[I apologize that the last posting was labeled “1:27” but actually was about 1:26. I have a perfectly good excuse for the error. . .though I don’t know what it is.]
This is a series of brief comments on Paul’s New Testament Epistle to the Colossians I hope it encourages you to study the Epistle — and many others — with great care. The more we dwell in Scripture, the richer it gets. Don’t rush. When tempted to do so by life’s busyness, remind yourself that the Bible is a love letter from God to you. . .
Remember from 1:2 that the word “saints” means those who are claimed and called by the Lord to be devoted to him. It does not mean that the saints are those who live up to the call. In fact, the purpose of this Epistle – or at least as much as we have understood so far – is to encourage the saints to be faithful to their calling.
It is to the saints that God has made known “how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” Wow! That’s what the theological journals call a mouthful. Let’s look at it in detail.
First, we notice that the riches are great “among the Gentiles.” The word translated “Gentiles” is ethnos, which means people in general. Frequently in Scripture the context makes it clear that it more narrowly means the people other than Jews. Though most modern translations use “Gentiles” in this verse, I’m not convinced. Nothing in the context suggests Paul has in mind the narrower understanding of the word. Nonetheless, whether we prefer “peoples” or “Gentiles,” the riches of the glorious mystery are wonderful.
Second, we see that this mystery, this long-kept secret, is richly glorious. . .or gloriously rich. If you’ve never basked in the sunshine of God’s love, maybe it’s because you’ve not taken care to listen to the “still, small voice,” the whispering of the Spirit of Jesus Christ.
Third, the word translated “mystery” (Greek: musterion), often rendered as “secret,” refers to something hidden until the right time for it to be revealed. Our minds are pushed quickly to the question, What’s the secret?
Fourth, the content of the mystery is “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” Those first three words capture almost completely Paul’s understanding of the meaning of Christian life. We’ve already glanced at Paul’s words to the Galatians but we cannot refrain from looking again: “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me, and the life I now live I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:19-20).
Christians are not identified by their adherence to one religion or another but by the Christlikeness of their character and their lives. After all, if “my” life is really Christ’s life lived in and through me, then my life had better look a lot like his, eh?
“The hope of glory” sends us back to 1:5, where Paul said that our faith and our love are grounded on the hope laid up for us in heaven. Christ has already gone ahead to prepare a place for us in heaven (John 14:3). Now we live infused with his Spirit, called each day to take another step toward the goal that lies before us: full and glorious communion with our wonderful Lord.
Anyone who understands that the blessings of today are just a hint of the glory that awaits us cannot be afraid of death. The grave is just the last big stepping stone into the unimaginable spiritual richness that awaits us.