Col. 1:24-2:5 - EXEGESIS
COLOSSIANS 1:24-28. PAUL REJOICES IN HIS SUFFERINGS FOR THEIR SAKE
25 I was made a minister of this church according to the commission from God granted to me for your benefit, so that I might fully carry out the preaching of the word of God, 26 that is, the mystery which had been hidden from the past ages and generations, but now has been revealed to His saints, 27 to whom God willed to make known what the wealth of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles is, the mystery that is Christ in you, the hope of glory. 28 We proclaim Him, admonishing every person and teaching every person with all wisdom, so that we may present every person complete in Christ.
"Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake" (v. 24a). When Paul talks about suffering, he knows whereof he speaks. He says: "Five times from the Jews I received forty stripes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I suffered shipwreck. I have been a night and a day in the deep. I have been in travels often, perils of rivers, perils of robbers, perils from my countrymen, perils from the Gentiles, perils in the city, perils in the wilderness, perils in the sea, perils among false brothers; in labor and travail, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, and in cold and nakedness. Besides those things that are outside, there is that which presses on me daily, anxiety for all the assemblies" (2 Cor. 11:24-28).
"and fill up on my part that which is lacking of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body's sake, which is the assembly" (ekklesia) (v. 24b). Paul isn't suggesting that Christ's suffering on the cross somehow lacked efficacy. Instead, he is saying that Christ, having ascended back to his heavenly realm, is no longer available to absorb the wrath of the enemies of God. Paul and other Christian servants are now the ones in the line of fire. • They are suffering, but their suffering has a purpose. They are suffering for the sake of the body (the church). See the notes above on verse 18a for the meaning of ekklesia.
"of which I was made a servant" (diakonos) (v. 25a). In verse 23, Paul spoke of being a servant of the Good News-the Gospel. See the comments on verse 23 for diakonos). Now Paul speaks of being made a servant of the church-the ekklesia-the gathered community of faith (v. 24b-25a).
"according to the stewardship (oikonomia) of God which was given me toward you, to fulfill the word of God" (v. 25b). The word oikonomia is usually used to speak of the management (nomos-distribution, apportionment, law) of a household (oikos-house).
"the mystery (mysterion) which has been hidden for ages and generations" (v. 26a). A mystery, as Paul uses the word here, is spiritual knowledge that God kept secret for a time and then revealed to those who come to him in faith (Romans 16:25; Ephesians 3:9). The gospel is a mystery (Ephesians 6:19), as is Christ himself (Colossians 2:2). In the book of Ephesians, the writer (who identifies himself as Paul, v. 3:1) says: "by revelation the mystery was made known to me....that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of his promise in Christ Jesus through the Good News" (Ephesians 3:3-6).
"But now it has been revealed to his saints" (hagios) (v. 26b). The mystery, which God for so long kept hidden, is now revealed to the saints (hagios). As noted in the comments on verse 22b above,hagios can mean holy-sinless or upright. That's what it meant in verse 22. Now in verse 26 hagios has a related meaning-saints-a holy people-a sinless people. We cannot attain this holiness-this sinlessness-by spiritual self-discipline. Christ's sacrifice on the cross is essential. It has the same effect for us that the sacrifices of the Jewish people had for them-it relieves us of the guilt of our sin and makes us holy.
But at Jesus' Second Coming, the revelation will be more general. Jesus says, "But there is nothing covered up, that will not be revealed, nor hidden, that will not be known" (Luke 12:2; see also Matt. 10:26; Luke 17:30).
"to whom God was pleased to make known what are the riches of the glory(doxa) of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory" (v. 27). God was pleased to reveal the mystery to the saints-the hagios (see v. 26b). The mystery revealed is "the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles" (v. 27b). God began a covenant relationship with Israel by saying to Abraham (long before the Israelites existed as a nation): "Get out of your country, and from your relatives,and from your father's house, to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation. I will bless you and make your name great. You will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you. All of the families of the earth will be blessed in you" (Genesis 12:1-3). Note that God's promise to Abraham had two facets:
"which is Christ in you, the hope of glory" (v. 27). Keep in mind that most of these Colossian Christians are probably Gentiles. That is no longer a hindrance to their salvation. Christ in them is "the hope of glory"-the hope that they will experience the resurrection of the dead and see Christ in his glory.
"whom we proclaim" (v. 28a). It is Christ whom Paul proclaims-"Christ crucified" (1 Corinthians 1:23)-"Christ Jesus" (2 Corinthians 1:19)-"Christ Jesus as Lord" (2 Corinthians 4:5).
He gives a thumbnail description of his proclamation in his first letter to the Corinthian church, saying:
"For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve" (and lists others to whom Christ appeared). (1 Corinthians 15:3-8)
"admonishing (noutheteo) every man" (panta anthropon) (v. 28b). The Greek word noutheteo means to warn, admonish, or exhort. It is a strong word, suggesting that Paul puts lots of energy and urgency behind his admonishment. For Paul, a person's relationship to Christ is a life and death issue, and we can be sure that Paul put his whole being into proclaiming that.
"every man" is a literal translation of panta (every or all) anthropon (man). Most translations today use a gender-neutral word such as "everyone," which does a good job of capturing the sense of the original Greek.
Paul uses "every man" three times in this verse-emphasizing the availability of the Good News to every person (male or female). There is no longer any exclusivity-no one who is not welcome.
and teaching every man in all wisdom" (v. 28b). What constitutes wisdom? The Greeks prize philosophy as the ultimate wisdom, but the Psalmist says, "The fear of Yahweh is the beginning of wisdom" (Psalm 111:10a). Paul would agree with the Psalmist, of course, but has much to add:
"that we may present every man perfect (teleios) in Christ Jesus" (v. 28c). This word teleios has a variety of meanings, to include "complete" or "whole" or "mature" or "unblemished" or "perfect." On our own, we are none of those things. However, Christ came to take our brokenness and make us whole-to take our childishness and make us mature-to take our sinfulness and make us unblemished and perfect before God.
Col. 1:24-29 - Extra Exegesis
The topic of this paragraph is Paul's ministry. Structurally, 1:24-29 is one sentence in Greek with four primary headings, each of the last three starting with a relative pronoun. These could be summarized propositionally as follows: "I am rejoicing in my sufferings for you...and am completing what is lacking in Christ's affliction" (vs. 24); "I have become a minister of the church...to make the Word of God fully known" (vs. 25-27); "We proclaim Him" (vs. 28); and "I labor for this" (vs. 29).
Commentators note the similarity between the content of vs. 25-27 and vs. 28, each of which focus on Paul's proclamation of the gospel, and thus often group these verses together. Therefore, the paragraph could be divided into three parts: Paul's suffering on behalf of the church (vs. 24), Paul's stewardship to proclaim the mystery of the gospel to everyone (vs. 25-28), and Paul's labor for the sake of producing everyone mature in Christ (vs. 29).
Exegete the Passage: In a tail-head linkage, the topic of the previous verse (vs. 23), the ministry of Paul, forms the topic of the present paragraph (vs. 24-29), which is an expanded explanation of Paul's ministry on behalf of the Colossian church, given as grounds or reasoning for the exhortations Paul will give in 2:6ff. Paul will urge the Colossian church to remain faithful to Christ not only on the basis of Christ's supremacy (1:15-23) but Paul's faithful ministry among them (1:24-29). Paul will continue this explanation of his ministry in 2:1-5.
v. 24: Certain to capture the attention of the original recipients, vs. 24 says that Paul's ministry to the church was a ministry marked by suffering. Vs. 24 contains two present active indicatives describing the nature of Paul's suffering. First, Paul says, "I am rejoicing in my sufferings for you." That is, in the midst of Paul's suffering, he rejoices because it is for their sake. Second, Paul says, "I am completing in my flesh what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for his body, that is, the church." In addition to the fact that his suffering is for the church's benefit, Paul saw his suffering as a continuation in some sense of the suffering of Christ, which therefore motivated his rejoicing. What Christ's suffering was "lacking" is a difficult question to answer, and one perhaps unanswerable. There may be a contextual clue in Paul's immediate reference to his ministry of gospel proclamation in vs. 25ff, indicating perhaps that the only thing lacking in Christ's suffering is its renown.
vs. 25-28: describe the reason and purpose for Paul's ministry. Paul became a servant (diakonos) of the church (vs. 25) because of the stewardship (oikonomian) God gave him. The infinitive in vs. 25 gives the purpose of Paul's ministry: "to make the Word of God fully known." Vs. 26-27 modifies and gives definition to what Paul means by his use of "the Word of God." Namely, it is the "mystery hidden for ages...but now revealed" (vs. 26). Vs. 27 gives the description of the mystery, that it is "Christ in you, the hope of glory." Vs. 28 contains a present active indicative: "We proclaim Him." The relative pronoun's antecedent is "Christ" in vs. 27. Christ is the content of Paul's preaching. Vs. 28 contains two participles explaining the manner in which Paul proclaims Christ: by "warning" and "teaching." Paul's reference to the Gentiles in vs. 27 and his repetition of the term "everyone" (panta, used three times in vs. 28), emphasizes the fact that Paul's preaching was to people from every ethnic background, Jew and Gentile alike. The end of vs. 28 includes a purpose statement, indicated by a hina clause, that functions as both the purpose of Paul's proclamation in vs. 28 as well as the purpose of Paul's labor in vs. 29: "so that we may present everyone mature in Christ." Paul's goal in preaching was to present every member of the church in maturity to the Lord.
v. 29: references this very same purpose in relation to Paul's labor. Paul uses a preposition and a relative pronoun to connect the statement "I labor" to the preceding purpose of presenting everyone mature in Christ, translated well by the NASB: "For this purpose I labor." Paul commends his ministry by explaining that he worked hard for the sake of producing maturity in the believers. The participle in vs. 29b describes the means by which Paul was able to labor: "striving according to His power that works powerfully in me." Paul uses a mnemonic word play to emphasize the power of God that was operative in his ministry: "His power that works powerfully" (energeian auto ten energoumenen). The only way Paul was capable of ministering in the way he did - suffering, proclaiming, and laboring - was because of the power of God at work in him.
5. Let the Structure of the Text Drive the Structure of the Sermon
Colossians 2:1-5- Exegesis
Locate the Passage: 2:1-5 is connected thematically to the previous paragraph and is a continuation of it. This paragraph is part of the grounds contained in 1:15-2:5 for the exhortations to come in 2:6ff. Paul's ministry serves as the topic of the paragraph.
Identify the Genre: The macro level is epistolary. The micro level is expository.
Determine the Structure of the Passage: The topic of this paragraph is Paul's ministry - specifically, his struggle on behalf of the Colossian and Laodicean church. There is a tail-head link between 1:29 and 2:1, where Paul says in 1:29 that he is "laboring" (agonizomenos) and in 2:1 that he is "struggling" (agona). 2:1 could be translated, "I want you to know I am exerting myself greatly for you" or "I want you to know I am working very hard for you." This thematically links the two paragraphs.
2:1-5 is divided as follows. 2:1 provides the theme for the paragraph, describing Paul's hard work in ministry for the sake of the church. Paul's hard work is the means by which he accomplishes two purposes, both of which are given in 2:2. The first purpose Paul's hard work accomplishes is to encourage their hearts (vs. 2a). This phrase is modified by a participle explaining the means through which this encouragement takes place: "having their hearts knit together in love." The preposition eis in vs. 2b introduces the second purpose of Paul's hard work: that they may have "all the riches of complete understanding and have the knowledge of God's mystery - Christ." The pronoun in vs. 3 modifies "Christ" in vs. 2 and gives a description of Christ, that "in Him are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge." 2:4-5 give the intended or expected result of Paul's hard work: that no one will deceive them with arguments that draw them away from Christ.
Exegete the Passage
Paul uses another tail-head linkage, where "labor" in 1:29 is the tail of 1:24-29 and "struggling" (or, "working hard") in 2:1 is the head of 2:1-5. Paul's labor in ministry for the Colossian and Laodicean churches serve as grounds for their obedience to his commands in 2:6ff to remain faithful to Christ.
Paul elaborates on the nature of his labor mentioned in 1:29 by re-stating the fact that he is "struggling" (agona) for them (2:1). This word has the sense of strenuous exertion or "working hard," emphasized with the addition of helikos ("how greatly") to "I am working hard." Paul may be referring here to the spiritual work of prayer or perhaps the work of instructing them via his letter to them, since Paul was confined to prison at the time of writing and therefore it can't be referring to his physical presence or ministry among them. This is reinforced by his statement that his hard work is "for all who have not seen me in person."
2:2 gives two purposes of Paul's hard work. First, Paul works so that the hearts of the saints will be encouraged (paraklethosin). Paul's desire is to strengthen the hearts of the believers. The participial phrase "being knit together in love" describes the means through which their hearts will be encouraged. It is by loving one another that their heart will be bonded together and the saints will experience mutual edification and encouragement. Paul sees his ministry to them as instrumental in their spiritual health and welfare. Second, Paul works so that they would possess "all the riches of complete understanding and have the knowledge of God's mystery - Christ" (vs. 2b). Paul, in his usual diplomatic fashion, is hinting here at the fact that they do not yet possess this complete understanding, a point he will make increasingly explicit in the rest of his argument in ch. 2. Paul's goal is that they would not remain incomplete in their understanding of the mystery of the gospel, but that they would fully come to know the supremacy of Christ. Paul's high Christology in chs. 1-2 are the antidote to the incipient heresy in the Colossian church, something he will address directly in 2:8-23.
2:3 is an expansion on Paul's reference to "Christ" in 2:2. Paul argues that Christ is the sum of all wisdom and knowledge. This should be read polemically against the background of the Colossian heresy which contained perhaps proto-Gnostic elements which encouraged adherents to seek a higher wisdom or knowledge (see comment on 1:9). The treasure of wisdom and knowledge is found in the person of Christ alone.
2:4: The hina clause in 2:4 explains the intended or expected result of Paul's ministry of hard work for the church. Paul is working hard so that no one will be "deceived" (paralogizomai) by persuasive arguments (pithanologia). KJV translates this memorably, "And this I say, lest any man should beguile you with enticing words." Paul is using his labor among them as a reason that they should not turn from what they have been taught. His is an appeal to ethos; his faithful ministry among them should motivate their faithful adherence to the gospel.
2:5: Lest someone question whether Paul indeed has among them the kind of influence that he espouses due to the fact that he isn't with them physically, he states in 2:5 that although he is absent in body, "I am with you in spirit." This may be an additional hint at the nature of his hard work, that his labor for them is a labor of prayer. His presence in spirit reinforces the claim he makes as one who has labored for them. There is a participial phrase at the end of 2:5 explains that Paul rejoices to see how well ordered the believers are as well as the strength of their faith in Christ. Paul deftly encourages the believers by acknowledging his expectation that indeed their faith in Christ is strong and they will doubtless follow his instructions. He is preparing them for his warning in 2:8ff not to be taken captive by the heresy present among them. While this should not be read as "sweet talking" his audience, there is nevertheless an element of diplomacy at work here. He fully expects his audience to respond positively to his message. It only helps their obedient response for him to express his confidence in the strength of their faith.
5. Let the Structure of the Text Drive the Structure of the Sermon
Colossians 1:24 - 2:5 Commentary
This verse is one of those puzzling verses that it is far easier to skip over than to explain. Here are some comments:
 Obviously Paul is not claiming that his suffering makes up for something that is lacking in the suffering of Christ on the cross as a atoning sacrifice for our sins. Paul understood clearly that the death of Christ, and only the death of Christ, achieved our salvation, and achieved it completely. The vicarious, substitutionary, sufferings of Christ have been completed 'once for all', according to Hebrews, so that there is no further offering for sin required [Hebrews 10:12,18]. So we can, and must, leave that interpretation of this verse aside.
 Jesus warned his followers that they would suffer at the hands of men just as he himself suffered:
John 15:18: 'If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first' John 15:20: 'If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also'.
And taught that this persecution was a cause to rejoice [even as Paul rejoiced - Colossians 1:24]:
'Matthew 5:11,12: 'Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad ...'
 The proclamation of the gospel exposes the messenger to attack. The messenger is the target of the world's hatred of and rejection of God. So long as the gospel is preached, that long there will be opposition. The messenger is also exposed to attack by those wolves in sheep's clothing who masquerade as preachers of the gospel but who are really false teachers or false prophets. Until the gospel is proclaimed in every tribe and language and people, until Christ returns, the messengers and teachers of the true gospel will suffer at the hands of religious people who hold false views, just as Christ suffered during the days of his earthly ministry.
Paul rejoices in this. Because this struggle means that the gospel is being preached, the church is being built up both numerically and in maturity. So for this reason he continues to struggle [see 1:29, and 2:1,2]. His constant praying [1:3,9] and his writing of this letter are part of that struggle, in which he engages for the sake of Christ's body, the church [1:24].
Colossians 1:25 to 2:4:
Paul now begins to directly address the situation in Colosse where false teaching was unsettling the Christians and trying to entice them away from pure faith in Jesus Christ. In the next few verses his aim is to reassure the Christians that in Jesus Christ they have all the knowledge of God. It is not necessary, as proposed by the false teachers, that they have to leave Christ behind as an inferior first step and move on to additional revelation of God from other, including angelic, sources. Christ is enough. Indeed Christ is all. He gives them one fact after another leading up to his bold and exclusive statement in 2:3 and his repudiation of the false teaching in 2:4.
As he begins his defence of Jesus Christ, he first of all reaffirms his own commission. God commissioned him. God gave him a specific task. This was
'to present to you the word of God in its fullness' - and that is what he is endeavouring to do in this letter. He has heard of the corruption of the word of God being presented by the false teachers, he has heard how it diminished Jesus Christ and diminished the power and impact of the cross of Christ. He knows that it is his responsibility, given to him by God, to make sure these Colossian believers, of whom he has heard from Epaphras, understand God's truth in its fullness. In this brief letter he includes more aspects of the true identity of Christ, and more aspects of the salvation obtained through the death of Christ than in any other letter. This is his burden, this is his commission from God. He will not, he cannot, allow the word of God to be diminished.
Paul explains what he means by 'the word of god in its fullness'. It is:
'the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations' - First of all, it is 'the mystery'. Something that people knew was there, but which they did not understand. We see evidence of this mentioned in other Scriptures:
Luke 10:21-24: Here Jesus, speaking to the disciples, said: 'Blessed are the eyes that see what you see. For I tell you that many prophets and kings wanted to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it'. In seeing and hearing Jesus Christ, the disciples are seeing and hearing that hidden mystery which the Old Testament prophets and kings knew was there, but also knew that they did not know or understand it. The form of the Greek verbs used in Luke indicate that those old prophets and kings would have loved to catch just a glimpse of what the disciples were seeing continually, and to hear just the littlest bit of what the disciples were hearing continually. Because in Jesus Christ, that which was hidden is now in the open.
In 1Peter 1:10-12 Peter repeats the truth that the old prophets knew there was hidden truth in the messages they spoke and wrote. They wished they knew what it was. They wished they could understand it. But they couldn't. It remained hidden. [Peter also adds that 'the angels' also wanted to understand it.]
'but is now disclosed to the saints' - That which was hidden for ages and generations, is now revealed. It is no longer hidden. But this is true only for 'the saints' - that is, those whom God has regenerated and made his own in Christ Jesus. It is only these for whom God's truth is no longer a mystery. Their eyes have been opened so that they now see.
It is this mystery, once hidden, but now disclosed, that Paul was commissioned by God to preach in its fullness. It is not simply that he preached Jesus Christ, but that he preached Jesus Christ as the fulfilment of the Old Testament, as the mystery that was hidden in it. Paul preached Jesus Christ as the goal, content and meaning of all God's previous revelation. The Old Testament was written in anticipation of Jesus Christ; from Genesis to Malachi, it speaks of Jesus Christ. This is not only in words of straight predictive prophecy, but in history, in people, in ritual, in law. As Jesus said: You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me...' (John 5:39).
All of the Old Testament, of which Christ was the hidden mystery', has its purpose, its goal, its fulfilment, in Jesus Christ. The false teaching that enticed people beyond Christ to further revelation had not understood this reality. All of God's previous revelation was leading up to, preparing the way for, speaking in advance of, the incarnation, life, death, resurrection of Jesus Christ. He is its complete fulfilment. He is its complete meaning. There is nothing more.
The saints, those who are saved by Christ, know this.
Thus Paul, in 1Corinthians 2:6-10, speaks of this hidden mystery:
'... we speak of God's secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. However, as it is written: "No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him" - 'but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit.'
God's word in its fullness, this mystery, existed before time began. The whole incarnation-salvation package was in God's mind even before he created the world:
'This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time' [2Timothy 1:9]. '... the hope of eternal life, which God promised before the beginning of time' [Titus 1:2].
From Genesis onwards God spoke of it in many and varied ways moving towards his final revelation in Jesus Christ. The whole Old Testament thus speaks of Christ, anticipating and predicting his coming and his sin-bearing, substitutionary death. Thus it has been said of the two testaments of the Bible: The New is in the Old concealed: the Old is in the New revealed.
'To them God has chosen to make known ...' That is, to 'the saints' [verse 26]. The Greek reads 'To them God has willed to make known'. God's choice, God's will, was to make this known to those who believe in him. It is not something anyone and everyone can understand. It can only be understood if God opens our eyes. This ignorance and inability is mentioned elsewhere:
'Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven' [Matthew 16:17].
'No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him' [Matthew 11:27].
'If our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God' [2Corinthians 4:3,4].
Even the Psalm writer understood this inability when he prayed: 'Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law' [Psalm 119:18].
'among the Gentiles' - the anticipatory, hidden revelation in the preparatory, predictive Old Testament was known by very few who were not Israelites [although the Israelites were supposed to reveal God to the nations]. But now that the truth is revealed in Christ in all its fullness, now that the mystery is no longer hidden, God willed to make it known among the Gentiles also. Christ's final command was that his followers make disciples of all nations. But there is more to it than that. Paul does not expand this here, but in Ephesians he makes it quite clear that the incorporation of the Gentiles into the people of God was always his plan. He describes this inclusion of the Gentiles quite fully in Ephesians 2:11-22. He then goes on to say that this eternal purpose of God to include Gentiles and Jews together in Christ constitutes part of the 'mystery':
'Surely you have heard about the administration of God's grace ... the mystery made known to me by revelation ... you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to men in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God's holy apostles and prophets. This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus' [Ephesians 3:2-6].
This is a critical point in respect to the Colossian false teachers: some of them were requiring the Gentiles to conform to Jewish rituals and observances in order to be acceptable to God. In other words, they were unacceptable while they remained Gentiles in terms of religious practice. But the glorious riches of the gospel means that Gentiles are incorporated into Christ apart from any performance or adherence to the rituals of Israel.
'the glorious riches of this mystery' - The Greek reads 'the riches of the glory of this mystery'. Either way, Paul is extolling the gospel. It is characterised by glory. It is characterised by riches. It is not cheap. It is not small. It is not mundane. It is not common. It is not something to throw away because you have found something better. There is nothing better. There is nothing that can compare - nothing of the same kind that can be placed along side as an equally attractive option. The New Testament uses other similarly superlative concepts:
'The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a filed. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought the field' [Matthew 13:44].
'... his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in Christ [Ephesians 1:6].
'... the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus' [Ephesians 2:7].
'... to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ' [Ephesians 3:8].
'... that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you ...' [Ephesians 3:16].
To know Jesus Christ and his salvation is to have received from God the most incredible gift, the ultimate treasure.
'which is Christ in you, the hope of glory' - in contrast to the false teaching and its ritual and legalistic requirements, Paul here states firmly a central aspect of this gospel mystery: that Christ in you is the hope of glory. Not your ritual performance. Not your conformity to any legalistic or mystical expectations. Not any of those things that he will warn against in Colossians 2.
'Christ in you' - Paul says a lot about the believer being 'in Christ'. Indeed some people believe that this 'in Christ' concept is the key factor in Paul's understanding of salvation. But here he looks at an opposite fact: 'Christ in you'. This is not something he mentions at all frequently. At least not in those terms.
When Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would come and indwell those who believed in him, he defined this as he himself coming and living in the believer. In the context of promising the Spirit he said:
'I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you' [John 14:18] 'On that day you will know that ... I am in you' [John 14:20] '... we will come to him and make our home with him' [John 14:23] 'I am coming back to you' [John 14:28].
The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Jesus [Romans 8:9; Galatians 4:6; Philippians 1:19; 1Peter 1:11]. Jesus, by his Spirit, dwells in every believer. The Spirit of Christ within us:
Testifies that we are God's children [Romans 8:15; Galatians 4:6] Seals us as God's possession [2Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13] Guarantees our inheritance [2Corinthians 1:22; 5:5; Ephesians 1:14],
'the hope' - The indwelling Christ is thus the believer's sure and certain confidence that all that God has promised to do in and through Christ he will do. Hope, as we have already seen in 1:5, is not an uncertain wishing. It is a confident assurance, a knowing. The certainty, the assurance is not something conjured up by positive thinking, but is grounded in the very person of Christ. Because he can be trusted, we can be totally confident. For this reason Paul states:
'I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day' [2Timothy 1:12].
And the writer to the Hebrews urges us:
'Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful' [Hebrews 10:23].
As the Scripture testifies: Christ himself is our hope [1Timothy 1:1].
'of glory' - There are over-lapping and interweaving aspects to this glory.
 There is the ultimate destination to which believers are moving, commonly called 'heaven'. There we will be present with God, seeing and surrounded by his absolute glory. Sin will not be there. Evil will not be there. All will be praise and worship and glory.
 There is our personal perfection in that eschatological 'day'. We will be as glorious as God created us to be. Just as there is no sin in heaven, so there will be no sin in us.
 There is, while we are waiting for that, an ever-increasing 'glory' [an increasing likeness to God] being gradually wrought in us as the indwelling Holy Spirit gradually transforms us more and more into the image of Jesus.
About this multi-dimensional glory the Scriptures state:
'... we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God' [Romans 5:2] '... our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us' [Romans 8:18] ' ... the glorious freedom of the children of God' [Romans 8:21] 'And we, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit' [2Corinthians 3:18, footnote] '... the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints' [Ephesians 1:18] 'When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory' [Colossians 3:4] '... we wait for the blessed hope - the glorious appearing of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ' [Titus 2:13].
For all of this Christ is our hope - our sure, certain confidence. Not just for Jews, but for Gentiles also. This outcome, this confidence that transcends all other considerations, this 'Christ in you' guaranteeing salvation, is the hidden mystery unveiled in the gospel.
'We proclaim him ...' - Here in one small word Paul gives us the complete content of his gospel, the complete content of the 'mystery' - 'him'. Jesus Christ. That is all anyone needs to know: Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ - the one who reveals God. Jesus Christ - the one who saves us. But the false teachers were adding extra information, both to the knowledge of God and to the way of salvation.
The Gospel, the hidden mystery now made known, centres on Jesus Christ. Not on my need for fulfilment or whatever. Not on my need to escape from hell and judgement. Not on whether I am good enough or spiritual enough or worthy enough. Not on rules or regulations or rituals. Not on my mystical or subjective human experiences. Not on my commitment or my sincerity. Not on my veneration of tradition. Not on my ancestors or my history. Not on my ability to repeat creeds or confessions.
The Gospel is one thing: Jesus Christ. Paul proclaimed him.
'admonishing and teaching' - Commentators suggest that 'admonishing' [= warning] is with a view to bringing people to repentance, and 'teaching' [= instructing] is with a view to bringing people to, or increasing their, faith. As they proclaimed Jesus Christ, Paul, and the other apostles and teachers, were warning their hearers to repent of their existing beliefs, to put aside the 'god' they had believed in, and to embrace Jesus Christ as their God. At the same time they were instructing them about who Jesus is and what he did to save them.
'everyone' - for yet another time Paul mentions the fact that the gospel is for everyone - not just the Jews, but 'everyone', Jew and Gentile alike. [Refer to 1:6,23, 27.] It is not an add-on Jewish thing. It is for the whole world.
'with all wisdom' - Commentators discuss whether this refers to how Paul taught everyone, or to what Paul taught everyone. In favour of the latter are  Paul's prayer in 1:9 and his instruction in 3:16, both of which point to the importance of believers having 'all' knowledge or understanding or wisdom; and  the concept being taught by the false teachers that there was advanced knowledge which only the spiritual elite could attain.
'so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ' - the word translated 'perfect' is teleion. With only two exceptions this word is translated 'perfect' by the King James Version. However in the NIV it is translated variously - perfect, mature, perfection, adults, finish. The key concept embedded in the word is that of something being brought to or achieving its intended goal. Something has been brought to completion. Paul has already told us in 1:22 that God 'presents' us 'holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation' in Christ. This is what happens when a person is united to Christ by faith. Now Paul states that the purpose of his preaching 'everyone' is to 'present' [same word as in 1:22] everyone 'perfect in Christ'. In other words, the reason he proclaims Christ, the reason he admonishes and teaches, is to bring people to this point of faith where they are united to Christ, and, being united to Christ, are, in Christ, 'perfect.'
There is another line of interpretation that understands this verse to mean that Paul's purpose in proclaiming Christ, admonishing and teaching everyone is to bring about changed lives, to make people 'perfect' in the way they live. This, however, is contradicted by his addition of the words 'in Christ'. His goal is not to make people perfect in themselves, but to present people perfect in Christ.
Colossians 1:29; 2:1
'To this end I labour, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me' - [We have already noted Paul's struggle in verse 24.] He uses two words: 'labour' translates kopiao, which literally refers to feeling fatigued, and by inference to hard work; 'striving' translates the verb agonizomai, which has an interesting derivation: The noun agon refers to a place of contest - an arena, a stadium, a racecourse - where combatants strive [agonizomai] to win, and figuratively to the contest itself. There is another related noun, agonia, which refers to the actual contest or struggle, and has also the meaning of violent struggle and agony. This is the kind of struggle that Paul is involved in in proclaiming Christ, in making known the mystery of God. And it is more than a human can sustain. It takes 'all his (God's) energy' - that is, the strong and powerful operation of God working for, in and through him, to enable him to engage, and to keep on engaging, in this task.
'I want you to know how much I am struggling for you ...' Here Paul uses the noun agon, not a verb. He wants them to know how great the struggle, the contest, is. As he indicates in Ephesians 6:12, the struggle is 'not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms'. Yes, he is verbally fighting the false teachers. Yes, he is addressing human beings and trying to get them to repent and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. But behind the false teachers, behind the blind unbelief of men, are Satan and the forces of evil, who have deceived the nations and seek to hold them in that deception.
Here Paul states the fourfold purpose of his continuing struggle to make Christ known in all his fullness:
'that they may be encouraged in heart' - The gospel is not just for the unconverted. It is not just about 'getting people saved'. The gospel, the truth of God in all its fullness, the mystery that was hidden for ages but is nor revealed - this is what Paul proclaims with such struggling. And it is this that he still proclaims to those who have already believed. It is this that will result in their being 'encouraged in heart'. The word translated 'encouraged' is 'parakaleo' - to comfort. But it does not mean to comfort in a soothing, sedative kind of way, but in a bracing way. Hence, 'encourage'. The truth about Jesus Christ and about his cross encourages those who believe. False teaching lures us away from focus on Christ to focus on ourselves, and away from focus on the completed work of Christ for us to focus on our own imperfect works. It dissolves assurance. It discourages all but the proud. But the message of Christ strengthens and encourages.
'and united in love' - 'united in love' translates sumbibazo. The sum is a prefix meaning 'together'. The bibazo means to 'force'. Thus - forced together, knit together. Because of and on the basis of the gospel of Jesus Christ, which Paul and the apostles proclaimed, these Colossians - whether they are Jewish, or Gentile, or Roman, or whatever - are welded together. And they are welded together 'in love' - the same love of God that has broken down the barriers between them and him, has also broken down the barriers that separated them from each other, as he will tell them later in this letter. But the false teaching was re-erecting barriers, dissolving the unity, creating divisions and hierarchies, dispensing with the love of God that saved them.
'that they may have the full riches of complete understanding' - The Greek actually reads 'all riches of full assurance of understanding'. Paul here returns to a point he has been emphasising repeatedly: the riches of God's truth, the importance of understanding that truth, and the sure and certain confidence that accompanies knowing the truth of the gospel. Again, the false teaching undermined assurance because it minimized Jesus Christ and minimized the impact of his death. It impoverished those who embraced it.
'in order that they may know the mystery of God' - so Paul continues to struggle to get these Colossian [and Laodicean] believers to really know this 'mystery' of God that he proclaims. He will not give in; he will not give up and let the heresy have full sway. He will not stand by and see the Colossians robbed of their assurance of salvation, he will not stand by and see Jesus Christ robbed of his identity and power to save.
'namely, Christ' - again Paul gives us a one word summary of all the truth of God. Christ himself is the 'mystery' of God. He himself is the truth that was hidden for ages and is now revealed. He himself is the word of God in all its fullness of which Paul previously wrote. He himself is the 'glorious riches'.
'in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge' - Just in case we have not noticed it already from all that he has been saying, Paul comes straight out and puts it in unmistakable words: in Christ are all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. This consolidates what Paul has already emphasised: everything there is to know about God is known in and through Jesus Christ.
Note again the high value Paul gives to the knowledge of God in Christ: he calls it 'all the treasures'. This is not something that one would become bored with, or dissatisfied with. This is the ultimate, the absolute. So valuable, so great, so powerful, so precious is Jesus Christ that to discard him and move on to something or someone else is to have never really known him, to expose one's ignorance of him.
In reference to the false teaching this fact sounds a strong warning: that any knowledge of God that comes from any other source than Jesus Christ is not to be trusted. At worst it is a lie; at best diluted and/or distorted. Because it will always contain some element of error it can never be true truth. The element of error, even if it is only the error of omission, inevitably adulterates the whole body of truth. Jesus Christ alone contains, and reveals to us, the true knowledge of God. To search beside or beyond Jesus Christ, as the false teachers advocated, is to move into darkness.
'I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine sounding arguments' - Here is the reason for Paul's strong affirmation of Jesus Christ as the one place were the truth about God can be found. It is urgent for his readers to know this because of the presence of false teaching. That false teaching was deceptive - it 'lead people astray by false reasoning' [Lightfoot]. That false teaching used 'fine sounding arguments' - that is, persuasive words. It sounded good, and its proponents knew how to promote it to ensure that it sounded good. Such is the nature of any false teaching that succeeds to entrap people. Only the real, deep conviction that Christ is who and what he is will ensure these believers are not led astray.
'For though I am absent ... I am present with you in spirit' - Paul may be absent physically, but he considers himself to be 'with' them in spirit. The 'with' is not the with of sharing a physical location, but the with of sharing together with. He identifies with them in their faith. He identifies with them in their struggle to resist the false teaching. And, he says -
'I ... delight to see how orderly you are and how firm your faith in Christ is' - such order and such solidity will protect them against the errors being promoted among them.
Colossians 2:1-5- Commentary - Be an Encourager!
General Idea: The call to be an encourager is simple, yet so hard to follow sometimes. So much "stuff" gets in the way of His Way and our call to be an impact to others. Paul, even though in a heinous situation, takes the time to agonize, pray, and encourage his besieged church. His care and concern is shown even to those he does not personally know but who know him. This encouragement is personal, yet is not dependent onto only those who are close to him. Paul's goal was that mutual support would flow into confidence. God knows that we all need this vital and personal impact to get us through life and ministry endeavors. The support of one for another must be shown both in a church collectively, and in individual persons in order to yield healthy relationships. Encouragement must be fulfilled in our relationship with Christ so that we are knit together by our love and Fruit. In so doing, we model and give assurance and hope that build upon one another's faith and that display the wonders of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Our full confidence comes from the personal relationship with and impact we have in Christ. Therefore, it is our duty to exhibit it even when times are uncertain and wearisome. In so doing, others may receive a model of confidence and faith in Christ that will help them handle the adversities of life. God has a plan; it is secret to those who do not want to know it and open to those who know Him. It is simple: Christ is our Savior and Lord, and who we are is based on who we are in Him. Our true treasure is Christ and His empowerment, the impact as well as the knowledge, wisdom, and faith He gives us for daily living. All we need is hidden in Christ; yet, He gives us the key to open it up and empowers us to use it. In so doing, no one will be able to deceive us with false ideas or persuasive words. When we are uncertain as a Church, we should have people near and far to help us as well as the Holy Spirit's empowerment. This strong faith in Christ as Lord should make us happy and content.
Contexts and Background: Paul was warning his readers not to buy into the false teachings that Christ was not sufficient or not fully divine, or that they needed extra wisdom found only from these so-called teachers. This passage is set in the language of an Olympic event-an athletic contest-and the efforts that must be put forth to "enter" and "place" in such an event. Paul equates this to the personal life and the spiritual life. To be successful, we have to extend our effort and dues in whatever event we enter; this applies to faith too. In addition, Paul alludes to "honor." Being an athlete at that time was not just a personal honor; you represented your city and state and pointed to a greater reality and endeavor that showed community. This is a reflection of how we honor Christ by our active faith and how we dishonor Him by our apathy. As we face conflict, adversity, trials, and obstacles, we require training and preparation so we can be fit to run through them and not be tripped up by our fat or atrophy of non-preparation (Col. 1:29; 2:8).
Commentary-Word and Phrase Meanings: