HOLD FAST TO THE SACRED SECRET
April 23, 2012
The Apostle Paul, with the assistance of his faithful companion Timothy, wrote a letter to the brothers in Colossae commending them for faithfully pursuing their hope in connection with the Christ. Paul called their hope the “sacred secret” that had been hid from past generations, but was made manifest with the Christ. And he took the opportunity to encourage and strengthen them in the event some ones sought to draw them away from their precious hope. Let us examine Paul’s letter and find encouragement for ourselves to hold fast to the “sacred secret.”
In Chapter 1, Paul begins with thanksgiving, and an acknowledgment of the powerful effect the heavenly hope can have:
“We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all God’s people— the faith and love that spring from the hope stored up for you in heaven and about which you have already heard in the true message of the gospel that has come to you. In the same way, the gospel is bearing fruit and growing throughout the whole world—just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and truly understood God’s grace.”
– Colossians 1:3-6
Only an accurate knowledge of the hope “reserved in the heavens” leads to true faith and love for one another. Paul gives the reason for this:
“For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with allpower according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”
– Colossians 1:9-14
When a person understands their true relationship with the Father and the glorious hope held out to them, it sparks a fire of devotion. No longer is that person living for self, trying to get by, tolerating one another, or ‘hanging on until the end of the system.’ They are released from a guilty conscious and given a power beyond what is normal supplemented by an experience of deep joy. They have a true and genuine connection with the Father, a conviction to be like Him in all their dealings, a burning desire to be with Him, and a profound reason to be long-suffering toward all.
Jesus revealed this wonderful hope to us, not as a mere messenger, but as a participant in its development and the exemplar of its possibilities. Paul said of Jesus:
“The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.”
– Colossians 1:15-20
Even though at one time, we were not aware of this glorious hope, we have the confidence that all of the promises associated with the heavenly hope will be realized for us individually. Our only obligation is to remain faithful to this hope, not letting it be drowned out by the pursuit of fleshly things or replaced by some other “so called good news.” Sharing this hope was the whole reason for Paul’s ministry:
“Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation— if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant.”
– Colossians 1:21-23
Paul was excited and impressed by this sacred secret. He was privileged to share it with others, and to uplift them from their pitiful station as mere slaves of God, as were those of past generations, to sons of God in complete union with Christ:
“I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness— the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the Lord’s people. 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. He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may presenteveryone fully mature in Christ. To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me.”
– Colossians 1:25-29
The sacred secret of the heavenly hope in union with the Christ is offered to everyone. The Father and his Christ are no respecter of persons!
In Chapter 2, Paul expressed how much he wanted to share this encouragement face to face so as to prevent them from becoming deluded with non-spiritual arguments:
“I want you to know how hard I am contending for you and for those at Laodicea, and for all who have not met me personally. My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches ofcomplete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments. For though I am absent from you in body, I am present with you in spirit and delight to see how disciplined you are and how firm your faith in Christ is.”
– Colossians 2:1-5
He counseled, them to be steadfast in their hope (2:6-7), because some might attempt to lead them to another hope based on human philosophy and traditions, according to calculations in the minds of worldly thinkers:
“See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ. For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form.”
– Colossians 2:8-9
Paul wanted them to know that they did not need human interpretations or philosophy to supplement the sacred secret. For all that is necessary is contained within the Christ. If we imitate fully Jesus’ example in his character, his personality, his faith, his worship of the Father, and his deeds and actions, we have the fullness of all that is contained in the sacred secret. (Please see our article “The Faith and Religion of Jesus” for a further discussion of our exemplar.) No supplemental knowledge is necessary to attain to our hope.
“And in Christ you have been brought to fullness. He is the head over every power and authority. In him you were also circumcised with a circumcision not performed by human hands. Your whole self ruled by the flesh was put off when you were circumcised by Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through your faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead.”
– Colossians 2:10-12
The circumcision spoken of by Paul here is not the circumcision usually performed on male infants, but it is nevertheless a fitting illustration. According to Jewish tradition, once the foreskin is removed after a circumcision, it must be buried in the ground. One of the reasons for this is that the foreskin is considered to contain within it “the maximum concentration of negative energy.” This is why Paul used this analogy. A Christian is counseled to strip away the unclean desires of flesh (the part of us that contains the highest concentration of negative energy) and bury it with our baptism so that we are raised up anew – born again. We are to bury the unclean desires which are identified further at Colossians 3:5-9. As a result:
“When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.”
– Colossians 2:13-15
In addition to our stripping away the unclean fleshly desires, the Christ blotted out the Law Covenant which had made it impossible for us to stand before the Father with a clean conscience.
“This is an illustration for the present time, indicating that the gifts and sacrifices being offered were not able to clear the conscience of the worshiper.”
– Hebrews 9:9
Stripping the governments and authorities bare carries two connotations: (1) it means that the authority of our flesh to dictate our behavior is taken away with the burial of our unclean fleshly desires; and (2) it means that ‘against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms’ (Ephesians 6:12), are stripped from any power to manipulate us since they have no power over our spiritual nature.
Either way, by means of the sacred secret, we are safeguarded from all sorts of attacks if we remain faithful to our calling. Paul continues:
“Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you. Such a person also goes into great detail about what they have seen; they are puffed up with idle notions by their unspiritual mind. They have lost connection with the head, from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow.”
– Colossians 2:16-19
When we understand and accept the sacred secret of our heavenly calling, we are not to let anyone who makes a pretense of righteousness, and stands determined by his fleshly thinking, convince us that we are not worthy of the prize of the upward call. Instead we go on growing together, all the more so in the spirit of the Father. Paul further advises that any other way of attempting to gain a clean conscience is nothing more than mock humility and of no value. (Colossians 2:20-23)
In Chapter 3, Paul reminds us to Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” (3:2) and to deaden our unclean fleshly desires (3:5-9). Instead, we are to clothe ourselves with the new personality, ‘which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.’(3:10). As part of our hope, we are admonished:
“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”
– Colossians 3:12-14
All of us who accept the gift of the heavenly hope are part of one body. We must therefore be bonded with love. Paul advised:
“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”
– Colossians 3:15-17
In Chapter 4, Paul concludes with matters of daily concerns. While we keep our minds on heavenly things, we must still care for our earthly families and relationships. Paul offered counsel to wives, husbands, fathers, mothers, children, slaves, and masters, to do all things whole-souled as to Jehovah and not to men, for it is the Father who will reward us. (3:18-25)
Finally, Paul advised:
“Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should.”
– Colossians 4:2-4
Yes, brothers, it is imperative that we speak the sacred secret about the Christ to all, first to our ‘least ones’ who have not learned that the sacred secret is also for them, and then to the world. Before giving his farewell greetings, Paul concluded:
“Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.”
– Colossians 4:5-6
We pray that all of us will take this counsel to heart. First, understand the sacred secret and gain accurate knowledge about it, put away the works and the unclean desires of the flesh, care for our friends and families, stand firm in our hope, and tell others about the sacred secret of the heavenly hope held out to all so that the body of Christ will be strong and united in a bond of love. The sacred secret is the most important message in the history of mankind. Let us be a part of promoting it, all to the glory of our Father and his Christ.
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