Sunday, August 20, 2017
Paul has made it clear that the same gospel they heard and to which they responded in faith is the same gospel message for which he is suffering and that is bearing fruit all over the world (Col. 1:3-8). The same gospel that was sufficient for them remains sufficient for everyone. In essence, nothing has changed about their status before God. Paul wants to anchor them in their faith and knowledge that is based upon what God–no one else–has done, Himself (Col. 1:9-14).
To drive the point home, Paul points to Jesus Christ to reaffirm that it is all about Him. It’s not about Jesus-plus or Jesus-and. What Jesus did was sufficient for the entire cosmic order and it is still sufficient for them (Col. 1:15-23).
Now Paul makes it clear that the gospel message must continue to advance a) through suffering (vs. 24), b) by presenting the gospel to the Colossians (vs. 25) and c) to the remainder of the Gentile nations (vss. 27-29). The core of the message has been a mystery over the ages but is now explicit. The message of the gospel is ‘Christ in you.’ (Col. 1:27; 2:2).
Suffering. Though we might prefer to present the gospel to others in many different ways, perhaps no more powerful mode of communicating the message can be found except in this one thing. In chains (Col. 4:3), Paul attributes his suffering to “what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions” (Col. 1:24).
The message is clear. The very core of the gospel of Jesus Christ is anchored in His suffering, death, burial and resurrection. The message itself is about His suffering and the cross is the instrument we most often refer to in relationship to Him (Hebrews 9:11-28).
We can communicate the gospel in many venues in different ways and words; but, perhaps the most penetrating sharing of the Good News is when the faithful suffer. Faith that reaches beyond pain and loss, the funeral and the grave’s tombstone with peace and joy because of the Lord’s presence and His promise tells the world that there is something greater happening here.
Suffering no doubt is the staple of a missionary’s life in the remotest parts of the earth to take the gospel to the lost. This is what Paul was enduring as he contemplated sharing the message in the halls of Caesar. It is what the missionary endures or the co-worker who takes a risk of estrangement from a friend to ask of their relationship with Jesus Christ. But, I think, it is also when we are facing life’s challenges, health issues or death itself in our own hometown. How we suffer really matters in the kingdom and when we do so in faith, God advances His saving message through us for the world to hear.