Vol. 6, No. 5
~ Page 13 ~
Paul's words "Christ is all and in all" (Colossians 3:1l, KJV, ASV), represent a mighty reversal on his part in outlook and in conduct:
Formerly I was a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, ... the worst of [sinners] (1 Timothy 1:13, 16). I persecuted [Christians] to death, binding and delivering to jail both men and women (Acts 22:3-4).
Educated "at the feet of Gamaliel, having been instructed according to the strictness of [his] fathers' law" (Acts 22:3), and "breathing threatening and murder against the Lord's disciples" (Acts 9:1), he was on the way to being a famous rabbi. However, after he saw Jesus in the sky, and having experienced "the bath of the new birth" (Titus 3:5), he had become a "new man" (Colossians 3:10, and he wrote about his new outlook:
But the things which were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ's sake. More than that, I count all things to be a loss because of the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord. I have lost all things for him, and count them as dung, that I might gain Christ, and be found in him (Philippians 3:7-9).
Not only did Paul forfeit earthly advantages and respect from his fellow Jews, he also lost the love his kinfolks had for him. The grief at the loss of family affection stayed with Paul, after his conversion to Christ, the rest of his life. Baptized at the age of 33 (cf. W.M. Ramsay, St. Paul the Traveller and Roman Citizen, xvi), 24 years later his deep sadness at his relatives dying out of Christ is seen in his words:
I have intense sorrow, and ceaseless pain in my heart. Indeed I could wish that I myself were condemned and banished from Christ, for the sake of my brothers, my fellow-countrymen according to the flesh (Romans 9:2-3).
Startling! A man so much in love with his kinfolks he was willing to go to hell if his going would save his loved ones in heaven! But God will not allow one person to be a substitute, a proxy, for someone else: "Whosever has sinned against me I will blot out of my book" (Exodus 32:33); "Each one of us will give an account of himself to God" (Romans 14:12).
But Paul's newly found love for Christ meant more to him than his love for his relatives. Jesus was his "all," his "everything" (panta), the rest of his life. At age 68, as a prisoner in Mamertine Prison, he was taken from death row (a three-quarter cellar with a tiny window opening toward a cemetery, two miles south of the Ostian Gate in Rome. His eyes were bound, and his head was laid on a block where it was severed with an axe (David Smith, Life and Letters of St. Paul, 641).
Traditionally, Paul's head bounced three times, and at each spot a healing fountain burst forth. Traditionally, a Christian lady, Lucina, retrieved his headless body from the criminals' "charnel" ("a place for dead bodies," Webster), and buried it in her own garden.
With this long background, the significance of Paul's saying that "Christ is all" (Colossians 3:11, KJV, ASV) is made vivid by J.B. Phillips' version, "Christ is all that matters," and by David H. Stern in the Jewish New Testament, "the Messiah is everything."
We are thankful that others besides Paul have developed the same attachment to Jesus as he exemplified. Jesus in 96 A.D. had sent a letter to the Christians in Smyrna, saying,
Do not be afraid of the things you are about to suffer. Behold! The devil is going to imprison some of you, that you may be tested, and you will have distress for ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life (Revelation 2:10).
Especially in the second century, Christians were in a crisis. Because Christianity is an exclusive religion, proselyting converts from all religions, aspiring to universality, the Roman Government pronounced it a religio illicita (Newman), an illegal religion. Death was the penalty for being a Christian.
In Smyrna, an elder of the congregation, Polycarp, was put on trial before the Roman consul. It was Saturday, February 23, 155 A.D. (Barclay). The consul gave Polycarp a choice: "Swear, and I will release you: reproach Christ." He could have saved his life by renouncing the name of Jesus. The Jews joined with the non-Jews in Smyrna demanding Polycarp's death by throwing into a den of lions (Fausett). When the consul ordered the execution to be by a fiery stake, the Jews brought logs for the fire. Polycarp, given a final chance to deny Jesus, even as the flames leaped around him, was heard to exclaim: "Eighty and six years I have served Him, and He has never done me wrong. How can I deny him now?"
Many other Christians besides Paul and Polycarp have demonstrated that to them Christ is "everything." A touching example is an Indiana lady, who, though not threatened with death, showed that Christ was the chief force in her life, her first thought in every day. Dr. Nyal D. Royse wrote:
My grandparents, A.J. and Mary Jane Royse, resided three miles west of Covington on the old Covington and Danville road. They had a large family. Grandmother was a Christian, but grandfather wished to have nothing to do with the church.
Each Sunday morning she would get the horses ready, put on the harness, hitch them to the wagon and drive into Covington for worship. On a bitter cold day grandpap said to her, "Maw, you're not going to take these children out in this cold weather, are you?" She replied, "Pap, we are going." She got the horses harnessed and hitched up and then went into the house to get the children ready. When she went out to go he had unharnessed the horses and turned them back out again into the pasture. She sent the children to the house and went back out and got the horses and hitched them up and drove to worship. Grandpap never pulled that trick again.
Another real cold day he asked her again not to go. He got the same answer. He told her that he was going to drive them in, not because he wanted to, but he was ashamed for the neighbors to see her arriving to town in the cold and know that he was home, comfortable by the fire. He drove them to Covington but said that he would stay in the wagon. Before the service was over he almost froze and had to come in to get warm.
After that he drove them quite often, and then all of the time he would sit alone on the back seat. One day he came walking down the aisle and was baptized. Grandmother died in 1922 and he died in 1933. For the eleven years he lived alone he was faithful to the end, thanks to a wife who took over the spiritual leadership of the family while he served Satan.
Dr. Nyal Royse, a professor emeritus of Harding University, was born in the log cabin where his grandparents lived. Thanks to Mary Jane Royse, five generations of Christians have blessed the world.
In another example, someone put into the heart of a young Irish lad that the most important fact he could ever know, that "Christ is everything." On a cold and wet night in October of 1968, in a tent in Belfast, Northern Ireland, where the late and beloved Fred Walker was preaching, a young boy (perhaps nine or ten) spoke words that have touched the hearts of thousands.
Sitting next to the lad was Bill Tyner, who put his arms around the boy, and asked, "What does Jesus mean to you?" Surprised, he looked up at Bill with piercing eyes, and said, "Why, he's my everything--what does he mean to you?"
The words of the boy touched Bill's heart, and inspired him to write an unforgettable song, "He is My Everything":
Some folks may ask me, some folks may say,
Who is this Jesus, you talk about ev'ry day?
He is my Savior. He set me free.
Now listen while I tell you what he means to me.
He is my ev'rything. He is my all.
He is my everything, both great and small.
He gave his life for me, made ev'ry thing new.
He is my ev'ry thing. Now how about you?
He's there each morning, to lead my way.
He is my comfort, each and ev'ry day.
In all I trust Him as I journey along,
And that's the reason I sing this song.
Is He your Saviour, this very day?
Is He the person, you talk about day by day?
Yes, He will save you, He'll set you free,
So obey His commandment, sing along with me.
Jesus invites you, to come along.
Lift up your heart with Him, and sing this song.
His word doth promise, if you'll obey,
You can live with Jesus, each and ev'ry day.