Author: Ron Graham
There is a phrase in Colossians 1:27 that echoes in your soul whenever you read it. "Christ in you, the hope of glory."
Paul expresses the relationship between us and Christ in two ways: —“Christ in”, and —“in Christ”. This seems to be the best way that Paul can indicate the closeness of our spiritual relationship.
This relationship echoes Christ’s own expression of his relationship with the Father, "I am in the Father and the Father in me" (John 14:11).
This is not a normal way to express a relationship. A person would not usually say, "I am in my mother" or "My friend is in me" when speaking of a very close relationship with mother or friend.
Yet Paul speaks of "brethren in Christ" (Colossians 1:2) and uses the phrase "Christ in you..." (Colossians 1:27).
This manner of speech is simple yet profound. You cannot get much simpler and shorter a word than "in" yet Paul makes it express the most profound relationship that exists.
"God willed to make known among the nations the riches of the glory of this mystery which has been hidden from ages and generations but now has been revealed to his saints. It is Christ in you the hope of glory." (Colossians 1:26-27).
In this and the next lesson, we take that phrase as a key idea in the letter to Colossians. We will look mainly at the first two chapters, in the light of that phrase, along with certain key verses from the twin epistle, Ephesians. We are going to consider three glorious privileges that our association with Jesus Christ bestows upon us to give substance and assurance to our hope.
Christians are "adopted as sons of God through Jesus Christ" (Ephesians 1:5). We have nothing less than a familial (family) relationship and union with God, by our association with his Son.
This lovely thought is brought out in various ways in the letter to the Colossians.
Colossians 1:2 "...to the saints and faithful brethren in Christ who are at Colossae". The word "brethren" is a plural form of "brother", and especially refers to brothers in Christ. In this sense the word is not gender specific, but is used generically to include both brothers and sisters in Christ as one undivided brotherhood or family.
Colossians 1:4,8. Paul commends the Colossians for having gained a reputation for love to all the members of God's spiritual family. He says, "I heard of your love for all the saints... your love in the Spirit". A family without love is not much of a family. Among Christians there is a most special familial love.
Colossians 1:12 Paul speaks of "the inheritance of the saints in light". A privilege that family members enjoy is that they are heirs with a right to an inheritance. Whilst this might not be true for everyone in every earthly family, it is true for everyone in the family of God. And what an inheritance! In our main text Paul speaks of "the riches of the glory" (Colossians 1:27), and that is what we share in forever.
Colossians 1:21 "You were formerly alienated... yet now he has reconciled you." A person without an earthly family, or a person who has been excommunicated from an earthly family, can feel very very alone in the world. How much worse is the sin-caused alienation from the family of God. The death of Christ enables reconciliation with God and a welcome back into "the whole family in heaven and in earth" (Ephesians 3:14-21).
Note —EXCOMMUNICATE means to cut off from fellowship, to cast out, disinherit.
All of us need to feel that we belong to a "great family" and that on our path we are not alone but in a great company of brothers and sisters bound together in love. This sense of belonging is absolutely important. Its opposite is a feeling of alienation and loneliness. People today feel a deep need not just for identification and attachment to a group, but a deep melding with fellow beings. The problem really is alienation from God because of sin. Jesus shed his blood to reconcile us to God and his household (Ephesians 2:13,16-19).
Colossians 3:12 In the third chapter, Paul describes Christians as "chosen of God, holy and beloved" . Most of us belong to an earthly family by birth. However some children are adopted. Adopted children are often told by their parents, "You are a special child because we chose you especially for our own." Sometimes Christians are represented as those who, like the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32), left God's family but later returned. Sometimes Christians are represented as those who are "born again" (John 3:3). However Christians are also represented as "adopted sons" (Ephesians 1:5). This emphasises that we are chosen and accepted by God because of Christ.
Whilst our fellowship in God's family is true and glorious, this does not give us a reason to neglect the earthly family to which we may belong. If we are members of two families — an earthly one as well as the heavenly one — then let us balance our duties to both families without letting one rob the other of its due. In the letter to Colossians we find God requiring proper attention to earthly family needs (Colossians 3:18 to 4:1).