The Church – An Extension of Christ
By E.H. “Jack” Sequeira

16 – Our Highest Priority

(Colossians 1:23-29)

According to the apostle Paul, every Christian has been baptized into the body of Christ by the Holy Spirit:

1 Corinthians 12:13
For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body — whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free — and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.

Therefore, as the extension of Christ, every believer stands perfect in Christ.  While this guarantees our salvation so that we have peace with God, it also involves certain responsibilities.  I would like to consider with you what our main responsibility is as the body of Christ.

The highest priority the church has on earth is expressed by Paul in our Scripture reading, especially verses 25-29:

Colossians 1:23-29
...If you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel.  This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant.
Now I rejoice in what was suffered for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church.  I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God its fullness — the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the saints.  To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of his mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.
We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ.  To this end I labor, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me.

Here the apostle tells us that the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and which has now been revealed to the saints is now to be revealed to the Gentiles, meaning the unbelievers.  This mystery is Christ in you, the hope of glory.  This is the church’s highest priority.

In the previous verses of Colossians 1, Paul describes to his readers the objective facts of salvation.  Some 2,000 years ago, God united Christ’s divinity to our corporate humanity that needed redeeming.  Then by His perfect life and sacrificial death, Christ rewrote our human history and fully reconciled mankind to God:

Colossians 1:19-23
For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.  Once you were aliented from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior.  But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation — if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel.  This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant.

Since the church is the extension of Christ, this is the foundation that Christ laid and upon which all our Christian experience must be built.  In the holy history of Christ, the mystery of God was revealed.  The word mystery means something that can be seen but cannot be explained.  For example, when an apple tree produces oranges, this would be a mystery because it contradicts nature.  In the same way, what Christ accomplished in our corporate humanity was a mystery:

1 Timothy 3:16
Beyond all question, the mystery of godliness is great:  He appeared in a body, was vindicated by the Spirit, was seen by angels, was preached among the nations, was believed on in the world, was taken up in glory.

This same mystery God wants the world to see through the church.  This is our highest priority.  Again:

Colossians 1:27
To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.

When Christ lived on this earth in our humanity, besides redeeming mankind, He also reveal His Father to the world.  That is why He could say to Philip, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9).

When you read the first four books of the New Testament, you will find that this is a historical account of how God was manifested in and through one man, Jesus Christ.  The next book of the New Testament, the book of Acts, is also a historical account.  It tells us how God was manifested through the body of Christ, the church.  That is why we spent studying its first 12 chapters in this series on the church as an extension of Christ:

Acts 4:32-35
All the believers were one in heart and mind.  No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had.  With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all.  There were no needy persons among them.  For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need.

However, this manifestation of the power of the gospel was short-lived.  Satan had succeeded in perverting the gospel, thereby nullify its power.  As a result, the church was eventually plunged into darkness and became another human organization, no different from the world around it.  A good example was the church at Corinth:

1 Corinthians 3:3
You are still worldly.  For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly?  Are you not acting like mere men?

But when the gospel is fully restored and the believers who comprise the body of Christ totally surrender to all its demands, the earth will be lightened by the glory of our Saviour and the church will fulfill its highest priority:  Christ in you, the hope of glory:

Revelation 18:1
After this I saw another angel coming down from heaven.  He had great authority, and the earth was illuminated by his splendor.

The big question is how this great and glorious manifestation of “Christ in you, the hope of glory” is to be realized.  I would like to suggest three ways this can become a reality:

  1. As Christ lived by the Father, so we must also live by Christ:

    John 6:57
    Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me.

    This means we must be totally Christ-dependent just as Christ was totally dependent on His Father for everything.  This is what it means to live by faith alone, the first step in manifesting the mystery of Godliness.

  2. Just as God worked in and through Christ, so also now Christ must live and work in and through us:

    John 14:10-12
    Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me?  The words I say to you are not just my own.  Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work.  Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves.  I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing.  He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.

    This is what it means to have “Christ in you, the hope of glory.”  Our part in Christian living is to abide in Christ so that He, in turn, may abide in us and produce the fruits of righteousness:

    John 15:4-5
    Remain in me, and I will remain in you.  No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine.  Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.  I am the vine; you are the branches.  If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.
  3. Just as Christ had to deny self in order that the Father may live in Him, so also we must deny self in order for Christ to live in us.  This is the cost of discipleship:

    John 12:24-25
    I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed.  But if it dies, it produces many seeds.  The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.

    Jesus equated this self denial with the principle of the cross:

    Luke 9:23
    Then he said to them all: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”

Too often we look at the cross that Christ bore for us as that piece of wood He carried from Pilate’s judgment hall to Calvary.  Actually, the cross Christ carried was His self-denial which He bore for us all His earthly life, from birth to death.  This is the cross we must carry in order for Christ to live in and through us:

Galatians 2:20
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.  The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

This brings us to where the rubber meets the road (to use a good American expression).  The fact that the church is the body of Christ, with Him being the head, demands a living connection with Jesus.  This intimate relationship between the believers and their Saviour is what makes us the body of Christ.  By our faith obedience to the gospel, we become one with Christ so that He and we have become one flesh:

Ephesians 5:30
...For we are members of his body.

Further, this intimate relationship between Christ, as the head of the church, and we, the believers, as His body also means an intimate relationship of the believers.  Just as our human bodies are made up of many parts that need each other and have to work in harmony, so also the church is made up of many members who need each other and who have to live in harmony:

Romans 12:4-5
Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.
1 Corinthians 12:12, 13, 27
The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body.  So it is with Christ.  For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body — whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free — and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.  ...Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.

Some individuals in church are wearing many hats while others are not involved in the church life at all, except to warm the pews on Sabbath morning.  This should not be.  We must be willing to deny self, take up the cross, and follow Christ.  When this happens, three important things will take place in each one of our lives:

  1. We will all have a living connection with our Lord and Master Jesus Christ,

  2. We will all consider ourselves as slaves of Christ just as Paul did, and

  3. We will all love each other in the same way we love ourselves.

When this happens, when self is put aside and the Holy Spirit takes over, the world around us will no longer see us but “Christ in us, the hope of glory.”  This is the church’s highest priority and my prayer is that this will soon become a reality.

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