Meditations in Colossians: 43. Commissioned
Col 1:25 I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness
And so we come full circle. It is interesting to contemplate how Paul went about writing a letter like this, probably dictating it to a scribe-colleague. He must have had an overall idea of what he wanted to communicate and to whom he was writing. Thus, writing to a people he has never met, there are little comments designed to verify who he was and to give credibility and authority to his writing. Thus in the opening line of the letter we found, “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,” and now we find the echo to that, “by the commission God gave me.” No doubt Epaphras would have told them about Paul and the other apostles but time and again, Paul describes himself as one sent by God to bring the Gospel.
In a day when heresies were counter-attacking the true Gospel, it was important for credibility to be established. Although he had written to the Romans, “It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known, so that I would not be building on someone else’s foundation,” (Rom 15:20) he was not averse to backing up his colleagues’ work with letters such as this and along the way he sought to verify his own credentials for writing. In defensive mode with the Corinthians he wrote, “men ought to regard us as servants of Christ and as those entrusted with the secret things of God. Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful. I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself. My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me.” (1 Cor 4:1-4) There he strongly makes the point that he is answerable to God, a servant of Christ, entrusted with the wonders of the revelation of the Gospel.
We see Paul’s commissioning through the message of Ananias: “the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel.” (Acts 9:15,16) Again and again in Scripture we see that it is God who takes the initiative with us. Do you remember His words to Jeremiah: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew (or chose) you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” (Jer 1:5) God knows what we are like and what He can do with us. This, I am certain, is the basis for His choices.
In a wider sense Paul wrote, “In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession–to the praise of his glory.” (Eph 1:11-14) See there the things he says: 1. We were chosen (& predestined) by God. 2. The basis of His choice was His will worked out from before the foundation of the world. 3. This was brought into present day reality when we heard and responded to the Gospel. 4. When we did that he imparted His Holy Spirit to us who gave us a new life and equipped us with gifting to work out the will of God, in and through us today.
When the Lord apprehended Saul (as he then was) on the road to Damascus, He knew Paul’s background – “circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless,” (Phil 3:5,6) – and saw this man who was all out for Him, even though he was misguided, and so He takes him and puts him on the right track so that all of his endeavours from now on will be given over to sharing the Gospel. He had been confronted by the risen Christ and he will never be the same again. Now he knows the truth and the Holy Spirit within him will convey the truth more and more to his understanding.
When he says, “I have become its servant” he refers to the church (from the previous verse). He is part of the Church and as a servant of Christ, he also serves the Church and that is the reason why he now writes. He wants them to grow (v.9-12), not just stand still after their initial salvation. Paul always has a twofold goal: first to bring the Gospel to people for them to be saved, and then for them to grow in their faith, built up as children of God.
It is this that he has in his mind, I suggest, when he says, “to present to you the word of God in its fullness.” The word is first to bring people to Christ, but it doesn’t stop there; the word of truth continues to come to guide and direct and develop and grow and mature people in the faith. The ‘fullness’ of the word is the continuation of the word to bring continual ongoing change in our lives to develop and mature us. A ministry that simply brings people to the Lord and then walks away is inadequate. Our concern should always be that those who come to Christ should now grow in Christ. Being an instrument to bring new birth is excellent but it is only part of the package, for these new believers now need the fullness of God’s word to take them on, bring them knowledge and understanding and help them grow in Him. May it always be so.