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.
Hang on! Did he just say chains? Why are we just now hearing about this? All of this magisterial manifesto on the mystery of Christ, and only in the last chapter does he tell us he is in prison! This is one of those places where I want to artfully arrange a string of cuss words together for dramatic effect . . . but I won’t.
Go back and read it through again. You won’t find the first word of his unholy accommodations until Domino #4|3. That’s amazing, Paul! And all this time we thought this masterpiece of a letter was flowing out of your morning quiet times from some scenic vista on the Mediterranean Sea.
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. (v. 3)
Here’s the kicker. When Paul asks for prayer for God to open a door for his message, he’s not talking about the door of the prison. He’s not talking about a door for himself at all. He’s talking first and foremost about a door “for our message,” a.k.a. the gospel of Jesus Christ. Note also his use of the plural, “we.” Gospel proclamation is a team sport; think football, not golf. This is not pray for “Paul of Tarsus Apostolic Holy Ghost Ministries dot-com.” Paul has been benched, taken out of the game, sidelined, locked down, and yes, even chained up.
Do you have any ideas how many doors have opened between Paul’s imprisoned pen and today’s reading for this message of the mystery of Christ to reach us? Talk about the domino effect!
And that right there, my friends, is the mystery of Christ. The message of the gospel can’t be reduced to messaging. That’s the mistake we make. The message of the gospel is a mystery. In the worst, darkest, most apparently unfruitful and least-fulfilling moment of Paul’s life, he’s proclaiming the mystery of Christ. And isn’t that the mystery itself—that the apostle Paul, en route to his own cross, can’t stop declaring the wonders of Jesus?
“In Christ” is not a theory for Paul. It’s not a morning devotion. It is his life. The mystery is that the further Paul plunges into the grip of death the higher he rises in the power of the resurrection. I honestly think Paul go so carried away with Jesus in this letter he forgot for a minute he was in prison. That’s the mystery of Christ: death and resurrection!
That’s what I want for you and for me. So many of us are in chains at the moment, of one sort or another. We are tied up by our circumstances or tied down by our problems. We or those we love are facing intractable difficulties. Others of us have become ensnared in sin that will not let go. In fact, many of us are beyond bailing out. It’s time to move beyond Jesus sprinkles, singing songs in church, and putting a tip in the offering plate. It’s time for wholesale abandonment to Jesus—to the mystery of Christ. We must have death and resurrection—not in theory, but in fact.
Again, it makes me want to cuss for the glory of God. But I won’t!
Let’s call Domino #4/3 The Door Opener.
Abba Father, we thank you for your Son, Jesus, who went to prison with Paul and, by the cross, transformed a prison into the witness of the power of the gospel. Do that in my life. Take the mess of my life and of this world and make of it a street-level sanctuary of the holy mystery of Christ, for my good and your glory. We pray in Jesus’ name, amen.
- Did you realize Paul was in prison while he was writing Colossians? How does that impact your reading of it?
- Are you, or is someone you know, facing an intractable imprisoning situation? How will today’s text help you encourage yourself or the other person? How will you pray for the situation?
- Why is it that the hardest times produce the deepest witness of the mystery of Christ?
For the Awakening,