September 9, 2013
Today’s reading: Colossians 1:24-2:3
What we are empowered to witness to is a great mystery. That God became man. That Jesus won salvation for us through the blood of the cross. That the might and dominion of Satan has been destroyed. That we mere human beings are used by the Spirit of God to do divine work. That we eventually will live forever in eternal bliss in heaven.
Let us not take lightly our calling. Let us be awed and astonished. Let us recognize the great privilege and be humbled. If we truly realized what our calling is about, then the only reasonable response would be to give our all to God and to His work.
So what indeed is our mysterious calling about?
First, our work is the work of an apostle, one who like Paul is sent. Sent to do what? “It is he whom we proclaim, admonishing everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone perfect in Christ.” (Col 1:28). We are sent to proclaim Christ, so that all might meet Christ, and start to live Christ. The ultimate goal in living Christ is Christian perfection.
Second, we fulfill our calling by being Christ (in holiness and perfection) and in doing his work (evangelization and service). This is the reality: “it is Christ in you, the hope for glory.” (Col 1:27b). Since we are to step into Jesus’ sandals and do his very work, then we need to become worthy instruments. We need to live Christ. Christ needs to live in us. This is how we become empowered to witness to Jesus. This is how people can enter into the glory of God.
Third, God has made Himself dependent on us, making us His stewards. Like Paul, each one of us is called to be “a minister in accordance with God’s stewardship given to me to bring to completion for you the word of God” (Col 1:25). Jesus has entrusted his work to us. Jesus already did everything to win salvation for humankind, and there is nothing that we can add to that. But Jesus has made us stewards of the gospel. He sends us forth to bring in the harvest. He is relying on us to complete the process of salvation, as people hear the good news, believe, call upon the name of the Lord, and thus are saved.
Fourth, Paul says, “in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, which is the church” (Col 1:24b). Jesus gives us the ultimate privilege, to share his cross, the instrument of salvation. According to the mysterious plan of God, His own Son suffered and in so doing already accomplished everything intended to be done by him. But the mystery is that the work of salvation continues, now in and through human beings. And we who labor will also need to suffer, to be afflicted, for such is the way of God. Nothing is lacking in what Jesus suffered, but more suffering is needed in order for people to experience the salvation already won by Jesus, and this suffering is to be borne by His human instruments. It in fact is a profound continuation of Jesus’ suffering, as the Church, the people of God who labor, are his body.
Fifth, unlike in the world where happiness is thought to be achieved through the elimination of pain and suffering, and through the seeking of pleasure and personal fulfillment, in this work we will suffer affliction, but precisely find fulfillment in such affliction. “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake” (Col 1:24a). Oh what a great mystery!
Yesterday we talked of wisdom. Those who have wisdom are those “to whom God chose to make known the riches of the glory of this mystery” (Col 1:27a). God is choosing to make this mystery known to us, so that we might be greatly encouraged to embrace this work and give our all. This is about the riches of God. This is about the glory of God.
But wisdom is connected with holiness. We are talking about “the mystery hidden from ages and from generations past. But now it has been manifested to his holy ones” (Col 1:26). We need to strive for holiness. With holiness comes wisdom. With wisdom comes understanding of the mysteries of God. With such understanding comes the needed conviction for work that will be difficult, for endurance and perseverance, for joy in spite of, or because of, affliction and pain.
As we understand and live the mystery of our calling, we engage in a great struggle to serve those whom we do not even know (Col 2:1), “that their hearts may be encouraged as they are brought together in love, to have all the richness of fully assured understanding” (Col 2:2a). This is what Jesus did for the world. This is now the privilege given to us to do likewise. We bring to people “the knowledge of the mystery of God, Christ” (Col 2:2b). Christ is the ultimate revelation of the mystery of God. It is Jesus “in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” (Col 2:3).
We are empowered to witness to Jesus. “It is he whom we proclaim .... in accord with the exercise of his power working within (us).” (Col 1:28a,29b). May we now decide to accept the challenge of this calling. May we go forth and do a massive work of evangelization. May we now say with conviction and great joy, “For this I labor and struggle” (Col 1:29a).
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