The Apostle Paul, with the assistance of his faithful companion Timothy, wrote a letter to the brothers in Colossae commending them for faithfully pursuing their hope in connection with the Christ. Paul called their hope the “sacred secret” that had been hid from past generations, but was made manifest with the Christ. And he took the opportunity to encourage and strengthen them in the event some ones sought to draw them away from their precious hope. Let us examine Paul’s letter and find encouragement for ourselves to hold fast to the “sacred secret.”

In Chapter 1, Paul begins with thanksgiving, and an acknowledgment of the powerful effect the heavenly hope can have:

“We thank God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ always when we pray for you, since we heard of your faith in connection with Christ Jesus and the love you have for all the holy ones because of the hope that is being reserved for you in the heavens. This [hope] you heard of before by the telling of the truth of that good news which has presented itself to you, even as it is bearing fruit and increasing in all the world just as [it is doing] also among you, from the day you heard and accurately knew the undeserved kindness of God in truth.”
– Colossians 1:3-6

Only an accurate knowledge of the hope “reserved in the heavens” leads to true faith and love for one another. Paul gives the reason for this:

“That is also why we, from the day we heard [of it], have not ceased praying for you and asking that you may be filled with the accurate knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual comprehension, in order to walk worthily of Jehovah to the end of fully pleasing [him] as you go on bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the accurate knowledge of God, being made powerful with all power to the extent of his glorious might so as to endure fully and be long-suffering with joy, thanking the Father who rendered you suitable for your participation in the inheritance of the holy ones in the light. He delivered us from the authority of the darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of the Son of his love, by means of whom we have our release by ransom, the forgiveness of our sins.”
– Colossians 1:9-14

When a person understands their true relationship with the Father and the glorious hope held out to them, it sparks a fire of devotion. No longer is that person living for self, trying to get by, tolerating one another, or ‘hanging on until the end of the system.’ They are released from a guilty conscious and given a power beyond what is normal supplemented by an experience of deep joy. They have a true and genuine connection with the Father, a conviction to be like Him in all their dealings, a burning desire to be with Him, and a profound reason to be long-suffering toward all.

Jesus revealed this wonderful hope to us, not as a mere messenger, but as a participant in its development and the exemplar of its possibilities. Paul said of Jesus:

“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; because by means of him all [other] things were created in the heavens and upon the earth, the things visible and the things invisible, no matter whether they are thrones or lordships or governments or authorities. All [other] things have been created through him and for him. Also, he is before all [other] things and by means of him all [other] things were made to exist, and he is the head of the body, the congregation. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that he might become the one who is first in all things; because [God] saw good for all fullness to dwell in him, and through him to reconcile again to himself all [other] things by making peace through the blood [he shed] on the torture stake, no matter whether they are the things upon the earth or the things in the heavens.”
– Colossians 1:15-20

Even though at one time, we were not aware of this glorious hope, we have the confidence that all of the promises associated with the heavenly hope will be realized for us individually. Our only obligation is to remain faithful to this hope, not letting it be drowned out by the pursuit of fleshly things or replaced by some other “so called good news.” Sharing this hope was the whole reason for Paul’s ministry:

“Indeed, you who were once alienated and enemies because your minds were on the works that were wicked, he now has again reconciled by means of that one’s fleshly body through [his] death, in order to present you holy and unblemished and open to no accusation before him, provided, of course, that you continue in the faith, established on the foundation and steadfast and not being shifted away from the hope of that good news which you heard, and which was preached in all creation that is under heaven. Of this [good news] I Paul became a minister.”
– Colossians 1:21-23

Paul was excited and impressed by this sacred secret. He was privileged to share it with others, and to uplift them from their pitiful station as mere slaves of God, as were those of past generations, to sons of God in complete union with Christ:

“I became a minister of this [congregation] in accordance with the stewardship from God which was given me in you interest to preach the word of God fully, the sacred secret that was hidden from the past systems of things and from the past generations. But now it has been made manifest to his holy ones, to whom God has been pleased to make known what are the glorious riches of this sacred secret among the nations. It is Christ in union with you, the hope of [his] glory. He is the one we are publicizing, admonishing every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man complete in union with Christ. To this end I am indeed working hard, exerting myself in accordance with the operation of him and which is at work in me with power.”
– Colossians 1:25-29

The sacred secret of the heavenly hope in union with the Christ is offered to everyone. The Father and his Christ are no respecter of persons!

In Chapter 2, Paul expressed how much he wanted to share this encouragement face to face so as to prevent them from becoming deluded with non-spiritual arguments:

“For I want you to realize how great a struggle I am having in behalf of you and of those at Laodicea and of all those who have not seen my face in the flesh, that their hearts may be comforted, that they may be harmoniously joined together in love and with a view to all the riches of the full assurance of [their] understanding, with a view to an accurate knowledge of the sacred secret of God, namely, Christ. Carefully concealed in him are all the treasures of wisdom and of knowledge. This I am saying that no man may delude you with persuasive arguments. For though I am absent in the flesh, all the same I am with you in the spirit, rejoicing and beholding your good order and the firmness of your faith toward Christ”
– Colossians 2:1-5

He counseled, them to be steadfast in their hope (2:6-7), because some might attempt to lead them to another hope based on human philosophy and traditions, according to calculations in the minds of worldly thinkers:

“Look out: perhaps there may be someone who will carry you off as his prey through the philosophy and empty deception according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary things of the world and not according to Christ; because it is in him that all the fullness of the divine quality dwells bodily.”
– Colossians 2:8-9

Paul wanted them to know that they did not need human interpretations or philosophy to supplement the sacred secret. For all that is necessary is contained within the Christ. If we imitate fully Jesus' example in his character, his personality, his faith, his worship of the Father, and his deeds and actions, we have the fullness of all that is contained in the sacred secret. (Please see our article “The Faith and Religion of Jesus” for a further discussion of our exemplar.) No supplemental knowledge is necessary to attain to our hope.

“And so you are possessed of a fullness by means of him, who is the head of all government and authority. By relationship with him you were also circumcised with a circumcision performed without hands by the stripping off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision that belongs to the Christ, for you were buried with him in [his] baptism, and by relationship with him you were also raised up together through [your] faith in the operation of God, who raised him up from the dead.”
– Colossians 2:10-12

The circumcision spoken of by Paul here is not the circumcision usually performed on male infants, but it is nevertheless a fitting illustration. According to Jewish tradition, once the foreskin is removed after a circumcision, it must be buried in the ground. One of the reasons for this is that the foreskin is considered to contain within it “the maximum concentration of negative energy.” This is why Paul used this analogy. A Christian is counseled to strip away the unclean desires of flesh (the part of us that contains the highest concentration of negative energy) and bury it with our baptism so that we are raised up anew – born again. We are to bury the unclean desires which are identified further at Colossians 3:5-9. As a result:

“Furthermore, though you were dead in your trespasses and in the uncircumcised state of your flesh, [God] made you alive together with him. He kindly forgave us all our trespasses and blotted out the handwritten document against us, which consisted of decrees and which was in opposition to us; and He has taken it out of the way by nailing it to the torture stake. Stripping the governments and the authorities bare, he exhibited them in open public as conquered, leading them in a triumphal procession by means of it.”
– Colossians 2:13-15

In addition to our stripping away the unclean fleshly desires, the Christ blotted out the Law Covenant which had made it impossible for us to stand before the Father with a clean conscience.

“This very [tent] is an illustration for the appointed time that is now here, and in keeping with it both gifts and sacrifices are offered. However, these are not able to make the [man] doing sacred service perfect as respects his conscience.”
– Hebrews 9:9

Stripping the governments and authorities bare carries two connotations: (1) it means that the authority of our flesh to dictate our behavior is taken away with the burial of our unclean fleshly desires; and (2) it means that ‘the governments, the authorities, the world rulers of this darkness, the wicked spirit forces in the heavenly places’ (Ephesians 6:12), are stripped from any power to manipulate us since they have no power over our spiritual nature. Either way, by means of the sacred secret, we are safeguarded from all sorts of attacks if we remain faithful to our calling. Paul continues:

“Therefore let no man judge you in eating and drinking or in respect of a festival or of an observance of the new moon or of a Sabbath; for those things are a shadow of the things to come, but the reality belongs to the Christ. Let no man deprive you of the prize who takes delight in a [mock] humility and a form of worship of the angels, “taking his stand on” the things he has seen, puffed up without proper cause by his fleshly frame of mind, whereas he is not holding fast to the head, to the one from whom all the body, being supplied and harmoniously joined together by means of its joints and ligaments, goes on growing with the growth that God gives.”
– Colossians 2:16-19

When we understand and accept the sacred secret of our heavenly calling, we are not to let anyone who makes a pretense of righteousness, and stands determined by his fleshly thinking, convince us that we are not worthy of the prize of the upward call. Instead we go on growing together, all the more so in the spirit of the Father. Paul further advises that any other way of attempting to gain a clean conscience is nothing more than mock humility and of no value. (Colossians 2:20-23)

In Chapter 3, Paul reminds us to “Keep you minds fixed on the things above, not on the things upon the earth.” (3:1-4) and to deaden our unclean fleshly desires (3:5-9). Instead, we are to clothe ourselves with the new personality, ‘which through accurate knowledge is being made new according to the image of the One who created it’ (3:10). As part of our hope, we are admonished:

“Accordingly, as God’s chosen ones, holy and loved, clothe yourselves with the tender affections of compassion, kindness, lowliness of mind, mildness, and long-suffering. Continue putting up with one another and forgiving one another freely if anyone has a cause for complaint against another. Even as Jehovah freely forgave you so do you also. But, besides all these things, [clothe yourselves with] love, for it is a perfect bond of union.”
– Colossians 3:12-14

All of us who accept the gift of the heavenly hope are part of one body. We must therefore be bonded with love. Paul advised:

“Also, let the peace of the Christ control in your hearts, for you were, in fact, called to it in one body. And show yourselves thankful. Let the word of the Christ reside in you richly in all wisdom. Keep on teaching and admonishing one another with psalms, praises to God, spiritual songs with graciousness, singing in your hearts to Jehovah. And whatever it is that you do in word or in work, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, thanking God the Father through him.”
– Colossians 3:15-17

In Chapter 4, Paul concludes with matters of daily concerns. While we keep our minds on heavenly things, we must still care for our earthly families and relationships. Paul offered counsel to wives, husbands, fathers, mothers, children, slaves, and masters, to do all things whole-souled as to Jehovah and not to men, for it is the Father who will reward us. (3:18-25) Finally, Paul advised:

“Be persevering in prayer, remaining awake in it with thanksgiving, at the same time praying also for us, that God may open a door of utterance to us, to speak the sacred secret about the Christ, for which, in fact, I am in prison bonds; so that I shall make it manifest as I ought to speak.”
– Colossians 4:2-4

Yes, brothers, it is imperative that we speak the sacred secret about the Christ to all, first to our ‘least ones’ who have not learned that the sacred secret is also for them, and then to the world. Before giving his farewell greetings, Paul concluded:

“Go on walking in wisdom toward those on the outside, buying out the opportune time for yourselves. Let your utterance be always with graciousness, seasoned with salt, so as to know how you ought to give an answer to each one.”
– Colossians 4:5-6

We pray that all of us will take this counsel to heart. First, understand the sacred secret and gain accurate knowledge about it, put away the works and the unclean desires of the flesh, care for our friends and families, stand firm in our hope, and tell others about the sacred secret of the heavenly hope held out to all so that the body of Christ will be strong and united in a bond of love. The sacred secret is the most important message in the history of mankind. Let us be a part of promoting it, all to the glory of our Father and his Christ.

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