Verse 23 starts with the word “if.” This little word, in the Greek, is in the indicative mood (i.e., “if this is true of you”) as opposed to the subjunctive mood (i.e., “if you do this, then it will be true”). Only God can determine the heart of an individual. The Apostle Paul never assumed the salvation of anyone, especially when they professed to be trusting in Christ but seemed to be adding their works to the mix. Thus, if one was a true believer in Christ’s work alone for salvation, then his following statements would be true of them.
Verse 23 uses the words “continue” (remain upon or rest upon), “grounded” (built on a foundation and therefore firmly established), and “not moved away” (not constantly shifting) from the “hope” (assurance, guarantee). The Colossians’ continuance, foundation, and steadfastness was to be settled on “the faith” contained in THE Gospel. The Lord, through Paul, was calling them to remain faithful to the faith that Paul preached to all people without reservation or distinction (See Col. 1:6, 28; 1 Thess. 1:8).
Despite opposition and disappointments, Paul counted it a privilege to be suffering in the place of, or on behalf of, Jesus Christ in order to establish and mature the Church, the Body of Christ (v. 24). He was not ashamed of his suffering (prison) because of the One (Christ) for which he was suffering. If Paul would have been willing to compromise his message, his sufferings would lessen, but he had a God-given responsibility. Paul was not just a dedicated missionary. He was entrusted with the unique privilege of “filling up” (completing) what was “behind” (lacking) of Christ’s suffering. Paul suffered in a way Christ never suffered. Christ’s earthly ministry was to “the lost sheep of the House of Israel” (Matt. 15:24); He came to bring about the promises made to Israel’s fathers (Rom. 15:8). What Christ did not endure was the suffering under the mantel of the Body of Christ; that honor was given to the Apostle Paul.
Verse 25 tells us that Paul was chosen and taught directly by the risen Lord Jesus Christ (Gal. 1:11-12) to be His minister to complete the revelation of God’s Word. Notice in verse 26 that this message was not known – it was a secret (“mystery”) – in other ages (i.e., Old Testament and Gospel times), but it is NOW made known through Paul. While Gnostics claimed that there was more information to be discovered, Paul is stating that the words God entrusted to him finished God’s Word to humanity. There are no more words to be found, because they have all been given. The emphasis in this verse is that it was not known at all until the “now” of Paul’s ministry. With Paul, the Lord dramatically changed His dealings with humanity.
Paul was made the chief custodian over the house rules (“dispensation”) of this current Age of Grace. Under the Age of Grace, the promises made to Israel have been set aside for a season and God is offering redemption to every nation directly through the Lord Jesus Christ. Salvation is not “keep the commandments” or “remain faithful”; it is “Christ died for your sins…was buried, and rose again…” (1 Cor. 15:3-4) and is appropriated to an individual by grace through faith alone, not of works (Eph. 2:8-9). It is this dispensation, involving God’s plan for the Body of Christ, under which God is still operating today.
Christ earned and provided redemption for all. God wanted all individuals to know this salvation, but Israel, as a nation, refused to accept Christ as Messiah, so God set Israel aside and delivered a message that eternal life was being offered as a gift to anyone who placed the entirety of their faith on what Christ accomplished. This message about Christ was different than what was preached about Him previously (“Repent, the Kingdom is at hand”), which is why Paul states that He preached “Jesus Christ according to the revelation of the Mystery” in Romans 16:25.
God wants all nations to know Christ, Who is the believer’s “hope of glory” (vs.27). This goes against gnostic teaching that only a select few can truly be enlightened by continually philosophizing with the goal of reaching a higher plane of glory. False teachers taught Christ was merely one of the emanations of intermediaries between God and man; Paul teaches Christ is all.
Furthermore, perfection does not come from adhering to the secrets of an exclusive religion. All knowledge is available to every person, but it is only found in Jesus Christ. Perfection comes from knowing the Redeemer (vs. 28). The Grace of God through Jesus Christ is what we proclaim (“preach”; distribute, make known), what we use to admonish (to put in mind, remind, warn), and what makes one fully developed (matured, perfect). When we are faithful to the message of Christ, He works in us powerfully. The gospel still contains the power of God to save (Romans 1:16).
So, as the Thanksgiving holiday approaches, praise the Lord that Jesus Christ is all you need to know. He is worth knowing, and He is worth sharing. We have an awesome Savior that is sufficient for eternal life!
BEREAN BIBLE INSTITUTE
P. O. Box 587
Slinger, WI 53086