When you stand firm, others can too
From the Apostle Paul through to today, Christians have been called to be servants of the Gospel.
People work hard for all sorts of stuff: some work hard for good marks at school, others work hard for money, and then there are those who work hard for attention. Like Sarah Burge, who has had over 100 operations and has spent over $800,000 on plastic surgery, just so that she can look like Barbie.
But is all that hard work really worth it? In Colossians 1:24-2:5, Paul tells us what he works hard for, and we’ll see that his work is worth it, because he is a servant of Jesus. And Paul’s work is something that we should be doing too.
Are you a servant of the Gospel?
In 1:23, Paul wrote about the gospel, and he finishes that paragraph by saying that he has become its servant. In 1:24-2:5, Paul tells us more about what that means: that it is his life’s mission to tell people about Jesus, and to encourage Christians to stand firm.
He starts this section with some really confusing stuff in verse 24. Paul is not saying that Jesus didn’t suffer enough, and Paul has decided to do the rest of the suffering for him. Paul IS saying that as he suffers persecution, Jesus suffers with him. Paul will go on to write that Christians have been buried with Christ, have been raised with him and made alive together with him (2:12-13). Paul writes elsewhere that Christians are ‘Christ’s body’, and as we suffer, we share in Christ’s suffering, and he in ours (Romans 8:17). When people give you a hard time for following Jesus, Jesus continues to suffer with you, and you are not alone.
Paul is a servant of Jesus who suffers. He wrote Colossians from a prison cell, put there because of his faith. But that didn’t stop him. His mission was to tell people about Jesus, and that kept him going.
The focus of Paul’s mission was to take the good news about Jesus to the Gentiles: people who weren’t Jews. Previously, Gentiles were excluded from all of God’s promises, but now in Jesus they can be ‘perfect in Christ’ (see Ephesians 2:11-22 for more on this). The way Paul went about his mission was to tell people about Jesus ‘with all wisdom’. This meant that when he spoke to Greeks, he spoke with greek ideas in mind (compare his talks in Acts 13 and 17), and he spoke about what Jesus meant to Greek people.
Stand firm so others can be saved!
He did this because he knew that God’s plan was not to save just the Jews. God’s plan - God’s ‘mystery’ - was that Jesus died to save everyone, no matter what country they grow up in, what colour their skin is or what language they speak at home.
In 2:1-5, Paul goes on to tell us more about why he works hard and suffers. His purpose is to encourage Christians to keep going, to be united in love, and to know God better. He wants all of this so that no one can trick them into giving up. The Colossians were facing opposition from people who had some really good arguments worked out, and Paul didn’t want the Christians to give up because they couldn’t argue back.
At that stage, the Colossians were doing well. In verse 5, Paul writes about how he is delighted about how their faith in Jesus is going. But he knows how hard it can get to keep going.
This section of Colossians makes me think about what I work hard for, and it makes me ask myself whether I’m working hard to tell people about Jesus, and to encourage Christians. When we face persecution and suffering, we need to remember that as Jesus’ body, we suffer together, and we need to help each other more in those times. We can do that by talking about Jesus together - what he was like, what he did, the suffering he faced, and continues to suffer with us today.