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Paul's Ministry in Christ

Colossians  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  37:19
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Introduction

What ministry?
Through our time together today in we will see the nature of Paul’s Ministry in Christ.

Rejoicing in suffering. V.24

Paul begins verse 24 by stating that he rejoices in his sufferings for the sake of the Colossian Christians.

Paul’s theology of suffering.

If you remember, Paul has never been to the church at Colossae.
Yet he still considers his suffering to be for their sake as well.
This gives us a picture of Paul’s theology of suffering and hardships.
Lets zoom out for a moment and take a look at the big picture.
We have to remember timing. It is thought that Paul is writing the letter to the Colossians from his first Roman imprisonment.
Before he even came to Rome the first time Paul described in his second letter to the Corinthians the things he had suffered.
2 Corinthians 11:23–28 ESV
Are they servants of Christ? I am a better one—I am talking like a madman—with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches.
2 Cor. 11:
In his travel to Rome we know that he was again shipwrecked on the Island of Malta.
We know that Paul has been through a lot to get to the point of where he was.
He is currently under house arrest in Rome and yet, with all of this he is still able to write that he rejoices in his sufferings!
This is almost too much for us to take or understand.
Paul is explaining in verse 24 that in his sufferings, he is doing his part.
The word for filling up is a verb, it carries the idea of taking my turn or doing my part.
Paul understands all this suffering to be on behalf of other believers, to be part of his Christian walk and perhaps even part of his Christian duty.
The text does sound a bit awkward because when we read it, it sounds as if Paul is saying that Jesus didn’t enough and the church isn’t enduring enough pain so I am suffering to help fill that void.
That however is not Paul’s point.
Paul is not a person seeking after pain.
Paul is explaining that all of this hardship has been a way for the church to be filled up. A way for the church to take part in Jesus suffering.
When persecution and difficulty occurs, the cup isn’t half empty, it’s half full.
Paul emphasizes the irony that Jesus uses suffering to show His presence in the body, the church.
This resolve on Paul’s part can only come from one thing.
The presence of the Holy Spirit in his life.
This of course is much easier for us to talk about that to live out.
In comparison to Paul, what sufferings do we have?
I don’t want to downgrade our difficulties because in the moment, they are the most extreme thing we could possible face.
I would like to put them into perspective for us -
Most of us have heard stories of Christians singing as they were being fed to wild animals for the entertainment of the Roman people.
Polycarp, one of the early church fathers is recorded as being stabbed to death when his body would not burn.
William Tyndale, known for translating the Bible into English was choked and burned.
Jim Elliot and four other missionaries were killed attempting to make contact with a tribe of natives.
A little closer to home for me, I remember our Pastor as I was growing up coming back from the middle east, Syria or Pakistan, I can’t remember exactly, shortly after he returned, the church he was in was attacked with hand grenades.
Most of us are still learning to see suffering as an opportunity to for Christ to live through us. We certainly have much to learn about being diligent to Christ in our suffering. What we can glean from Paul though can help make a difference.
We never wish for pain, but it can help us identify with Jesus.
For Paul, suffering was an opportunity to edify the body, the church.
For us, suffering may look more like a long slow battle with temptation or sickness, or perhaps agonizing anxieties. Be they about responsibilities for family, work, or perhaps the church. Possibly constant doubts and uncertainties.
All of these when properly understood are thing to take joy in because they are signs that the current age is passing.
This was Paul’s perspective. He was looking forward to Jesus return.
This is a difficult and frustrating theological stance, but a biblical one.
Examples of suffering and redemption are riddled throughout scripture.
David, the man after God’s own heart suffered greatly as we see from many of the psalms.
There is a song that I quite enjoy that puts some of these together. Listen to some the lyrics and pick out some of the stories you hear. But also listen for the theme.
Story of Grace - United Pursuit
[Verse 1] One way ticket to the lion’s den Gotta go through the fire so I can come out again Fight for my faith, live what I believe Stand on my feet and sing, oh, I will sing
[Chorus] Jesus, You’ve called me friend Jesus, You’ve made me what I am
[Verse 2] Yet in my weak frame I’m calling on Your Name Broke my heart with Your love, God, I will love You the same Forgiven oceans, I am brought to my knees The story of Your grace, it fills me with the theme
[Chorus] Jesus, You’ve called me friend Jesus, You’ve made me what I am Jesus, You are my life within Jesus, You’ve called me friend
2 Corinthians 12:9–10 ESV
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
One aspect of the nature of Paul’s ministry was definitely suffering.

The Center of Paul’s Ministry

Paul’s commission. V.25

Suffering though a part of Paul’s ministry was not the center of his ministry.
Paul states in verse 25 that he became a minister of the church according to the stewardship from God that was given to him.
Paul is stating that he literally became a servant of the church.
There is a bit of contradiction and irony in this verse though. Paul is declaring himself to be only a courier, someone who is doing something at the request of a superior, an assistant.
But he is a servant with an important role to play that was given by God.
A servant with an important role to play that was given by God.
The word for stewardship carries the meaning of having the responsibility of management.
This echoes Jesus teaching on the importance of service seen in places like and 20, , and Luke 13.
Matthew 20:16 ESV
So the last will be first, and the first last.”
Who has managed something before?
Who has managed people before?
Not an easy or necessarily desirable task to say the least.
Paul however was commissioned by God for that purpose.
Being a firm believer in the sovereignty of God I have to believe that the same is true for us as well.
God has placed each one of us in the position that we are in, for that specific time, for a purpose.
We may not always see or understand that purpose but it is there. We must be faithful, as Paul was, to continue through difficulties to get to the center of our ministry just as Paul did, as a servant.
This echoes Jesus teaching on the importance of service seen in places like and 20, , and .
The purpose and the center of the service being to make the word of God fully known.
The center of Paul’s ministry was Jesus.

Paul’s message. V. 26-27

Colossians 1:26 ESV
the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints.
The true word of God had been hidden for ages and generations but was now revealed through the death and resurrection of Jesus.
This is the mystery.
God’s rescue plan for the world.
God’s own Son.
God’s Word.
The coming of Christ and the giving of the Holy Spirit are the climactic events that Paul’s ministry center on.
This Word has been revealed to specific group of people, God’s saints.
V.27 expands on this
Colossians 1:27 ESV
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.
The further description here in this verse is opening up the mystery.
Remember with me to the promise God initially gave to Abraham.
Genesis 12:1–3 ESV
Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
It was as if this promise had been placed into a funnel.
The all for the people of Israel no longer meant all the families of the earth but only all the families of the people of Israel.
The mystery though, was that God intended from the beginning to save the gentiles.
The NIV Application Commentary: Colossians and Philemon The Mystery Kept Hidden for Ages and Generations (1:26; 2:2)

Christ “among the Gentiles” was not Plan B after the gospel had been rejected by Jews. Rather, it was God’s eternal purpose

This is the greatness of the riches.
That God would provide opportunity for salvation for all people.
The method and the identifier of that salvation is Christ in you, the hope of glory.
That mystery continues on.
The mystery is you and me.
We are the riches of the glory of this mystery.
The glory is defined as

① the condition of being bright or shining, brightness, splendor, radiance

This is not some simple addition but something of splendor and amazement.
This is a large part of why Paul is rejoicing in His suffering.
Because God has chosen Him to make they mystery known to the gentiles.
This is the nature of Paul’s ministry. He is able to rejoice because he is an active participant in God’s plan for salvation and for all of creation.
This should also be the nature of our ministry! We ought to rejoice because we play the same role.
We bring the good news of salvation to everyone we come in contact with.
We can use the same methods that Paul describes in verse 28.

Paul’s method. V.28

Colossians 1:28 ESV
Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ.
This is how Paul makes the word of God fully known.
This method is not limited to one group of people either.
This is shown for us by the repetition of the Greek word for all or every.
Warning everyone, teaching everyone, all wisdom, present everyone.
This is meant to say that everyone they encounter should have the opportunity to hear the good news.
Warning everyone seems self explanatory, without saving faith in Jesus we face eternal fire.
The idea though here is to admonish.

to counsel about avoidance or cessation of an improper course of conduct, admonish, warn, instruct

Teaching is also rather self explanatory.
It carries the idea of providing instruction in a formal setting. To tell someone what to do.
As a new or young Christian we need this to learn how to do things such as pray. As an older believer we need this as well to be reminded of the importance and why we do it.
Both of these are done with all wisdom.
A wisdom that God imparts to those that are close to Him. A capacity to understand and function accordingly.
Believers need the wisdom to live out the true knowledge of God and teachers need the wisdom to know how to teach and admonish.
What does it mean though present everyone mature in Christ?
Mature is a difficult word to understand here because it has a few different ideas behind it.
It has the idea of meeting the highest standard. That seems more than just mature - perfect might be the word.
It also carries the meaning though of being full grown, or mature,
It also has the idea of being initiated or also being fully developed in a moral sense.
Presenting perfect is too strong of a term because we are not perfect on our own.
Mature is a little too weak because it gives the idea that I am doing good I am am only a little better than the guy in pew next to me.
The idea here has to be one of being wholehearted in our devotion to God that we might be said to be blameless in our conduct.
The Pillar New Testament Commentary: Colossians and Philemon C. The Mystery of Christ in Paul’s Ministry and Christian Experience (1:24–2:5)

complete and undivided way in which a person, with all one’s positive and negative attributes, is oriented toward God or toward Christ

To be blameless but only in Christ.
This was the point of the previous verses 21-23. That we would be presented with our relationship restored.
This was Paul’s desire in his ministry. That he would be able to present everyone that he came across as blameless in Christ.

Empowered by Christ. V.29

This was his toil.
How he did this is shown in verse 29
Colossians 1:29 ESV
For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.
Paul’s toil is the labor of the ministry.
This labor, this struggle cannot be accomplished with his own power.
How many of us have seen someone or perhaps tried to do something in our own power and simply ran out of energy.
This is burnout -
The labor of ministry can only be accomplished through the energy of Christ.
Human effort is important but only with the enabling of the grace of God in Jesus will it bear fruit.
The nature of Paul’s ministry is empowered by the Holy Spirit at work in him.

Conclusion

The nature of Paul’s ministry can be seen in suffering -
William Willimon -

Willimon speculates that “suffering is part of the price we pay for our humanity and our freedom.” This is all the more true in a fallen world where sin runs amok.

The nature of Paul’s ministry is seen in his commission and his message.

• to present the word of God in its fullness and make known its glorious riches

• to proclaim Christ and admonish and teach in all wisdom so that believers are firm in their faith

• to create believers encouraged in heart, united in love, and full of understanding

• to reach out with good news to those whom some may deem unworthy or excluded.

The nature of Paul’s ministry is seen through his method.
Paul Hanson

As Paul served others with dedication and sacrifice, so churches today should take seriously their servant role in the world. Churches are not here to serve themselves or even simply to serve Christ. They are to serve like Christ as instruments of God’s reconciliation. Hanson writes:

The church is not some curious or pitiable relic of the past seeking to justify itself either by appeal to an archaic golden age or by attempts to appear more progressive and radical than the latest protest movement, but is an agent of reconciliation and healing basing its identity on its sense of being present where God is present in the world, and for the same purpose.

We are to proclaim Christ, teaching in all wisdom, to present believers as mature in Christ, to make known the glorious riches of the power of Word of God. His promises fulfilled in Jesus.
I would like to leave us today with Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase of this section from the Message.
I think it sums up the ideas we have covered today quite nicely.
The Message Chapter 1

I want you to know how glad I am that it’s me sitting here in this jail and not you. There’s a lot of suffering to be entered into in this world—the kind of suffering Christ takes on. I welcome the chance to take my share in the church’s part of that suffering. When I became a servant in this church, I experienced this suffering as a sheer gift, God’s way of helping me serve you, laying out the whole truth.

26–29  This mystery has been kept in the dark for a long time, but now it’s out in the open. God wanted everyone, not just Jews, to know this rich and glorious secret inside and out, regardless of their background, regardless of their religious standing. The mystery in a nutshell is just this: Christ is in you, so therefore you can look forward to sharing in God’s glory. It’s that simple. That is the substance of our Message. We preach Christ, warning people not to add to the Message. We teach in a spirit of profound common sense so that we can bring each person to maturity. To be mature is to be basic. Christ! No more, no less. That’s what I’m working so hard at day after day, year after year, doing my best with the energy God so generously gives me.

• to present the word of God in its fullness and make known its glorious riches

• to proclaim Christ and admonish and teach in all wisdom so that believers are firm in their faith

• to create believers encouraged in heart, united in love, and full of understanding

• to reach out with good news to those whom some may deem unworthy or excluded.

As Paul served others with dedication and sacrifice, so churches today should take seriously their servant role in the world. Churches are not here to serve themselves or even simply to serve Christ. They are to serve like Christ as instruments of God’s reconciliation. Hanson writes:

The church is not some curious or pitiable relic of the past seeking to justify itself either by appeal to an archaic golden age or by attempts to appear more progressive and radical than the latest protest movement, but is an agent of reconciliation and healing basing its identity on its sense of being present where God is present in the world, and for the same purpose.

We are to proclaim Christ, teaching in all wisdom, to present believers as mature in Christ, to make known the glorious riches of the power of Word of God. His promises fulfilled in Jesus.
.

① the condition of being bright or shining, brightness, splendor, radiance

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