I want you to know how hard I am contending for you and for those at Laodicea, and for all who have not known me personally. My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Colossians 2:1-3).

Paul was presenting deep truths to relatively young believers, using truths that many of us today do not understand. One wonders how much of what Paul wrote about made sense to them!

These were people who had not heard the message of the gospel from Paul. They had been taught by Epaphras who was probably Paul’s convert and possibly a Gentile who may have had no background in the Jewish Scriptures. Paul recognised that, although he was not a part of their conversion experience, nevertheless he had a responsibility to instruct them thoroughly in the faith. They had no New Testament to which to turn. They relied on what they had been taught and what they could remember.

What did Paul emphasise as the criteria for understanding the mystery of Christ? Not book knowledge, as we might think, but their being encouraged in heart and united in love. These are not qualities of the mind, but rather aspects of their experience as they learned to do life together. Although it was important for them to know the truth about Jesus and to be sure of what they believed, it was equally important that they live it out in their everyday lives.

It was in the experience of their daily lives ‘in Christ’ that they learned to know Him. They needed to be confident in Him and to draw their life from Him in a hostile environment where they could be betrayed, arrested and executed for their faith at any time. Head knowledge was not enough. They had to experience the sufficiency of Christ for everything they needed. Most of all, being believers in Jesus was about doing life together.

Those of us who are part of the culture of the western world need to learn from cultures that place emphasis on family groups above individuals. There are dangers in that, of course, especially when it comes to conversion from a traditional religion to faith in Christ. Since family takes precedence over the individual, to make a personal choice against the family is viewed in a serious light.

However, it is the family togetherness in Christ that helps believers to remain faithful and strong through the support they receive from one another. When one falls, the others are there to pick him up. When one strays, the others bring him back. Strife and conflict are handled within the family of believers to maintain harmony and promote love.

Imagine if our church groups functioned like that. It’s no wonder that the church in Paul’s day spread like wildfire in spite of persecution. Jesus said that it is by our love that people will know that we are His disciples and by our unity that the world will know that the Father sent Him.

It is this kind of life that will take us deeper into ‘the full riches of understanding’ of the mystery of Christ. The Israelites had a constitution which was intended to teach them to live in harmony with one another. They lacked one thing – Jesus Christ. He is the full revelation of everything that the Mosaic Law was intended to teach them. They had the method, but not the means.

The Law of Moses was meant to teach them how impossible it was to live God’s way without Jesus. God wanted them to know how powerless they were to make it on their own. Even if they were able to obey God’s Law to the letter outwardly, they could do nothing to change their wayward hearts. Their sad history is proof that they did not understand the heart of God. Only a few of them got it, people like David who moved beyond keeping rules and offering sacrifices.

You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise (Psalm 51: 16-17).

Knowledge is important. Without it we have nothing upon which to base our faith. However, knowledge that does not issue in obedience and a changed life has no value. We need to be encouraged in heart – urged on to become who we are – and united in love – taking care of one another and meeting one another’s needs at our own expense, in order to come to a true understanding of who Jesus really is. He is the Christ, the Son of the Living God, and the source of everything we are and everything we need.

Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.


Luella Campbell

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