v. 24. Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for His body's sake, which is the Church,
v. 25. whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you to fulfill the Word of God;
v. 26. even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to His saints;
v. 27. to whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory;
v. 28. whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus;
v. 29. whereunto I also labor, striving according to His working, which worketh in me mightily.
Paul here shows that his ministry includes two parts, namely, to suffer for the congregation and to serve the congregation with the Word of Grace. His attitude in his sufferings is one of pure joy: Now I rejoice in my sufferings in your behalf, and fill up the lack of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for His body's sake, which is the Church. Paul's imprisonment in Rome, although not severe, yet proved a suffering to his body and spirit. Instead of spending any time in repining, however, Paul felt only the highest joy in his condition as prisoner, since it was on account of his work for Christ in behalf of the Christian congregations everywhere, and therefore also in behalf of the Colossians, that he was enduring these afflictions. Incidentally Paul states that he was filling up fully what was lacking in the measure of the afflictions of Christ for the sake of His body, which is the Church. Fellowship with Christ brings with it fellowship in His sufferings, Joh_15:18-21; 2Co_4:10-11. He Himself told His disciples that any one refusing to take His yoke upon himself could not be His follower, Luk_9:23; Luk_14:27. These afflictions are severe at one time, less severe at another; they strike the Christians of one city or country, leaving those of another city and country practically unscathed. The Colossians till now had experienced little trouble, and therefore Paul, by bearing a surplus, was acting in their behalf, bearing, as it were, some of the burden which they should have carried. At the same time the sufferings of Paul advanced the interests of the Church of Christ, the whole body receiving benefit from that of one member, and that a leading member. The sufferings, afflictions, and tribulations of any individual member of the body of Christ redound to the benefit of the whole Church; it makes the Christian fellowship more intimate, it equalizes joys and sorrows, 1Co_12:22-25.
Paul now speaks of his office in the Church: Of which I have become a minister according to the stewardship of God which was given to me for you to fulfill the Word of God. Paul here calls himself a minister of the Church, which is synonymous with being a minister of the Gospel. But his office differs to some extent from that of other servants of the Church. He has been given a stewardship, an administration of God, he was made a steward of the mysteries of God, 1Co_4:1, for the whole Church. This office he is discharging toward, that is, with regard to, the Colossians and all Christians with the object of fulfilling the Word of God, of carrying out the purpose and object of bringing it into all the world, Luk_7:1; Act_19:21.
The content of this message is: The mystery that was hidden from the ages and the generations, now, however, is manifested to His saints. The proclamation of redemption in Jesus Christ was not generally made during the time of the Old Testament. Only the Jews had the preaching of the Messiah, and even they only in type and prophecy. And so far as the content of the Gospel is concerned, it is a sealed mystery to every man by nature. All this was changed by the coming of Christ, and especially after His resurrection and ascension. To every nation, to every creature, the Gospel was to be preached by His command; to every believer, whether of the Jews or of the Gentiles, the mystery is now made manifest that Jesus Christ is the Savior of all sinners.
It is of the Gentiles specifically that Paul writes: To whom God wanted to make known what is the wealth of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. That was God's purpose and design, that the Gentiles also should come to the knowledge of salvation, should find out how rich the glory of this mystery is, should understand that Christ, as He had entered into their hearts by faith, is the center of the Gospel with His guarantee of the future blessedness in heaven. Christ and the glory of the Gospel, the certainty of salvation, in the midst of the heathen world: that is the wonderful statement which the apostle here makes See Rom_16:25-27.
That these truths may become known throughout the world is the object of Paul's labor: Whom we preach, admonishing every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, in order that we may present every man perfect in Christ, toward which end I also labor, striving for it according to His working who works in me mightily. Christ Jesus is the subject of all Gospel-preaching, as the apostle here says, incidentally placing himself in opposition to all false teachers. Where Jesus Christ the Redeemer is not preached, there the Gospel is no longer found in its purity. But from that preaching it follows that every individual Christian should be admonished unto sanctification and taught in Christian knowledge. For it is not sufficient to lay the foundation of Christian knowledge only and then let progress take care of itself. It is God's will rather to present every believer as a perfect man in Christ Jesus, 2Ti_3:17, instructed in all wisdom which the Word of God offers. This perfection is possible only in Christ, in the knowledge of Him, in fellowship with Him, not by works of the Law and self-righteousness. To that end Paul was working so strenuously, striving like an athlete to attain to his object. At the same time he was not relying on any natural ability, on his own reason and strength, but on the divine energy which was inspiring and strengthening him. From the Lord, in whose interests he was working, he obtained the power to do that work for His glory and for the welfare of the souls whom he could reach with his message of salvation. That same interest and aim must be the actuating and energizing force in the work of every servant of the Gospel to the end of time.
After the opening salutation the apostle writes of his prayer of thanksgiving and intercession for the Colossians, and then launches forth in a stately portrayal of Christ as the Creator, the Ruler of the universe, and the Head of the Church, in whose interests he is performing the work of his office.