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Prayer For Blessings – Giving Thanks
Col 1:1. Paul introduces himself as an apostle. He was not an apostle because he arrogated that role to himself, nor because someone persuaded him. It was also not a vocation that he had chosen for himself, or one that people had instructed him to do so – God Himself stood behind his apostleship. God wanted him to be an apostle and that gave him his apostolic authority. Whoever opposed this authority, opposed God in reality.
The emphasis of his authority in the beginning of this letter is necessary because such important things were at stake. Paul did not preach his own opinion on these things, but God’s truth. To listen to him meant recovery from errors and a renewed worship of God. To disobey meant the destruction of the life of faith.
It was not just authority by which Paul could stand above the believers so that he could give them command. He includes Timothy along with himself as sending the letter, and presents him as “our brother”. Timothy is the brother of Paul and the Colossians and he is the link between Paul and the Colossians. Paul is the apostle over them, but as brother he is one among them. The closeness of brother is the best way to exercise his authority. If authority is exercised with this awareness, there will be no lust for power, but only the desire to serve (cp. 1Pet 5:1-4; Lk 22:24-27; Jn 13:13-16).
Col 1:2. Then he speaks of the Colossians as “saints and faithful brethren”. With brethren he means both brothers and sisters. This word refers to the bond of family relationship that believers have with each other and it points to their mutual fellowship. The family bond of the Colossians had a few additional marks. It was a ‘saintly’ family that God had set apart for Himself. It was also a faithful family, which relates more to their practice. Their position before God and the practice of their faith life agreed together. You must have both these features to understand the truth in this letter.
Paul adds “in Christ … in Colossae” to these features. On the one hand you see the fact that the family relationship is spiritual in nature; Christ is the connecting element. On the other hand it is a relationship that is experienced in Colossae on the earth. I hope that the name ‘Colossae’ can be replaced by the name of the local church you belong to. You can judge for yourself the standard of your church on the basis of the Word of God.
After introducing the senders and naming the addressee, he has a wish for the Colossians. He wishes them grace; that is that they consciously live by the grace given to them. To live by grace means to expect everything from God and nothing from self. The result will be peace. Whoever considers God in everything has this lasting peace in his soul. Paul wishes them this peace from God our Father. God is the source of grace and peace. When he speaks of Him as our Father he again emphasizes the family bond he has with the Colossians.
Col 1:3. After the introduction, Paul begins his actual letter. His first words must have gone well with the Colossians. Would you not find it encouraging when someone says to you that he thanks God always whenever he prays for you? Do you also give thanks to God for others? You have a special relationship with the believers for whom you give thanks. Then you are also sensitive to their spiritual condition. Once their spiritual condition changes for the worse you will pray for them just because you feel that your giving thanks for them comes under pressure.
You will accept a word of admonition more easily from someone – brother or sister – who you know give thanks for you. If things in someone’s life disturbs you a little and would decrease your giving thanks for him or her, then that would be the reason for you to address the issue with them. This is the way Paul gets to work.
He had an intimacy with God whom he knew as the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. By the word ‘our’ he reiterates his fellowship with the Colossians both in their relationship to God the Father and to the Lord Jesus Christ. Thus he brings their fellowship to a Divine level. This is the sphere in which he stands and makes his appeal. In his letter, so to speak, he comes to them carrying around the fragrance of the sanctuary. He wants them to smell and taste this so that they let go of everything that does not match.
Col 1:4. In Col 1:4-6 the apostle holds together a number of reasons for his giving thanks to God. Only then he speaks (from Col 1:9) of the subjects for which he prays.
He had never seen them. Others had told him of their “faith” and “love” – the best evidence for him that they possessed the Divine nature. They openly testified to the Lord Jesus – that is they did not do it in secret. Nowhere in the New Testament are we called to keep our faith to ourselves, or to practice a sort of secret discipleship. The truly converted will have the desire to testify of their faith publicly.
It is said of their faith that is “in Christ Jesus”. There are many who claim to believe. What is of prime importance is in whom they believe (2Tim 1:12). As for the Colossians there was no doubt about it. Do people around you know in Whom you believe? Faith in humans, dreams or feelings give no security for one’s faith.
Faith in Christ is evident in its love for all believers. Even the Colossians testified to this. It is impossible to love God and hate a brother (1Jn 4:20). The vertical and the horizontal go together. Only God knows all the saints. Once we come to know a saint (a true Christian) we love him. Not because he is nice but because he belongs to Christ.
Their love was not sectarian, limited to a select group but embraced “all the saints”. Their love was to all those who yielded to the love of God. They loved not only the believers in the local church but all believers wherever they lived. This is a good example which you and I can imitate.
Col 1:5a. After faith and love Paul speaks of hope. Here is the well-known triplet – faith, hope and love (see also 1Cor 13:13; 1Thes 1:3; 1Thes 5:8). Hope was the incentive which gave substance to their faith and love. There is no stronger motive for faith in the Lord Jesus and love for all believers as hope which is reserved in heaven. Paul thanks God that he is able to relate this new community of believers to heaven.
When you think of the hope in heaven your heart will be filled with the essence of this hope which is the Lord Jesus. Again, the effect of this will be that you love all those who are dear to the heart of the Lord Jesus.
This hope was a part of the gospel that was preached to them. The effect of the gospel is not just for the here and now, namely, the deliverance from the power of sin. The gospel also has significance for the future, for the entry into the eternal glory. How could it be otherwise? Christ is there and we are set free to be with Him. We will not always stay in this world and also we do not have our home here. We have a hope. This hope enlightens our way through the world.
Col 1:5b. The hope laid up in heaven for the Colossians – and for you and me – is a powerful motivating force to love our fellow believers. We will be in heaven eternally with the Lord Jesus along with the children of God. If this hope is alive in you, you will also be careful not to have a quarrel with any fellow believer. Did you hear of this hope when the gospel was preached to you? That was apparently the case with the Colossians. In my case, I cannot remember whether this was mentioned. But in the course of time it became clear to me that the hope in heaven is inseparably united with the word of truth, the gospel.
This expression shows that the gospel is the pure news of God – not just a happy report to men mixed with human elements. So it came to the Colossians and they believed it, and that saved them. It is as if Paul is already saying (which he points out later): ‘When you know that, how can you open yourself to the Greek philosophies and Jewish traditions? Was there ever a philosophy preached in the world as the message of hope through which people could be saved, receive life and bring forth fruit?’
Now read Colossians 1:1-5 again.
Reflection: Give thanks to God in your prayers for a number of beautiful characteristics in your brothers and sisters.
The Truth of the Gospel
Col 1:6. Let us see once again the hallmarks of the gospel. First you see that it has to do with the hope, which is the future. The second characteristic is that this message of hope is not limited to the Jewish people. The gospel reached the Colossians who were in the world then, and now reached even you. It came to them. It is as if a person entered from somewhere. This is actually so, because the gospel represents Christ.
The third characteristic is that it brings forth fruit everywhere in the world wherever believers are. What the gospel caused in Colossae is to be seen in every believer throughout the world. The gospel has brought you into contact with God. Consequently it also produces fruit in you for God. The gospel is first the seed that, the moment you heard it and believed it, awakened in you the eternal life. So you became the fruit of the gospel for God. Thereafter the gospel has become a seed that produces fruit in your life. This fruit also is for God.
First you must become a fruit in order that you may bring forth fruit. Wherever the gospel is accepted you see growth and fruit and not stagnation or decline. That is the big difference between Christendom and other religions, and especially the Jewish system. All religions demand fruit from a man without a change taking place in his inner life. Christendom on the other hand brings first an inner change through conversion and new life, and then fruit and growth are visible.
The gospel that is preached is complete in itself. We cannot make it easier, or richer or simpler. It cannot be enriched or improved upon by any means. What can be bigger and better is the fruit bearing and the growth. The proclamation of the gospel is God’s part and fruit bearing and growth are your part. One can stand in the way of fruit bearing and growth by allowing all sorts of things in his life which do not please the Lord.
This happens when you forget the “grace of God” that you have known “in truth”. Can you still remember how you went to the cross with your sins? There you recognized that you could be saved only by the grace of God. You recognized that God’s truth applies to you, too – as He says: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom 3:23). You also recognized His salvation in Christ which He offered to you in His mercy. You are converted, have eternal life, and are in a position to bear fruit and grow.
Marvel continuously about the grace of God that you have sincerely understood. You had no right to it. It is a gift from heaven. Then you will see quickly when things come into your life that are delaying the process of fruit bearing and growth, and you will even prevent them.
Col 1:7. There were people among the Colossians who in order to gain influence, taught things that were contrary to the teachings of Epaphras. If their evil intentions would succeed, then that would be the end of fruit bearing and growth in the Colossians. Epaphras carried a pure gospel to them. He was the means of their conversion.
Without any jealousy Paul mentions the service that Epaphras had done there. Paul underscores the correctness of what Epaphras taught. He speaks about the gospel as a doctrine. It is not a dogma but a doctrine which means life. Not only by rebirth, but in everything this life involves afterwards. You can read a beautiful description of this doctrine in Titus 2 (Tit 2:10-15).
Besides the doctrine of Epaphras, Paul also emphasizes his work along with him. He calls him “our beloved fellow bond-servant”. Paul places Epaphras on a par with himself and Timothy, and with the word ‘beloved’ he gives expression to his special relationship with Epaphras. When servants of God so speak of one another, and so relate to each other, then there is no room for any base motives in rivalry.
Paul praises the faithfulness of Epaphras in his service to Christ. Faithfulness is the most important characteristic of any service that is done for the Lord (1Cor 4:2). The Lord does not reward a gift or a success but faithfulness (Mt 25:11). This should be a great encouragement for you and me to live entirely for Him and not be envious of what others are doing.
Col 1:8. Epaphras’ faithful service to Christ is expressed in his concern for the Colossians. His service did not stop with his preaching of the gospel. He also did the follow up. When he saw the approaching danger that they would deviate from Christ, he rushed to Paul and Timothy. He not only spoke of the error which threatened to find entry, but he also reported about the deep and sincere Christian love of the Colossians, the source of which was the Spirit. This at the same time was proof that correction was not yet too late. The Spirit was still in action in their lives.
Col 1:9. After this introduction full of gratitude Paul shares with them that from the moment he heard of their conversion he was constantly praying for them. Here you see the best way to keep your spiritual interests alive towards certain particular believers. Paul also shares with them the content of his prayers for them. From this you can learn what and how you can pray for others.
Our prayers and our supplications have to do with our perspective on God’s interests in His children. If we are aware how deeply God is interested in all His own, would we not, then, pray more for their problems and would think less of our problems? We are often more like Abram who asked: “O Lord GOD, what will You give me?” (Gen 15:2) than like the Abraham who worshipped Him and prayed for others (Gen 18:23-33). Paul is more like the latter.
The first he asks is that they “may be filled with the knowledge of His will”. The apostle is not satisfied with anything less. The will of God must fill their whole thoughts and their entire view. Then there is no place for our will or for the approaching errors.
However, doing the will of God is not a matter of blind obedience. That is why the apostle next prays for “all spiritual wisdom and understanding”. This will enable you to do the will of God in your life in the right way and with spiritual understanding.
Now read Colossians 1:6-9 again.
Reflection: What are the truths of faith that are connected with the gospel?
Walk Worthy of the Lord
Col 1:10. With this verse we come to the heart of the letter. The point is to walk worthy of the Lord. This is not said to a select group of super Christians, but to all Christians. It is not a concept that leads to the formation of trained preachers who are able to convey their knowledge to large groups of people. No, it is an order to which every believer should give the highest priority. Here you are called to a walk that is in accordance with the worthiness of the Lord. Therefore you must indeed know the worthiness of the Lord, which is brought before you extensively from Col 1:16 onwards.
That He is called ‘Lord’ brings you to a relationship with the position the Lord Jesus now occupies, a position He received from God (Acts 2:36). Besides the knowledge of His worthiness, it is also important that you recognize His rights as Lord in every area of your life. Knowing His worthiness and the recognition of His lordship will result in your whole walk being a pleasure for God. God will recognize the image of His Son in such a walk. He rejoices in it.
Now you should see the other unique effects of such a walk. First it is about every good work. You can take it as a species of rich fruit; every good work is a certain fruit. The fruit, the good work, is the result of your connection to the Lord Jesus Christ as the true vine (Jn 15:1).
Sometimes one is happy when he does a good work. But God is not pleased with that. He has provided you with all the necessary means so that you can do nothing else than good work. You can use these means if you take the preceding and the following verses and let them work in your life. When God endows you with such rich resources, you should not be satisfied with doing something good now and then.
As mentioned in Col 1:6, fruit bearing is followed by growth. By fruit bearing, people think more about the enjoyment of the one for whom the fruit is determined. That is why it is given the first place. By growth we mean the life that develops itself, the process of increase and maturity. It is about the believers.
It is not about growth in the knowledge of God but growth through the knowledge of God. If we use in our lives what we know of Him we will grow. The argument that knowledge is not important but that it is all about practical Christian life doesn’t make sense. Without knowledge it is impossible to grow in faith and put Christian life into practice. Incidentally it is a mistake to assume that you can do something practical without you knowing how it works. This applies to social life as well as to spiritual life.
Col 1:11. In society you also see that people who speak knowledgeably radiate power. Your strength to walk worthy of the Lord is in the knowledge of God; the more you know of God the less prone you are to resistance and to all sorts of errors. You are "strengthened with all power”; there is the power to overcome every form of resistance.
This is not a power from an earthly, human source. This would give no guarantee of victory. No, your power comes from the heavenly glory, the glory of God, the glory of the Lord Jesus. That is the source with which you are brought in contact and nothing can work against it.
This power is not only resistant to fierce attacks but also to long lasting offensives. As long as you are on the earth there will be resistance. The greatness of this power is that you can bear all. And while you persevere you remain patient and you are even happy. You do not experience this with people who do not know Christ. Perhaps they have an enormous capacity to stick it out and can put away a lot of attacks. Their patience however will come to an end sometime, not to mention the absence of joy.
The Christian who is focused on Christ is able to endure suffering with patience and even with joy instead of yearning to be delivered from suffering (1Pet 1:6-9). That is the miracle of real power and not the accomplishments of heroic deeds in the forms of signs and wonders as healings, exorcisms and raising the dead. You will be strengthened with all power – the standard for this is Christ in glory – to be patient and forbearing in a world where you are going through pain and suffering in your life with God. There is no clearer proof of the power than this life-style.
Col 1:12. A walk in this life-style gives joy. This joy is directed to the Father and expresses itself in thanksgiving to Him. Thus you are lifted above your circumstances. Your thoughts are focused on what the Father has done for you and what He has given you. Then you see that you cannot but thank Him.
He has already enabled you together with all the saints who belong to the church, to enjoy the inheritance in the light of God’s presence. That really is something great, isn’t it? It does not say here that He will enable you sometime; neither does it say that you are indeed able but that you must continue to grow further. That is all not the case at all. Your capability is an established fact. You have received this by your new nature. You are born of God and you have received God’s nature, and therefore you can be in the light of God.
However the inheritance lies in the future. Peter also speaks about it (1Pet 1:4). The inheritance is what the Lord Jesus will possess when He reigns over all things. Then you will also reign with Him. You inherit from God as His child (Rom 8:17) and that means that your inheritance is from your Father. The Father Who gave you the rights over His inheritance has prepared you to receive it and to enjoy it.
Col 1:13. However, something must have happened in you, by which you became enabled to share in His inheritance. To begin with, you did not belong to the light at all, but on the contrary to darkness, lacking even the smallest ray of light. You were in its power, the darkness holding you prisoner. Satan, the prince of darkness, was your master. Those who sit in darkness lack even the smallest ray of light. There was absolutely no orientation as to where you were or where you were going.
How terrible the darkness was, was found when the Lord Jesus came as the light. But the darkness did remain (Jn 1:5) because people loved darkness rather than light (Jn 3:19). The power of darkness held people captives – this was shown at its height when people caught the Lord Jesus and killed Him (Lk 22:53). The grace of God however is greater. The Lord Jesus conquered the power of darkness. He rose from the dead. As a result the One Who said “light shall shine out of darkness” lit up your heart and saved you from this power (2Cor 4:6).
But that was not the end. After He saved you, you have not landed in a sort of no-man’s-land; neither has the Father transferred you back to a restored paradise. It is much more glorious. He transferred you to the kingdom of His beloved Son. In this kingdom the Son is the Center. The atmosphere of this kingdom is the love of the Father to His Son.
When you think of a kingdom, you think of domination and subjugation. It is so here also, but everything is embedded in the love of the Father to the Son. So it is not just an atmosphere, but it is all about Divine Persons. You have already been brought in contact with the Father and the Son, and their love already surrounds you. I do not know if you can come up with anything greater.
Now read Colossians 1:10-13 again.
Reflection: Examine the blessings Paul lists here. Thank the Father for every blessing.
The Glory of the Son
Col 1:14. All the previous blessings have become possible through the Lord Jesus Christ. You are delivered from the domain of darkness only by salvation. Salvation is not only a mighty act, but it happened only by paying a ransom. The Lord Jesus paid this ransom on the cross with His blood (1Pet 1:18). He gave His life (Mt 20:28). Thus you are His property now (1Cor 6:20). So if we do things for the benefit of our own selves, then we actually rob Him because we belong to Him entirely.
Another magnificent result of the price He paid is that all your sins are forgiven. I wonder if you ever realized this. If not, that’s a pity, because, though you are free, the burden of sin could sometimes weigh heavily down on you; and you might be going about with remorse in your heart. But cheer up. The blood of Jesus Christ has solved the problem already. Your sins are forgiven; they are gone and they have disappeared from the sight of God. He no longer sees them or thinks of them. Do you doubt this? Then listen to what the Scripture testifies: “The blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin” (1Jn 1:7).
Redemption and forgiveness are granted by God but caused by Christ. Any annoying question that is shot at you or demands an answer can now be dealt with adequately. I am thinking of the people who make your right to the inheritance a matter of dispute. Sometimes you might feel that you are incapable of enjoying the relevant blessings. Then you should say – certainly with humility, but with joy and assurance – that you are saved and have received the forgiveness of sins.
Now your relationship is fully with His beloved Son. When you thank the Father you spontaneously talk of the Son (Jn 5:23). If the Father is the source of every blessing, then the Son is the channel through Whom all the blessings come to you. The Son has executed all the plans of the Father at His own expense. Now it is all about worship. Thank the Father Who is the source of every blessing! Thank His beloved Son Who is the channel through whom all blessings have become accessible to you.
Col 1:15. Who is this beloved Son Who has made these blessings available to us? Here the apostle presents the Lord Jesus not only to refresh your heart, but also to fill it so that there is no room for anything else. His presentation is in the following sequence:
1. Who Christ is in Himself;
2. what He is in the works that He accomplished;
3. what He is in His own.
“He is the image of … God” and that means He is the representative of God. Only He can be this because He is by nature God. This nature comprises the complete equality of the Son with the Father in His essence, in His nature, and in His existence as the eternal One (Jn 14:9; Jn 1:18). Only through Him we can know God.
He is also the “first born of all creation” (cp. Rom 8:29; Heb 1:6; Rev 1:5). This does not mean that He was the first created being. It describes the preeminence of the Son Who is exalted above everything. This refers to the order of ranking. You see this also with Solomon. He was not the first born son of David (1Chr 3:1); nevertheless he was called the firstborn (Psa 89:27).
The Lord Jesus is not a created being but He is over all created things and beings. He is the Creator indeed. He is the Firstborn, because He created all things. When the Creator by being born as a Man enters into His own creation, He cannot be anyone other than the Firstborn. He is the Lord of all creation.
Col 1:16. Although there are three Persons in the Godhead, creation is attributed to the Son (Jn 1:3; Heb 1:1-2). Everything in heaven and on the earth so in the whole universe both in its visible and invisible forms owes its existence to Him.
The thrones, dominions, principalities and powers appear to be references to various angelic powers (Eph 6:12; 1Pet 3:22). However impressive the angelic world may be, the glory of the Son Who created them is infinitely greater. The whole angelic world is called to worship Him and is created to serve Him (Heb 1:6-7).
He made them in His own strength (“by Him”). He did it personally (“through Him”) and He did it for His own glory (“for Him”). He is the beginning, the means and the end of creation. This excludes the worship of anything or anyone else.
Col 1:17. The words ”He is before all things” expresses that He is the eternal Son, the eternal Being; He was there before creation. He has an eternal pre-existence. He stands outside of creation; He does not belong to it; He Himself is not a creature. He also reveals the fact that He sustains everything by His own power (Heb 1:3). He not only called everything into existence but the current existence owes itself to Him. Planets traverse their prescribed courses only because He guides them and upholds them. Should He withdraw His hand for a moment, this would simply mean the end of the world.
Col 1:18. After speaking of His glory as the Head over all creation, Paul says that the Lord Jesus is Head from another point of view (Col 1:18). One can say that as He is the Head over the first or old creation, He also is the Head over the new creation. Head symbolizes authority and dominion as well as life and growth. This also applies to the new creation, the church, which owes its existence to Him. He is the church’s beginning and its origin (Rev 3:14). In the absolute sense He is the beginning of everything, while and because, He Himself is without beginning.
However there is a big difference in the way the first creation originated and the way the second creation came into being. The first was created by the Word of His power (Gen 1:3; 6; 9; 11; 14; 20; 24; Psa 33:6; 9). In order to become the head of the new creation he had to become Man and go through death to resurrect from it.
The resurrection of the Lord Jesus was the new beginning for God. Thus the church, called here the body, emerged. We can compare it with how Eve was built from Adam. God put Adam in a sleep of death. During this sleep of death God took a rib from his body and formed it into a woman. When Adam saw her he said: “This is now the bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh” (Gen 2:21-23). Paul applies this to Christ and the church (Eph 5:30). The church is the body of Christ and Christ is the Head. He directs His body and gives it what it needs.
The Lord Jesus has the first place not only in the first or the old creation, but He also is the Head and the Firstborn in the new creation. In the new creation He is the “firstborn from the dead”. This does not mean that He was the first to be resurrected from the dead. People had risen from the dead earlier. But even here He is the Firstborn because He has the priority over any other who has risen from the dead or shall rise.
He is the First because by His resurrection He is alive for all eternity (Rev 1:18). By His resurrection He entered into another world which is now open for others. All who believe in Him will follow His resurrection. The special feature of this position is that by His resurrection He takes the first place in all things as Man.
As God He has the glory of the Creator. But He became Man in order to pass through death as a man. As Man He is risen from the dead and as Man He has ascended into heaven. He became Man in order to remain so forever. That does not lessen His glory but makes it greater.
Col 1:19. This is evident in the words “for it was the [Father’s] good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him” (Col 1:19). In the Lord Jesus – He is meant by “in Him” – dwells the triune God with joy. This was so when He came to the earth as He did the work of God, and as He returned afterwards to heaven. God is revealed in all His fullness without limitation, in the Person of Christ. In Him the triune God is involved with the new beginning. How great is His glory!
Now read Colossians 1:14-19 again.
Reflection: What are the glories of the Lord Jesus Christ you have discovered in this passage?
Reconciliation and Ministry
In the previous verses the glory of the Son as the Head is presented in two ways:
1. He is the head over the creation.
2. He is the head in the resurrection.
You will see more glories which stand on the one side in connection with the old creation and on the other side with the new creation or resurrection.
Similarly there are also two reconciliations:
1. One of the creation.
2. One of the believers (saints) who form the church (Col 1:20-22).
Also there are two ministries which come from Him:
1. The ministry of the gospel that is preached to all creation.
2. The ministry to the church (Col 1:23-25).
Col 1:20. First we read about the reconciliation of all things, namely the creation. Through reconciliation there arises a peace where there was enmity (Rom 5:10). Enmity arose between man and God through sin. Man drew the creation with him in his sin. The creation is still under the dominion of satan (Jn 12:31).
The Lord Jesus broke the power of satan through His work on the cross. Sin will be taken away from the world because of His once and for all accomplished work (Jn 1:29; Heb 9:26). The results of His work will be seen when the Lord Jesus will publicly exercise His authority. Authority has already been given to Him in heaven and on earth (Mt 28:18; Heb 1:8-9).
Peace can come because all that caused disturbance is taken away. This peace was made on the cross and will be enjoyed in the kingdom of peace and for all eternity. That will mean a great relief for all that is now groaning in pain under the evil and corrupting power of sin under satan (Rom 8:22).
This peace is based on the “blood of His cross” which is the cross of Christ. The Lord Jesus shed His blood on the cross. Peter calls it ‘the precious blood’ because it is the blood of a Lamb without blemish and without spot (1Pet 1:19). This basis is unassailable and holds its values for eternity. You can say this as follows: The basis of reconciliation is defined by the blood of the Lord Jesus, but the reconciliation of the things on earth and in heaven with God, still lies in the future.
The reconciliation of all things of course does not mean the reconciliation of all unconverted people as well as satan and his demons. They will not be reconciled but subjugated to Christ (Phil 2:10). It is all about the things on the earth and in the heavens, i.e. the material world. The doctrine of universal salvation is a gross heresy, a lie from satan.
Col 1:21. The reconciliation of all things lies in the future. Nevertheless there are people who are already reconciled, including you. Praise the Lord for that. You have faith in the shed blood of Christ for your sins. Once you stood outside of reconciliation, you were alienated from it, and you were even hostile to it. This was expressed in the wicked works you did.
Col 1:22. The Lord Jesus became Man in order that you could be reconciled. He bore your sins in “His own body on the cross” (1Pet 2:24). His death is the sure proof that He bore God’s judgment for your sins. Death, namely, is the wages of sin (Rom 6:23). At the same time, however, reconciliation took place through Christ’s death. His death is the sure foundation on which rests the reconciliation.
As a result you stand in the favor of God. He sees you as holy and perfect in His eyes. Sin will no longer be counted against you. Nobody can bring a single accusation which can succeed against you. God, men and satan can find nothing on which they could lay their fingers at. The death of Christ has provided for all.
Christ stands before you as the perfect result of His perfect work in the perfect light of God, and indeed no flaw can any longer be found against this. The just claims of God have been fully complied with by the atoning work of Christ so that no question can be raised against its legality.
Col 1:23. After the securities faith offers, there comes an “if”. That seems to make the foregoing uncertain as though it depends upon our commitment to have a part in it and to keep it. The power of this ‘if indeed’ however is that the chaff is separated from the wheat. The aim is to encourage faith and to condemn the self-confident nominal Christians.
A namesake Christian confesses with the mouth that he is a Christian. But he has never gone to God with a remorse for his sins. He had never accepted in faith the power of the blood of Christ for the remission of sins. You have part in the foregoing blessings only when your faith is genuine, and you really belong to the Lord. You should say ‘Yes’ whole heartedly to this. You will provide evidence that you remain in the faith that came to you through the gospel which you accepted.
What Paul says here is not to bring you eventually to doubt, but just to encourage you. You would certainly completely agree with Paul that faith is demonstrated by the fact that you are holding it, especially when resistance arises. With your faith you must deal with resistance, both by hostility from people and by the flattery of false teachers.
If your faith is genuine you are “firmly established and steadfast” and you are “not moved away from the hope of the gospel”. If your faith is not genuine, that will show up. The hope of the gospel is not to be saved by the gospel but is Christ. The gospel is not a summary of a number of rules that you must keep; the content of the gospel is a Person. If you are connected to Him by faith you will not want to allow anything that obscures or hides your view of Him. This desire for Him is present in everyone who loves Him in truth. I do not doubt that it is so with you also. You have heard this gospel exactly as the Colossians heard it (Col 1:6).
Paul became the minister of this gospel. The range of his ministry was the whole creation. The gospel is valid throughout the world and universally applicable (Mt 28:19; Mk 16:15; Acts 1:8). His ministry was directed in a special way to all the nations that are under the heaven (Gal 2:7), though he certainly did not exclude the Jews. In his love for them wherever he went he first preached to them from the Word of God (Acts 13:46; Rom 1:16). But the gospel was not limited to the borders of Israel. It extended to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8).
The whole creation on the earth was the range of Paul’s service. Here you notice the fact that Christ is the Head over creation. As you have read, it embraces all things in heaven and earth. This, at the same time, is the distinguishing feature of the gospel. The words under the heaven show that the gospel is not preached in heaven but on the earth. The gospel is addressed to the people on earth and not to the angels in heaven.
You saw the same distinguishing features by the two sides of reconciliation. The reconciliation of all things does not mean that all people will be reconciled. Only people who believe in the Lord Jesus will be reconciled. This happens at the very moment they confess their sins and believe that His blood covered their sins before God.
Paul became a minister of this gospel. The Lord Jesus appointed him to this ministry (1Tim 1:12). Formerly he was a blasphemer, a persecutor of the church (1Tim 1:13). Now he is both a preacher and a teacher (1Tim 2:7). He preached the gospel to all people and instructed those who became members of the church by believing the gospel. His ministry to the church is mentioned in the verses following.
Now read Colossians 1:20-23 again.
Reflection: What do you learn about reconciliation in these verses?
Christ in You – Perfect in Christ
In Col 1:23 Paul started to say something about his ministry. He talked about his ministry of the gospel that he preached in all creation under heaven. Now he talks about his other ministry, his ministry to the church. This ministry has the same two sides as the headship of Christ and the reconciliation through Christ. And this ministry is also connected on the one hand with the creation and on the other with the resurrection. So there is
a double headship of Christ:
1. Head over the creation and
2. Head of the body,
and a double reconciliation through Christ:
1. of all things – later, and
2. of people – now.
In addition there is a double ministry of Paul:
1. of the gospel and
2. for the church.
Col 1:24. For Paul, the service to the body – the church – is associated with sufferings. He suffered to make known the truth of the church. He was in jail for that. He says to the Colossians that these sufferings are for them (“for your sake”). His sufferings for the global church meant the sufferings for the local church. What applies to the local church applies to the global church.
This form of suffering, Paul says, is in addition to the afflictions of Christ for the sake of His body which is the church. Here he does not speak about the afflictions for Christ, but of Christ. His sufferings had the same character as the sufferings of Christ. This does not mean that he suffered to the same extent, and certainly not because of reconciliation. Reconciliation lacks nothing; it is complete in itself. God purchased the church through the blood of His own Son through His sufferings on the cross (Acts 20:28).
No, it is all about the sufferings of the Lord Jesus Christ as a Witness on the earth. In His witness the Lord Jesus revealed God. This brought enormous afflictions upon Him because men did not like to break with their sinful ways and deeds. The Lord Jesus Christ in His life on the earth revealed God but not all the eternal purposes of God (Jn 16:12). Only when the Holy Spirit came to the earth, the believers were given insight into the purposes of God through the apostle Paul (Acts 20:27). Witnessing to this truth brought abundant sufferings to Paul. These were not vicarious sufferings but additional sufferings. On the earth the Lord Jesus could not suffer for this truth because He did not reveal it then.
Paul did not view his suffering for the church as a necessary evil. He rejoiced in it. He saw the church as the body of Christ, as a community of people who had a special bond with Christ. He saw what the church meant for the heart of Christ. Therefore he did not shrink from suffering, but advocated it.
Col 1:25. He desired that all those who belonged to the church both then and in the future, would know how unique the church is in her relationship to Christ. That was his ministry.
As he made this fact known he completed the Word of God. Completing or making the Word of God fully known does not mean that Paul wrote the last words of the Scriptures. John did that. It is not about the Bible books, but it is about the themes, about the things God wanted to make known to men.
The communication of the mystery, which was not known earlier, means that he communicated the last thing which God wanted to reveal. All other themes that God wanted to communicate were already known. Think of such things as the law, the kingdom, the redemption, the Person of Christ, and the ways of God. After he revealed this mystery about Christ and the church, no truth was left to be added to all God had revealed.
Col 1:26. This mystery was unknown in previous ages and in previous generations. Now it is revealed, certainly not to all people, but only to the church, His saints. It relates to Christ and the church, and especially the fact that believers from the nations and the believers from the Jews together form one body (Eph 3:4-6). The church does not exist from Adam; for it was hidden in all previous ages and it is now revealed.
Col 1:27. The special characteristic of the church is that it is connected to a Head in heaven; that was unimaginable in the times of the Old Testament. The coming of Christ to the earth, His suffering, His death, His resurrection, His ascension and His return to the earth to establish His kingdom in glory, power and majesty were not mysteries; they were already revealed. But a Christ Who is glorified as Man in heaven, as the Head of His body formed by the saved Jews and Gentiles, is found only in the New Testament.
The mystery here, exactly as in the letter to the Ephesians, is the union of Christ with His church. Paul’s emphasis here however is different from that in the letter to the Ephesians. To the Ephesians He presents the church of Christ in heaven; to the Colossians He speaks about ‘Christ in you’. This means that Christ is seen here in His church on earth. This means that the glory of this mystery is only visible in faith.
Another special feature is Christ ‘in you’. In exactly the same way as Paul uses the phrase for you in Col 1:24, he says that this is not about the global church but about the believers in Colossae. What is true of the global church is seen in miniature in the local church. And another thing: the ‘you’ denotes those who were originally Gentiles. To find Christ with the Gentiles is completely new. God used to live with His people. When the Lord Jesus came He stayed with His people. But now to find Christ with the pagans sets aside the privileged position of the Jews.
Col 1:28. It is all about Christ. Paul and other preachers proclaimed Him, a Person, and not a doctrine or a philosophy. The essence of Christendom is a Person and not a better teaching. Christ was the substance of his proclaiming, admonishing a teaching. He had an eye on everyone. This is strongly emphasized by using this expression three times ‘every’. Every difference had disappeared. It is about everyman personally and not in mass.
Paul not only saw the church as a whole but everyone individually. It was a ministry of one to one. He warned of the coming wrath to the unconverted people. He taught the great truths of the Christian faith to the converted people. His ambition was that each person should reflect the power of the Word and the Spirit of Christ and grow towards perfection. This is real follow-up and after-care.
Paul is not satisfied that someone only accepts the Lord Jesus as Savior. He is concerned that every person, including you, is presented perfect in Christ. He desires that you reach the stage of spiritual adulthood and that is the meaning of the word “complete” (Phil 3:15; Heb 5:14). It is that you grow up to the point where nothing else is more important in your life than Christ alone. Then you know not only your standing before God in Christ and that God sees you in Him, but living in God’s presence means everything to you.
That is the meaning of life; a life that has no room for anything from men. Christ is all. It is all about a father in Christ (1Jn 2:13). For this it is necessary that you understand Who Christ is, and that your character is formed by this knowledge.
Col 1:29. This lofty goal – God’s goal for every person – which the apostle had before his eyes, demanded the use of all his vigor and energy. This also entailed much struggle and resistance, but Christ worked in him and gave him the strength. The servant who has the passion to reach the goal as mentioned in Col 1:28 – that Christ is everything for the soul – will find all the power for this ministry in Christ.
Now read Colossians 1:24-29 again.
Reflection: See if Christ is everything in all the spheres of your life.
Kingcomments on the Whole Bible © 2021 Author: G. de Koning. All rights reserved. Used with the permission of the author
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de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Colossians 1". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 14 / Ordinary 19