Paul's ministry (1:23-29)

(Paul’s ministry)

After describing the Son of God and what He has done for us, Paul talks about his ministry. In C 1:23, Paul hopes that the Colossians “continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel”. It is this concern of his that he wrote this epistle to them. In the later part of the epistle, he expresses his concern: “and this I say, lest any man should beguile (迷惑) you with enticing words” (2:4); “beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy (理學) and vain deceit, after the tradition of men (人間的遺傳), after the rudiments of the world (世上的小學), and not after Christ”. (2:8).

Paul has spoken 2 times: “I am made a minister (1:23,25). His ministry is to preach the gospel “to every creature which is under heaven” (1:23), including the Colossians of course. He begins to talk about his current situation and feeling as a prisoner in Rome: “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.” (1:24) In Ephesians, when Paul mentions his ministry, he starts out mentioning his affliction too: “For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles” (E 3:1). Afterward, he says he is a minister of the gospel: “the gospel, whereof I was made a minister(E 3:6-7). He suffers for the Christians, which is clear in both epistles. Here in C 1:24, he mentions again that the church is the body of Christ. In C 1:18, he says Christ is the head of the body, the church. Joy and suffering blend together in Paul’s evangelical experience. In Philippians, Paul says he is afflicted “for the defense of the gospel” and as long as “Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice (Phil 1:17-18). He is willing to share Christ’s suffering unto death for the reason that through “the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; if by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead” (Phil 3:10-11). Christ has indeed suffered so that the church is formed. However, the work of salvation is still under way. The Great Commission of soul-saving until the Lord’s return remains with us as charged by the resurrected Lord in Matt 28:19. We should all share Paul’s commitment to suffer for the body of Christ.

His ministry is given by God: “I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you, to fulfill the word of God” (「我照神為你們所賜我的職分作了教會的執事,要把神的道理傳得全備。」) (1:25). In E 3:2 & 3:7, Paul says similar words: “ye have heard of the dispensation (職份) of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward”, “whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me. Paul’s ministry is to “fulfill the word of God” (「要把神的道理傳得全備」), which is explained in the following verses. “Even the mystery (奧秘) which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to the saints, 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.” (1:26-27) In Ephesians, Paul’s ministry is the same: “by revelation he (God) made known unto me the mystery…which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit, that the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel…I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ.” (E 3:3-8) Christ, in whom are all the riches of glory, is our hope since all God’s promise for us is fulfilled in him. Paul, as an apostle of Christ, received this “mystery” and, as a minister, preaches this gospel among the Gentiles: “whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus” (1:28). We do not just preach, but teach the word of God like Jesus on earth. Jesus in his Great Commission also commands us: teaching them (the believers) to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you”. (Matt 28:20) Paul has set a goal for his ministry: to “present every man perfect in Christ Jesus.” In Ephesians, Paul told us at the very beginning that this is God’s end purpose of saving us: “according as he (God) hath chosen us in him (Christ) before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love.” (E 1:4)

Paul remains faithful as a minister of Christ: “whereunto I also labor, striving according to his working, which worketh in me mightily.” (1:29) In E 3:7-8, Paul says, “I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of his power unto me, who am less than the least of all saints.” Paul admits that it is by God’s power that he takes up his ministry; otherwise he can accomplish nothing in God’s plan.