Paul writes the Colossians to assure them that Jesus is enough grace, power, glory, and today we consider the fact that Jesus is enough wisdom. Because Jesus is the very image of the invisible God (1:15), He is the perfect, complete Word of the Father to us. Jesus is our understanding, our wisdom.
Summary of the Text: Paul wants the Colossians and the Laodiceans (the closest neighboring church) to know that he is laboring mightily for the gospel (1:29-2:1). Paul’s “conflict” or “struggle” is his carrying out of the mission of God through preaching Jesus, warning all men, teaching all men with wisdom, as well as his suffering (1:24-25, 28-29, cf. Phil. 1:30, 1 Tim. 6:12, Heb. 12:1). Paul understands that his race/struggle is perhaps even more valuable to those who have never met him (2:1). If they have heard of Paul, if they know about his ministry of proclaiming Jesus, Paul wants them to know he isn’t living it up, relaxing in luxury. He’s out in the fray. He’s leading the charge. He’s at the head of the infantry, and this is so that their hearts may be comforted (2:2). Paul explains that he hopes this knowledge will drive them to love one another even more, and that it will drive them to draw on the “riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the acknowledgement of the mystery of God” (2:2). As they understand more fully who Jesus is, it will equip them more fully to be involved in what Jesus does. Paul just finished saying that he is rejoicing in his suffering because it is another way that Jesus is being proclaimed, the mystery hid from ages and from generations is now manifest in the gospel (1:26). This is the riches of God’s glory even among the gentiles: Christ in them (1:27).
But it’s not just what’s in them. It’s what’s in Christ: “In whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (2:3). And Paul is underlining this point because he knows that there are other words on offer. There are other men with different messages, with “enticing words” (2:4). But Paul wants to encourage them, though he is absent from them, and he rejoices in their military formation and courage in Christ (2:5). So the central exhortation is for them to walk the way they were born. Continue the same way they started (2:6). It was the message of the death and resurrection of Jesus that turned them from enemies into friends, and Paul urges them to hold fast to that word, grow up into that word. It wasn’t a particular experience. It wasn’t a feeling. It isn’t an elitist club. It was the message of truth that Jesus is Lord of All and has begun to bring peace to all things through the blood of His cross (1:20). And the telltale sign that this grace has taken root and is flourishing is overflowing thankfulness (2:7).
Wisdom is a Foreman
Paul has previously prayed that the Colossians will be filled with the knowledge of God’s will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding (1:9), and he returns to that theme here. It’s what he hopes to teach all men, laboring mightily with the energy of God working in him and through him (1:28-29). And the center of that wisdom, understanding, knowledge are the massive treasures hidden in Jesus (2:3). Part of Paul’s point is embedded in the ancient Hebrew understanding of wisdom. Sometimes our instinct is to think of wisdom as something primarily found in dimly lit caves with flickering candles, in silence, solitude, and contemplation. But when the Bible speaks specifically about wisdom, it frequently pictures a much messier scene, a much noisier situation, with actually quite a lot going on and lots of people. The first time wisdom is mentioned in the Old Testament is at the construction of the Tabernacle (Ex. 28:3, 31:3, 6, 35:26). When you think wisdom, picture a cross between a construction site and a factory. Later, when Solomon becomes King and God asks him what he would like, Solomon immediately asks for wisdom, for an understanding heart so that he would be able to lead and govern Israel effectively and carefully. Like Bezalel and Aholiab, a great deal of this wisdom would be used to build the Temple. Jerusalem would be an enormous building sight for seven years (1 Kgs. 6:38), teeming with workers and crews, hauling in supplies, emissaries, messengers, foreman, managers, architects, engineers, and artists of all kinds. But what the tabernacle pointed to and pictured, and what Solomon understood even more clearly is the fact that the people of Israel were always the more fundamental building project. In Proverbs, wisdom is personified as a woman that the King tells his son to pursue and to marry. Lady Wisdom speaks truth, and her treasures are far better than silver or gold or rubies. But again, she is a builder, a creative consultant, a construction worker. Wisdom was with the Lord in the beginning, laying the foundations of the earth, building the mountains, preparing the heavens, painting the clouds into the sky, burying the fountains of the deep underground (Pr. 8:22-29). And ultimately, Jesus is this Wisdom. Jesus is the Builder of the universe, the Inventor of all good things, the Foreman on the great universal building project. Jesus is the Father’s Foreman.
Conclusions & Applications
Knowing who you are is central to knowing what to do. Knowing who you are is central to knowing what you’re for. Paul is like a father to the Colossians, modeling great parenting for us. Paul knows that full tanks keep people moving. And the opposite is also true: low tanks, empty tanks breed insecurity and gullibility.
Another example of “enticing words” for many in our circles is the lure of liturgical theatrics, Roman Catholicism, and Eastern Orthodoxy. God made people to be attracted to glory, to beauty, to stateliness, to confidence, and the Church is called to adorn the gospel with all of those things. But all the treasures of wisdom are found in Jesus, and therefore we build with deep thankfulness and not hallow souls.
Of course it’s hard not to think about our own building project when we consider Paul’s exhortations to wisdom. In one sense, we should recognize that we’ve always been involved in the great building project of Jesus – that’s what we’re for. And in another sense, we should realize that this particular project is a great promotion. We must never forget that the real house is made out of people, and so for that very reason, I want to urge you to dig in.
Parish Group Questions
- What do you usually think of when you hear the word “wisdom”? What do you think your unbelieving neighbors or relatives usually think of? What does wisdom actually look like in the Bible? Give examples from Exodus, Kings, and Proverbs. What does it mean to say that Jesus is our wisdom?
- Why are building projects really always all about people? Can you give examples of this with building projects/remodels you’ve been part of before? How does that reality both underline the significance of what we create/build/make and also relativize it? In other words: How is it both important and at the same time not the most important thing?
- What are some of the most “enticing words” (2:4) that tempt Christians (young and old) today? Lingering behind Paul’s warnings are probably Judaizers (cf. 2:16). Are there any parallel temptations for Christians today? How are Christians tempted to be too friendly with the world (Js. 4:4)? How do you imitate Paul and encourage your children/family/roommates to see that Jesus is enough wisdom?
- How are you and your family regularly remembering and participating in the Great Building Project of Jesus (Mt. 28:18-20, 1 Cor. 12)? How are you and your family remembering and participating in the TRC building project? What are you most excited about? What are you praying about?