Now I rejoice in my sufferings for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions for the sake of His body, which is the church. I became its servant by the commission God gave me to fully proclaim to you the word of God, the mystery that was hidden for ages and generations but is now revealed to His saints. To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. We proclaim Him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ. To this end I labor, striving with all His energy working powerfully within me. (Col. 1:24-29 BSB)

How can we understand the church’s existence and ministry? In many ways we cannot. There is a mystery to the entire matter — something that is beyond our fully grasping — something that has to do with the mysterious work of God in the world. 

However, this is not how Paul was using the word “mystery” here. Here he explained and proclaimed a mystery that God had revealed. The biblical understanding of the word “mystery” here is not something hard to figure out, but something that was hidden by God, but was revealed in God’s timing. 

Christ among His people who are saved by grace through faith is the gist of this mystery and the fundamental understanding of the church. Someone wrote that Christianity is truly “Christ-in-you-ity” and “Christ-in-me-ity.” 

Glorious riches 

This truth is not something to merely consider, or to merely take as a bit of encouragement. It is the astounding truth of God at work in the world, that Christ is at work in the church, and He is doing something God-sized in the heart of each believer and in the fellowship of each church. 

The Commissioned Steward

Paul claimed the title “apostle” at the beginning of the letter, but in verse 25 he explained how he became one. It was by the “commission” of God. This word is oikonomia in the Greek and is also translated “dispensation.” Its literal meaning is “household rule” and has been a word of significant importance in the New Testament.  The idea is to be entrusted with a responsibility, a certain task, a stewardship of responsibility. 

Paul’s most detailed discussion of this is found in Ephesians 3:2, but he also mentions this in 1 Corinthians 4:1-2:

So then, men ought to regard us as servants of Christ and stewards (oikonomos) of the mysteries of God. Now it is required of stewards that they be found faithful.

The word “apostle” carries a similar meaning, apostolos or “sent out one.” The idea of a steward or of an apostle is not that one is merely sent one time with one message, but that this commissioning becomes a life-long calling and part and parcel of the person himself. It is a calling that one cannot fulfill in a single day or even in a typical career. Elsewhere Paul wrote: 

Yet when I preach the gospel, I have no reason to boast, because I am obligated to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! If my preaching is voluntary, I have a reward. But if it is not voluntary, I am still entrusted with a responsibility. What then is my reward? That in preaching the gospel I may offer it free of charge, and so not use up my rights in preaching it. (1 Cor. 9:16-18 BSB)

This is the idea of a commissioning, a life-long calling and task wherein the messenger becomes the living message himself, a duty and an obligation which he cannot shirk, to which he is answerable entirely to God for. This sense of calling also applies to pastor-teachers, as the author Hebrews wrote: “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they watch over your souls as those who must give an account” (Hebrews 13:17a).

The Commissioned Church

In the context we realize that the church itself is also commissioned by Christ. Matthew 28:18-20 affirms this. Too many Christians see the lifelong commission as belonging only to a certain class of Christians — to pastor-teachers, missionaries, evangelists. But it belongs to all. 

 But this is a subject we will explore later in this week.


  1. What does it mean that preaching the gospel is a life-long calling?
  2. How does a preacher become a living example of his message?
  3. How would someone know if they were called?
  4. What part does the church play in the fulfillment of the calling of the pastor-teacher?
  5. Does the church only share his calling or does it have its own calling as well?
  6. How can the church be the living example of the calling of God? 

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