The Preacher Says....  
  Christ in You ' The Hope of Glory  

Colossians 1. 24 ' 27

We're gonna have to put on our thinking caps this morning, as our grammar teachers used to say, because I want us to consider together some figures of speech and symbols in the Bible. The passage above was from Paul's letter to Colosse. And one can agree with Peter, that what Paul wrote here is hard to understand. We don't want to be unlearned to our own destruction, however, because Peter says that even though what Paul writes is sometimes hard to understand, it is nonetheless scripture. Let's consider a few of the verses: "Now I, Paul, 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." What he's saying to us in a quaint way is that he continues to suffer just as Christ did for the world. He continues to suffer for what was created by his life and sacrifice, that is the church. He says, "I fill up what is still lacking in regard to Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body which is the church. I have become the church's servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fulness. The mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the saints. 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."

This word "mystery" doesn't appear in the Old Testament. At least there is no Hebrew word translated "mystery" in the Old Testament. The word here, a Greek word translated mystery, appears in the New Testament 28 times; 3 or 4 times in the synoptic gospels, a few times in Revelation, but principally in the letters of Paul. And when Christ came and preached the gospel and was sacrificed and raised from the dead, the Greek world'of course we're talking about Palestine under Roman rule, but nonetheless a Greek world, the religions were Hellenistic and had a number of what were called mystery cults. It was a word current in that time. And one was indoctrinated into these mystery cults only by going through long, exacting and protracted initiation rites. We don't know if it's merely coincidence, or whether Paul and Christ chose to use the word mystery deliberately because of the currency of that word with respect to pagan religions at the time. But unlike those pagan religions, the point that Paul was trying to make when he speaks about these mysteries'in effect he's saying these secret cults'you only learn about these secrets through elaborate procedures'but here divine secrets are now disclosed. And we seek publicity for those divine secrets, not mystery. They're not secrets; we don't want to conceal them. Well, back to this verse again, "I have become the church's servant by the commission of God to present to you the word of God in its fulness, the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations." Turn to Ephesians 3. 2 - 6, and Paul speaking to the church there says, "Surely you have heard about the administration of God's grace that was givn to me.", reading from the NIV, "that is the mystery that ws made known to me by revelation, as I have already written briefly. In reading this then you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ which was not made known to men in other generations as it has now been revealed by the spirit to God's holy apostles and prophets.

This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together are one body and share together in the promise in Christ Jesus. Now let me say this about the word "mystery" and its usage in 28 different passages. If you read them all it seems to me that we're talking about more than one mystery. Here we have only one definition being given. And Paul says the mystery is that the Gentiles are heirs to the gospel message along with Israel, that it's not exclusive to Israel. In Ephesians 2 he made it plainer: "Consequently you are no longer foreigners and aliens but fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone." So the mystery is now seen in another way in God's choosing the seed of Isaac over the seed of Ishmael. Paul explains in another way in Galatians 4: " Now you brothers, like Isaac, are children of promise. At that time the son born in the ordinary way," who was that? Ishmael, "persecuted the son born by the power of the spirit. It is the same now. But what does the scripture say? Get rid of the slave woman and her son, for the slave woman's son will never share in the inheritance with the freewoman's son. Therefore, brothers, we're not children of the slave woman but of the free woman." The mystery seems even clearer now. Natural Israel is not the inheritor of the promise. It's only spiritual Israel. It's only those who are the descendants of Isaac, those who understood that salvation comes from God. Man does not earn his own salvation. There's nothing to be gained by merely being the natural son of Abraham. One can't save oneself by works. What saves you, we understand here, is those persons who believe in God's promise to raise up a supernatural son, Isaac prefiguring his greater son, Jesus Christ. Even the name given to Jesus makes it plain that man proposes, but God disposes. Jesus, Joshua, Yah Oshea, "Jesus Christ, God's savior anointed". So God's salvation is more properly not just for the Gentiles in addition to the Jews, but it is for all those who are faithful. OK, so that's the mystery, right? The mystery is that there is neither Jew, nor Greek, bond nor free, but we're all one in Christ Jesus. But is that all there is to that mystery?

Let's go back to Colossians 1: "To them", the saints,"God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery which is Christ in you, hope of glory." My premise is that this is in addition to the first mystery'solved'that the Gentiles are included with the Jews in salvation. What about these words? "Christ in you, the hope of glory". See Romans 6: "Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him", vs. 8 "for we know that since Christ was raised from the dead he cannot die again. Death no longer has mastery over him. The death he died he died once and for all, but the life he lives, he lives to God. In the same way count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus." We're in Christ Jesus. We just read in Ephesians 2 that we're part of the temple of God, Jesus being the chief cornerstone. Or that we're part of the body of Christ, Christ being the head, and we being the members of the body. Or as Paul says in 2Cor 5. 16, 17, "So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view, though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ he is a new creation. The old has gone, the new has come." So what does it mean? We're part of the temple of God, Jesus being the chief cornerstone? We're part of the body of Christ, Jesus being the head of the body.

Let me change the subject slightly. We often hear in prayers the phrase, "Christ, our elder brother". I can't find that phrase in the Bible. I don't think it can be found. If it's there, I'm sure one of you will show it to me. Now I don't quarrel with those of you or myself who may have talked about Christ as being our elder brother, because when Jesus' mother and brothers were pointed out to him, he said, "Who is my mother and my brother?" Those that do the will of my Father, they are my mother and brothers." References to Christ being our brother are few and far between. Is this a distinction without a difference? What is my point? We are in Christ. We're in Christ because we've put on Christ through baptism. But the verse we're considering is the other way around. It's the reverse of that. We're in Christ, we're part of the body of Christ, we have the protection of the body of Christ, we have the security with the cornerstone being Christ as part of this temple of which we're a part. We have the assurance that he's the head of our body; we have that security, but this verse doesn't say we're in Christ. It says, Christ is in you. That's the other way around the hope of glory. We get closer to the meaning when we consider what Paul told the church at Ephesus in the fifth chapter, talking about the relationship between husbands and wives. This is a familiar passage, "for this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. This is a profound mystery, but I am talking about Christ and the church." OK, now that's stronger than the cornerstone of a temple, or stronger than the head of a body. Here we've got twain becoming one flesh. Paul says to the church at Rome (8. 8 - 10), "Those controlled by a sinful nature cannot please God. You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature, but by the spirit. If anyone does not have the spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ. But if Christ is in you," now there's the use of that phrase in Colossians, "your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness." Christ should be in you. We ought to be able to say with Paul, "I have the mind of Christ".

Now here's the leap I want you to make with me now. Try to make people think about you that they have seen Christ, not Christ's brother. You're not Christ's brother. You want to be the manifestation of Christ. I don't mean this like a crazy person. You know, there are schizophrenics who believe, pronounce that they are Christ, and I realize that when I say what I'm saying I'm skirting, perhaps, in a dangerous territory, but you don't want to try to be like your brother. You can't relate to your brother'you can't even figure your brother out. Trying to figure out what Christ is like as your brother-- when you're trying to go back over 2,000 dusty years, to Palestine, to a man dead at the age of 33, who went about in sandals and a seamless garment, and lived in a world at a time and in a society and culture that we can't comprehend-- trying to be like that is something we can't do.

Now hear me on this. Think of yourselves, rather, as Christ. Jesus said when he was in the period of his probation, "Why callest thou me good? There is none good but God." And yet while he was still in that probationary period, while the issue was still in doubt, while he was still being tempted, while his triumph was not yet assured, he could say, "He that hath seen me hath seen the Father." And so Paul can say, "I have the mind of Christ", even though he does not say that in an arrogant fashion, because he says in the concluding verse of Romans 7, the chapter on when I do good, evil is present with me. "So then I myself in my mind am a slave to God's law, but in the sinful nature, a slave to the law of sin." Yet Paul could say of himself, "I have the mind of Christ". So think about yourself as though you were Christ, or a manifestation of Christ. Don't say that Christ said, "not my will, but thine be done", but you say it. I mean you have the mind of Christ just as Paul did. The sermon on the mount are your words. You're not trying to figure out what Jesus meant when he delivered that sermon. If you have the mind of Christ, they are your utterances.

Now for some scriptural support for what we've been saying. God reserved for Abraham and his spiritual descendants'those party to His covenant'for those persons He reserved the covenant name YAHWEH I will be, or an explanation of what "I will be" means "ehyeh ashay ehyeh", I will be who I will be. That's the name that God told the Jews to use for Him. And He was, if you will, He became manifested in Christ. I will be who I will be. Because of that covenant name we can say that God was in Christ, that's a scriptural phrase. God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself. So Paul says, count yourself like that, which he says in Romans 8. We're not like that yet. We're talking about figures, but he says count yourself like that. As God is in Christ, and Christ is in you, so one day'ehyeh asher ehyeh-- God will be in you and you will be in God. Isn't that what Cor 15. 24 - 28 really means? (Vs 24). "Then the end will come when he hands over the kingdom of God to God the Father, after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power, for he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death.

Now when it says that everything has been put under him, it is clear that this does not include God Himself, who put everything under Christ. When he has done this, then the son himself will to be made subject to Him who put everything under him so that God may be all I all. "Ehyeh asher ehyeh", I will be who I will be. He will be in us and we will be in Him. That's what that verse means, ans so Paul says count yourself like that now. It seems to me that it's wonderful to be in Christ, but it's essential, it's better and essential for Christ to be in us. It's not difficult to know how to live your live if you're gonna live it as a manifestation of Christ, not like Christ, but a manifestation of Christ. If you're gonna have a mantra, that word is used now in eastern religions, that is to say a word to live by, so to speak, it's not difficult. If we read everything Christ ever said in the synoptic gospels and the book of Revelation, we could read the whole thing in two hours. Christ was a man of action. Spare in his use of words. "Let him who is without sin cast the first stone." That's the kind of sermon he gave, a sermon of 8 words, or whatever. The watchword, if we are to be manifestations of Christ, is self sacrifice. It's as simple as that: self sacrifice.