Colossians 1:24-29


Paul was a man with a mission.  He was very conscious of the fact that he had been called and set apart to a particular ministry.  I can identify with that.  I spent nearly thirty years as a fire fighter.  It was my job and my profession.  It was my career.  But I have also had a calling–it was to teach the Bible.  It is something that I did all throughout my career as a fire fighter and it is something I still do.  It is that which I will do as long as I am able to draw breath.


Paul closed the previous verses with the fact that he has been made a minister of the gospel.  This is his calling, but it has included a call to suffer.





            Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I do my share on behalf of His body, which is the church, in filling up what is lacking in Christ's afflictions. (Colossians 1:24).


When Paul speaks of rejoicing in his sufferings, he is not speaking metaphorically.  He has gone through some real sufferings.  He has been beaten, threatened, arrested, and has spent literally years in prison, all for the sake of those to whom he ministered.


Paul sees several purposes for his suffering:


1.         It was for the sake of Believers:  I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake (1:24).


Paul sees himself as having suffered for the sake of the Colossians.  His suffering brought about their spiritual development because his suffering was for the sake of the gospel that they could hear and believe.


There is a sense in which he suffered, not only for the sake of the Colossians, but also for our sake.  It is because of his ministry that we have the gospel today.


2.         It was a Suffering of Flesh for a Body of Spirit:  In my flesh I do my share on behalf of His body, which is the church (1:24).


There is a play on words here.  Paul’s suffering was in the flesh; that is, it was a physical suffering.  This is not to discount any emotional pain he might have felt, but he is specifically speaking of the physical trials he has endured and is still enduring as he pens this epistle.  The bodily suffering he was enduring was for the sake of a larger body – the church.


Paul suffered in his own fleshly body

(For the sake of...)

Christ’s spiritual body, the church



Being a part of a body can hurt.  If you are hammering a nail and you hit your thumb with a hammer, that action will cause your thumb to hurt and it will be a pain that will affect your entire body.  Connection results in shared pain.


This is seen in marriage.  When you are married and your spouse is in pain, you will suffer some of that pain because of your marital connection.  We are connected to Jesus and that has involved some affliction because Jesus was afflicted, but the reason He was afflicted in the first place was because of us, so it is really our afflictions that we experience.


Indeed, when Paul was on the Damascus Road and Jesus appeared to him, the question He asked pointed to this very theme of shared suffering: “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” (Acts 9:4).  To persecute Christians is to persecute Christ.  When we suffer, He says, “Ouch!”


3.         It was a Suffering the Reflects the Sufferings of Christ:   In my flesh I do my share on behalf of His body, which is the church, in filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions (1:24).


Roman Catholic theologians have used this verse to defend their practice of selling indulgences as though the good works of certain Christians can add to the atoning work of Christ.  We need to look both at what Paul is not saying as well as what he is saying.  He is not saying:


                     There is something lacking in the atoning work of Christ that was accomplished in His death on the cross.  Hebrews 10:12 makes it clear that Christ on the cross offered one sacrifice for sins for all time.  There is no need for another sacrifice to be made for our sins.


                     Paul somehow adds to that atoning work by His own meritorious suffering.  He has already shown in Galatians 2:21 that if righteousness could come any other way, then Christ would have died needlessly.


What Paul is saying is that the world is still ongoing in its hatred of Christ and, since it cannot get at Christ, it continues to vent its hatred upon God’s people.  What we suffer are  what Robertson calls the “left-overs” of the sufferings that Christ suffered (1931).


Paul is a part of the body of Christ.  Jesus is the head of that body and all of us who believe in Him are a part of that body.  It is a body in pain.  Just as Jesus experienced the pain of the cross, so we also who are members of that body endure pain and suffering.  Paul describes how he is experiencing his own portion in that pain and he has done so for the benefit of the Colossian believers who, as a result of Paul’s pain, get to hear the gospel he is preaching.


No one ever heard the gospel without that hearing of the gospel costing someone something.  It has been said that anything you get for free is worth what was paid for it.  Even salvation is not free.  It is the most expensive thing in the universe.  It cost the life of God’s own Son.  Neither is the preaching of the gospel free.  It is done at great cost.  That cost is found both in the effort expended and in the persecution received by the body of Christ.


This has some very practical ramifications.  Do you want to grow spiritually?  What are you willing to spend?  What are you willing to release?  Do you want your friends to know the Lord?  What are you willing to do to bring them to the gospel?





      Of this church I was made a minister according to the stewardship from God bestowed on me for your benefit, so that I might fully carry out the preaching of the word of God. (Colossians 1:25).


Paul says that he was made a minister – literally a “deacon”– of the church.  He sees his position of leadership and apostleship, not in the sense of privilege, but of responsibility and duty.  He sees his leadership as a call to serve.  Gordon Clark points out how “the repetition of the term diakonos contrasts with ‘princes of the Church’ whose feet or ring the faithful must kiss” (1979:62).


When we preach the gospel, we do not do it for our own benefit.  Our sharing of the gospel is to be a service that we do for others.  It is a ministry of service.





            Of this church I was made a minister according to the stewardship from God bestowed on me for your benefit, so that I might fully carry out the preaching of the word of God,  26 that is, the mystery which has been hidden from the past ages and generations, but has now been manifested to His saints,  27 to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. (Colossians 1:25-27).


Paul’s ministry involved the preaching of a mystery.  When we hear the term “mystery,” we might be inclined to think of a “who-done-it,” a story that leaves us in suspense.  But this was a loaded word in Paul’s day as it called to mind the various mystery religions of that part of the world in which a sect might have its secret mysteries.


What is unusual is that Paul says his ministry involves preaching a mystery.  Mysteries were not normally preached; else they were no longer mysteries.  That is the point Paul is making here.  There was a time when God’s counsels and plan were hidden, but they have now been revealed and manifested to His saints.  What is this mystery that has been revealed? Paul himself says it is Christ in you, the hope of glory.


The Mystery


Christ in you


The hope of glory


The message of Colossians stands in this regard in contrast to that which is presented in Paul’s epistle to the Ephesians.




Stresses the message that you are in Christ

Stresses the message that Christ is in you

Looks to the heavenly reality of your position in Christ

Looks to the reality of your experience of Christ’s indwelling Spirit


What does it mean when we speak of Christ being in us?  The most obvious answer is that this speaks to the indwelling of the Spirit of Christ.  He said to His disciples, “I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).


We are in Christ

Christ is in Us

Speaks of our position in Christ and the way in which we have been united with Him through faith.

Speaks of the indwelling Spirit of God that takes up residence within us.

The Baptism of the Spirit

The Indwelling of the Spirit

 For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:13).

However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him. 10 And if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness (Romans 8:9_10).






            We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ.  29 For this purpose also I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me. (Colossians 1:28-29).


Paul’s ministry of proclamation took on two characteristics.  These two aspects are a fundamental part of the gospel ministry.  The first was that of admonition.  The Greek word used here is the present participle of nouqetew and has given rise to what we term “nouthetic counseling.”  The term is a compound made up of nouj (mind) and tiqhmi, “to place,” but its meaning is more than the mere sum of its parts.  It has the idea, not merely of ordering your mind, but also of calling one to account.  This it is used by Paul in 1 Thessalonians 5:14 when he urges the church to admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone.


The second aspect of Paul’s ministry involves teaching, but he notes that it is a special kind of teaching.  It involves teaching every man with all wisdom.  This is a holistic teaching.  In contrast with the mystery religions that kept their secret teachings hidden, Paul’s efforts have been to enlighten every person with every bit of godly wisdom.




Instructions set forth in negative terms (“Don’t believe/do this”).

Instructions set forth in positive terms (“Instead believe/do this”).


Notice the universal emphasis in both the recipients of such teaching and admonition as well as the scope of what is taught as well as the universal goal.


     Admonishing every man.

     Teaching every man.

     Admonishing and teaching with all wisdom.

     Every man to be complete in Christ.


This is in contrast to the mystery cults who only gave their secrets to a few and then only gave to them a portion of those secrets.  The mystery cults were narrow and exclusive.  The Jews also had a measure of this exclusivity.  They were the chosen people and they had been given the truth, but they ignored the fact that God gave them the truth so that they might give it to the whole world.  The gospel is for the whole world.  That is not something that started with Paul; God told Abraham that all the world would be blessed through him (Genesis 12:3).


The goal was not merely to achieve a certain number of decisions; the goal was to present every man complete in Christ.  We normally think of Paul as the master evangelist.  After all, he planted an untold number of churches and he led many to Christ.  But for Paul, preaching the gospel was much more than merely giving a gospel message and then having people make a decision to accept that message.  He saw the gospel ministry as that which was brought about through regular admonition and teaching.


We are involved in a process.  That process is one in which we are becoming more and more like Christ.  The goal of this process is that we might eventually realize that “hope of glory” mentioned in verse 27.  We are headed toward a goal and that goal is nothing less than the character of Jesus Christ produced in us.  It is a fulfillment of the purpose of God when, at the very beginning of creation, He said, “Let us make man in our image and after our likeness” (Genesis 1:26).


Paul’s ambition for this program is that he might teach and admonish every man with all wisdom so that every person might be complete in Christ.  One cannot miss the largeness of this plan.  There is no small thinking here.  Paul wants nothing less than for all to know all things that all might have all in Christ.


Though it is not apparent from our translation, verse 29 contains a double use of the word “power” when it says, “For this also I labor, agonizing according to His power, which powerfully within me works.”  Ministry involves work, but the good news is that there is a power source that serves to energize that work.  It is an internal power source that works from within.


When we look at Paul, we are inclined to think of him as something of a super saint.  He was a master teacher and a church planter who changed the face of the known world.  But he tells us here that his accomplishments were made through a power that was not his own but which worked within him.  There is a real humility here that stands in contrast to the false self-abasement of which Paul will speak in Colossians 2:18.  Real humility consists of understanding who you are in relation to God.  There is a lesson here for us.  When God has gifted you for a certain ministry, it is not prideful or improper to recognize and then to utilize that gift.  If you are a good teacher, then teach.  If God has given you musical ability, then sing.  If you have a knack for leadership, then lead.


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