Personal Reflections on the Chapter
Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother,
To the saints and faithful brothers in Christ at Colossae:
Grace to you and peace from God our Father.
We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel.
The good news of the gospel gives the hope of eternal life. Hope leads to faith and love. Hope changes me. Hope changes my priorities, my attitude toward others, and toward the world. Hope changes my relationship to my possessions and my own body. Hope alters my thoughts about mortality.
To have hope – a settled confidence in the future state of my soul, a state that (by Your sovereign grace, O Lord) is pleasant and fulfilling and satisfying – means to have a new attitude toward the people of this world. There is urgency, because the time may be short, yet my objective is not to win arguments but to present the good news, the gospel of salvation. You have already won the victory, and your kingdom advances daily across this enemy-occupied planet. I am encouraging people to be on the right side of that, to embrace You who have already defeated the occupying power, and begun to reign.
…[the gospel] which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and increasing—as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth, just as you learned it from Epaphras, our beloved fellow servant. He is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf and has made known to us your love in the Spirit.
“All over the world this gospel is producing fruit and growing” (NIV). Paul defines the day the gospel came to Colosse as (1) “the day you heard it” and (2) “understood the grace of God in truth.”
Understanding grace produces fruit. Understanding that I am merely a branch, and that You are the Vine, O Lord (John 15:5), produces fruit. Understanding that I have truly died with Christ, and that You live in me, produces fruit. What hinders fruit production? Forgetting about the cleansing of past sins (2 Peter 1:9); in such cases the believer is “nearsighted and blind,” ignoring the grace that transforms.
And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father…
The desired result of Paul’s prayers is the following:
- to live a life worthy of the Lord
- to please Him in every way
- to bear fuit in every good work
- to grow in the knowledge of God
- to be strengthened, to have endurance and patience
- to joyfully give thanks to the Father
Father, fill me with the knowledge of Your will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. May it be You who speak through the instrumentality of me – Your voice, Your music, Your living water welling up and flowing out of me (John 7:38).
…[T]he Father, [who] has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
You have rescued me from the dominion of darkness; I have redemption (deliverance, apolutrosein) from the darkness that characterized my life before salvation. Although I was chosen and marked and predestimed, You permitted me to live almost twenty years apart from that truth. You chose the perfect place and time and circumstances to bring your apolutrosein power to bear on my life. Because I have seen the dominion of darkness from the inside – the lusts, the drugs, the corruption – I thoroughly reject the Shortian (named for popular theologian Robert L. Short, author of “The Gospel According to Peanuts,” an otherwise delightful book) idea that “everyone is saved; only the Christians know it.” That theory reduces the events of 08 April 1982 to a mere opening into knowledge rather than a new birth: a revelation instead of a revolution.
The Shortian idea reduces the gospel imperative to simply telling people what is already true about them. Where is the metanoeo, the change of mind, the repentance?
Remind me (but not too often) about the dominion of darkness that was once my home. May I see others who dwell there as You have seen me – blind, groping, in need not of reassurance but of rebirth, of deliverance (apolutrosein) from that hopeless place.
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities — all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
You, the Lord Jesus Christ, are the Creator of the universe! In this respect the Word says that among Your creation are “thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities” – the very things that are to be witnesses (and not merely witnesses, but to be vanquished in spectacular fashion) of the “manifold wisdom of God” (Ephesians 3:10) in the fulfillment of Your purpose for the Church.
The enemies of Your perfect plan are also under Your authority and control, and belong to You by virtue of having been created by you. Therefore, there is nothing to fear. You are fully in charge. Your purpose goes forward; all the enemy can do is complain and throw up smokescreens. All that stuff – disillusionment, doubt, friction, is a vain attempt by the enemy to thwart your purpose – which can never be thwarted.
I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me,
declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done,
saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,’
calling a bird of prey from the east, the man of my counsel from a far country.
I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed, and I will do it.
And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.
There is a lot of important doctrine in this little section. You are the head of the church. You are the firstborn from among the dead, the supreme one over everything. And you have reconciled all things to Yourself.
The blood shed on the cross is the instrument of peace. All the enmity between Man and God, and all the hostilities between men, is atoned for, is corrected, is abolished by Your blood, O Jesus.
The cross bring offense (Galatians 5:11) and it is foolishness to the world (1 Corinthians 1:18), but it is Your chosen instrument fo reconciliation, as all creation will one day acknowledge. “May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” (Galatians 6:14)
And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds…
What does it mean to be alienated from You, and enemy of You (Romans 5:10)?
Alienation implies distance, a broken or non-functioning relationship, “separated from the life of God” (Ephesians 4:18), “foreigners and aliens” (Ephesians 2:19)
Enemies in your minds – the mind is opposed to the life of Christ; the unredeemed mind is hostile to God (Romans 8:7). The enmity of the mind towards God engenders futility of thought (Ephesians 4:17; Romans 1:21), as the self attempts to supplant the role of God, leading to the insane condition of Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 4:28-37).
Lord, may I be aware of Your presence. May my thinking reflect the light of your illuminating power in me. May I draw close to you in my thinking and affections, and repudiate the phony “life of the mind” that is a remnant of prideful flesh.
…he has now reconciled [you] in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.
Your body, Your physical body (not “the Body” in the 1 Corinthians sense) is the instrument by whose death I have been rendered holy and blameless. I am without blemish and free from accusation: a complete victory over my “old man” and his orientation to sin.
“…if you continue”? Does this place a condition on the article of justification? Does this make my standing before You dependent upon my behavior? Or is it explained as a parallel to Matthew 24:13 – “he who stands firm to the end will be saved”? (Which could be taken to mean that the final salvation of a person, and the steadfast perseverance to that point, are both evidence of a saving faith.)
In any case, it is not my intent to be “moved from the hope held out in the gospel.” The gospel is the true, life-changing power of You, O Lord. You have chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise.
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.
“To make known… the riches of the glory of this mystery… Christ-in-you.” To publicize the wonders of life with You. To proclaim the full message (Acts 5:20). This is where I want to be – speaking and proclaiming your truth to the saints, among the Gentiles. Deepen and strengthen me in my knowledge of Your mystery, and grant that I may have a platform and a clear voice to fulfill Your purpose for me.
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.
The mystery of Christ-in-me inspires a rational fear of You, O Lord, who would inhabit me in such a way. Your energy works in me, though I (in my flesh and pride) try to thwart and resist Your power, and the enemy continually tries to steer me back into the realm of flesh, the foolish dependence on my own soul power, which was the original sin of Adam.
Teach me, Lord, how to PLUG IN. May my objectives align with yours (“For this I toil” – the maturity of believers) and may I work only in the power that You provide. You are with me (us) always, to the very end of the age (Matthew 28:20) – this promise almost seems too weak (!) when I consider what you really provide: not merely companionship and support, but actually the power to do the work of making disciples of all nations.
How not to pray: “Jesus, help me!” You don’t help me (as if I set the agenda and then ask you for an endorsement and some assistance), and I don’t “help” you (as though Your purposes needed human help!). You achieve your objectives through me. Make me weaker and less confident in myself, so that Your power may be more and more evident.