was a funeral ceremony for Nicole’s mother. M. Sarah, Ian and Jemmie attended the ceremony and could see how Nicole’s mother Lybia lived, keeping her faith in Christ Jesus and serving many people in the church faithfully. She was happy to leave this world and be with the Lord Jesus. We believe that in life what remains in the end is our relationship with Christ Jesus. All the things we have will disappear, along with our bodies when we die. May we know Christ. May we invest all the more to know him better. May we hold on to Christ as our treasure in our hearts. May we hold on to Christ as the treasure in our community.

Then in verse 4, “I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding argument.” Knowing Christ is the best remedy for all kinds of deception of man.

Look at verse 5. “For though I am absent from you in body, I am present with you in sprit and delight to see how orderly you are and how firm your faith in Christ is.” This is Paul’s eyes of faith to see the Colossians that they are like the army of God, firm and well-disciplined and orderly in Christ as they know Christ, the mystery of God.

In this passage we thought of Paul’s labour for the church, particularly, to present the word of God so as to make known the glorious riches of the mystery, which is Christ in each believer. His continuous effort and purpose was that God’s people may know the mystery of God, Christ, with the full riches of complete understanding. May we treasure Christ living in us and have a deeper and richer fellowship with him and also become his servant to present the word of God to reveal Christ to the people of our generation.

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