- Locate the Passage
1:24-29 has a tail-head link with 1:21-23, wherein the topic of Paul’s ministry mentioned at the tail of vs. 23 is expanded upon at the head of vs. 24ff. This paragraph is part of the grounds contained in 1:15-2:5 for the exhortations to come in 2:6ff. 1:24-29 is connected logically with 2:1-5 as Paul’s ministry is the topic of both paragraphs. 1:24-29 refers more generally to Paul’s ministry to the Colossians and the church as a whole, whereas 2:1-5 narrow the focus and specifically describes Paul’s ministry among the Colossian and Laodicean churches in particular.
- Identify the Genre
The macro level is epistolary. The micro level is expository.
- Determine the Structure of the Passage
The topic of this paragraph is Paul’s ministry. Structurally, 1:24-29 is one sentence in Greek with four primary headings, each of the last three starting with a relative pronoun. These could be summarized propositionally as follows: “I am rejoicing in my sufferings for you…and am completing what is lacking in Christ’s affliction” (vs. 24); “I have become a minister of the church…to make the Word of God fully known” (vs. 25-27); “We proclaim Him” (vs. 28); and “I labor for this” (vs. 29).
Commentators note the similarity between the content of vs. 25-27 and vs. 28, each of which focus on Paul’s proclamation of the gospel, and thus often group these verses together. Therefore, the paragraph could be divided into three parts: Paul’s suffering on behalf of the church (vs. 24), Paul’s stewardship to proclaim the mystery of the gospel to everyone (vs. 25-28), and Paul’s labor for the sake of producing everyone mature in Christ (vs. 29).
- Exegete the Passage
In a tail-head linkage, the topic of the previous verse (vs. 23), the ministry of Paul, forms the topic of the present paragraph (vs. 24-29), which is an expanded explanation of Paul’s ministry on behalf of the Colossian church, given as grounds or reasoning for the exhortations Paul will give in 2:6ff. Paul will urge the Colossian church to remain faithful to Christ not only on the basis of Christ’s supremacy (1:15-23) but Paul’s faithful ministry among them (1:24-29). Paul will continue this explanation of his ministry in 2:1-5.
Certain to capture the attention of the original recipients, vs. 24 says that Paul’s ministry to the church was a ministry marked by suffering. Vs. 24 contains two present active indicatives describing the nature of Paul’s suffering. First, Paul says, “I am rejoicing in my sufferings for you.” That is, in the midst of Paul’s suffering, he rejoices because it is for their sake. Second, Paul says, “I am completing in my flesh what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for his body, that is, the church.” In addition to the fact that his suffering is for the church’s benefit, Paul saw his suffering as a continuation in some sense of the suffering of Christ, which therefore motivated his rejoicing. What Christ’s suffering was “lacking” is a difficult question to answer, and one perhaps unanswerable. There may be a contextual clue in Paul’s immediate reference to his ministry of gospel proclamation in vs. 25ff, indicating perhaps that the only thing lacking in Christ’s suffering is its renown.
Vs. 25-28 describe the reason and purpose for Paul’s ministry. Paul became a servant (diakonos) of the church (vs. 25) because of the stewardship (oikonomian) God gave him. The infinitive in vs. 25 gives the purpose of Paul’s ministry: “to make the Word of God fully known.” Vs. 26-27 modifies and gives definition to what Paul means by his use of “the Word of God.” Namely, it is the “mystery hidden for ages…but now revealed” (vs. 26). Vs. 27 gives the description of the mystery, that it is “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” Vs. 28 contains a present active indicative: “We proclaim Him.” The relative pronoun’s antecedent is “Christ” in vs. 27. Christ is the content of Paul’s preaching. Vs. 28 contains two participles explaining the manner in which Paul proclaims Christ: by “warning” and “teaching.” Paul’s reference to the Gentiles in vs. 27 and his repetition of the term “everyone” (panta, used three times in vs. 28), emphasizes the fact that Paul’s preaching was to people from every ethnic background, Jew and Gentile alike.
The end of vs. 28 includes a purpose statement, indicated by a hina clause, that functions as both the purpose of Paul’s proclamation in vs. 28 as well as the purpose of Paul’s labor in vs. 29: “so that we may present everyone mature in Christ.” Paul’s goal in preaching was to present every member of the church in maturity to the Lord.
Vs. 29 references this very same purpose in relation to Paul’s labor. Paul uses a preposition and a relative pronoun to connect the statement “I labor” to the preceding purpose of presenting everyone mature in Christ, translated well by the NASB: “For this purpose I labor.” Paul commends his ministry by explaining that he worked hard for the sake of producing maturity in the believers. The participle in vs. 29b describes the means by which Paul was able to labor: “striving according to His power that works powerfully in me.” Paul uses a mnemonic word play to emphasize the power of God that was operative in his ministry: “His power that works powerfully” (energeian auto ten energoumenen). The only way Paul was capable of ministering in the way he did – suffering, proclaiming, and laboring – was because of the power of God at work in him.
- Let the Structure of the Text Drive the Structure of the Sermon
- The faithful minister will suffer for the church (1:24)
- The faithful minister will proclaim the gospel to everyone (1:25-28)
- The faithful minister will labor to present everyone mature in Christ (1:29)