By G. Campbell Morgan
... to whom God was pleased to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory...Colossians 1:27
The text is part of a great argument. The words describe the central of three mysteries, which yet are not three but one. By way of introduction, let us notice the relation of these words to the context.
The Apostle in this epistle deals preeminently with the glories of Christ, and with these as at the disposal of the Church. The principal declarations of the epistle are, firstly, "It pleased the Father that in Him should all fulness dwell"; and, secondly, "Ye are complete in Him."
In the paragraph in which the text occurs the Apostle uses the word "mystery" three times. In verse 24, he says, "I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and fill up on my part that which is lacking of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for His body's sake, which is the Church"; omitting verse 25, which as to argument is in parenthesis, we read again in verse 26, "Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and generations." Then, in verse 27, the words of our text, "God was pleased to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory." Then, in the second chapter, and the second verse, "Unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding, that they may know the mystery of God, even Christ."
First, the Church, the mystery hid from the ages; secondly, this mystery, Christ in you, the hope of glory; finally, the mystery of God, even Christ. The word "mystery" has a uniform sense in the New Testament, and that sense has been most lucidly expressed by Dr. Handley Moule: "A mystery is a truth undiscoverable, except by revelation. Never necessarily, as our popular use of the word may suggest, a thing unintelligible or perplexing in itself. In Scripture a mystery may be a fact which, when revealed, we cannot understand in detail, though we can know it and act upon it. A mystery is a thing only to be known when revealed." If that definition of the use of the word "mystery" in the New Testament be accepted, the Apostle speaks of the Church as hidden in past ages, and never discovered until revealed.
He then passes behind the mystery of the Church and comes to the words of my text, "Christ in you, the hope of glory." The Church consists of souls in whom Christ has had a personal advent, and in whom He lives. This is another mystery, never to be explained by the unspiritual, never to be perfectly explained by the spiritual. The mystery of individual souls in whom Christ dwells lies at the back of the mystery of the Church.
Then, presently, he passes on, still following his argument, until he comes to the yet deeper mystery, the mystery of God, which is Christ. In order to see the connection let us take these in the other order. The first great mystery of God is Christ Himself. The central mystery of Christianity is that of Christ formed in individual souls. The final mystery is that of the Church of God fulfilling high and holy functions throughout all ages.
Now, out of the great sweep of that argument we take the central words, and turn from the things introducing, and the things issuing, that we may consider the central mystery of the Christian faith, which is thus expressed by the Apostle, "Christ in you, the hope of glory."
The first and second advents of our Lord initiate and perfect this mystery of the realization of Christ in the individual life of the trusting soul. In His first advent He came to atone, to make possible His entrance. At His second advent He will come to perfect His possession of individual life. I share in the atonement of the first advent and the perfecting of the second advent if he have His advent in my personal life.
Our rejoicing in His first advent, and our gladness in the hope of the second advent, are alike due to the mystery of His personal coming into our own life. Let us consider that central advent, first as to the fact suggested, then as to the experience resulting. First, "Christ in you"; and, secondly, "the hope of glory."
"Christ in you." It is significant that at this point the Apostle uses the title rather than the name of our Lord. This indicates the inclusion of the Person and His work. There is no one perfectly sure of Jesus Christ in history unless he is sure of Him in experience. No one can have a final demonstration of truth concerning the nature of Christ or His work save as he can say, I know Christ because He is in me. It may be said that this is mystical, and cannot be explained to the scientific age in which we live. That is perfectly true. That is what the Apostle says. It is a mystery; this presence in the individual life of Christ Himself in all the marvelous glory of His Person as Very God and Very Man. Human sympathy, human love, human purity, and human power, all surcharged with those infinite resources of God, which made Him as man perfect Victor, are present in all in whom He is formed, eventually and through processes, to make them equally victorious with Himself. It is a mystery, but if it be a mystery that cannot be explained to the scientific age it is a fact known in the lives of countless multitudes.
Christ in me--and I need hardly apologize for testimony at this point, for speaking rather as a witness than an advocate--Christ in me is the most certain thing in all my personal experience. He is present in my inner life, so that I have not to ascend to heaven to find Him or descend into the depths to bring Him up. Neither have I to go on long pilgrimages to reach Him. Amid the hurry and rush of the day, the Christ is within. He was not always there. He came by the act of the Spirit when I fulfilled the conditions of the Word, but His advent was positive, and His presence is as real as, and more real to me than, the advent long ago in the Judean country far away. The historic is proved by the experimental.
As I have already said, the use of the title suggests not merely the presence of the Person in the life, it suggests also the work of Christ in you. He was at once Prophet, Priest, and King. "Christ in you," the one Prophet and Teacher by whom the whole life is to be governed and ordered, whose philosophy is the only philosophy, whose teaching is the only teaching which the soul trusts. "Christ in you," also as Priest, the one perfect Saviour, operating in the inner shrine of the indivudual life on the altar, and by the way of sacrifice, so that through the intermediation, not of Christ far off, but in me, I have personal and immediate access to the Presence of God, which is both within and encompassing me. Then "Christ in you" also as King, ruling all the life, not by the law of carnal ordinances, written on tables of stone, but by the perpetual inspiration of His indwelling presence.
This is the essential, personal, individual miracle of Christianity. Christ within, the Prophet, teaching so that I need no man to teach me. Christ within, the Priest, so that I need no other priest and need take no pilgrimage to find a shrine of worship. It is in my own life, for He is there. Christ within, as King, so that I bow the knee to no scepter and no throne, except to such as He authorizes.
"Christ in you." That is the great miracle, the great mystery, the individual fact on which all the other facts of Christianity are based, and through which the other forces of Christianity become operative in the history of man. Christ in me--the Christ light--so that I see with His eyes. Christ in me--the Christ aspiration--so that I desire with His desire. Christ in me--the Christ impulse--so that I am driven as He was driven. Christ in me--the Christ consciousness--so that the world's sin burdens me in the same fashion as it burdened Him, and the world's agony hurts me as the world's agony hurt Him.
What is a Christian man? A "Christo-centric" man is a man in whom Christ is enthroned at the center of personality, not as a sentiment, but as a Person; not as an ideal without, but as a dynamic at work within.
What is the issue as to the Christ and as to myself? As to the Christ, He gains in every soul He indwells an inheritance. As to the indwelt soul, that soul gains in the Christ an inheritance. If that statement seems to be almost unbelievable it is but the teaching of the Word, and the experience of the soul answers it and seals it true. Is Christ formed in you? Hear me, for I speak with great reverence, and yet with all boldness--that Christ is richer for having you. That is the individual application of the magnificent argument of the Ephesian epistle in which Paul tells us plainly that God gains an inheritance in the saints. But what does Christ gain in you? He gains an instrument through which He can flash His light upon some other dark soul. He gains a medium through which He is able to touch with healing other wounded spirits. He gains a channel through which He is able to move out in the grace of healing to other wounded hearts. He gains whatever He comes to possess. By His advent nineteen hundred years ago He came to claim the wide world, and He will never cease to work until He has absolutely won it and subdued it. There may be other methods ahead. There may be other dispensations. But, believe me, He will not fail or be discouraged until He hath set His judgment in the earth, and answered the waiting isles with His own law. But if I am to be--oh, matchless miracle of grace--the means and medium of manifestation what do I gain? I gain all His resources, for I have fellowship with Him in all the larger purposes of His life.
Now let us turn to the experience resulting, "the hope of glory." The word "glory" here refers to the great consummation in which God's purposes are to be perfectly fulfilled; in which Christ, seeing the travail of His soul, is to be satisfied; in which the Church, with one voice of perfect song, will say, "Thou, O Christ, art all I want"; and in which the whole creation, which is still waiting in its groaning for the manifestation of the sons of God, will find its groaning cease, and join the chorus of praise to Him who sits upon the throne. God's glory consists in the realization of the purpose of His love in all that His hands have made. Christ in you is the hope ofthis glory. What is hope? I often wish we bore in mind more carefully the real significance of the good old Anglo-Saxon word "hope." It does not mean foundationless expectation, but rather confidence in something yet to be, with an accompanying endeavor to reach it.
Christ in you is the hope of glory. Christ in you creates the consciousness of the better thing to be. Christ in you drives you with perpetual passion towards its realization. Christ in you is the one unanswerable evidence of the ultimate victory. He is always singing the song of the future. He is also always energizing the effort of the present. Is there anything we need more today than to hear the anthem of the indwelling Christ telling us of the victory that is yet to be? It is a wonderful thing how in the history of the race, whenever men have really climbed the mountain heights and looked out, they have sung. Great dirges have been uttered, but always in the valleys, and they have their place. But all the seers, the prophets, and the psalmists in all human history and literature, when they have climbed have begun to sing. The dream of the golden age is part of humanity's inheritance from God, and, notwithstanding the fact of man's sin, has never been utterly obliterated. It has been caricatured, and men have drawn us the most curious pictures of the age to be, from Moore's Utopia to Bellamy's Looking Back. Yet underneath the mistaken interpretation is the passion for something better and the belief in its possibility. If Jesus Christ had not come into the world all these songs would have ceased long ago. They had well-nigh ceased when He came. The Hebrew nation had produced no prophet for four hundred years. They had been years of hopeless despair in Judaism, and the great thinkers and the great hopers of the world had lost hope. The Greek teachers had said, and it was their final word, We can only ask questions; we wait for another to answer them. So said Plato, and so said Socrates. But Jesus came to little Bethlehem, and angels brought the music again that men had lost, and it has continued through the centuries, permeating the literature of all civilized people. Men are singing of "a good time coming," of which they would not have dreamed if our Christ had not come to start them singing again. He has started the music, and all the world hears it, and yet it never becomes perfectly articulate, perfectly harmonious, until He sings it in the individual life. Thank God for the company in whose lives Christ is singing the anthem of His coming victory. We are in the midst of the smoke and din of battle. There are days when we sit and fold our hands and say, "Where is the promise of His coming?" No Christian man has ever wailed that out but that presently there came singing back through his soul the answer of the Christ. When I face human agony, and am appalled by the suffering of humanity, the Christ in me says, "I know all the pain better than thou. I have trodden the via dolorosa alone, and as out of My cross and suffering there sprang the light and glory of the first resurrection morning, so through the suffering and sorrow of humanity at last I will lead them into the light." Then I go back and pick up my piece of work again. Christ in me is the hope of glory; the anthem of the ultimate in my soul is perpetually the inspiration of the present.
But "Christ in you, the hope of glory" means a great deal more than that He sings an anthem of the future. That would be a poor thing by comparison. That in some senses is what other men did in other ages of the world's history. But the great value of my text is that Christ is in me as hope; not merely in the sense of expectation, but in the sense of endeavor, Christ energizes the present.
He who gives us a vision of the ultimate as He sings the anthem of it in our heart is present to deal with all the forces which oppose. When I say to men, "God loves you," I say it, first of all, because He sings it in my heart, but I say it knowing that when I say it He will clothe my poor word with the power of God, and men will know it is true because He says it through me.
If there be a larger outlook and application than this, and surely there is--if the hope of glory means that at last the wrongs will be righted, and the tyrannies broken, the despotisms spoiled, and humanity delivered, then remember that Christ in me means power in me to help to bring it to pass. I am renegade if I sit still and listen to His singing and do not co-operate in His effort.
The song of the coming victory is the call to present battle, but it is, moreover, power for the fray, ability to accomplish. So the real optimist is the man in whom Christ is singing and Christ is driving. He is not a superficial optimist. He does not shut his eyes to evil and say there is none, but he looks through it. Take upyour letter to the Romans, and there is not a more optimistic book in the whole Bible. Its grand song is "rejoicing in hope of the glory." The man who wrote Romans was not a man who shut his eyes to existing evils and said things were better and there was nothing to trouble about. If you want to know what evil is at its worst read the first chapter. The Christian man is the man in whom Christ dwells, and who, therefore, has Christ's vision; and Christ was the Man who said to His own generation, "Ye are an evil generation," and yet who died to master the evil and redeem the generations and set up the city of God. So if the great untold mystery of God in Christ has become the personal mystery of Christ in me, then what? Then I see with His eyes all the evil, and evil is never so devilish to the conscience as when eyes anointed with Christ's life look out on it. But that is notthe ultimate thing. What is the ultimate thing? It is that He who came to destroy the works of the devil will destroy them in me. He who came to destroy them throughout all the round world until His kingdom is established cannot fail.
His victory is assured. The song of it is in our hearts. God help us to answer the call of the song and hasten the triumph.