Online Bible Commentary
Colossians 1:24 I now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up in my flesh what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ, for the sake of His body, which is the church, 25 of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God which was given to me for you, to fulfill the word of God, 26 the mystery which has been hidden from ages and from generations, but now has been revealed to His saints. 27 To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. 28 Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus. 29 To this end I also labor, striving according to His working which works in me mightily. (NKJV)
The book of Colossians is part of what is known as the Prison Epistles. The writings, themselves, affirm that the epistles were written by the Apostle Paul from prison.
There are differing opinions as to during which of Paul’s prison confinements the epistles were written. There are many sources that discuss this subject fully. For our purposes, we will go along with the thought of most scholars that Paul wrote the prison epistles during his house arrest in Rome from AD 60-62.
It is believed that the epistle was written about AD 61 to the house churches in Colossae, Asia Minor. The idea was that this authoritative letter would be passed along to the other churches.
The book of Colossians can be divided into two halves. The first half, the first two chapters, is concerned with the positional; doctrine outlining our position in Christ.
The second half, the last two chapters, is concerned with the practical; how we work out our position in the practical living of our Christian life. This is similar to the breakdown of the books of Romans and Ephesians, Paul’s previous writings.
Colossae, in Paul’s time, was a small city in decline. Once a great mercantile city, it was now the least significant of the cities to whom Paul wrote his letters.
The city of Colossae was located in what is southwestern Turkey today. It was located in the province of Phrygia, ten miles east of Laodicea, thirteen miles southeast of Hierapolis, and about one hundred miles east of Ephesus. It was about a hundred miles north of the Mediterranean Sea.
In the previous passage Paul wrote of eternal assurance, Christians are indwelled by the Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing eternal life in Heaven (Eph. 1:14). In this way God assures our salvation, the perseverance of the saints.
Now, in this passage, Paul writes of something perhaps just as important as making Christians, perfecting Christians. We can never be perfect this side of Heaven, but we can work towards that end.
Paul begins by writing “I now rejoice in my sufferings for you” (v. 24a). He is rejoicing in his sufferings in prison because he is suffering for Christ.
Christians suffer in this world just as do non-Christians. The difference is that our suffering has a purpose, to glorify God.
Paul continues “and fill up in my flesh what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ, for the sake of His body, which is the church,” (v. 24b). Paul is accomplishing something that Christ never did, to suffer for the church.
Christ suffered during his earthly ministry and crucifixion. The church was not birthed until that first Pentecost after Jesus’ ascension to Heaven.
So, the fleshly Christ was no longer present on earth and did not suffer for the church. It is not correct to say that the church has always existed. It only existed after Christ ascended back to Heaven and, ten days later, sent the Holy Spirit to birth the church on Pentecost.
Paul writes “of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God which was given to me for you” (v. 25a). Paul became a minister, a steward, of the church. It was given to Paul by God to serve the church.
Paul’s ministry is “to fulfill the word of God, the mystery which has been hidden from ages and from generations, but now has been revealed to His saints." (vv. 25b-26). The word of God was not fulfilled by the Old Testament alone.
The New Testament fulfilled the word of God because it revealed “the mystery” of the ages that the people of God were not just the Jews, but also the Gentiles. The saints, Christians, are made up of all people, Jews and Gentiles alike, who, like Abraham, have placed their faith in God.
Paul continues “To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” (v. 27). It was God’s will to make known “the riches of the glory” to the Gentiles, that they too can be God’s people.
All those who put their faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior can have “Christ in you” through the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit. They will know “the hope of the glory”, eternal life In Heaven.
Paul writes “Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus.” (v. 28). As Christians, “we preach” Jesus to all people.
We preach a “warning” of God’s wrath to non-Christians and “all wisdom” to Christians. The goal of teaching “all wisdom” is so that every Christian will be made perfect when presented to Christ Jesus in Heaven.
Paul concludes this passage with “To this end I also labor, striving according to His working which works in me mightily.” (v. 29). Paul works feverishly towards the goal of perfecting Christians by the power of God who works through him.