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. (Col. 1:25-27 BSB)

The text above does not directly teach the truth that the church is commissioned by Christ — we find that truth proclaimed elsewhere, such as in Matthew 28:19, “Teaching them to obey all things whatsoever I have commanded you,” which means the command to take the gospel to the ends of the world is a command for the whole church, as much as it was for the original apostles. But the text above does imply this truth, because of the words “to fully proclaim to you the word of God.” A full proclamation brings with it a full obligation to obey.

Christ in us

The truth that this proclaimed was still radical and difficult for the Jewish Christians to grasp. The Gentiles were included by grace in the church just as the Jewish believers were. Today this is commonly understood by most believers, but in the first century it was radical. The Jews assumed that they were accepted by (a) their race, just as many Western Christians had felt through the centuries that they were Christians by their race, not by their faith, and (b) by their good works, as those who were raised in the church have assumed as well. Good upbringing, proper genetic stock, good family background, mixed with good character and good works presented then and it presents now a strong argument for being worthy of heaven.

The gospel in Christ changed all of that — “Jews and Gentiles alike are all under sin. As it is written: ‘There is no one righteous, not even one’ … for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:9-23). Salvation is gained the same way by all — repentance and faith in Christ — and it rests not upon our good upbringing or our good works, but upon the standing and sacrificial work of Christ. And, thereby, both Jew and Gentile receive the same salvation of Christ’s righteousness and the same blessing of Christ’s presence.

Christ calls us first to repent and second to receive through faith – we receive freely our salvation. Yet there is a problem with this, and it reflects the human nature that was made in the image of God and is redeemed to become the image of Christ. That the new man in Christ wishes to earn his own way, and not to simply coast on the work of another. How can these two realities – the fact that we can only receive salvation through faith, coupled with the fact that the new person in Christ wishes to be responsible and to pay his own way – find agreement?

The solution of God is so brilliant, and so simple, that we are indwelled by Christ, individually as believers and corporately as the church, and the Christian life is now Christ at work in our lives in a fallen world living out His life. His struggles become our struggles, and our struggles become His struggles. Several years ago I wrote the following:

We are only saved by the grace of God, the merit that He bestows on us that we have not earned but freely receive through faith. And in this grace we progress in our spiritual life. We are not saved by grace only to mature by works – it is by grace through faith from first to last.

Yet there is a call to struggle in our faith. “The religion that costs us nothing is to us worth nothing” wrote Adam Clarke. Christ called us to daily pick up our cross and follow after Him, and this means nothing in the spiritual realm if it has not practical application in the physical realm. The nature of the faith-struggle is both physical and spiritual – for we remain very physical beings on this earth. A sickness, a difficulty, a misunderstanding, a betrayal, and suddenly we are transported into the realm of spiritual warfare. These physical world problems are not the only forms of spiritual warfare, or the main ones we have to deal with, but they are real. http://nighttimethoughts.org/?m=20140701

I believe I was right. There is something within the new man in Christ in each of us that does not wish to boast in our achievements, but neither wishes to appear before Christ empty-handed. And it is the reality of Christ living in us that makes this make sense. We do not go out brashly and proudly to do what we think we ought to do in God’s name. Christ in us, however, leads us into service and conflicts and witness and circumstances that require loving endurance, and hope against hope.

If Christ was not abiding in us, if He were not at work in us, then this would be simply our efforts, for our glory. But because He is resident and working, then He leads us to serve and to bear fruit by Him and for Him. It is still by faith, for we believe first and foremost and constantly, but, to paraphrase James, we show our faith by our works (James 2:18).

Christ through us

How different would our commissioning be if Christ did not reside in us. We would then be doing for Christ whatever came to mind, and feeling quite good about ourselves in the process. But because He does reside in us, then we are called to His mission. And like the apostles the whole church is commissioned in a permanent, binding, lifelong way, to bear eternal fruit. As Christ said:

I am the true vine, and My Father is the keeper of the vineyard. He cuts off every branch in Me that bears no fruit, and every branch that does bear fruit, He prunes to make it even more fruitful. (John 15:1-2 BSB)

The idea of a fruitless Christian is a contradiction in biblical thought. If there is no fruit, then there has been no faith, for the very nature of Christ at work within us means to be re-oriented to think like Him. “For it is God who works in you to will and to act on behalf of His good purpose” (Phil. 2:13).

Here in this passage we have this incredible rich statement: “Christ in you, the hope of glory!” There is a thought that we can go to work on for centuries and not exhaust its meanings. We will examine this more tomorrow.

Consider:

  1. Do you feel superior to others based on your race or upbringing? Why is it wrong to feel this way?
  2. What is the difference between doing something good to gain salvation and doing something good because you are saved?
  3. When we see someone struggling in his faith and in his Christian walk, what should be our attitude toward him (or her)? How can we help them?

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