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 of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
When we see a writer of Scripture use the two words, “my purpose,” we should lean forward a bit because we are about to find gold. Of course all Scripture is gold, but I think we can agree there are those extra 24-karat gold deposits.
Colossians 2:2–3 served as the focus of my work for over a decade as I pastored the community of preparing pastors at Asbury Theological Seminary. For our team, this text served as the focus and force behind our work in forming a community that formed men and women into mature followers of Jesus Christ. We developed a shorthand, or symbol, among our team that we used in all manner of signs: 2:2. Yes, the whole domino effect idea began with #2/2.
Colossians 2:2 became “our goal” and the organizing principle of what a growing community of growing people should look like. Let’s break down the passage and take a closer look.
1. “Know the mystery.” Let’s begin with the end in mind. As with all his churches, Paul wanted the Colossians to know something beyond what mere knowledge could convey to them. After all, a mystery is a mystery because it is unknowable in the conventional sense. Knowing a mystery is something of an oxymoron, isn’t it?
2. “The mystery is Jesus Christ.” More specifically, just a couple of verses back, Paul told us the mystery, long hidden and now revealed, is Christ in you (Col. 1:27). This is indeed a mystery, and Paul points it out because it is the proverbial gold mine of all gold mines: Christ, “in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (2:3). The very meaning of life is hidden in this mystery: Christ in you. We can stop our quest for all the false treasure that isn’t treasure because the true treasure, real wealth, unsurpassed riches, even, is now available to us.
3. The way is together. Here’s the part that is not apparent to those of us who happen to be twenty-first century Americans. When Paul identifies the mystery as “Christ in you,” what he really means is “Christ in y’all.” The you, as is the case so often in the New Testament, is plural. The New Testament rarely addresses me as an isolated, individuated, privatized person. To be sure, God addresses me personally, but my identity is not primarily as an individual. In fact, this is more a sign of my brokenness. I simply cannot know who I am outside of my relationship with God. And here’s the kicker: I can’t know God apart from other people. That’s where we want to push back.
4. This explains Paul’s goal: “My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love” (v. 2a). Paul understands his task as that of crafting courageous communities of profound love. Love is the means and the end, the way and the goal, the beginning and the end. The biblical idea of love has no meaning outside of relationship. For the gospel to be the gospel, it requires a community of people, and even two or three will do. The gospel advances on the supernatural power of courageous love.
5. Note Paul’s emphatic redundancy: not just riches, but “full riches,” and not just understanding” but “complete understanding.” Paul is reaching for something that can hardly be expressed in words. He’s trying to tell us there is something we are missing and will miss until we find one another “in Christ,” which is to say together enjoying the fellowship of the Holy Spirit.
6. This is why banding together is so critical if we are going to sow for a great awakening. “Christ in you” only comes to full expression when it becomes “Christ in y’all,” or as my more Southern colleagues point out, “Christ in all y’all!” This will not happen in our churches in any significant way until it begins to happen significantly in many small ways, that is, with a growing number of small bands of people who become “encouraged in heart and united in love.”
Okay, I’ll just show you my cards. That’s “my goal” for you—encouraged in heart and united in love . . . banded together to sow for a great awakening. And all this time you thought this was a daily devotion.
Abba Father, we thank you for your Son, Jesus, who with you and the Holy Spirit band together to show us the perfect picture of what encouraged in heart and united in love looks like. Band us together in the same way you are banded together, that you might awaken the world through our love. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.
1. What do you think of the implications of “Christ in y’all” versus “Christ in you?”
2. How will we overcome our deep formation as privatized individuals in order to express the gospel as God intends—through our relationships?
3. Are you in a band, or do you need a band? Are you open to banding in the way I am talking about?
For the Awakening,