Today I want to introduce you to a word that is not very well-known, but is one of the most important words in the bible, and that is the little Greek word teleios. Now teleios is quite a hard word to define, but it’s the word used here in verse 28 which is translated in modern translations as ‘mature’ or ‘fully mature’. If you look at dictionaries, they’ll use other words to define teleios like: completeness, perfection, integration, wholeness – the finished article, if you like. You get the idea!
The reason it’s so important is that St Paul describes it in today’s passage as the goal of all discipleship, indeed this text reads like his personal mission statement, the Big Idea that has defined and energised his whole life: ‘to present everyone teleios in Christ.’
The word not used in many other places in the bible, but whenever it is, it’s pretty big stuff. Jesus himself uses it in the iconic Sermon on the Mount as his summary of what a life submitted to God looks like: ‘be teleioi,’ (plural of teleios) Jesus says, ‘as your heavenly Father is teleios.’ (Matthew 5:48) In other words: God is a fully whole and complete being, he’s the finished article – and we’re made in his image, so his plan is for all of us to be, too.
Elsewhere, St Paul in another of his letters tells the Ephesians that, when leaders exercise the full range of their giftings and the body of Christ is built up accordingly, then we become teleios, ‘attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ’ (Ephesians 4:13).
It’s quite a big thought for us to get our head around, isn’t it? God’s purpose for you is nothing less than to become completely whole, fully perfected in Christ. Wow! And as you read this, you’re probably thinking: that is quite a long – let’s be honest, a very long – way away. I sympathise: it is for me, too.
But that is the finish line – and the other good news for us today is that we don’t aim for this on our own. We have people to help us, like Paul did for the Colossians – leaders, teachers, each other – and we also have the God’s help: the Spirit of Christ, which ‘so powerfully works’ in us (v29).
However far you feel on this journey, give thanks that you are on this journey. God will get us to the finish line as finished articles, each one of us – and that finish line will be glorious. Take heart – you’re further along than you think!