July 22, 2019
Colossians 1:27 - 2:7
by Elaine Ruth
Pastor of First UMC (Surgoinsville, TN)
It’s hard to keep a secret. As soon as we learn something exciting or interesting, we want to share it with at least one person, who will probably share it with another person. Well, in his letter to the church in Colossae, Paul tells the Colossians that they have been let in on a secret. It is a secret that had been hidden from all the generations before Jesus came. This is a secret they are not supposed to keep. “I became a servant of the church by God’s commission, which was given to me for you, in order to complete God’s word. I’m completing it with a secret plan that has been hidden for ages and generations but which has now been revealed to his holy people. God wanted to make the glorious riches of this secret plan known among the Gentiles, which is Christ living in you, the hope of glory.” Colossians 1:25-27
The first people to learn the secret were the Jewish followers of Jesus. In the beginning, some of them thought the secret was only to be shared with other Jewish people, and they worked hard to spread the word to other Jews. Before long, though, some in the group realized that God wanted them to share the secret with people who were not Jewish, Gentile people. Most Christians today are Gentiles. We are not Jewish. It caused some confusion and conflict as the people in the original group tried to figure out just how non-Jewish people could be in on the secret. They knew that they were God’s chosen people.
When Paul wrote his letters, he was writing to real people in real churches that were dealing with real issues. We don’t confront all of the issues his original readers face, but some of the issues are very similar.
One issue Paul is addressing in the passage we read today is the tendency to separate ourselves into groups, insiders and outsiders. This was happening in a couple of ways in the early church.
Many believers who were Jewish tended to think that Gentiles could not become Christians unless they converted to Judaism and followed the Jewish law. They believed that God’s plan to redeem the world through Jesus was for Jews.
Another issue Paul was addressing was on the Colossian side of things. Some of the Colossians believed that there was a special knowledge that could be obtained only by spiritually elite people. Paul explained to them that the secret knowledge they had received was actually something God wanted everyone to know. The secret never was supposed to be revealed only to a select few spiritually elite. It was supposed to be made known “among the nations,” the entire world.
The “secret” is that, through Jesus, God has redeemed all of humanity. God always wanted to include everyone. Through Jesus, we all have forgiveness, and if we believe, we are included in God’s family. Paul wrote in his letter to the church in Rome, “Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God” (Romans 5:1-2).
Paul’s message to the church in Colossae is still relevant to us. Like the first Jewish Christians, we need to be careful that we don’t turn our focus inward to our Christian churches and feel that the amazing gift of grace was just for us. Like the Colossian Christians, we need to remember that we are not a spiritually elite group who have received secret knowledge that we guard for ourselves. We have received the knowledge of the grace and forgiveness of God through Jesus, so we can share it with everyone. Those people we consider to be outsiders because they don’t believe like we do are special to God. We need to be careful about how we think about them, how we talk about them, and how we treat them because they have always been part of this mystery of God's enormous inclusive love.