aColossians 1:24-29 Christ in You: the Hope of Glory
Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church, of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints. To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.
It’s so easy to read this text and then realize .. you haven’t understood a thing about it. Theres this huge run-on sentence right at the beginning and its full of weird phrases and its not clear how they’re connected. It’s a real doozy of a text.
but for all it’s difficulty and strangeness, the real doozy of it all, is it’s profoundly radical summons to live out the Hero’s story.
This word is not for the faint of heart. It’s not for those who aren’t all in, not for the fence sitters, for the lukewarm, for the wishy-washy. The message of this text, in the power and spirit of God-Almighty, beckons you come and disregard your own life that you might participate in a far greater one.
It’s an incredible thing.
so get ready.
Paul says, I now rejoice in my sufferings for you.
You suffer. You struggle. You know pain. But why do you suffer? Is it just because you’re in this cursed world? because you are sinful and your neighbors are sinful?
You have aches and pains and you make stupid decisions and hurt people and people hurt you. That’s life, and in Jesus, praise God, you’re able to find peace and happiness despite your pain.
But what if you could, not just patiently bear your sufferings, but actually embrace them with gladness? What if you could join Paul in saying, I now rejoice in my sufferings for you. That’s a whole other question. That sounds so strange, so foreign. It’s probably not what your parents hoped for you. it’s not what you learned in school. It doesn’t sound like the life you aspired to.
Paul goes on to say, and fill up in my flesh what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ for the sake of his body which is the church.
Did he just say that he fills up in his flesh what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ?
yeah, Theres definitely something going on here that we don’t quite get. … and we need to get it.
If it sounds strange, that something would be lacking in Jesus’ afflictions, that’s a good thing. It should sound strange. If your pastor started teaching that somehow, Jesus didn’t suffer enough for you, that his humiliation and punishment didn’t quite pay the full price, didn’t actually satisfy God’s holy justice, the red flags should be going off all of the place.
Your Jesus suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, (1 peter 3:18)
being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high (Hebrews 1:3)
The work is over. its ended. it’s completed. its the most glorious thing in the whole universe. that jesus christ is completely pleased with his own work. and the father is pleased and the spirit rejoices in it . and the angels in glory, look and they can’t believe their eyes! it’s absolutely perfect. On the cross in agony, there he is soaking up your sins, your sins that defile you and make you filthy. There he hung to wash you and make you spotless. there he humbled himself to the point of shame and brutal death and he did a good job. He did a complete work, He did a mighty miracle and he did it fully and saw it through to completion.
He has purged our sins! he has blotted them out, swept them away, cast them into the depths of the sea. it is as if they never were. its all forgiven. its all forgotten. its all been blotted out. its all been purged away. he’s born it all, every speck, every wrinkle, every spot. There’s absolutely nothing left, no price left unpaid. You Jesus didn’t do half a job on that tree. Your brave young savior didn’t do 90 percent and ask you kindly to top off his sacrifice. He purged our sins. I’m not sure my heart believes it! it’s too great. Too beautiful to behold. Oh that I would believe and and go and sin no more.
So what in the world does it mean to “fill up” what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ?
The key to understanding that and the key that unlocks the wealth, the riches of this text is the conclusion of verse 27 when Paul is talking about the mystery and he says point blank what it is: Christ in you: the hope of glory.
How unfathomable is the story of the bible?! … The story of Christ in you. Just meditate on these words: Christ in you. Now if that isn’t mysterious to you, you must not understand one of those three short words.
Christ. The anointed one. The King of Glory. The Creator. The Head all things, visible and invisible, powers and authorities, dust and stars. The Humble obedient Son, The suffering Servant. The Lamb of God, slaughter to take away the sins of the world, The conqueror, the avenger, the One who lives. The pure and spotless One. The Hope of hopeless men. The Holy Hero. The supreme and pure being. The treasure of all treasures.
You. Who are you? What characterizes you as a human being? As a man or woman or child, what separates you from other creatures? You were formed in the image of the Maker … capable of extraordinary things, taking the world into your Dominion, organizing it, separating, combining, making it more beautiful, more productive, more efficient. You’re a creature full of knowledge, will power and the ability to sacrifice the present for the future. You can paint and imagine, sing, make music, sculpt, write, read, inspire and empower with your words. But you’re a creature that uses its incredible powers for evil, for selfish gain. You’re a creature that rebels against your creator. You’re prone to greed and lust and jealousy. You are full of pride. God gave you the earth to have dominion over it isn’t enough for you, you feel the need to extend your dominion over your fellow man and make him your subject.
Many of you have seen the video of George Floyd being killed by a police officer. It makes you furious. you just want to tackle that officer to the ground and make him stop. It gives you the urge to vomit with disgust. You’r being confronted with evil when you watch it.
But that officer isn’t the exception. he isn’t extraordinarily evil. Each of you is capable of and is corrupted with that same evil. Granted the same position of authority and protection and granted the circumstances you just might have taken Floyd’s life as well. And if you don’t think that’s true, you’re fooling yourself. That’s the kind of creatures we’ve become.
So there’s “Christ” the lovely one and there’s “you” with your wicked corrupt heart. light and darkness. good and evil, glorious and shameful.
And then you have the smallest word. the one that contains the largest mystery… “in”
Oh, that this Christ, Jesus the beautiful one, would empty himself of his divine majesty to make room to bear the countless poisonous sins of sinful men!
How can it be? That he would unite himself to you? Oh, that He would allow you to be swallowed up by him, to share in his joys, and be the recipient of his Love!? How can it be?! That he would sacrifice so much to bring you into his family, to become his brother, a child of His Father?! It’s overwhelming.
and that doesn’t even begin to describe what it means… the riches of the glory of this mystery.
Christ in you. it’s not even Christ and you, which would be enough to make you fall to the ground before him if worship. But Christ IN you. If only we really understood what that meant. If you could wrap your mind around that glorious mystery and your soul could take it all in. That you can be the dwelling place of the King of Glory. That he would honor you in such a way!
Once the thought of it has been conceived in your mind there is no other Glory that could ever compare. Nothing can stand in the presence of this Glory. No genie, however powerful could grant you a kingdom rich enough and powerful enough, with subjects to love and respect and fear you enough to compare to the glory of being United to Christ, the maker and sustainer of the galaxies. The lover of your soul, The one true hero.
All the glory that you can imagine in this life would be like the glory of a firework that goes up in the night sky, explodes and shimmers for a second. The next moment, all that’s left is a rotten smell and then you realize you’re just standing in the dark and it’s cold and tomorrow you’re going to have to clean up the mess.
In comparison, the Glory that is Christ’s and awaits, his brothers and sisters is like that of the blazing sun. day after day, age after age, generation after generation giving life to all creatures. a consuming fire, 94 million miles away but so bright and hot that it blinds you if you look directly into it.
Any Glory you have in this world, it’s all rubbish. it will all rot.
Christ in you. Christ living in you, in your life. Christ loving, loving in you. Christ serving, Christ bringing the Lost world to the father in you. So Christ in you, that’s a mystery.
With that in mind, move further back up into the text to the part where Paul talks about his stewardship from God to fulfill this mystery of Christ in you. Stewardship is fairly well understood. There is a lord who puts something he owns under the control of a Steward. it’s the Steward’s job to dispense or to govern whatever his master has entrusted to him, in the way, in spirit, in the name of his master, to do His master’s will with it.
Paul says he became a minister. He knows his place. He understands that he’s a servant and steward which means he’s been given something that belongs to God. He’s been entrusted with, to oversee, to use it, to dispense it in the spirit of God to God’s chosen people. In this setting, what Paul does, is the Lord’s doing. What He gives the church, doesn’t come from him. It comes from God and it is God giving it to the church through his steward. And that’s the only way we can call these writings of Paul, The Word of God.
You understand this concept in other areas as well, like stewarding God’s money that He has entrusted to you, and also stewarding the children he’s given you. Those children are yours but only according to the Stewardship given to you by God. They are His children and he has entrusted them to you for a time to be raised in accordance to his good and perfect will. When you do that, it is God himself raising them. Or as Paul says, His working which works in me mightily. And that is incredible. Whenever you act according to the will of God, disregarding your own desires and acting in his name, It is He, working mightily IN you.
Now, you understand this when it comes to money. Or at least in theory right? But ask yourself this question: When you think of Jesus, and his uniqueness, how often does his money and his earthy wealth come to mind? Pretty much never, right?
What are those unique aspects about Jesus that make him special? Why is it, you worship him? why is it that you adore him and not another?
It’s his sacrificial love, is it not? It’s that he would leave his throne in heaven, where he was worshipped by creatures purer and more beautiful than you have ever seen or imagined.
He put that aside and took on the form of a man. He suffered himself become a babe with dirty diapers, he brought on himself the afflictions of exhaustion and hunger and being scorned and overlooked. He opened himself up to be ridiculed, to be unjustly punished, to be mocked, to be betrayed, to be beaten, bruised. to bleed. to give up dreams and aspirations, to bear the brutal wrath of God. to set upon his shoulders the sins of the world, to be stricken by God, to be forsaken, to be crushed, to drink the cup of God’s wrath … in the place of vile sinners.
Is this not why you worship? Is this not why you sing his praises? and fly across the globe to tell of this Jesus, this suffering Jesus? is that not the most effectual part of who he is? The part that, stirs up your love, and fills you with wonder and gratitude? That he suffered for you?
Not so much the good teachings that you would never have heard if not for him, Not that he fed you with bread or gave you a job or a beautiful spouse but that He bore your sins in his body?! That he stepped down from his throne and allowed himself to be tortured and spit upon and betrayed and nailed to the cross and put in the ground in your place. This is what stirs your heart! This is what makes your soul cry out.
This is the amazing gift of God, by which he brings sinners into peace and the hope of glory.
and so when we talk about our master, having stewards to dispense his riches, we’re talking about the unmatched riches of his afflictions. They are His. He bore them faithfully and mightily and effectively.
And he calls his servants to steward his sufferings. He gives you that honor, to dispense them, to bring them to the lost, by the spirit and power of God, in your own bodies.
Lord, let that sink in deep and transform your comfortable American church, that she would embrace your suffering and take it to the lost!
What an honor! what a glory! What prestige, to steward the love of Jesus himself!…
How do you steward God’s love? Well, how did he love you?
How can you be a steward of his peace? well, how did he bring you peace? Not in word only or a comforting hug, but through his blood and sacrifice?
Now all of that should help to understand what Paul means when says, I rejoice in my sufferings. These are sufferings that you can rejoice in because you are taking part in the Life of Christ. Because Jesus is living and working mightily in you, to seek and save the lost, to redeem, to reconcile them. In these active willful loving acts of humility and service, you’re actually becoming an agent God’s supernatural salvation. And if a co-worker with Christ then a co-inheiritor with him of his glory. Can you believe… actually believe such an outlandish thing?
I’m not sure i can believe it. If I did, I would hate my sin and love so much truer! oh Lord, we believe. Help our unbelief!
And if He does help our unbelief then we will rejoice in suffering, knowing that it’s full of purpose, and that it leads us to Divine glory and others to beautiful, strong, new life.
I now rejoice in my sufferings for you and fill up in my flesh what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ for the sake of his body.
Look and see, judge for yourself whether I’m on the right track or not.
If so, where is that track leading you? What steps will you need to take to be faithful to God’s way? What destination does this track lead you to?
It ends in that hope of glory: Christ in you.
This message shouldn’t be sugarcoated. It is just as radical as it sounds. No. Actually it’s much more radical that it sounds now.
I fill up in my flesh what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ for the sake of his body.
And what’s lacking in the afflictions of Christ?
If his sacrifice is perfect, and in the most wonderful sense of the word, enough, if it’s pleases the father so that look on sinners through the sacrifice of Jesus and be satisfied with them and is able to love and embrace and call you his own,… if that’s what the afflictions of Christ accomplish, then what in the world is lacking in them?
What’s lacking, what’s missing is the presentation of those afflictions to the people for whom he died.
Especially as we become more and more removed from those afflictions in time and space. A personal touch, the ability to see with your own eyes, to smell and touch and hear those afflictions that happened once ages ago.
People have an account of Jesus’ sacrificial suffering love for them. They have eyewitnesses accounts, that have been preserved and passed on. they have the spirit of God that bears witness to their souls. What’s missing is a physical intimate presentation of his suffering for them. A display of his affliction to their senses, in a way that affects them in their body.
Paul says he’s filling up in my flesh. my body is being put to use to present the sufferings of Christ to a world that’s dying to see it and to experience it.
Paul isn’t adding to Christs afflictions. He’s not perfecting or improving upon them. Rather, by using his body as an example, he delivers and presents Christ’s sufferings to others, not his.
When you pour yourself out in the name of Jesus, when you disregard yourself and your position of honor and your rights, your sufferings are no longer yours alone, but they become the needed visible reenactment of Christs saving afflictions, that they might taste and see and believe and repent and rejoice and be glorified and sanctified and be presented perfect in Jesus Christ.
When people see you paying a price to reach them,
When they see you giving up your paycheck,
When you interupt your schedule, when you skip a meal,
When you scrape your knuckles and, when you make yourself volurable,
When they can hear and smell and feel you casting aside your personal ambitions and instead pursue their benefit in an intensional way that makes you grown and sweat and cry and bleed, that’s when they have a visual enactment, not of your sufferings and how great and honorable you are, but they will have a personal, potent, present, presentation of Jesus’ love for sinners like them.
If you’re looking for confirmation of this interpretation of scripture, turn a page or two back in your bible to Philippians 2:25-30 and see how Paul praises Epaphroditus.
Basically, the Philippians had sent Paul a gift. He’s in prison for the gospel and they want to have solidarity with him, to love on him, to bless him. So they put together a special gift for him. Isn’t that great?! The problem of course is that Paul is hundreds of miles away and isn’t really benefiting from the gift. So they choose one of their own, Epaphroditus who is called in the text a messenger and minister, so again you have the idea of a servant being entrusted with a gift to pass on.
and Paul says for the work of Christ he came close to death, not regarding his life, to supply what was lacking in your service toward me. he uses the same greek words to say here that Epaphrodites supplied what was lacking in their service as he uses when he says that he is “filling up” what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ.
So the Philipians had this great gift for Paul. a gift of love, a gift that cost them, a beautiful gift. What’s missing? what’s lacking is the physical personal presentation of that gift to the one it’s meant for.
And Epaphrodites has the honor to be the one who disregards his life to go at great risk to fill up that lack by taking the gift and in his body suffering to make sure that the receiver saw it and touched it and smelled it and held and cherished it and said yes thank you for your gift it is beautiful and welcome and wonderful.
That’s the same thing Paul was doing in his sufferings for the church. He was filling up in his flesh what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ for the sake of his body, which is the Church.
Christ has a gift and the gift is his suffering, is his dying, is his blood. God is bestowing, he is entrusting that suffering to his servants as stewards to take that suffering and administer it to God’s people that they might experience it and receive it, glorify God and be born again.
The words of Jesus come to mind… As the father has sent me so also I am sending you.(John 20:21)
You see, suffering in this life isn’t just an accident, isn’t merely a byproduct of a sinful world. God doesn’t only allow pain to happen to you. That can be, but more than that, The Father gives you, sends you afflictions on purpose. Your sufferings for a sinful world are God’s great strategy. It’s the means to the end. It’s not an unforeseen malfunction. they are the plan. Suffering not only acompanies the proclamation of the Gospel but is itself a proclamation of the Gospel.
You’re going to suffer in life anyways. its unavoidable. So why not Choose the glorious route and embrace the suffering to bring Christ to people?! The world will say that’s foolish. But He is no fool who gives up what he can not hold on to to gain that which he can not loose.
(Jim and Elizabeth Eliiot, Racheal Saint)
To suffer for the gospel is to personally participate in Jesus’s salvation, in the salvation Jesus won at so great a price. To humble yourself to the point of death as he did, is to participate in his saving work. if that isn’t glorious, I don’t know what is.
Would you?… could you choose to suffer?
You cannot love others in your own way. Christ taught us what Love is. His love is actually costly But it’s also effective. It brings you to peace with God. Not through tweets and memes but in the body of his flesh through death. It’s not well wishes. The church is now stewards of that love. that’s the love that he gives us to pass on to other people in his name.
Your life is short. 80 years 90 years a 100 years… it’s nothing in light of eternity. it’s a light momentary affliction and it’s not to be compared with the glory that awaits us … the hope of glory: Christ in you. When you make it to heaven, you’ll be shocked and amazed how you ever loved food and sex and couches so much. oh they were good, but nothing compares to the glory and the pleasures waiting for his children. You’ll wonder how you could have ever done such evil in pursuit of such feeble and passing pleasures. What foolishness it all was.
The question for you tonight isn’t so much, are you acting like Jesus? But is Jesus acting in you? Is the holy one tending to his flock in you? This is not about you having a great day or week and doing something great for the kingdom. But is He humbly offering himself to the lost, in your body?
Would you even want that honor?
By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him? My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth. And by this we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before Him. 1 John 3:16-19
Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. 25 Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him. John 12:23-26
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