Sunday, July 6, 2014

Your Share in Christ's Ministry - Colossians 1:21-29

Colossians 1:26-28 "that is, the mystery which has been hidden from the past ages and generations, but has now been manifested to His saints, 27 to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. 28 We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ."

At our home when my wife needs everyone to come and help out in doing chores, she will say: "all hands on deck". Over the years we have taught our children that taking care of a home involves everyone, and not just a select few. That idea of taking care of one's personal house is all the more true in God's house.

In our periodic study of Colossians we have considered how we are to grow up into spiritual maturity in Colossians 1:1-12 and how Jesus Christ is our wonderful fulfillment in Colossians 1:13-20. To remind the reader once again of the key theme of Colossians - "Jesus is enough", we now come to not only the final portion of chapter one but also the key verse to the whole book: Colossians 1:26-28. As quoted above, Paul's concern is to demonstrate to these Colossians and us why Jesus is enough, and why all other substitutes and man-made ideas are inadequate and condemning. To drive home these points, Paul is going to show his readers that because they have a share in the ministry given by the Lord Jesus Christ to His church, finding their fulfillment in Jesus Christ is ever more vital.

How do you know that you have a share in the ministry given by Jesus to His church?
We must recall that when Paul wrote his letters, with the exception of one (Philemon), all the others were written to churches or multiple individuals.  Even the letters of Timothy, though primarily addressed to Timothy, nevertheless contained instructions to the whole church. The pronoun "you" or its usage in verbs in this section of Colossians 1:21-29 is found seven times in our English translations. Furthermore, every single one of those occurrences refer to every single believer in the church. Thus for example, we see the first occurrence of the plural "you" in Colossians 1:21 "And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds." Clearly Paul is speaking to all the Christians at Colossae who were formerly unconverted. When we factor in other words indicating the whole church, such as "the church" in 1:24; "His saints" in 1:26 and "every man" in 1:28, it is very apparent that every single believer who is a member of the local church has a stake in the ministry which Jesus has assigned to them.

So what about this idea of ministry or service? Paul indicates that the hope of the Gospel, of which his readers believed, is something to which He was called to be a minister in 1:23. Ministers are made and called by Christ before they ever go off to school or get some type of formalized training (as important as that if of course). Paul goes on mentioning again that "of this church I was made a minister" in 1:25. The key verses of Colossians 1:26-28 indicate that everyone is not only the recipients of this ministry, but have some type of share in it. Paul in 2 Corinthians 5:18 states plainly the role every born-again disciple of Jesus has in Christ's ministry: "Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation." Later on we will flesh this more out as we explore the text of Colossians 1:21-29, but for now let us consider the point of application for today's post. 

Point of Application: "Everyone of you that are followers of Jesus Christ share in his ministry."  So the question is: what exactly is entailed in Christ's ministry of the local church, and how is it that you and I have a share in it? Notice....

1. You (as a disciple of Jesus) share in the message - The Gospel. 1:21-23

As Paul unfolds the message of the Gospel in which you and I share, we find four major elements that are applied to people at saving faith as a result of the Gospel:

a. Reconciliation. Colossians 1:21-22a

b. Regeneration. Colossians 1:21-22a/Eph 2:5,8-9

c. Glorification. Colossians 1:22b

d. Sanctification. Colossians 1:23/Ephesians 2:10

Herein we see that salvation is an event in reconciliation, experienced in regeneration, that upon saving faith becomes a process in sanctification, aimed at a guaranteed goal of completion in glorification. Every Christian has a share in these powerful truths, and their fountainhead is in Jesus Christ. But notice secondly...

2. You (as a disciple of Jesus) share in the blessings. 1:24-27

What blessings does Paul speak of here in 1:24-27? All Christians share (get ready) in Christ's sufferings. Other passages such as 2 Timothy 1:8; 2:10 and 1 Peter 5:9 speak of every disciple of Jesus suffering when another fellow believer suffers. This is part of what Paul calls "Christ's sufferings". Why are they "His sufferings?" Because though He reigns alongside the Father's right hand in heaven, He ever still retains glorified, physical humanity. By the Holy Spirit's working, Jesus is able to empathize and enter into every Christian's suffering, disappointment and pain. (compare Acts 9:4; Hebrews 2:11-15; 4:15; 7:24-25).

The second blessing of Christ's ministry in which every Christian shares is that of the scriptures, as seen in 1:25. Other passages such as Romans 15:4 and 2 Timothy 3:16-17 speak of the immeasurable value of the Bible to the Christian life. We need to read it, hear it preached and apply it. 

The third blessing is Christ's glory, as expressed in 1:26-27. 2 Corinthians 3:18 spells this blessing out: "But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit." So as believers in Jesus Christ, we all have a share in Christ's ministry assigned to His church by way of the message of the Gospel and the attending blessings of such a ministry.  Now notice one more idea....
3. You (as a disciple of Jesus) share in its completion. 1:28-29
Paul writes in Colossians 1:28-29 "We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ. 29 For this purpose also I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me." How is it that the ministry in which we share will be achieved to completion? The way we measure whether or not we are headed in the right direction is by maturity in the faith, as spelled out in 1:28. Then of course nothing can occur apart from the strength of the Lord coursing through you and me. (Colossians 1:29; John 15:5; Philippians 4:13. 

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