Suppose you were rich and contracted a sculptor to create a marble statue. As the sculptor began to chip away pieces of the block of marble, you might look at his work and think, “This doesn’t look like the statue I wanted.” What is unrecognizable to you is clearly seen in the mind’s eye of the sculptor who assures you he knows what he is doing. Your hope that you will get exactly what you want rests on trusting the sculptor’s word.
Now suppose you are the block of marble and God is the sculptor. His hammer and chisel are the circumstances, people and adversities in your life. As He begins to chip away pieces, you feel the pain of the chisel and in the mirror in which you can see yourself there is nothing recognizable taking shape. But the sculptor has assured you He knows what He is doing. Your hope to become what He desires rests on trusting the sculptor’s word.
In Colossians one Paul highlights how the Great Sculptor bolsters the hope of those who trust in His word.
The Great Sculptor gives them the hope of the gospel (vs. 23)
Paul has been developing the theme of reconciliation in verses 19-21. Having spoken about Christ reconciling “all things to Himself” (because the gospel is much bigger than your personal salvation), he moves to the reconciliation of the Colossians (and you) who were relationally, mentally and morally separated from God (vs. 21). Through the hope of the gospel, they are transformed and they become holy, blameless, and beyond reproach (vs. 22).
The hope of the gospel is that you were chosen by grace and called by grace, are being sanctified by grace and sustained by grace, and will be glorified by grace. It is a forgiving, reconciling, sanctifying, hope for all people everywhere. You can bask in the overflowing hope of the gospel of grace with the assurance that these truths are yours in Christ and you can never be snatched from His hand (John 10:28-29).
The Great Sculptor gives them the hope of glory (vs. 27)
Paul then turns to himself and recounts his personal suffering, rejoicing in it for the sake of the church. Verse 24 brings to us these challenging words: “filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions.” I think it is safe to say Paul is not talking about Christ lacking in atoning power since he has just finished talking about the universal scope of the atonement (vs. 20). Paul seems to be saying something like this—the world is not through afflicting Christ but since He is no longer physically present the world afflicts Christians in the place of Christ. Believers are filling up what is lacking in terms of the total afflictions the world seeks to direct against Christ. We bear the afflictions intended for Him by the world as He bore our afflictions on the cross.
In vs. 25-26 Paul explains his own calling to the gospel ministry and his stewardship of a mystery—not a puzzle to be solved but something formerly unknown being revealed. That revelation is: “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (vs.27). Paul is teaching the Colossians that the chosen people of God are no longer an ethnic or national assembly but Christ Himself will dwell in Jew and Gentile believer alike. This presence of Christ in you by His Spirit is your hope of glory.
While this truth of “Christ in you” creates a trans-national church, it is also the guarantee of the fulfillment, the sure expectation, of the glory that is to come. Things will not always be what they presently are. You will dwell in the New Jerusalem where God will dwell among His people, wipe away every tear from their eyes, and do away forever with death, mourning, crying and pain (Revelation 21:3-4). This is your hope of glory.
It is possible that the force of the hammer and chisel of the Great Sculptor will fall upon you this week. The sculpting work of Christ, your sanctification, is often a painful process, part of the grind of life. However, in the midst of the grinding process, you can live with hope—the hope of the gospel and the hope of glory. And you can do this, because you trust the word of the Sculptor.