Scripture References: Colossians 1:21-29
From last lesson: When we can affirm, in the midst of our troubles and despair, as long as we have God (and God has us), we have somebody. That changes everything, doesn’t it? When we know we have “someone who never leaves us,” somebody who listens and cares with us for the long haul, our outlook is unavoidably changed.
A right relationship with God becomes a possibility, and if we enter into this relationship, persevering in spite of the tendency to fall back into our old ways and standing “in the faith, grounded and steadfast,” then we are transformed. Instead of being estranged and hostile, our lives are characterized, according to Paul, as “holy, and blameless, and above reproach.” These qualities are goals for faithful and forgiven children of God, and together these terms describe persons who have been reconciled to God as those who are free from reproach in terms of morality and integrity. No longer trapped by or slaves to evil, we are free to receive the love of God and live as whole and God-directed folk. Trying to live in obedience to God, trying to live in ways that bring honor to God, there should be no basis for reproach either from God or from people who know us. The basis for the kind of perseverance which makes such living possible is hope, hope that things really are the way God says they are; we must never let ourselves be “moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard, which was preached to every creature under heaven.” Not that everybody literally has heard, but that the message is for all people. In Christ, all people have the right to be hopeful about their lives and about their world. We’re a long way from realizing that, though, aren’t we?
But that’s a good deal of what we’re to be about as God’s people, helping to make this kind of world a reality because God didn’t promise magic in place of hard work. Along with our work to make people’s lives worth living, we spread the good news. We have to find our way to participate in what Paul said was his “divine office.” We must find our way to put people in touch with the hope of Christ:
according to the stewardship from God which was given . . . 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. 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. Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus. – Colossians 1:25–28.
The proclamation of such hope must become our passion, and we will say with Paul: “To this end I also labor, striving according to His working which works in me mightily.” – Colossians 1:29.
Contemporary with Paul and the early expansion of the Christian church were pagan religious groups known as “mystery religions.” Paul is speaking to them and to the Colossians who were a little too enamored with the practices of the mystery religions. Paul used the word “mystery,” but gave it a new turn. Instead of using the term to mean that which was hidden from all but a few, he employed it to refer to that which God had revealed openly.
However, it remained a mystery in the sense that what God was offering to all people could only be fully understood by those who received it through a born-again relationship with Jesus Christ. As Paul put it: “Christ in you, the hope of glory,” the second of the key phrases in our passage.
As members of Christ’s body we have His life, His Spirit, within us. We therefore have a sure hope that we will share in that fullness of glory yet to be displayed on the day of “the revealing of the children of God.”
Hope in the present for God’s people is undeniably attached to the future hope that all the riches promised for that time and place “out there” have already begun to trickle into our lives right now, even into this defective and painful world where hope for the day is hard to come by.
Don’t move away from the hope that is rightfully yours. Cling to it; keep hold of it with all your might; Christ is in you, and that means nothing in your present or future can separate you from the love and the presence of the living God.