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Author:Rev. Ted Gray
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Congregation:First United Reformed Church
 Oak Lawn, Illinois
 www.oaklawnurc.org/
 
Title:Glorious Riches: Christ in You
Text:Colossians 1:24-29 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Life in Christ
 
Preached:03/15/2015
Added:2015-07-17
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


 
 
Pastor Ted Gray
03/15/2015 – a.m.
 
“Glorious Riches: Christ in You”
Colossians 1:24-29

As the apostle Paul closes this first chapter he makes a statement that should make each one of us truly grateful, thankful, and amazed. In verse 27 he writes, God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.

Think about that for a moment. Throughout all the Old Testament the only nation whom God revealed Himself to with special revelation was the nation of Israel. As He said in Amos 3:2a “You only have I chosen of all the families of the earth…”

Because of their unique relationship with the Lord many of the Jews looked down on the Gentiles. After all, they had a special relationship with the Lord. They had a relationship that the Romans, even with all their military power, certainly did not have. They had a relationship that the Greeks in all their philosophical knowledge did not have. They even looked down on the Samaritans. They considered themselves to be the true descendants of Abraham; they claimed their unique relationship to the Lord with great pride.

But now the apostle is pointing out in verse 27 that the gospel goes out, not just to Israel, but to all nations, to the Gentiles. Greeks who had been steeped in their philosophy now were receiving the truths of the gospel. The Romans with all their military might were now seeing the power of the gospel at work in their lives. Samaritans who had been ridiculed as second class citizens were now, in the New Testament churches, one with Christ and on the same level as Jews, Romans, Greeks and all other nationalities.

As the apostle had explained to the Ephesians church, in Ephesians 2:11 and the verses that follow – (Those) who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (which is done in the body by human hands)— remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility... Jews and Gentiles are now together, something unheard of in the first century when there was such hostility between them.

The reality that the Lord will draw people to himself from every nation, from every tribe and tongue, is still a truth that should overwhelm us. Most of us have grown up in an ethnic church. And many other federations and denominations are ethnic because we are bound to some degree to the nationality in which we were born.

We won’t realize until we get to heaven the full impact of the wonderful truth of Psalm 87:3-4, Glorious things are said of you, O city of God: “I will record Rahab and Babylon among those who acknowledge Me—Philistia too, and Tyre, along with Cush - and will say, ‘This one was born in Zion.’

We should be just as amazed as the Christians in the first century were at how the gospel is for the whole world and not just for one nation, or just one group of people. The gospel goes out into all the world, transforming lives as it speaks of the glorious riches of this mystery which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.

Suffering

But before getting to the glorious riches...of Christ in you, the hope of glory, the apostle speaks about suffering. And he speaks about suffering, not in the context of disappointment, sorrow or bitterness. Instead he speaks about suffering in the context of rejoicing.  He writes, 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 (v. 24).

This statement, I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, has been misunderstood by many. Some teach that the suffering of Jesus in redeeming us from our sin wasn't enough; we have to suffer further in order to complete that atoning work. From the context of Colossians 1 we clearly see that that is not the case. Paul has pointed out the supremacy and preeminence of Jesus Christ. Paul has made it clear that we are reconciled to the Father through Christ and that Christ is more than sufficient to be our only Redeemer and Savior.

What then does it mean when Paul writes about rejoicing in his suffering and “filling up in his flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions”? He is pointing out that the hatred and animosity of the world is still aimed at Christ.  But since Christ is no longer on earth, the church, which is His body on earth, will be persecuted instead.

William Hendriksen puts it this way in his commentary on the passage. He describes the enemies of Jesus by writing, “They hated Jesus with insatiable hatred, and wanted to add to His afflictions. But since He is no longer physically present on earth, their arrows which are meant especially for Him, strike His followers. (New Testament Commentary, Colossians, pg. 87).

We certainly see that in our world, don’t we? Those of you who read the March edition of The Messenger (our monthly church magazine) probably read the article describing the brutal beheading of 21 Christians by the Islamic state, ISIS. The article described how “one by one, (the Christians) were urged repeatedly to recant their faith in Christ. Not one did. (No one) stumbled in his walk. Some were clearly whispering prayers. In the first YouTube recording, one is heard saying in Arabic, “Jesus, my life is in your hands,” as he felt the knife on his neck. The man beside him said, “Amen.”

The picture of the Christians, clothed in orange jumpsuits, kneeling before the Islamic militants who would behead them, has been ingrained in the minds of people around the world. What has caused the great escalation in the persecution of Christians? The reason is, that Christ is hated. But since He is in heaven and cannot be reached Himself, His body on earth, which is the true church, is persecuted instead.

That is also why Paul was suffering in the first century. That is the essence of what Paul is speaking about in vs 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.

But it’s not just Christians in other countries who suffer for their Christianity. From this passage we see that suffering for the sake of the gospel is inevitable for the true Christian, and not just for Paul so long ago as he wrote this letter from prison. It is not just the martyrs who have been killed by ISIS militants, and others throughout all of history, who suffered for their faith. Jesus clearly taught that since those in the world persecuted Him, they would persecute those who follow Him. That truth is woven throughout the Scriptures. As Paul told Timothy, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted (2 Timothy 3:12).

We may not suffer by being imprisoned, yet. We might not be beheaded. But if we truly live out our Christianity in a fallen world then we too will share in the suffering of Christ. As Philippians 1:29-30 puts it, It has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on Him, but also to suffer for Him, since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have.

And when we do suffer for the sake of Christ, whether it’s because of ridicule from our neighbors, the rising hostility of the media against Christianity, the passing over of a promotion because we believe that the Lord’s Day is a special day of spiritual rest, or any number of other ways that we face suffering for the sake of Christ, we can rejoice.

In the pages of the New Testament we see over and over that the believers who suffered for the sake of Christ considered it an honor. For example, in Acts 5:41 we read how the apostles were persecuted for preaching the gospel. They were brought before the Sanhedrin and were threatened with death, but instead they were flogged. Luke writes: The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name.

It is a worthy thing, a badge of our Christianity, when we suffer for being a Christian. “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,” Jesus said, “for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:10).

Sufficient for Salvation

From this passage we also see that God’s word is truly sufficient in its fullness. In verse 25 Paul writes, I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness.

When we began our study of this letter to the Colossian church, we saw that there were many false teachers at Colossae who undermined what Paul calls in verse 5 the word of truth, the gospel. The false teachers were saying that there needed to be something more than the gospel which Epaphras had brought to the Colossian church. The false teachers were more than willing to supply their Gnostic literature, their teaching about the worship of angels, and other false teaching to either supplement the word of truth, the gospel, if not out right deny the word of truth.

We saw that the same effort is still made by many false teachers today. Yet we also saw how the word of God is sufficient; we call it “the sufficiency of Scripture.” By that we mean that all we need to know about our sinful condition, and the only Savior Jesus Christ, is in the word of truth that God has given us. The Bible is indeed sufficient, in and of itself.

And it is that word that we are to make fully known (25, ESV) – which also leads to persecution, since “everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that (their) deeds will be exposed.” As Jesus said, “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.” (John 3:19-20).

Paul goes on in verse 26 to describe how God’s word is the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the saints. The word “mystery” was frequently used by the false teachers in Colossae. They were trying to convince the Christians that the truth of the gospel wasn’t enough in their worship of God. The congregation at Colossae was told by the false teachers that they needed the secret teachings which were a mystery only revealed to certain people, namely, the false teachers.

But Paul takes the word “mystery”, which had been used to mislead people, to teach the progressive nature of God’s revelation.  “Mystery”,  as Paul uses the term, refers to a truth that would have remained unknown if God had not revealed it. Hendriksen writes,Such a mystery is said to have been revealed in the fullest sense only when its significance is translated into historical reality” (Ibid, pg. 88).

As an example, in the Old Testament Moses was commanded by God to make a bronze snake and put it on a pole in the camp. The reason why was because venomous snakes had come into the camp as a judgment on the people for their complaints and sin against God. But God had said to Moses “Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.”  So Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, they lived.

That passage, taken by itself, is something of a mystery. Why would God have that bronze serpent put on a pole? What significance could there be in such imagery? But from the New Testament we see that the mystery that had been kept hidden for ages and generations was now disclosed to the saints – in the words of verse 26 – was both fulfilled and explained by Jesus himself.  For in John 3:14-15, we read how Jesus related that incident directly to Himself. He said to Nicodemus, “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in Him may have eternal life.” 

That is an example of what Paul is speaking about in verse 26. The types and shadows of the Old Testament are seen with ever increasing clarity through their fulfillment in the New Testament. The word “mystery” in this biblical sense refers to truths that would have remained unknown if God had not revealed them to us in His Word.

The Hope of Glory

A third truth in this passage is the one we began with: Christ is in us, thus we have the hope – indeed the certain reality – of sharing in His eternal glory. Why did Christ come to this earth and undergo such great suffering, suffering which His followers still share in? Why did God reveal Himself, first to Adam and Eve, even after they had sinned against Him, and then to all humanity through the progressive revelation of the Bible as the gospel goes into all the world? God’s purpose in revealing Himself to us is so that, by His grace, Christ dwells in us, giving us the hope of glory (v. 27).

I don’t know what hopes you may have in your life. Some of you young people are getting closer to graduation. Some of you will graduate from college this year and some of you, in a year or two, will graduate from high school. What hopes do you have beyond that, by way of God’s calling in employment? Or in courtship? Or in marriage?

Whether young or old our lives are given many hopes, from the trivial, such as hope for more nice spring-like weather, to the very serious hope regarding perhaps our health, employment, or prayerful guidance for our children and grandchildren. But no matter what hope you have in your life there is no greater hope than the hope of glory which verse 27 speaks about.

When the Bible speaks of hope, it doesn’t use the word as you and I usually do. For us hope is an uncertainty. It is something we would like to see happen in the future but we’re not sure that it will. By contrast, when the Bible speaks about hope – as in verse 27 – the hope of glory, it is speaking about a reality.

The hope that we have is a reality because it is based on our faith in Jesus Christ. In the words of 1 Peter 1:3 In His great mercy (God) has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade – kept in heaven for you...

How does this hope become a certainty in our lives? It is, verse 27 says, because of Christ in you. Christ is in us through faith by the Holy Spirit’s indwelling presence. He is in the believer as surely as the bread that we eat and the wine that we drink in the Lord’s Supper is within us. It was the same way for the Colossian believers. As Paul wrote in Colossians 1:3-4, We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus.

It is only by faith in Jesus Christ that you and I have Christ within us, the hope of glory. It is only by faith in Jesus Christ that you and I have the certainty of the forgiveness of our sins.  And it is only by faith in Jesus Christ that we have the guarantee – the hope of glory –  everlasting life in heaven.  

But apart from saving faith in Jesus Christ we are, in the words of  Ephesians 2:12,  without hope and without God in the world. That is why we are always called to examine our faith. In the words of 2 Corinthians 13:5, Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ in in – unless, of course, you fail the test?­  ­ We are to ask ourselves, “Is our faith for salvation truly based in Jesus Christ alone?  Or are we trusting in our good works?  In our perceived obedience to the law?  Are we trusting our status of not being a sinful as someone whose public sin is well known? Or are we trusting in the perfect life and sacrificial death of Jesus alone for our salvation?   

Mature in Christ

Verses 28 and 29 give us a further application as Paul describes how God uses the admonishment and teaching of His Word for our good, to shape us and mold us into mature Christians. In verse 28 Paul writes, We proclaim Him (Jesus Christ), admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ. And in verse 29 Paul points out that he proclaims Christ, not by his strength, but by God’s gracious Holy Spirit working within him.

From those verses we are reminded that Christ must be central in our lives and in the preaching of our church. Paul writes, We proclaim Him.  In turn, we must ask, “Do my words and does the conduct of my life proclaim Christ? Am I a letter from Christ known and read by everyone? When others look at me and the conduct of my life, do they see Jesus Christ living in me? Does my life truly proclaim Christ?”

By the same token, as a minister I must always examine my ministry to see that I am proclaiming Christ, whether in the Old Testament or the New. Christ must always be proclaimed for He is the focus of all of Scripture.

We also see in these verses that our relationship to Jesus Christ is never to be stagnant, but always growing. The ESV translates verse 28, Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom that we may present everyone mature in Christ.

The word translated “perfect” in the NIV is more accurately translated “mature.” We will reach perfection in the life to come, by God's grace. But in this life, although we don’t reach perfection, each one of us should desire to be mature in our relationship with our Savior and Lord. Each one of us should have that hunger and thirst after righteousness. Each one of us should desire to know more about the One who offered Himself for us so that through faith in Him we have the hope of glory – Christ in us.

The way we become mature is through the faithful study of God’s Word. It is in our study of the word of God at church on Sunday, through the week in the various Bible studies of the church, and through our personal daily reading and meditation on the word of God that we are admonished and taught with all wisdom, as verse 28 says. That is why it is so crucial to be people of the Word.

God’s word is that sharp double-edged sword which Hebrews 4:12 tells us penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.  God’s word, in its admonishment, can really hurt. But it is for our good, for our conviction which brings godly sorrow and salvation.

And then on the other hand, it is God’s word which gives us such great comfort and assurance.  It assures us, as the Holy Spirit works through the Word, that by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ, Christ truly is in us. And because He is, we have the hope of glory – the forgiveness of our sins and the guarantee of everlasting life in heaven – now and forevermore! Amen.

 

- bulletin outline -

 

…God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. - Colossians 1:27

 
“Glorious Riches: Christ in You”
Colossians 1:24-29
 
I.  From this passage we see that:
     1) Suffering for the sake of the gospel is inevitable for the true Christian (24; Matthew 5:10; John 15:20; Philippians 1:29-30)
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
     2) God’s word is truly sufficient for salvation and is to be made fully known (25). “Mystery” (26) refers to the progressive nature of God’s revelation
         (cp. Numbers 24:4-9, John 3:14-15) 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
     3) God’s purpose in revealing Himself to us is so that, by His grace, Christ dwells in us, giving us the hope of glory (27)
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
II. Application: God uses the admonishment (warnings) and teaching of His Word (28a) for our good, to shape us and mold us into mature Christians (28b)
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
03/15/2015 – a.m.



* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 03/1, Rev. Ted Gray

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