Bible Study Commentary in the book of Colossians
Colossians 1:24-29: Christ in You The Hope of Glory!
by I Gordon
Christ in you. No, I'm not talking about some ooky-spooky New Age concept where Christ is in everyone and everyone is Christ! Far from it! I'm talking about the incredible and critical Christian truth and experience that makes the Christian life something far greater and far more rewarding than just 'trying your best for Jesus!' That is what this bible study will be about. It is His presence, His rest and His activity in and through the believer. An experience the Bible calls "Christ in you the hope of glory". But first, let's just back up a bit! In the last study in Colossians we looked at pre-eminence of Jesus. We looked at the unique person that is Jesus Christ, exploring His position over the whole of creation and as Head of the body - the Church. If we were going to sum up the message of the last study from a single scripture used, it is this:
"That He should come to have first place in everything."
Now 'everything' includes you and your life does it not? And that is what Paul goes on to talk about in the next part of Colossians chapter 1, verses 24-29. These five verses form an awesome little passage. Let's have a read:
Col 1:24-29 ' Now I rejoice in what was suffered for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ's afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church. (25) I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness- - - (26) the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the saints. (27) To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. (28) We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ. (29) To this end I labour, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me.'
Now every passage has a key thought or two that stands out as we study it and it's pretty obvious what it is in this passage. The Apostle Paul said that the word of God in its fullness is 'Christ in you, the hope of glory!' But what does that mean?  Well, that is what we will investigate. 'Not I but Christ' is the message of the New Testament and we will continue learning the depth of this statement until He returns or calls us home. So we will spend most of our time looking at this key phrase while still exploring its immediate context.
Rejoicing in suffering? The Apostle Paul - A real life example of 'Christ in you'!
Col 1:24 ' Now I rejoice in what was suffered for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ's afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church.'
The passage starts with a real favourite verse of many tele-evangelists and prosperity preachers the world over. It says ' Now I rejoice in what was suffered for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ's afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church.' Oh wait a minute... No... No sorry, that doesn't seem to be the one they like. Apologies, I must have mixed it up somehow. This is an extraordinary verse. Paul said that the sufferings of Christ are not yet full and he rejoices in what he suffers for the churches sake. Is he slightly mad? And in what way do Christ's sufferings carry on? This verse has even been used by some Roman Catholics to try and support their doctrine of Purgatory (that believers go to a place after death where their sins have to be purged through a time of punishment to make the person fully acceptable and ready to enter Heaven.) Let's make it clear - this verse has nothing to do with any redemptive or atoning suffering - that was all completed when Jesus said 'It is finished' - 'Paid in full!' Nor has this verse got anything to do with suffering after we die! But here Paul rejoices in his suffering and says that he is adding to what is lacking in Christ's afflictions. The Believers Bible Commentary says the following on this verse:
There is a sense in which the Lord Jesus still suffers. When Saul of Tarsus was struck to the ground on the road to Damascus, he heard a voice from heaven saying, 'Saul, Saul, why do you persecute Me?' Saul had not been consciously persecuting the Lord - he had only been persecuting the Christians. He learned, however, that in persecuting believers, he was persecuting their Savior. The Head in heaven feels the sufferings of His Body on earth.
Rejoicing in suffering... now that's not a normal human response!  Paul, from his prison cell , rejoiced in what he could suffer for Jesus' name and the churches sake. People can rejoice in the midst of suffering when they see and believe what God can do through the difficulty. That is the message of the entire Bible. When you are weak, then He is strong. And that means any type of suffering. That is how Paul, and you, can rejoice. That is why Paul is a living walking example of what he is declaring to the Colossians - that Christ in us is our hope of glory (as we shall see). He had learned through countless difficulties that Jesus was all he needed and that Christ's strength was made perfect in his own weaknesses.
It's 'The word of God in its fullness'!
Col 1:25-26 ' I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness-- (26) the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the saints.'
If I said to you 'What do you think is the most important message that Christians need to hear?' what would you answer? Think. Put it another way, what is the 'word of God in all its fullness?' That makes it slightly easier because we have already read the answer above! For Paul, the word of God in all its fullness was encapsulated in the teaching that Christ is in us, and that is our hope of glory. In verse 25, this teaching is called the 'mystery  that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the saints.'
Now we probably all like mysteries . When 'mystery' is used in the New Testament, it is to show something that was previously kept hidden and has now been revealed. In this passage, the mystery is specifically identified in Col 1:27. But before jumping ahead, let's back the bus up a wee bit. Why was Paul talking about mysteries? As a bit of background, Paul wrote this letter to combat error that was entering the church which would later be known as Gnosticism. Gnosticism is based on the Greek word, 'gnosis' meaning knowledge and these false teachers loved their 'mysteries' and 'secret superior knowledge' that they claimed they had and no one else knew... much like the deeper secrets of some cults today. This, they reasoned, made them superior to others.
So what does 'Christ in you, the hope of glory' mean?
Col 1:27 To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.
So Paul uses the same words back at these Gnostics and speaks of the'glorious riches of this mystery...' which 'God has chosen to make known.' He says that it may have been something that was kept hidden for ages past, but it is now something that God wants known! It is now an open secret that God wants all to know about! He wants the riches of this mystery revealed. So let me ask you some questions... If you are a believer:
Do you believe that Christ is in you? 
Is it simply a mental believe or does it impact your life?
In what ways does it affect your life?
If you believe that Christ is in you, when was the last time you thanked God for that?
Why do you think Jesus Christ would want to dwell in us?
What should our response be to God?
As I mentioned at the start, the central message of the Apostle Paul and the New Testament is 'not I but Christ'. 'It is no longer I that live but Christ that lives in me.' It is a telling sign as to whether your belief is more than head knowledge if you are thanking God for this wonderful truth. Jesus Christ has given you Himself because you do not have what it takes to live the Christian life. And the language of all true faith, when you see this truth, is simply 'thank you!' That is your response to God. Don't complicate it. The other important point that should be made concerns the phrase 'the hope of glory.' Glory is an interesting word and can mean different things depending on the context. For example, consider the following:
Luke 2:9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.
John 8:50 I am not seeking glory for myself; but there is one who seeks it, and he is the judge.
John 1:14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
1Pe 5:10 And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ
So from Col 1:27. What is 'the hope of glory' in this context? Let's make it multi-choice!
a) The hope of shining brightly?
b) The hope of being with the Lord in heaven?
c) The hope of displaying the nature and character of God?
d) The hope of being praised and thought of as something great?
Well? What do you pick? Clearly the answer is d. Oh! ok... c is the correct answer for this context. As a fallen creation 'all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.' That is, they have fallen short of God's perfect moral character and nature.  Our hope then is not in ourselves, but in Christ. In ourselves and our own strength we will continue to fall short of God's glory. But through dependence upon Christ, because He dwells in us, we can now break free from the bondage to sin and failure. And remember... our response should be 'thank you!' Keep it simple! Face each new challenge thanking Him that He has given you His Spirit and that He is adequate!
An example from the life of Moses
Let's look at an example of this which combines God's presence, our inadequacy, and the glory of God. Strangely enough it is from the Old Testament in the book of Exodus.
Exodus 33:12-14 Moses said to the LORD, 'You have been telling me, 'Lead these people,' but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. You have said, 'I know you by name and you have found favor with me.' If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with you. Remember that this nation is your people.' The LORD replied, 'My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.'
You can imagine the pressure Moses was under can't you? Here he has to lead the entire nation of Israel through the wilderness and all the while they have moaning and grumblings within the group...not to mention the enemies in the surrounding nations that want to destroy them. So Moses asks the Lord how it is going to happen... Who is going to help? Look at the Lord's response... 'My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.' Oh what a great assurance to the one who walks by faith. Because of the Lord's presence with us and within us, we too can have rest! Those two things are always intertwined and linked - God's presence and rest. In fact, rest in the midst of difficulty is the great sign of the Lord's presence. Remember... keep it simple! Thank Him for the fact that He has promised to be with you also.
But have you seen this wonderful truth or are you trying to work everything out in your own strength? The ministry of Major Ian Thomas was dedicated to proclaiming this truth of Christ in you and it is interesting to see how he learned it (spoiler alert - through failure at living the Christian life! But he then learned of the Lord's life within and came into the rest!)
At the university Ian became a leader in the Inter-Varsity Fellowship group. If ever there was any evangelistic activity going on, this youthful zealot was "buzzing around the place, every holiday, every spare moment"! He started a slum club down in the East End of London "out of a sheer desire to win souls, to go out and get them. I was a windmill of activity until, at the age of nineteen, every moment of my day was packed tight with doing things. Thus by the age of nineteen, I had been reduced to a state of complete exhaustion spiritually, until I felt that there was no point going on."
Then, one night in November, that year, just at midnight, I got down on my knees before God, and I just wept in sheer despair. I said, "Oh, God, I know that I am saved. I love Jesus Christ. I am perfectly convinced that I am converted. With all my heart I have wanted to serve Thee. I have tried to my uttermost and I am a hopeless failure." That night things happened.
I can honestly say that I had never once heard from the lips of men the message that came to me then but God, that night simply focused upon me the Bible message of Christ Who Is Our Life. The Lord seemed to make plain to me that night, through my tears of bitterness: 'You see, for seven years, with utmost sincerity, you have been trying to live for Me, on My behalf, the life that I have been waiting for seven years to live through you.'" That night, all in the space of an hour, Ian Thomas discovered the secret of the adventurous life. He said: "I got up the next morning to an entirely different Christian life, but I want to emphasize this: I had not received one iota more than I had already had for seven years!"
The witness depends on the Presence!
Exodus 33:15-17... Then Moses said to him, 'If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here. How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us? What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?' And the LORD said to Moses, 'I will do the very thing you have asked, because I am pleased with you and I know you by name.'
Going back to Moses, again we see his reluctance to move unless the Lord is with him. This is not stubbornness. This is reality! This is Moses knowing, oh too well, that he is not up to the task at hand. This is Moses showing his utter dependency upon the Lord. And look at the Lord's response - 'I will do the thing you have asked because I am pleased with you.' God wants to be wanted. He wants His people to take Him into account. And we too need to learn to take the presence of the Lord Jesus into account. Christ in you, the hope of glory. When we do that, we will see what the scripture says above... that we will be distinguished from 'all the other people on the face of the earth.' And that is the crux of the matter. God has always wanted a people that, because of His presence in their life, display and reflect His glory... a living testimony to those in the world that God is alive!
Show me the money... Uh, no, show me the Glory!
Exodus 33: 18-20 Then Moses said, ' Now show me your glory.' And the LORD said, 'I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the LORD, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.' But, he said, 'You cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.'
Show me the money... No sorry... 'Show me your glory'  , Moses asks, and God is happy to oblige. But notice that God says that 'all my goodness' will pass in front of you. In Exodus 34:6-7 we read of that goodness when it says - 'And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, 'The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation.'
THE LORD 'Compassionate, gracious, abounding in love and faithfulness... yet just and righteous as well.' - In response to Moses' request to see God's glory, God spoke of His character. But that is not all because God's holy character radiates! The 'shekinah' glory of God - the manifest radiance of God's glory was seen (to a limited extent) by Moses. Do you want to shine? Then keep your eyes upon Jesus! 
The Glory is seen from the Rock!
Exodus 33:21-23 Then the LORD said, 'There is a place near me where you may stand on a rock. When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will remove my hand and you will see my back; but my face must not be seen.'
The final point I want to draw to your attention is that Moses could see the glory of God only while he hid in the cleft of the rock. He had to stand on the rock, and be in the rock, to see such glory! The rock of course, is a picture of Jesus. (1 Cor. 10:4) We too have the promise of 'the hope of glory' but, like Moses, we need to be standing upon, and abiding in, our rock - the Lord Jesus Christ. In the words of the old great hymn:
Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee;
Let the water and the blood,
From Thy riven side which flowed,
Be of sin the double cure,
Save me from its guilt and power.
It is only as we learn to reckon upon the Lord Jesus and His presence in our lives, that we can expect to see the same character and nature of God displayed in our lives. And again, this is what Christ in us, hope of glory is all about. It is once again seeing the nature and character of God, that which we had sinned and fallen short of (Rom 3:23), displayed through a changed life.
Conclusion - We proclaim Him!
Col 1:28-29 'We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ. To this end I labor, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me.
The passage in Exodus and the example of Moses brings us full circle and right back to the last verses in our Colossians passage - and it is a handy place to conclude! We proclaim, admonish, and teach Him! It is all about the Lord Jesus (even though we are good at making it all about us!) Paul says he works hard in this - but it is God's energy through him. God has no favourites in terms of who He is willing to work through. He is willing to display His energy, His life and His character through your little life as well. We are all different and it will be displayed in different ways but the key, and the challenge for us all is to get our priorities right. You should desire to see the character of God manifest in your life. Is 'show me your glory' or 'show me the money' the cry of your heart? As we grow and give up childish things, hopefully our desire changes from 'things' to God Himself.
So thank the Lord for His presence in your life and learn to reckon upon His indwelling life in each new challenge or difficulty that comes your way.