Written by Paul J. Bucknell on August, 18, 2021
Colossians 1:27-29 Complete in Christ
“27 To whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. 28 And we proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, that we may present every man complete in Christ. 29 And for this purpose also I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me” (Colossians 1:27-29 NASB).
What a challenge Colossians 1:28 presents! Paul declares the glories of Christ before us so that we will exult in Jesus’ excellencies, discard worldly attacks and philosophies, and treasure Jesus above all things, unabashedly proclaiming Christ’s Name wherever He sends us. We are not a mere religious group called Christians centered on some common doctrines but are disciples of the risen Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus now presides over all powers, including the dark intimidating spirits who increasingly spew out their vicious lies.
Paul steps into our Christian lives—our typically confused Christian lives, by providing illumination from Christ’s exalted position to guide, heal, and protect us.
There is a plethora of evidence of the spiritual tug-of-war facing Christians today. It’s not just lax worship attendance, though. Do you feel this spiritual struggle in your soul?
Some of us have been so engaged that we have forgotten what the peace of Christ is all about. Not a few professing Christians are succumbing to the world’s temptations and luring speeches. Others battle with the suggested inferiority of the Christian faith up against other religions, insights, philosophies, and worldly offers. Still, others are caught in a tug-of-war with legalism, focusing on their guilt, including moral and now societal.
Christians face difficult, lonely, troubling times in their heart because their faith in Christ is not strong. Life problems will always be present, but it’s the inner peace and confidence that I refer. God wants to bestow that peace of heart no matter what difficulties surround us. Is this not how Jesus handled the many hardships He faced?
The question is not about the existence or extent of Jesus Christ’s glory! No. Jesus is alive and wonderfully rules overall. Our faith is weak, vulnerable, and negatively affected due to movies, words, books, and general temptations luring us back into confusion. Christ’s glory, however, does not depend upon our belief!
Join with me, hand in hand, heart and heart, as we travel into the glories of Christ Jesus and discover God’s goal is for us to be complete in Christ!
1. Our Message (1:27-28a)
“27 To whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. 28 And we proclaim Him…”
The word “proclaim” indicates a rich, powerful, and worthy message. We proclaim what is rightly heard by others. The message is worth announcing loudly, going even where it’s not sought.
There is a contest for our hearts and devotion, even our faith and minds.
1 John 2:15-17 demonstrates the contest for our hearts and devotion, even our faith and loyalty. The world or our Lord? Where does your affection lie? Who possesses your heart?
15 Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. 17 The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.
Paul, convinced of Christ’s excellencies, wants us to join him in his quest to know and proclaim Him. The Scriptures speak of a husband cleaving (stick fast to) to his wife. Cleaving involves binding one’s heart to another, not leaving any room for others. As we concentrate more on Christ’s glory and further engage our minds on Christ-filled truths, we wrap our hearts and minds in an ever-deepening loyalty to Jesus.
To proclaim Jesus interjects the truth, the light, into this dark world around us.
Who has your heart?
The message, the Gospel, is the person of Christ and His works. People have various images of Jesus. I grew up in a church that considered Jesus only as a good teacher. This is not the biblical view. Paul also clearly speaks about Jesus’ present, powerful, and eternal rule. Participating in Holy Communion turns our thoughts to meditate on Christ’s past redemptive work on the cross but also points us to the place He is preparing for us in the new heavens and earth where we will join His heavenly banquet.
Whether we trace the Old or New Testament messages, the same awesome picture of Christ is presented. Paul asserts about the Messiah in Colossians 1, “We proclaim Him!”
“15 He (Christ) is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. 17 He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. 18 He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything. 19 For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, 20 and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven” (Colossians 1:15-20).
The Grand Plan
Let me attempt to visualize the picture Paul is painting for us so that we can better understand this phrase “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (1:27).
Perhaps, the closest we can get to comprehending this “hope of the glory of Christ” is by staring at the distant stars scattered throughout the heavens, just as Isaiah 40 instructs us. “It is He who sits above the circle of the earth, And its inhabitants are like grasshoppers, Who stretches out the heavens like a curtain and spreads them out like a tent to dwell in.” (Isaiah 40:22)
As revealed in Colossians 1, the glory of Christ somewhat resembles the power and glory of the sun. Think about the sun’s intense heat (27 million degrees F); it’s glowing so bright that we can’t even look at it, its marvelous way of creating nonstop energy for our solar system. Furthermore, we are shocked to think that the earth’s sun is only one star out of a multitude, and certainly not the greatest of them.
We have not yet finished discovering the extent of the awesome universe, filled with billions and billions of stars. Astronomers are still rather giddy when trying to estimate the number of suns (i.e., stars), not to mention planets. Consider how our Milky Way galaxy has about 1011-12 stars, and that there are estimated to be the same number of galaxies populating the universe.
But this great number is only the beginning point of understanding Christ’s glory! Through Christ all things exist and hold together. This great Savior came to earth to die for sinful people—everywhere across the earth. This incomprehensibly great One would live in us. This is the message that Paul cannot stop telling us, “Christ in you, the hope of glory.”
How does the glory of Christ live in us frail, sinful creatures? This, of course, is only part of the story. We only know how He is working in us ever so vaguely, but a whole new heavens and earth is coming where He will fully share His glory with the redeemed.
So, Christ, the image of the invisible God appeared, as John describes in His gospel in chapter 1, “3 All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. 4 In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men” (John 1:3-4). This One lives in His people.
“We” —not just Paul, but the church proclaim Him. It’s a mistake to think that speaking about Jesus’ work and glory is another person’s job. True, some are more gifted and positioned but consider making this a daily prayer: “Where or how can I proclaim Christ’s excellencies today?” The church is the “we,” and we must never allow our role of proclaiming the excellencies of Christ to every man dwindle away.
Allow me to summarize by emphasizing the rightfulness of exclaiming the excellencies of Christ. Earlier in the chapter, Paul further expanded this through Christ’s humble ministry of dying for His people and securing them to be His. These are the riches of His glory. Jesus, however, is not only a Savior of the past, but the Savior for the future, ever interceding for His people.
Are you convinced of Christ’s importance to your life and to the church? Or are you beginning to drift away by modern thinking or starting to consider Christ as just another way? Only Christ in you is the hope of glory; all other philosophies crumble like decaying sandcastles before incoming ocean waves. Have you lost your love for Him, for Jesus Christ? Have you stopped telling your friends about Him? Have you stopped living in obedience to Him? May He be the only treasure of our heart and not the stumbling block by which many will fall!
2. Our Method (Col 1:28b)
“28 And we proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, that we may present every man complete in Christ.”
“Our Method” reveals Paul the Apostle’s deliberate method of bringing these truths to people everywhere. But let’s not forget the centrality of Christ Jesus as we deliberate upon how Paul admonished and conducted his teaching ministry.
Methodology always follows purpose, so it is with God’s supreme purpose. Verse 27 states, “To whom God willed to make known….” God’s will has started an unceasing operation of making His chosen people complete in Christ.
Paul explains this purpose of reaching every tribe, nation, and culture by stating “every man” three times in verse 28.
“Every man” announces that neither Paul, nor Jesus, nor Christianity are biased. Paul makes sure that this message went to the whole world because Christ went out of His way to come to earth to suffer. The Apostle Paul spreads God’s Word around the world at great personal cost. Though the Bible often uses the word Gentiles, referring to non-Jewish peoples, it can easily be translated as the nations, including all cultures and ethnic groups. No matter how small a group or a tribe might be, God sent His Son to save them. I call this the outward ministry because it reaches all nations, just as Jesus stated in Matthew 28:18-19.
Our primary focus here, however, is on verse 28, the inward ministry. By inward, I refer not to the proclamation reaching the world’s people, but the specific teaching God’s Word to individuals. Each person (man includes men and women) is able to acquire and discern truth by the Holy Spirit. Everyone can learn, but we need God to open our eyes and hearts to His Word.
Intentional engagement with God’s Word shapes the lives of God’s people and the church as a whole. Our sanctuaries are places of worship but also places of learning where we become more complete in Christ. This is one reason that the development of educational institutions has accompanied the spread of the Gospel. It also pinpoints why education alone is not the solution and misses the mark without emphasizing Christ—there is no completeness apart from Christ.
God shapes the world, completes His plan in Christ, and gains a people who manifest His love.
Admonishing and Teaching (Col 1:28)
The proclaiming of Christ largely—we dare not say exclusively— takes place through instruction. Paul did perform miracles but “admonishing every man and teaching every man” highlights the importance of articulating the importance of Christ to the life of every individual.
The message is not just for some, nor is it meant to satisfy religious needs generally, but to steer a person in right living.
“Admonish” is the translation for the Greek ‘nouthetic’ from which the term, Nouthetic Counseling, came to be known. The word, ‘admonish’ suggests that people need to be corrected, guided, changed, etc. True Biblical counseling denies the ‘victim’ mentality- “I can’t do anything about my situation.” Without Christ, we can do nothing. With Jesus, great change can and does happen in our lives. We are willing to confront others because of this deeper hope. There is a larger goal, however than our immediate comfort.
Teaching is not a well-appreciated word in today’s lost world. The world wants us to be blind, thinking and believing every person’s belief is as valid as another’s (except when you disagree with me!). The world helps people espouse their thinking and desires, but biblical teaching is fixed on establishing truths about Jesus’ person and works. Jesus is alive and rules as stated. His power is not dependent upon our belief, but the presence of our belief impacts our eternal destiny. Teaching implies the crucial need to proclaim this message of Christ.
With All Wisdom
“With all wisdom” reminds us that though the truth is the same, we need Christ’s wisdom to aptly, timely, and kindly speak to others. He uses all of us, yet, we need to seek the best ways to speak humbly to others. We care but often misspeak and therefore misrepresent Christ. We know the truth, but we can easily miss what needs to be spoken. Our goal is to be complete in Christ, allowing Christ’s Spirit in us to guide how we wisely confront others.
Delivering the truth of Christ and His redemptive work to seekers and believers remains an ongoing task for the church. One gauge of a strong church is its ability to feed God’s people the Word of Truth by God’s grace. Worship springs from the admiration of these grand truths.
Jesus’ command to “make disciples” calls us to unceasingly instruct God’s people the grandeur of Christ and His ways so that they understand and apply these truths to their lives.
3. Our Mission (Col 1:28c-29)
“28 That we may present every man complete in Christ. 29 And for this purpose also I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me.”
We complete our thoughts on this passage by narrowly focusing on Paul’s statement, “That we may present every man complete in Christ.”
Let’s begin by better understanding this word, “complete.”
As believers respond to the gospel message, they welcome the Spirit of Christ, seen in His self-giving example, to change our values, hopes, and decisions. Christ Himself lives in us, making us more like Him.
This purpose or mission of Christ works through us to further this message of Christ through word and deed. Paul not only spread the Gospel outwardly but admonished and taught people to deepen Christ’s work in the lives of believers. Depending on our spiritual gifts and opportunities, we will see this message worked out differently in our lives, seeking ways for the Lord to use us in His kingdom. The ultimate goal for us and others is to be “complete in Christ.” This goal influences our many decisions.
- “Complete” (The Greek word, telios, maturity) indicates God has full and ultimate goals for each believer. Think of a kernel of corn. It’s not mature in its infant state. Completeness means it will grow a tall stalk, filled with many leaves and corn cobs, ready to peel and cook. God has a purpose for each believer. Part of our spiritual quest is to identify what that goal is for our lives (Eph 2:10).
- “Complete” implies a growth process to reach that full or complete state, that of Christ. The corn seed did not instantly become complete but went through a process in time called growth or development. So it is with our Christian lives. Although we have a supreme purpose, we also have important spiritual developmental experiences which help us transition to God’s full telios purposes for us. It’s a shame if we do not see this happen in our earthly lives.
- This development blends the uniqueness of a believer with the work, holiness, purpose, and presence of Christ. God’s people are receptors of the amazing grace of God’s love and beneficiaries of Christ’s coming into the world to die for His people. Each believer will discover fulfillment by welcoming Christ’s work within them and see how Christ’s Spirit might live through them. Let’s note a few of these.
“That we may present every man complete in Christ.”
Believers (every man) need to realize God’s greater purposes for their lives and intentionally involve themselves in this process and specific tasks.
The Apostle’s Labor (Col 1:29)
- There is no completeness without Christ. “Apart from Me you can do nothing.” Jesus is uncompromising here. Jesus is life and without Him, there is no living. Other religions, political views, or philosophies are disguised and beguiling teachings. Only Christ is the Truth.
- What does that completeness look like? True completeness in Christ only is realized in the future, in the new heavens and earth, just as the end of the Book of Revelation teaches us. Yes, the righteousness of Christ has become ours; we live in Christ now, but there are further anticipated changes when we obtain our new sinless bodies (1 Cor 15).
- How do I maximize my spiritual development now? This question helps every believer rightly understand the process of spiritual development so that we become mature, bearing appropriate fruit for our persons.
“And for this purpose also I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me” (Colossians 1:29).
Paul uses his life and energies to bring people everywhere to center their sights on Christ and God’s purpose through Him.
Paul uses himself as an example, less after preaching to others, he becomes declared as incompetent. But no apostle lives forever. The Gospel must be preached, learned, and developed in others so that they, in turn, can propagate the excellent message of Christ. The church is to pick up where Paul and the other apostles left off, carrying on developing God’s purposes. We can respond in two ways.
1. Our effort, like Paul’s, will demand at some points much labor and striving. We should not dwell on impossibilities but God’s competency. The development of our faith is a process and takes a long time before we can catch a glimpse of what our lives should look like. Development means change, and thus it’s hard to use those experiences to specify our end goal. Like the Old Testament Joseph, looking back, we can see how well God prepared him, and yet during his training, he couldn’t see it—even with his dreams.
2. “His power” speaks of God’s unique way of energizing Paul and us as we involve ourselves in His ministry—the completeness of Christ. God wants, through Christ’s grace, to bear much-enduring fruit in our lives (John 15).
Be open to God’s work of bringing you closer to completeness in Christ. Don’t let the foolish phrase, “Nobody’s perfect” blind you to God’s greater purpose in your life. Seek His development of your life and the fruit He wants to bear from your life.
Engage in training and helping others grow. We all should be disciple makers working with select individuals near us.
Ephesians 4 gives us the picture of a fully functioning church where leaders are gifted and trained to equip God’s people. I want to boldly state no matter where the church around you has failed or where you are failing, God’s abounding grace in Christ Jesus is sufficient. Consider the implications of this, an immediate, abounding, glorious pathway for you to be complete in Christ.
- Christ remains our excellent message, the hope of glory!
- Missions, the proclamation of the message of Christ, works with discipleship, the inward training of our lives and others around us.
- The building up of Christians around us is the reason the Spirit of Christ has given us spiritual gifts.
- Are you seriously involved in discipling others? Why or why not? We ought to, as God wills, widen our life’s goals to include God’s goals to “present every man complete in Christ” (1:28).
Paul Bucknell has other articles on the related topics of Christ’s supremacy and importance of discipleship
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