Whether or not you make new year’s resolutions, your goal ought to be becoming complete in Christ, as Colossians 1:24–29 tells you. Union with your Savior, Jesus Christ, is crucially important in your life as a believer.
Rejoice in Christ’s presence with you. Rejoice in suffering. Suffering characterizes the life of the Christian, Romans 8:17. But joy, rather than despair, ought to be your attitude. It was Paul’s, verse 24. Paul’s suffering for the church fills up what is lacking of Christ’s afflictions! It is not that Christ’s atoning work is incomplete and needs supplementing, but the union between Christ and his body is so close that the suffering of the church is properly described as Christ’s suffering. The closeness of that union gives joy, even in suffering.
That union is further described as a mystery. Understand the mystery, verse 26. “Mystery” for Paul is not a secret rite or teaching, but something which would have remained hidden but for God’s revealing it. See Romans 16:25.
“[U]nion with Christ is a mystery in the New Testament sense of what has been hidden with God in his eternal purposes but now, finally, has been revealed in Christ, particularly in his death and resurrection, and is appropriated by faith (Rom. 16:25–26; Col. 1:26–27; 2:2).”Richard B. Gaffin Jr., Word and Spirit, p. 560
This mystery had been hidden for ages (think of the limitation of salvation to Israel through the years), but has now been revealed, and that to the Gentiles! Ephesians emphasizes the inclusion of the Gentiles. That mystery was implied when God told Israel that they were his treasured possession, his covenant people, and that they were a “nation of priests.” A priest is a mediator between God and the people. If all Israel is a nation of priests, they stand between God and the nations. It looks back to Abraham. In his line all the nations of the earth would be blessed. But Israel largely let this slip into the background and be ignored. This mystery is not a cryptic theory, but a person, Jesus Christ. And this Christ is in you! Union with Christ is at the heart of salvation. Union with Christ is your justification, your sanctification, your adoption, and your glorification. No matter how weak the church may seem, no matter how strong the foe, Christ is in you. Here the mystery is the hope of glory.
“Salvation in the full biblical sense of the term does not merely start with our personal experience of justification, adoption, sanctification and glorification. Rather, it begins with God’s eternal decree and reaches into a covenant history that culminates in the suffering and glory of Jesus Christ. Each of these benefits of personal salvation in union with Christ—our justified status before God, our adoptive right as God’s children, our new and ongoing sanctification, even our eventual glorification—are all deeply rooted in the historical events of Christ’s humiliation and exaltation.”Camden M. Bucey & Lane G. Tipton, Unfolding Redemption: Exploring the History and Order of Salvation, p. 51
Work towards the hope of glory. Christ in you is your hope of glory. As wonderful as are the great events in the life and ministry of Christ, his incarnation, his life of obedience, his suffering, his death on the cross, and his resurrection, none of these benefit you unless and until he is in you, unless you are untied to him by faith. He has been glorified, but he is in you, and as such is your hope of glory. Thus there is a close connection between suffering and glory, Romans 8:17. In Christ your glory is a sure hope, not just a castle in the clouds.
“Union with Christ is mystical because it is a mystery. That fact that it is a mystery underlines the preciousness of it and the intimacy of the relation it entails.”John Murray, Redemption Accomplished and Applied, p.167
Work towards being complete in Christ. We, the church, together have the responsibility that Paul spoke of–preaching Christ, teaching, admonishing one another. Union with Christ is the motive for holy living. Grasp the centrality of union with Christ, and the incongruity of the position that Christ can be Savior without being Lord becomes clear. The repetition of “everyone” (three times in Greek) in verse 28 emphasizes the universality of the mystery. It is for all Christians (see 1 John 2:20), not just a few initiates. The goal is your being presented complete in Christ, a goal that looks to the final day. That involves hard, tiring work (verse 29), but even here, God supplies the power.
Rejoice that Christ Jesus is in you. And in the power of his presence, move forward in your own Christian life. Move forward in helping the church with its task of proclaiming Christ, of teaching and admonishing every person, with the goal of standing complete before him in the last, great day.