Christ The Glorious Hope
1. Today we are offering up a worship service which commemorates the sixth anniversary since the sanctuary was built in the Toyonaka section [of Osaka] at Okamachi [street]. We have offered up worship gathering together in this place every single week never missing even one week. This is not some natural [occurence but happened] because of none other than God's grace. As we sense the Lord's grace I would like for us on this day to think deeply once again about the meaning of the sanctuary getting built at this location.
Filling Up Where Christ's Suffering Lacks
2. So because we are in worship, it is clear that the central focus of this building is a sanctuary or worship hall. It is a building for gathering together and worshipping. This means that forming a fellowship in which people gather here and worship God is a prerequisite of the existence of this building. Of course, there are some who are unable to gather in this place due to their advanced age. But, it doesn't change the fact that what binds them together is the fellowship of the co-operative body offering worship and gathering together week after week. Or, we could call this fellowship a family. That is because we look during worship to the same Father God and not because we are so called "of the [same] family."
3. Also, this small fellowship [or] this small family is part of the large family spread through out the world. This large family spans many periods of time, believes on Jesus Christ, and is a gathering of those who have been made into children of God. This large family is called the church. Therefore, the small fellowship right here is called both church and a small family.
4. Well, there was a town by the name of Colossae [situated] in the inland section of modern Turkey. There was a church in it as well, like us, which gathered together and worshiped the Lord. (It is believed, though, that their situation was quite different from ours.) Paul wrote an epistle to that church. We have now been reading it here.
5. As we look at chapter one and verse one it says "Paul," who wrote this, "was made an apostle of Christ Jesus through the will of God." He was made an apostle of Christ and served him. This was a work that included suffering. [Among his sufferings] there were specific persecutions and difficult problems among the various churches. But, it says in the text that Paul "made joy" out of his suffering. This [joy came] because he was serving Christ and he had suffered for Christ.
6. But, interestingly enough Paul was not just saying here that he was "suffering for Christ." He uses a much more extreme expression. "I have filled up with my body the places where Chirst's suffering was missing." Of course, he was not trying to say that "Christ's suffering was not sufficient." Essentially it is believed he was saying that "I am sharing the same sufferings as Christ."
7. So then, what are "the sufferings of Christ?" Is it the suffering for the redemption of sins according to the cross? No, the suffering for the redemption of sin was totally completed in Christ and there was no room for Paul to go in. Paul already had recorded this fact in this epistle (1:22). Christ by himself alone bore the sins of every person. Christ alone took the judgment of God the Father. Christ alone suffered and he alone died. Christ alone redeemed our sins for us. The work of redemption for sin is entirely the work of Christ and there is no room for human beings to participate in [that work of redemption].
8. So, what are the sufferings of Christ which are written about here? We only are thinking about this in contrast to "What were the sufferings of Paul?" Paul suffered for the task he was given. His task was to "fully pass on the word to you," (verse twenty-five). Also, he said that "Making a thorough use of knowledge [I] admonish all persons and teaches all persons to be joined to Christ and become perfected. I labor hard for this purpose..." (verses twenty-eight and twenty-nine). This is the task of preaching and the duty to form churches. Therefore, we understand that the suffering of Christ was also a suffering in order for the word to be proclaimed to this world and for churches to be formed. Christ suffered for the church, which is his body. Paul participated in that suffering with his own body.
9. This shows two important things for us as well. To begin with, number one, this shows the fact that "sufferings will be included when churches are formed in this world." The forming of a church in this world is not something natural. Just because there is a sanctuary a church is not automatically put together; for, the church is a different kind of entity as far as this world goes. This world does not worship the Lord. This world does not love the Lord. This world does not try to follow the Lord. In such a world as this, in order for a fellowship to exist which worships the Lord, loves the Lord and attempts to obey the Lord, we should expect hard work, difficulties, and pain to be included. If it were the same stuff as this world, there would be no hardships included when it was formed. To say it another way, we can no longer call something the church that can be formed without including any kind of pain, which makes no distincition between this world, which is nothing more than part of this world and which can be assimilated into this world. Paul said, "You should not imitate this world. Instead, please make your heart new, have yourself changed, and discern between what is the will of God, what is good, pleasing to God and is perfect," (Romans 12:2).
10. And secondly it shows the one who suffered for the church to be formed was Christ himself. At first in the beginning there was not any hard labor on the part of humanity. Christ first worked hard and suffered. He let us join in [the work of the church] and he let us work hard together. That is where Paul's joy was and where our joy should also be.
11. Whether we know in advance or not that these sufferings of Christ are to be present will make a decisive difference in our faith life. I can't help but say it is rather strange that a believer would be apathetic towards the church the body of Christ despite the fact Christ suffered on behalf of the proclamation of the gospel and the formation of the church and the fact that he labored hard for the growth and the perfection of the church. We can't help but say how mistaken they are that while neglectful of the sufferings of Christ, they would only be concerned with "What happiness will the church offer to me? What kind of pleasures will it bring me? What advantages and disadvantages will the church [bring] to me? Will it serve my purposes or not?" For Paul, serving Christ was nothing other than "serving the church" as is in verse twenty-five specifically
To Become A Complete Person Joined To Christ
12. So, what in the world was this preaching and forming of churches which Paul was toiling to do as he suffered with Christ here [in this text]? Let's take a look together at the contents of this [matter].
13. As I touched upon earlier, Paul's task was "to fully pass on the word to you." To ask what that message was [that he was to pass on], it was "the hidden plan" which is written in verse twenty-six. "The hidden plan" is "a secret [or mystery, hidden purpose]" in the [Japanese] Bible Society Version. When we say "secret" it may give association to the idea of something that is secretive closed off by a special group of people. Actually, this word was used in the mystery religions of that time. But, the meaning Paul is giving it here is of an entirely different situation. This is something that has already had its veil [of secrecy] removed by God and should be passed on in proclamation.
14. How should we define this mystery? Wait, this question is not being asked accurately. Because the Bible does not deal with defining "what" the mystery is, but "who" it is. "His plan (mystery, secret, hidden purpose) is defined as Christ who is in you, the glorious hope," (verse twenty-seven).
15. God's will of salvation was totally manifested through one person alone. Through one single individual going to death on the cross and to resurrection and by the story in which Christ came to live again, it was completely made known. Through Christ the sin of this world and the sins of those human beings who are in opposition against God were made plainly evident. In addition, through Christ God's forgiveness was manifested. God reconciled all creation to himself through his son, (verse twenty). The mystery is defined as this single individual [person called the Lord Jesus Christ]. Thus, Paul, who had been speaking of the passing on of the message of God [to others] as his own personal task, says here that "This Christ, we do indeed proclaim [him]."
16. Also, when Christ is proclaimed, Christ no longer remains in a past existence of life. As a living individual Christ meets with other persons. Through the working of the Holy Spirit a meeting takes place between the living Christ and a man or a woman. Also, Christ remains on [or abides] within those who believe. According to the text it says, "Christ who is within you." It says the following words in verse twenty-one in regards to the word "you [plural]" given in the snippet above. "You used to be separated from God and used to fight against God in your hearts by your evil deeds." That's the kind of "you" this stands for. Since they used to fight against God, this "you" was helplessly under God's condemnation and fit for destruction. It was a "you" of sinners. But, Christ met with us sinners. And he came into us sinners.
17. Thus in that way Christ, through the word of proclamation and by the working of the Holy Spirit, met with even us and came inside of us. And by this Christ we obtain redemption, namely the forgiveness of sins. That's what it says in chapter one and verse fourteen. Because there is forgiveness of sin wherever Christ is, there is reconciliation between God and a person wherever Christ is. Reconciliation between God and humans first came true through Christ when he established peace between God and humans by the blood of his cross. Because without the forgiveness of sin reconciliation with God would be impossible. In addition, we can locate true hope precisely in that place where reconciliation with God is. Consequently, Christ is called "the glorious hope."
18. No one can go on living without hope. Consequently, in order for a person to have hope he or she repeatedly goes through every which kind of attempt at things. But, as one goes through his or her hopes, he or she doesn't want to look in the distance; for, he or she knows that in looking at the long run his or her hope will run out. Because by going through repetitious attempts at things he or she knows the future to which he or she will end up at will never be clear. At the least, whenever one looks behind, one thinks the appearance of death lies solemnly back there in the [past]. Therefore, while they were trying hard to have hope, they have really been trying with everything they got to deceive themselves.
19. We would not expect anyone to obtain true hope in a state of having their backs turned to God and burdened with a debt of sin unreconciled to God. Therefore, [you should know that] the Christ, indeed, who brings forth forgiveness of sin and reconciliation with God, is "the glorious hope." When a person is with him, he or she will first obtain the hope of glory. They will come to see the amazing light in the far future. [No longer] hindered by death, they see the light of hope which takes part in the eternal glory of God.
20. Because of this hope, a believer is heading for the perfection of his or her salvation. The message preached or the passing on of Christ in our messages is not to remain a message which brings forth reconciliation with God, but seeks for those in Christ to head towards the perfection of their salvation. Paul said it like this, "Making a thorough use of knowledge [I] admonish all persons and teaches all persons to be joined to Christ and become perfected," (verse twenty-eight). This word for "perfect person" does mean "you have no defects or imperfections," but rather is a word that stands for "a matured adult."
21. If the case is that becoming a Christian means to be born again, it should come as no surprise if when we are first born we are like little babies [in need of] milk. But, if we were to stay babies, that would be very unhealthful. As far as the kind of words that have said, "I used to be on fire with enthusiasm," they are not meaningless words in the church. The faith life is an unending process heading for perfection. Growth is expected in our faith life and maturity as a believer is to be sought after. This is exactly what it is meant by "That their hearts be encouraged, they be united by love, they be abundantly given the power to understand, and they see Christ the hidden plan of God intuitively" as we have in chapter two and verse two.
22. The hard labor of preaching surely moves towards this singular point. This is the very meaning of why we have set up a sanctuary, we meet week after week, and the church was formed. Christ the glorious hope is proclaimed here in this place as well. Christ the glorious hope is heard of in this place. Meetings between Christ the glorious hope and humans take place [here]. Christ the hope of glory and persons get connected [here]. In addition, those who get joined to Christ the hope of glory walk together through the process of knowing Christ and as they head for the hope of glory the live in unison seeking for perfection as believers.
23. "Because you have received the Lord Christ Jesus, please walk joined to Chirst. Please firmly keep the faith according to what you were taught, rooted and built up in Christ, and please give only an overflowing thanks," (Colossians 2:6-7).