Colossians 1:26-27 speaks of: ‘The mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints, to whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the nations, which is, Christ in you, the hope of glory’.
Paul was particularly keen for his readers to become fully acquainted with this tremendous truth. It has an enormous impact on those individuals who accept and rejoice in it.
I was brought up in Roman Catholicism and regret deeply that so many pious people, whom I knew then, including some exceptionally kind Roman Catholic school teachers, clearly had no idea at all about this priceless truth.
Praying to the saints
Ignorance of this truth leads some into hopeless blind alleys, thereby demonstrating another Bible truth — that ignorance of God’s Word always leads to error. Christ said to some Sadducees who had tried to trap him, ‘Ye do err, not knowing the Scriptures, nor the power of God’ (Matthew 22:29).
I would like to share with you how relevant these words of Christ are to those deeply religious people whom I knew when I was a practising Roman Catholic, and who certainly did not seem to understand the truth of Colossians 1:26-27.
These dear people would often pray to fellow human beings, venerated as ‘saints’, who had passed away. Chief among these was Mary, the human mother of Christ. The fact that Christ is on record as regarding ordinary living believers at least on a par with her (Matthew 12:48-50; Mark 3:33-35; Luke 8:21) was never mentioned to me, of course. I only discovered that when I read the Bible for myself.
But Colossians 1:26-27 shows how completely unnecessary such a practice as praying to the saints and Mary is. When the One who came to Calvary and died for our sins, who was raised on the third day and ascended to the Father, already lives within us, where is the merit in looking away from Christ for help elsewhere?
Please consider also what an insult it is to Christ, when, having made himself so freely available, we show by going elsewhere that we prefer praying to other fallible humans, who need salvation as much as we do, over going directly to him who is both ascended to the Father and lives within us! The practice of praying to saints and Mary cannot be maintained for a moment once the truth of Colossians 1:26-27 is accepted.
The bread and the wine
But it is also imagined by people within Catholicism that Christ has to be placed within us, not by his own action, but by human agency; and that this is achieved by eating a wafer of bread transformed by an ordained priest, through transubstantiation, into the body of Christ, that is, Christ’s flesh.
Similarly, the wine, partaken of at the same time, is held to be transformed into the blood of Christ. But introducing certain foods into the alimentary canal, which then will be processed like everything else that enters the body this way, does nothing at all for us spiritually.
Those who believe that when they eat a consecrated wafer and wine, Christ is, by that action, introduced into their inner beings are, whether they realise it or not, denying the truth of Colossians 1:26-27. If they were to live in the light of that Scripture, they would know that Jesus is already within true believers, and no artifice of men is needed to achieve this marvellous indwelling. It may only be accepted by faith.
Some of those who have laboured the most to achieve by human effort such a union with Christ, are called mystics. The ‘three-fold way’ of Western mysticism is purgation, illumination and union. Decades, if not an entire lifetime, are said to be needed before a mystic can attain to that ultimate state of union. But what does Paul refer to in Colossians 1:26-27 if it is not the very union such people seek?
These errors are to be shunned, and shown to be totally baseless by Colossians 1:26-27 and similar Scriptures. It is the Scriptures alone that keep us from such errors as these. I pray that all who read these words shall rejoice in the truth of ‘Christ in you, the hope of glory’ for themselves.
Mike Phelan is an engineer and Christian writer.