Colossians: Rooted in Christ - Week 5 – Union with Christ
Study: Barry Mould
Reading: Colossians 1:24-2:5
Sermon date: 7 October
When does pride in some skill that you or someone you know has, or broadcasting someone’s wonderful achievement, turn to boasting? Is it wrong to be really pleased with something that you have achieved through hard work and to tell others about it? I am sure you know some people who are rather full of themselves and their achievements (remember Joseph going on about his dreams in our last study series): where does this type of activity become a negative and work against the virtue of humility? Actually, does humility totally rule out any form of boasting?
Q1 - Can you remember anything from last Sunday's sermon that struck you?
In this week’s passage we have Paul referring to his own calling. It might be seen a bit of boasting but is it? He seems to spend some time rather building himself up as a key figure for the spiritual leadership of the church in the part of Asia Minor where Colossae is located. This is even though he has never been there and has met only a few of the people who are based there and the sister church at Laodicea.
Please read the passage Colossians 1:24-2:5
v24 - There are some difficulties in the interpretation of how Paul might be suffering for the sake of the church in Colossae –
Q2 - what do you think he means here – are his sufferings really a means to an end to help spread the gospel?
And there are even more difficulties over the statement – “I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions” By what sense can there be any inadequacy in Christ’s afflictions that Paul’s sufferings can make up for? There is some suggestion that this implies that Christ is still suffering through the sufferings of His people and Paul is part of this process of vicarious suffering for the wider church body.
Q3 - Is it possible to see that Paul’s suffering is a gift from God that actually is helpful to the Church’s mission?
v25–27 - Paul now indicates that he has a divine purpose in presenting the Gospel in all its fullness. He seems to imply that some of the truths of God’s revelation have been hidden for many generations but through the death and resurrection of Christ and the spread of the Gospel, Christians are now able to see the glory of God and the love He has for humanity.
Q4 - Do you think that this revelation is limited to those within the body of believers (the Lord’s people), or are others able to comprehend this? For example, do Jehovah’s Witnesses, Jews and Muslims have a something of a similar understanding of God as Christians do – assuming that most Christian have a common view of God’s revelation through Christ and the New Testament.
Q5 - Is all humanity able to see something of God’s sovereign purposes and love?
The key “mystery” that Paul sees as really important is “Christ in you” which is “the hope of glory”.
Q6 - Do you have any feeling of being in Union with Christ and/of Christ in you? If so can you share what this means to you on a really good day?
There are indications elsewhere in Paul’s writings that this “union with Christ” is in part associated with our baptism (Romans 6:3 – Do you not know that all of us who have been baptised into Christ Jesus were baptised into his death?). This can be taken to imply that in some way that the wider Church fellowship has become one with Christ in his death and resurrection and that individual believers, having come to faith and publically acknowledged this in baptism, are adopted into God’s family and are one with Christ.
Q7 - Do you know anyone that gives you the idea that they really are deeply in Union with Christ – what makes them different?
Q8 - And how excited are you over a “hope of glory”?
Ch1v28 – Ch2v3 – Paul now wants the local churches to understand why he works so hard to spread the Gospel – his energy and commitment are divine gifts given to him for the express purpose of leading the churches into a fuller understanding of Christ. To this end he sees himself able to admonish congregations he has never met and also driven to encourage them.
He sets out his goal as “they may be encouraged in heart and united in love” and that they may have a full understanding of just who Jesus is and the deep wisdom that is to be found in Him.
Q9 - How do Paul’s goals stack up with your experience of being a Christian and being part of a Christian fellowship?
Q10 - Does the phrase United in Love – have a resonance with you?
Q11- Do you feel that you have some real “added value” wisdom and hope through being a Christian that helps you live/thrive in this complicated world?
The section closes now with Paul giving some words about the need to combat false teaching. There are hints that there are people around in the Colossian church who are claiming to have special knowledge of other mysteries and thus a privileged position in the Church. However, he wants people to know that he himself is totally open about Christ and that the revelation of Jesus and His saving grace is open to all and not to any special self-selecting group. Paul feels that he is spiritually present with the church and is delighted with the way he has heard they are progressing – it’s all part of the encouragement he wants to give them so they stay united in love with each other and in union with Christ.
Q12 - What types of actions by church leaders locally, nationally and/or internationally, encourage or discourage you?
Paul continues to pray for the people in Colossae and Laodicea - are there people you know or know about elsewhere in the world that you are praying for. And if so, how can you be encouraged to keep going with this?
Paul talks about being in union with Christ – how can we encourage each other to deepen our faith so that this becomes more of a reality in our everyday life?
Q13 - How can we continue to find encouragement in our common faith and grow to be united in love?
Father, strengthen us with power through Your Spirit in our inner selves, so that Christ may make His home in our hearts. Lord Jesus, we allow You to make Your home in our hearts so that You may saturate, occupy, possess, and permeate all our inward parts. Root us and ground us in Your love, and cause us to grow in life and be built up so that we may apprehend with all the saints what the vast dimensions of Christ are! To God be glory in the Church as the fullness of God! (based on www.agodman.com 16/01/2015)
Barry Mould, 27/09/2018