Paul has assured the Colossians that Jesus is enough grace, Jesus is enough power, and this week we consider the fact that Jesus is enough glory.
Summary of the Text:
Paul turns to address the Colossians directly following his exaltation of Jesus (1:15-20). He reminds them that they have experienced the power of Jesus in their lives because they were previously “aliens” and “enemies” (1:21). This most easily refers to the fact that some of the Colossians were previously gentile pagans (cf. Eph. 2:12), but it might also refer to some of them previously being Jews who had rejected Jesus (like Paul himself) (cf. Rom. 11:28, Phil. 3:18). The power of God has reconciled both kinds of aliens and enemies through the cross of Jesus, and this is a central piece of the glory of the gospel (cf. 1:27). The result of this reconciliation is that the Colossians are “holy,” “without blemish,” and “blameless” (1:22).
We noted last week that at least part of the imagery in this section is borrowed from the Exodus when God “sanctified” the firstborn of Israel in the Passover, claiming Israel as holy people (Num. 8:17-18). Israel was sanctified and called to be God’s priestly people through the Passover where blood was shed to protect Israel while God’s judgment fell on Egypt. Jesus is the new Passover lamb. He is the “firstborn” (1:15,18) who was struck by the angel of death so that His blood may cover our houses and free us from every pharaoh, every Egypt, to serve His Father as “firstborn sons.” Can you guess what that might mean for us?
This Exodus background is probably one reason why Paul immediately thinks to remind the Colossians that they must “continue in the faith…” (1:23). And this is also why Paul immediately turns to His own calling (1:23-25): even though Paul had a unique apostolic ministry, we know that he considers all Christians “brothers” and fellow “saints” in the gospel (cf. 1:2). His ministry implies an analogous ministry by the Colossians and all Christians.
Paul rejoices that he gets to share in Christ’s sufferings on behalf of the Colossians and other new Christians (1:24). Paul learned first hand that Jesus identifies so closely with His people that when they are persecuted, Jesus himself is being persecuted (Acts 9:4-5). Jesus claims the sufferings of His saints as His own, and therefore we should glory in them like Paul because they proclaim the cross of Christ. Paul is “filling up” the word of God in his ministry in a similar way to how he is “filling up” the sufferings of Christ (1:25). And the great glory is how God Himself is coming to fill up the brokenness of the world, the renewal of all people everywhere (1:23, 26-27). This is why Paul preaches and labors with all the strength he can muster (1:28-29).
Enemies in Mind & Deed
Paul assumes something here that’s worth pausing to consider. We are complex creatures, affected at many different levels by different things: weather, actions, thoughts, words, health, food, sleep, etc. But the Bible teaches that sin messes with our minds: Paul says that our wicked works turn our minds against God (1:21). “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but he that heakeneth unto counsel is wise” (Pro. 12:15). “There is a generation that are pure in their own eyes, and yet is not washed from their filthiness” (Pr. 30:12). This is why sin can make perfect sense in your head while you’re doing it, and to those watching you, it’s pure insanity. This is also why Jesus assumes that we have sin to confess first before trying to help someone else with their grime (Mt. 7:3-5, cf. Gal. 6:1). Confession, forgiveness and reconciliation are the means by which our minds and eyes stay clear to see and understand rightly. This is part of the glory of the gospel because it’s all grace.
Continue in the Faith: Grounded, Settled, Unmoved
Part of the glory of the gospel is the paradox of God’s sovereign grace and our duty to respond to that grace. In Jesus, our sins are freely forgiven, we are delivered from the power of darkness, and we are promised an inheritance of everlasting glory (1:12-14), and this has all happened (and is happening) for us and to us by God’s pure, undeserved love and favor. Christ offers us to the Father pure and spotless, and in that offering, we must nevertheless offer ourselves (1:23). In His perfection, we must strive to grow up into the perfection of Jesus (1:28). Because of the mighty power of Jesus, we must strive mightily (1:11, 29). We are saved by grace, re-created in Jesus for good works (Eph. 2:8-10). “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure” (Phil. 2:12-13). The “hope of the gospel” remains so long as the Colossians remain grounded, settled, and unmoved in Jesus. Jesus is enough.
The Hope of Glory
Glory is a deep, satisfying goodness that delights and continually surprises. And for Paul, the glory of the gospel is the goodness of God in Jesus, reconciling all things. Paul points to his own ministry, his own sufferings, his message as part of that glory, and the birth and growth of the Church, a new humanity of Jews and Gentiles and all people, is the great revelation of that glory (1:27-29). In Hebrew, the idea of “perfection” is not so much sinlessness as it denotes those for a particular purpose (e.g. Noah, Jacob, Job). This calling usually includes suffering and hardship because God loves glory. He loves surprises. Therefore, Jesus calls us to the glory of the cross (Mt. 16:24, Heb. 12:1-2). Everything hinges on whether we “get to” or we “got to.” And when everything is ultimately a “get to” – down in our bones, then it’s all grace and Jesus is enough glory.
Parish Group Questions
- What’s the connection between remembering what we were before we met Jesus (“aliens” and “enemies” – Col. 1:21) and “continuing in the faith” (1:23)? How do we teach this to our covenant children or apply it to ourselves if we grew up in covenant families?
- Can you trace some of the Exodus themes in Col. 1:15-23? What’s the significance of some of the key words: firstborn, holy, without blemish? Num. 8:17-18 says that God claimed Israel/Levites as his “firstborn” during the Passover to carry out His ministry/mission. If Jesus is our Passover Lamb, what does that imply about our mission?
- Read 2 Cor. 4:10-11, Rom. 8:17, Phil. 1:12, 20, Acts 9:4-5. How do these passages shed light on what Paul means by “filling up the afflictions of Christ” (1:24)? Can you see how a faulty understanding of grace might have led some medieval theologians to twist this passage into meaning that certain saints provide extra “merits” for sinners to draw from?
- Notice how Paul connects sacrifice, hard work, and glory (Col. 1:24-29). Read Heb. 12:2-3. How is the “hope of glory” or the “joy set before us” so crucial for continuing to labor diligently, for sacrificing gladly? Can you give some practical examples from your life where you are tempted to grow weary or give up? How can you fix your eyes on the glory of Christ more firmly?