21 And you who were once estranged and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22he has now reconciled* in his fleshly body* through death, so as to present you holy and blameless and irreproachable before him— 23provided that you continue securely established and steadfast in the faith, without shifting from the hope promised by the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven. I, Paul, became a servant of this gospel.
24 I am now rejoicing in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am completing what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church. 25I became its servant according to God’s commission that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, 26the mystery that has been hidden throughout the ages and generations but has now been revealed to his saints. 27To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. 28It is he whom we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone in all wisdom, so that we may present everyone mature in Christ. 29For this I toil and struggle with all the energy that he powerfully inspires within me.
Still addressing the Colossians – Paul says “you who were once estranged and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds” – These Gentiles had not come to know Christ from a life that was without fault or blemish; they had been estranged from God in their brokenness and sin, in their hostility. They had even done evil things. This is the human condition; it applies to us all. And yet, Christ has now reconciled them, and us, to God through his human death on the cross – so that they (we) might be with him in his divine resurrection, blameless and irreproachable, for Christ himself has taken on the burden of their (our) sinfulness. We too, who were broken and imperfect before we knew Christ, or before we yielded to his will, before we accepted his redemption, we were estranged and hostile. But Christ, in his cross, has reconciled us to relationship with God as well. But note: There is a “provided” there – it is not a “once saved, always saved” situation; not a “born again, now I am done” situation. Paul tells the Colossians they must remain steadfast in the faith; they must not shift from the hope of the gospel proclaimed to them.
Paul himself is a servant of this gospel. In other places he says a prisoner for this gospel. Paul considers his suffering to be a part of Christ’s suffering (“I am completing”); he is not saying that Christ’s suffering is insufficient or lacking, but that all suffering for Christ becomes a part of Christ’s suffering, and that all is for the sake of the Church, which is Christ’s body. Paul was called to be a servant of this gospel, and he never regrets that calling, although it brings him suffering. He is bringing the message of God to people who never knew him – he is revealing a mystery that had been kept hidden through time, until the time was right. This mystery was that God had all along intended to redeem all people, Gentile as well as Jew. The glory, or beauty, of this mystery is that it is all about Christ in us, for in being one with him, we find our hope. Paul’s toil and struggle is to bring this gospel to all people, so that we may all be presented as fully mature Christians.