…the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. (Colossians 1:27)
Whatever mankind might achieve in terms of diplomacy, peace between nations, multiculturalism, or even widely shared artistic achievements — all of these fall far short of the majestic proclamation of God in this simple verse.
The context was the proclamation that the Gentiles were joint heirs with the Jews — more correctly, that the Gentile believers were joint heirs with the Jewish believers. God had revealed the glorious riches of His grace, and it came down to a simple point — that Christ indwelled the whole church, individually and corporately, and it was His presence in them and among them that raised the entire church to the highest, most dignified and blessed standing of any in the world.
The Majesty of the Incarnation
Jesus of Nazareth is the only Christ we know. We are staggered when we consider the miracle of God becoming flesh. In Him was the fullness of God, and though there was an “emptying” of glory in the incarnation (Phil. 2:7), the true glory of character and compassion and wisdom was fully there. He was fully man and fully God. Earlier in Colossians Paul wrote:
The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in Him all things were created, things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities. All things were created through Him and for Him.
He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. And He is the head of the body, the church; He is the beginning and firstborn from among the dead, so that in all things He may have preeminence. For God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through the blood of His cross. (Colossians 1:15-20 BSB)
Christ revealed God to us, His character, His compassion, His holiness, His wisdom. Jesus of Nazareth was not a merely a good, moral man pointing us toward a distant god. He was, rather, God Himself in human form calling us to Himself, taking our sins upon Himself, reconciling us to Himself, rising from the grave, and also indwelling the church. The Christ we meet in scripture we also meet in our hearts. Christ is not merely a principle. He is a Person.
This Christ in Us
The passage also declares an equally staggering truth, that this same Christ is among us. If it is difficult to understand how the fullness of holy God can indwell a single person in the incarnation, it is even more difficult to understand how this fullness can indwell a fallen and sinful people. As concerns the incarnation, we might be able mentally to more readily accept that one person in the history of the world might be of such a noble and moral character as to be indwelled by God — though this is a misconception of the doctrine of incarnation — than we could that holy God could indwell a whole people.
But this is precisely the biblical teaching, and so, this is another reason why I believe in the doctrine of eternal security, that the only way such a thing could happen, that a whole people could be indwelled by God, would be that God did something so great in our salvation as to fundamentally altar the very nature of a human being. And this is precisely what the Bible teaches.
One mistaken image of salvation is the thought that in the gospel what we have is a fallen people grasping up to take hold of something divine. But what we actually have in the Bible is not that but the teaching that holy God has reached down and taken hold of a fallen people, brought about a work of repentance, conversion, and sealed them with Himself, and taken up residence in them! His choosing, His calling, His convicting, and His sealing are the facts that lead to His indwelling.
We will leave the mystery of our faith and our response for a discussion elsewhere, for we surely must believe, but without a doubt God has the greater part in our salvation than do we. And His work is the only valid basis for our salvation and for His indwelling us. The difference between the effort through legalism of the Pharisaical Jews (not all were Pharisees) was explained elsewhere by Paul:
What then will we say? That the Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have obtained it, a righteousness that is by faith; but Israel, who pursued a law of righteousness, has not attained it. Why not? Because their pursuit was not by faith, but as if it were by works. They stumbled over the stumbling stone… (Romans 9:30-32 BSB)
The stumbling stone is, of course, Christ Himself. And when He indwells the church He brings with Him His love and transforming work in our hearts. The work of freeing our souls from addictions to sin, the work of transforming us, and of transporting our imaginations to godliness and holiness. That is His glory! Unmerited love to a fallen world. Patient, tender, strong, and loving redemptive to troubled people. Compassion to the victims of injustice, as well as to the perpetrators of injustice — which normally turn out to be the same persons. He places in our hearts the reality of true and godly hope.
The Power of Hope
We cannot live without hope. This is what Christ brought on earth — the hope that God was at work redeeming the world unto Himself. Christ said, “But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you” (Matt. 12:28).
We all know the turning moment in a story, when evil seems as though it is about to win, when the hero has been all but beaten and seemingly utterly defeated. But then at the darkest hour something turns, the hero arises over the overwhelming odds and becomes victorious. This is why we read novels, why we go to see plays and movies, for that hope that such stories spark within us.
This is the very story of the gospel, that the crucified One rose from the grave, and that He now brings His compassion and His life to those who believe. This is the hope that leads us to stand in His name and for His mission — for His mission has become our mission. The overcoming Christ now dwells among His people, who likewise now go out to overcome in Him.
- What does it mean that God has chosen us before we chose Him?
- How can we choose Him in return?
- What is the difference between feeling guilty about doing something wrong and the true conviction of the Spirit of God? (See John 16:8-11)
- How is a group of believers different from a group of non-believers?
- When has Christ given you hope in your life?
- Describe an example of Christian compassion that you have seen in others.