27 God wanted to make known among the Gentiles the glorious wealth of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. 28 We proclaim Him, warning and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone mature in Christ. 29 I labor for this, striving with His strength that works powerfully in me.
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2009 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Holman CSB®, and HCSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers.
Often when we think about the entirety of what God has called us to do, it is easy to get overwhelmed. We have a giant task to make disciples and proclaim Christ to all people (Matthew 28:18-20), but we do not do it alone.
Indeed there are many parallels between these verses and the Great Commission. Jesus exhorted us to go and make disciples of all nations. This is what Paul is suggesting in verse 27. The word for Gentiles is the same used for nations in the Great Commission. It is from this word that we get the English word “ethnic.” It means we are to spread the gospel (or in verse 27 “mystery”) of Jesus Christ to all ethnic groups, to all people across the world.
Jesus also said to baptize these people and teach them to observe all that He commanded. This is mirrored in verse 28 of today’s passage. We proclaim Christ, warn people of the reality of eternity, and teach them to obey with the goal of presenting everyone mature in Christ.
Interestingly, the word for “mature” literally means perfect. The end goal of Christian maturity is Christ-like perfection. Does that sound like something you can do? Can you make someone perfect? Can you even make yourself perfect? No? Good, me either! Then how is this accomplished?
Notice verse 29. We work for this with His strength. Though we are not capable of presenting ourselves or anyone else as mature, Jesus is. None of us will be perfect until Christ returns and we are transformed, but we strive day in and day out towards maturity. We do this in Christ’s strength.
Consider once again the Great Commission. Jesus issued the Commission on His authority. All authority had been given to Him on heaven and earth, and this is the authority He sent out His disciples with. Yet He went a step further, promising that He would be with us to the end of the age. As we labor, Christ is with us. This is how we strive with God’s strength, as Paul suggests.
When we do the work of God, we are never alone. Christ is with us always. The Spirit of God uses us to accomplish His mission. God is capable of doing this in any way He chooses, but in His wisdom and His grace, He chose us to accomplish His work in the world. So when the narrow road gets hard, and we are wondering how we can continue look to Jesus, He gives us strength to finish the mission.
The author of Hebrews wrote a beautiful letter to a persecuted, dismayed, and world-weary church. Near the end of that letter, in chapter 12, he offers these words, “Look to Jesus.” Laboring with the strength God provides means looking to Jesus. He is the source of that strength. He bought it with the nails in His hands and feet, and He gives it freely to all who ask.
The strength He provides is filled with joy and comfort and never goes away. As we finish the work Jesus left us to complete, we look to the author and perfecter of our faith and labor in the strength He provides. We offer the gospel, which is “Christ in you, the hope of glory.”
Spiritual formation is a process that begins and ends with Jesus. We do not grow into Christian maturity because we are better or more qualified than anyone else, but because Christ works in us. When we labor in Jesus’ strength instead of our own, we experience more of Him and grow more into His image.
The same is true when we make disciples. This passage speaks to the process of making disciples. Jesus is a person with whom we have a relationship. Discipleship begins as we begin to know the Jesus as He has revealed Himself in the Bible. This message is too good and too glorious for us to keep to ourselves, and as we tell others about it, we do so in Jesus’ power and authority.
I realize I cannot accomplish God’s mission in my own strength and He never wanted me to. All of us, to some extent, want to be self-sufficient, to do things on our own. But we have been joined with Christ, so that we labor in His strength instead of our own.
Our culture regards weakness as a fault, but Paul wrote to the Corinthians saying that he boasts in his weakness, because God’s power is made perfect in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9-10). This is an incredible truth! Christ has turned our weakness into His power. Better still, when we are weak, God receives all the glory for our labor. John the Baptist famously said, “He must increase, I must decrease” (John 3:30). Isn’t this what we want, for people to look at us and see Jesus? When we submit to Him in weakness, His strength and His power become visible in our lives, and our lives are transformed.
- Do you rely more often on your strengths or on God? What does this reveal about your belief? How can you trust Jesus more fully this week?
- Read Matthew 11:38. Jesus told all who labor to come to Him and He will give them rest for their souls. Do you know the rest Jesus provides? Have you seen it in your life? Meditate on these words.
- Who are you currently helping progress in maturity? Who can you intentionally disciple over the next few months?