Colossians is full of allusions to the Old Testament. For instance Colossians 2:2-3 makes an allusion to Daniel 2 as well as to Proverbs 2:3-6. Colossians 3:9-10 makes allusions to Genesis 1 and Genesis 3. Finally Colossians 4:5 alludes to Daniel 2. This week I would like to take up another allusion that Paul makes. In Colossians 1:3-8 the Paul alludes to one of the most important OT passages, Genesis 1 (specifically 1:28). By alluding to Genesis 1:28 Paul shows that the spread of the Gospel is the fulfillment of God’s original intentions for the creation of humanity.
Paul says that the Colossians have heard of this hope in the gospel that has come to them by way of Epaphras. He says that just as this hope that they would be transformed into the image of God and that they would know the ressurection from the dead has come to them, it is also going throughout the rest of the world. In fact this word of truth, this hope is bearing fruit and growing in the whole world through the proclamation of the gospel.
At first glance, we might read this fact that the gospel is bearing fruit and growing in the whole world just as it was growing and bearing fruit in Colosse as a metaphor for how the gospel is spreading. The reference to growing in Colossians 1:6 is a reference to the gospel going out to everyone regardless or sex, race, or social status. Secondly the reference to bearing fruit is a reference to the gospel’s effectiveness when it is proclaimed as well as the blessings that the gospel brings. Just like the parable of the sower in Mark 4, the gospel is effective. Also the gospel is bearing fruit: converts and lives filled with good fruit i.e. obedience. Although all of these might be true of this passage, I don’t think that this is the main thrust of what Paul is trying to say.
Notice the similarities between Genesis 1:28 and Colossians 1:6. In Colossians 1:6 we see the words “all the world,” “bearing fruit,” and “increasing.” In Genesis 1:28 we see the words “increase,” “multiply,” and “all the earth.” These linguistic similarities establsih a connection between the pasages. Now notice what Adam is called to do in Genesis. Adam was a “priest-king.” As the priest-king Adam was to be fruitful and multiply over the earth. However, Adam’s purpose was not merely to procreate so that the world might be filled. Adam was created to extend the boundaries of the garden. As the garden’s caretaker Adam had the task of cultivating the garden in such a way that God’s creation would glorify him.
Thus God’s ultimate goal in creating Adam was to “magnify his glory throughout the earth by means of faithful image bearers.”
By alluding to Genesis 1:28 in Colossians 1:6 Paul reveals how he sees the Colossian church taking part in God’s plans. The church at Colosse is spreading the gospel and thus working out humanity’s vocation of working for God so that God’s glory would fill all the earth. The Colossian church is taking part in both God’s plans to redeem all of creation and God’s origninal intentions for humanity.
Paul says that in proclaiming the gospel we are being what we were created to be.
If in proclaiming the gospel we are being what God created us to be, then when we are not proclaiming the gospel we are being less that fully human.
Paul’s creational theology as expressed in Colossians claims that to truly be a part of the new creation, and to be fully human we are to be glory extenders. Thus we must ask ourselves, if we are not extending God’s temple, and by extension his kingdom, in some way or another are we truly living as a part of the new creation?
Here are some questions to discuss as you consider the passage this week:
- How are you fulfilling the task of “expanding the garden” or “expanding God’s glory in this world?”
- Are there any other implications (aside from evangelism) in viewing mission in light of humanity’s original task in the garden?