Ministry for Mission: Ministry Outcomes (2)
To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus. To this end I also labor, striving according to His working which works in me mightily. Colossians 1.27-29
“What he had said as to the Gentiles generally he applies to the Colossians themselves, that they may more effectually recognize in themselves the grace of God, and may embrace it with greater reverence. He says, therefore, which is Christ, meaning by this, that all that secret is contained in Christ, and that all the riches of heavenly wisdom are obtained by them when they have Christ, as we shall find him stating more openly a little afterwards. He adds, in you, because they now possess Christ, from whom they were lately so much estranged, that nothing could exceed it. Lastly, he calls Christ the hope of glory, that they may know that nothing is wanting to them for complete blessedness when they have obtained Christ.”
- John Calvin, Commentary on Colossians 1.27
Glory among the Gentiles
The Jews of Paul’s day were accustomed to thinking of the glory of God as residing primarily in the temple in Jerusalem. There the sacrifices were prepared. There the ark of the covenant lodged. There the incense burned, priests ministered, and singing rose to the Lord continuously. All these things were meant as symbols of and means to engage the very presence of God – the glory of God – and to reinforce the national self-image of Israel as sole possessors of God Himself.
The idea that the glory of God might be manifest to and among the Gentiles was, for Jews of that day, repugnant. Their temple granted a kind of secondary status to seeking Gentiles – the court of the Gentiles – but forbade their entering the sacred places. How could such people ever know or experience or express the glory of God? No wonder the Jews persecuted Paul so violently wherever he went. They saw him as robbing them of sole rights to the glory of God, debasing them with the Gentile dogs, and bringing street mutts into the elite kennel club of Israel (cf. Acts 21.26-29).
What is clear from all this is that (1) the Jews did not understand the teaching of Scripture concerning God’s plan for His glory; and (2) they didn’t realize that the glory of God was not something to be ginned up by human rituals, but is instead bestowed by God’s coming to dwell with men, to make Himself known to and through them in every aspect and facet of their lives. God had clearly explained, both through Moses and the prophet Habakkuk, that His intention had always been that the knowledge of His glory should cover the earth as the waters cover the seas (Num. 14.21; Hab. 2.14). This would include the Gentiles, who were commanded to give worship to God, just as Israel was commanded to enlarge the space of God’s tent to accommodate them (Ps. 117; Is. 54.1-5). And they had forgotten that, in making His glory known, God didn’t need their elaborate rituals and ceremonies. He Who could show Himself on a smoke-covered, tremor-struck mountain, as well as on the face of a humble servant, can reveal His glory when and however He will.
But Paul understood. He knew that the glory of God had been fully invested in Jesus Christ. He had experienced that glory on the Damascus Road, and it knocked him to the ground and to his senses. He came to understand that Christ in every believer is the hope of glory – of glory experienced and glory expressed. That believers in Jesus stand and rejoice in the hope of glory (Rom. 5.1, 2), that the Spirit of God leads them into the presence of God’s glory (2 Cor. 3.12-18), that the glory of God is sufficient to give joy even in the midst of trials (Rom. 5.3), and that every detail of our lives has the potential to radiate the glory of God, just as it radiated from the face of Moses, at every moment and in every situation of our lives (1 Cor. 10.31). And he would doubtless have agreed with Peter, that such glory – experienced and expressed – would advertise to the watching world a hope so compelling, that many would be led to ask a reason for it (1 Pet. 3.15).
And the reason, of course, is Jesus.
All for Jesus?
When I was preaching, it was our practice as a congregation to recommit ourselves to Christ by singing a response to our having been in His Presence, before we returned to our Personal Mission Fields. I would pronounce the benediction and the congregation would sing in unison:
All for Jesus! all for Jesus!
All my being’s ransomed pow’rs;
All my thoughts and words and doings,
All my days and all my hours.
When we have been in the presence of God, brought there by His Word and Spirit, seated with Jesus in heavenly places, we will experience the world-transcending glory of God, that beauty of holiness which is unlike anything else, and which can only be known in the eternal God. That glory reflects into our souls and works by holy spiritual power to make us more like Jesus, here a little, there a little. Then it refracts through us so that, whatever we do – whether eating or drinking or whatever we do – the Presence of God is expressedthrough us, showing Jesus in all our thoughts and words and doings and days and hours.
This is what Paul sought for the people to whom God had sent him as a minister of the Word. He preached Jesus. He taught and instructed every believer, with all the sanctified skill he possessed, so that he might present every person to whom his ministry extended as complete in Christ; and every church for which he had oversight as a unified and mature congregation, complete in Jesus and His love (Eph. 4.16).
All Paul’s ministry, in other words, was all for Jesus, that more and more of Jesus, and the hope of glory that in Him resides, might be the experience and expression of every believer and every and church.
To this end, Paul wrote, “I also labor, striving according to His working which works in me mightily.” Everything Paul did in ministry was all for Jesus. And it was hard work – agonizing work, as he puts it (κοπιῶἀγωνιζόμενος), work that required the inward energy of the working Spirit of Christ. Work that was undertaken mightily, and by no means in a routine or merely work-to-rule manner.
When ministers are filled with Jesus, working as unto Jesus, seeking to bring Jesus to completion in everyone, and striving mightily to grow their congregations in the hope of glory that is in Jesus, we can only believe that Jesus Himself will be present to honor and energize those efforts and, make Himself known in them.
But let our expectations be mighty – more than we have ever dared to ask or think (Eph. 3.20); more than what we might aspire to by comparing ourselves with one another (2 Cor. 10.20); more than can be measured by numbers alone (1 Sam. 14.6; 2 Cor. 4.16-18); more than just a commitment to Jesus during the religious hours and activities of our lives – He is Lord of all. Let our expectations be that, as we call the people of God to all-for-Jesus living, as we work to build our congregations into the true Body of Christ, as we go in mission to our community – as believers and as a congregation – that we will go from daily and weekly experiences of God’s glory to daily expressions of that glory in all our thoughts and words and doings and days and hours, showing the hope of glory to a world, trapped the morass of self and steeped in the stench of stuff.
When Christ, the hope of glory, is the aim of all our ministry and lives, the realityof glory – the knowledge of the glory of the Lord – will begin to brighten and fill the spaces of our lives and communities by the power that is at work within us.
Habakkuk intimates, that the glory of God would be so much known that it would not only fill the world, but in a manner overflow it: as the waters of the sea by their vast quantity cover the deep, so the glory of God would fill heaven and earth, so as to have no limits. If, at the same time, there be a wish to extend this sentence to the coming of Christ, I do not object: for we know that the grace of redemption flowed in a perpetual stream until Christ appeared in the world.
- John Calvin, Commentary on Habakkuk 2.14
Lead your men to pray for revival
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Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Unless otherwise indicated, quotes from Church fathers are from The Ancient Christian Commentary Series (InterVarsity Press).
The Hope of Glory
- T.M. Moore
- September 12, 2019
In the church, the hope of glory becomes the reality of glory.
Ministry for Mission: Ministry Outcomes (2)
T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT.