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Pastor Scott L. Harris
Grace Bible Church, NY
September 5, 2010
Paul’s Desire & Struggle
This past Wednesday I met with a couple heading to Asia to do work similar to Steve Poldinec in South Africa. He graduated from The Master’s Seminary this past May and I had been in correspondence with them for some months and arranged for them to meet with some other TMS graduates when he came out to NYC to officiate at his cousin’s wedding, which was yesterday. Perhaps some time in the future we may be able to have him come here and tell you about what the Lord has been leading them to do. I find it exciting to hear about what the Lord is doing in the lives of other people and in other places.
As we were talking while waiting for their train to arrive, he asked me an interesting question, one that I am sorry that even would be prompted. He wanted to know why I was going so much out of my way to help them. I had never met them before and did not know anything about them until I received an email back in July. He had not had any other pastors make arrangements on their behalf to meet other pastors. That was the sad part. I did not think I was doing anything out of the ordinary. To me it only made sense to maximize his brief time in New York by arranging to pick him up and meet with several other pastors in the area. Usually, the missionary ends up having to do all that work himself and usually it is meeting one pastor at a time at the pastor’s convenience.
As I was studying our text for this morning’s sermon, I was struck that the little I did for them should be normal, and would be normal if believers would take to heart the example Paul has left us in his endeavor to follow Christ. Turn over to Colossians 1:28.
Last week we examined Paul’s calling to be a minister of the gospel and to the church. (See: Paul – A Servant of the Gospel) We found that even though he was suffering in prison, yet he rejoiced that God was using even that to benefit others including the Colossians. Paul understood his purpose in life, and it was not about himself. He lived for Christ (Galatians 2:20), and his desire was to be used by Christ in the lives of other people both near and far away.
Paul’s Desire for Individuals – 1:28
Picking up from 1:28, please follow along as we read through 2:5. 28 “And we proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, that we may present every man complete in Christ. 29 And for this purpose also I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me. 2:1 For I want you to know how great a struggle I have on your behalf, and for those who are at Laodicea, and for all those who have not personally seen my face, 2 that their hearts may be encouraged, having been knit together in love, and [attaining] to all the wealth that comes from the full assurance of understanding, [resulting] in a true knowledge of God’s mystery, [that is,] Christ [Himself], 3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. 4 I say this in order that no one may delude you with persuasive argument. 5 For even though I am absent in body, nevertheless I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good discipline and the stability of your faith in Christ.
Paul’s desire was to present every man complete in Christ. We talked about this last week. Complete comes from a word (teleioV / teleios) meaning to “reach its end” and hence complete, perfect, mature. I also pointed out last week that because this is generally not the goal of most churches in America, Christianity has become weak an anemic hardly able to influence the people still coming to the worship services much less affecting society.
This goal of becoming mature is central to the reason for our salvation. Ephesians 1:4 states, “He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him.” We saw earlier in our study of Colossians 1:22 that Jesus “reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and above reproach.” Holy and blameless are just particular character qualities of being complete and mature. This same word for complete is used by Jesus in calling His followers to “be perfect, as your heavenly father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). It is used again in Matthew 19:21 in His response to the rich young ruler, but tragically, the man wanted eternal life without having to be complete. Paul uses this word in many of his letters. In 1 Corinthians 2:6 he says he is able to “speak wisdom among those who are mature.” In 1 Corinthians 14:20 he commands, “Brethren, do not be children in your thinking; yet in evil be babes, but in your thinking be mature.” In Ephesians 4:13 we find that the purpose of the various gifts and ministries within the church is so that all those in it may “attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fulness of Christ.” Those who desire to be mature need to have the attitude of pressing on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:14-15). Other epistles add their voices. Hebrews 6:1 calls on us to “press on to maturity.” James 1:4 states that the result of trials in the life of a Christian is that “you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”
I hope this is a central purpose that you have set for your own life, for your purpose in life will determine what you will do in life. I also hope that you will follow Paul’s example in setting this purpose and your goal in ministry to other people. Paul’s desire was to be able to present every man complete in Christ. He sought to do that by “proclaiming [Christ], admonishing and teaching every man with all wisdom.”
As I pointed out last week, to proclaim (kataggellw / kataggellô) is to publically announce, to declare. It is what a messenger does in making known his message. Jesus, the promised Messiah, is the focal point of the message of Christianity.
Admonishing (nouqetew / noutheteô) is the negative side of proclaiming Christ for it encompasses telling people what is wrong and warning them about it. Jesus began His public ministry with admonishment, “Repent, for the kingdom of Heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4:17). It is part of the gospel because we have to give the bad news about God’s condemnation of sin before we can give the good news a
bout salvation from that condemnation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ. It is also part of the normal body life of the church as we seek to help one another grow in Christ (Romans 15:14; Colossians 3:16).
Teaching (didaskw / didaskô) is the positive side of proclaiming Christ for it is the instruction of what to seek and do. It is also part of basic life in the body of Christ for it is a function of the Scriptures themselves (2 Timothy 3:16-17) and part of the Great Commission in Matthew 28:18-20 of making disciples and “teaching them to observe all that I commanded you.”
None of this is easy work. Paul describes this as a labor (kopiaw / kopiaô) of the toilsome kind that makes you grow weary. It is also something for which he had to fight, strive, contend (agwnizomai / agônizomai). Yet, the labor and striving were according to God’s power which was mightily working in him. Paul did his part and was diligent in his efforts to the point that he would be physically, mentally and even emotionally tired, yet all that was accomplished was due to God energizing him. The same is true for us. It is God that sustains us and accomplishes His will through us. This truth gives us confidence to face tasks that otherwise would overwhelm us.
Paul continues to explain his struggle on their behalf as well as his goal and heart for them in 2:1.
Paul’s Struggle on Their Behalf – 2:1
Paul begins stating that he wanted them to know about this struggle he has on their behalf. This term struggle (agwn / agôn), is used to describe the fight or opposition that two athletes would give to each other as each tries to win the prize over the other one. This struggle would include not only what Paul mentioned in the previous verse, but also his intercessory prayers on their behalf. The verb form of the word is used in Colossians 4:12 to describe how Epharas was praying for them. There is an element of war and battle in serving Christ because we do face opposition from a cunning adversary and the “against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12). There is even an element of battle in prayer because we are interceding on behalf of others and there can be a lot of energy poured into such prayer.
It was important for them to understand that though they had not met in person, their spiritual welfare was of great concern to Paul. Notice that Paul specifically states three groups to which he is expressing this desire. “Your behalf” refers to those in Colossae. Laodicea was a city about 10 miles down the Lycos valley from Colossae. “All those who have not personally seen my face” refers to everyone else in the region including those at Hierapolis, another near by city Paul mentions in Colossians 4:13.
This is one of the marks of Paul’s maturity and his understanding of life. Paraphrasing Homer Kent’s description, Paul was so dedicated to the cause of Jesus Christ that it transcended Paul’s own narrow segment of the cause to grasp the importance of the whole. It would have been easy for Paul to have just focused on what opportunities came to him while he was awaiting his trial before Caesar. In Philippians Paul makes it clear that though he was in jail he was having a very effective ministry to the Praetorian guard and even to some in Caesar’s household. In 2 Corinthians 11:28 Paul mentions the daily pressure that was upon him because of his concern for all the churches, so it would have been easy for him to just focus on the many churches he had already planted. Yet, we find here that Paul is intensely concerned for churches that were in places he had never been. Paul understood the oneness that all believers share, and so he was compelled to respond to any opportunity given to him in rejoicing over what the Lord was doing in the lives of other believes in other places, and also help them as he could that they might grow spiritually, stand firm against false doctrine and withstand the attacks of our adversary.
I cannot say that I approach to even a small degree what Paul was able to do, for I feel I am often overwhelmed and hardly able to accomplish the things that are directly before me in pastoring just one church, much less the many Paul felt responsibility for because he had planted them. But I do share Paul’s heart. I am thrilled to hear about the Lord’s work in and through other believers in other places. I long to help to whatever degree that I can, though physical and mental limitations often reduce that to simply giving words of encouragement. Yet, verse 2 indicates that can be enough.
Paul’s Goal – 2:2
Encouragement. Paul specifically states that his struggle was for the purpose that “their hearts may be encouraged.” We tend to use the heart as a metaphor for our emotions, but that was not true in the Greek world. They used the term for stomach to describe emotion. The term heart (kardiva / kardia) was used to describe the seat of the soul encompassing the mind and its ability to think, reason, desire, make decisions and determine actions. Our volition, our ability to choose, arises out of our desires and our mental abilities to reason and formulate beliefs. Our actions in life arise out of our beliefs. This does not mean that our actions will always match what we say we believe, for too often what we say and even fool ourselves into thinking we believe are offset by emotions that reveal what we actually believe. Paul wanted to encourage them at the heart level, the level of their reason and volition, because that would determine their thinking, choices and subsequent actions.
To encourage (parakalew / parakaleô) is literally to come alongside and call. Encouragement can include comfort, instruction, entreaty, exhortation and admonishment. The purpose of Biblical encouragement is to bring a person to a right understanding and motivate them to right actions. What will be needed to encourage will vary with the person and the particular circumstances. Sometimes all it takes is a reminder of the truth to motivate someone to right actions. Other times it takes a lot of admonishment first to correct wrong beliefs and actions and then instruction and exhortation in truth to bring about right beliefs and actions. Paul goes to both extremes in this letter.
Paul’s reminders of the nature and position of Jesus as the image of God, the preeminent one over all creation as its architect, maker, possessor and sustainer (See: The Preeminence of Jesus Over Creation), and the preeminent one over the church as its head and founder who reconciled God and man through His atoning death (See: The Preeminence of Jesus Over the Church) would have been enough for many of the Colossian believers. Others needed the corrections, admonitions and warnings found in the rest of the book to be moved back to right beliefs and actions. It will take the same range of efforts by others to encourage us at various times and by us to others to encourage them to right beliefs and actions. We just want it to be done to us by others and by us to others with the same motivations as Paul which he explains further in the rest of the verse which the NKJV translates as “that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, and [attaining] to all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the knowledge of the mystery of God, both of the Father and of Christ.” (NKJV)
Unity – Paul’s struggle on their behalf was motivated by His love for Jesus and His disciples. He understood that as their hearts were encouraged they would be bound closer together in love. Since the Greeks had several different words that we translate as love, it is always important to distinguish what kind of love we are talking about. The English word, love, has a wide range of meanings from sacrificial charity to fond feelings of affection to personal enjoyment to selfish lust. The particular word used here (agaph / agapê ) is self sacrificial love. This is the love with which God gave us Christ to be sacrificed as the propitiation for sin (John 3:16; 1 John 4:10). This is love which Jesus has for His disciples in sacrificing His life for them as the redemption price (1 Peter 1:18-19, Hebrews 9:12) that reconciled us to God and brought forgiveness of our sins (Colossians 1:14). This is the love a husband is to have for his wife in seeking her holiness and providing for her needs as a picture of Christ and the Church (Ephesians 5:23-33). That believers should love one another with this kind of love is part of what it means to be a Christian. In John 13:34 Jesus commanded us to love one another as He has loved us and then added in the next verse it would be this love that would be the practical demonstration that we are indeed His disciples.
Paul states here that we are to be knit or joined together (sumbibazw / sumbibazô) by love. Unity is critical in church life. Jesus prayed that we would be “perfected in unity” in John 17:23. However, because we have a bent toward sin even after we are saved (Romans 7:14-25), there will always be lots of opportunity for conflict to arise between believers. Many of the corrections and commands in the New Testament are directed at ending conflict and bringing about unity. Paul tells us in Ephesians 4:2 that it takes diligence to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. We know from Ephesians 4:13 that the saints need to be equipped for ministry and working together toward maturity in order to attain the unity of the faith. But according to Colossians 3:14, the glue that holds the body together in unity is this agaph / agapê love.
How does this love knit the body together? It causes the believer to act and react to others with humility. As Paul describes it in Philippians 2:3-4, “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself; 4 do not [merely] look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.” This is the means to bringing about the unity he described in the prior verses.
The result of being encouraged and having their hearts knit together in love would be the abundance of riches that we have in Christ that comes through a full assurance of understanding and full knowledge of Christ. When the body is unified, it is better able to withstand the attacks against it by false teachers. Paul made this same point in Ephesians 4:14 stating, “as a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves, and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming.” That was the danger they were facing in Colossae, and being unified would enable them to attain and live by a full assurance of truth and so be able to resist the teachings of the heretics.
Understanding ( sunesiV / sunesis) is a comprehension or apprehending of the inter-relationship of things and therefore understanding. This brings about a full assurance (plhroforia / plêrophoria) or confidence. Teachers of false doctrine seek to make us unstable and uncertain about what is true and in that way introduce their heresy as a substitute. When we understand the interconnected nature of the teachings of scripture there is a strong wall of confidence in the truth that is built against such false teachers. And because we are part of a body, we aide one another by bringing understanding to those who are ignorant or uncertain.
Full Knowledge (epignwsiV / epignôsis) here is a precise and correct knowledge gained by experience as opposed to information from an external source or just observation. The false teachers could offer up interesting conjecture and even logical arguments, but they operated out of their own knowledge and understanding instead of God’s. Paul wanted the Colossian believers to have full confidence in the truth through a full knowledge gained by knowing Christ Himself, the mystery of God that had been revealed. To be sure, our own knowledge and understanding of Jesus comes from a truth outside ourselves, the Scriptures, to which we must bend, yet at the same time, there is an experiential component as the Holy Spirit works within us enlightening our minds to understand, and we see God’s providential hand working in our lives. In other words, I know, understand and believe because God has revealed Himself in His word, but also because of the inner witness of the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:16) and being able to walk with the Lord and look back and see His guiding hand upon my life.
The Treasury of Christ – 2:3
Paul emphasizes in verse 3 that Christ is sufficient for “in [Him] are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” Knowledge, which is apprehending the truth about God, and wisdom, which is reasoning through the relationship, implications and applications of those truths, are all found stored up in Christ. There is no gain to seeking wisdom and knowledge outside of Him, and in fact, it is foolishness for it only opens the door for false teachers and our adversary, the devil.
It is significant that Paul states these are hidden (apokrufoV / apokruphos) in Christ. The Gnostics claim was that they had hidden knowledge that could only be gained through particular rituals or sources they knew about. In Colossae the false teachers were advocating the observance of particular days, food restrictions, asceticism and the worship of angels (Colossians 3:16-23). Those practices and seeking other sources are contrary to the fact that Jesus is more than just sufficient, He is the complete revelation of God as I have pointed out in previous sermons (See: Jesus’ Preeminence Over Creation).
How can Jesus be at the same time both the revelation of God and the mystery of God in which knowledge and wisdom are hidden? It is as I have said last week. Though the truth is openly proclaimed, the unrighteous are blinded by our adversary, the devil, and refuse to believe it. Therefore they cannot be in Christ themselves and have the ministry of the Holy Spirit regenerating and enlightening them to the truth. In a similar way to the parables in Matthew 13, the same truth that is openly proclaimed and received and believed by the righteous is rejected by the unrighteous resulting in them being even farther from the truth. It remains hidden to them though it is openly proclaimed.
Paul’s Warning – Colossians 2:4
In verse 4, Paul gives his first direct warning about the dangers the false teachers were posing to them. “I say this in order that no one may delude you with persuasive argument.” What Paul had just said about Christ and his own struggle on their behalf that they would know the wisdom and knowledge hidden in Jesus was so that they would not fall victim to the false teachers.
We spent quite a few months last year and the first part of this year in 2 Peter and taking to heart his warnings about false teachers by seeking to expose their fundamental heresies. Heresy is always a constant danger to the believer because it usually comes disguised with the wrappings of supposed righteousness. That was true in the case of the Colossians, and it is still true today. As Paul states in Colossians 3:23, they give “the appearance of wisdom,” and because of that they can delude or deceive by false reasoning (paralogizomai / paralogizomai). The arguments may seem logical and be presented with great persuasion (pianologia / pithanologia) with oratory skills used to change your thinking and beliefs – and often playing upon your emotions and desires to do so, but in the end, it is false and useless or even detrimental in truly knowing God and walking with Him. Whether the deceptive teaching is done deliberately by false teachers or in ignorance by those who mean well, Paul is seeking to keep them from being deluded and then straying from the path of truth. We will be expanding on this in the weeks to come as we look at Paul’s specific warnings.
Paul’s Presence – Colossians 2:5
Paul concludes this paragraph of his letter confirming his personal concern for them. “For even though I am absent in body, nevertheless I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good discipline and the stability of your faith in Christ.” Paul was in Rome under guard awaiting his trial before Caesar so he could not be physically present in Colossae, nevertheless, he was with them in spirit indicating his concern and prayers on their behalf. And though he had just mentioned the dangers he saw they were facing, he also knew from Epaphras’ report that there were good things going on there as well for which he rejoiced. Paul uses military terminology to commend them for generally having good discipline and stability.
Good discipline is from a word (taxiV / taxis) used to describe soldiers in an orderly line of battle. It takes a lot of discipline to maintain such a line in the face of the enemy’s attacks. Primarily this is self discipline by the individual soldier who refuses to desert his position and leave his comrades in arms more vulnerable to enemy attack, but also the encouragement by fellow soldiers to take courage and stay in position. This is the importance of their hearts being encouraged and them being knit together in love.
Stability is from a word (sterewma / stereôma) used to describe something solid, firm, strong such as a fortified bulwark or wall. It depicts the church as a whole maintaining a solid front against the foe. The church was facing serious danger, but it had not fallen or yet wavered. Paul was giving them proper warning and instruction because he wanted to make sure that they would not be swayed by the false teachers.
What is your heart toward believers in other places? I hope it would be like Paul’s so that when you hear news about them you will rejoice over the good things God is doing in and through them and labor in prayer on their behalf when you learn of difficult circumstance and dangers they are facing. I also hope you thoroughly understand the importance that Christ is the only source of knowledge and wisdom of God and encourage others to know Him while being diligent to maintain unity in love. Finally, I hope you will follow the example of the Colossians in being committed to doing your part within the local body of Christ you are part of in maintaining good discipline in your own walk with Christ so that so that all of us can stand firm together against our adversaries.
Parents, you are responsible to apply God’s Word to your children’s lives. Here is some help. Young Children – draw a picture about something you hear during the sermon. Explain your picture(s) to your parents at lunch. Older Children – 1) Write down all the verses mentioned. 2) Count how many Paul’s name is mentioned. 3) Talk with your parents about what Paul wanted to do for the Colossians
THINK ABOUT IT!
Questions to consider in discussing the sermon with others. Why should Christians help out other Christians they do not know? What was the purpose of Paul’s life? How was that purpose demonstrated by his response to the Colossians? What was Paul’s desire for individual Christians? What is Christian maturity and why is it so central in the Christian life? What are the practical benefits of spiritual maturity? What are you doing in the pursuit of spiritual maturity? What is the difference between admonition and teaching? Why does Paul describe his work on behalf of the Colossians a “struggle”? How does Paul’s desire toward those in the Lycos valley demonstrate Christian maturity? What is encouragement? What does “heart” refer to in Colossians 2:2? Why is it important to encourage the heart? Why is unity important in the church and how is such unity brought about? Define ajgavph / agap love and describe its demonstration by God and its importance in how a believer lives. What is the relationship between love and unity in the church? How do understanding and full knowledge bring about full assurance? What are the treasures hidden in Christ? In what sense are they hidden since Christ is openly proclaimed? What is delusion? What is “persuasive speech”? Why are those two things a danger to even Christians? Why couldn’t Paul be physically present with the Colossians? In what way could he be spiritually present? Why was it important for the Colossians to know this? Good discipline and stability are used in military settings – describe each and what meaning they give to how the Colossians were living. What is your heart toward believers in other places? How are you encouraging other believes and being diligent to maintain unity with them? What are you doing to maintain good discipline in your own walk with the Lord and help the local church be stable?
Sermon Notes – 9/5/2010
Paul’s Desire & Struggle – Colossians 2:1-5
Why go to so much ____________ to help someone you had never met before?
Paul understood his ________in life and lived for Christ desiring to be used by Him in the lives of others
Paul’s Desire for Individuals – Colossians 1:28
He desired to present every man ___________________ in Christ
To proclaim is to publically announce, to __________- it is how a messenger makes known his message
Admonish encompasses telling people what is _______and warning them about it – Matt. 4:17; Rom. 15:14
It is ___________ labor that made you weary and involves striving and contending
Paul’s Struggle on Their Behalf – Colossians 2:1
Struggle (agwn / agôn) describes an athletes ___________ to win a prize against an opponent.
Paul was doing this on behalf of those in Colossae, Laodicea and all in the __________ valley.
Paul was concerned for ministry where he was, where he had been, and churches where he had ________
Paul’s Goal – Colossians 2:2
Encouragement – “their hearts may be encouraged.”
Heart (kardia / kardia) refers to the seat of the ______encompassing the reason, desire, volition & action
Encourage (parakalew / parakaleô) includes comfort, instruction, ________, exhortation & admonishment
Some only need _______________ of the truth to be encouraged to right beliefs and actions
Some need ______________ , admonitions and warnings to be encouraged to right beliefs and actions
Unity – as their hearts were encouraged they would be bound closer together in _____________
A unified body results in _____________and the ability to withstand attacks by false teachers (Eph. 4:14)
Understanding ( sunesiV / sunesis) is comprehension of the inter-relationship of things
Full Knowledge (epignwsiV / epignôsis) is a precise & correct knowledge gained by experience
Full confidence arises with understanding and full knowledge of _______________, the mystery of God
The Treasury of Christ – Colossians 2:3 “in [Him] are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”
Wisdom – reasoning through the relationship, implications and ________________of those truths known
Knowledge – apprehending the ___________ about God
Wisdom and knowledge are _____________ in Christ –
The truth is openly proclaimed, but the unrighteous are blinded and ______________ to believe
Paul’s Warning – Colossians 2:4 – Paul did not want them to be ______________ by persuasive argument
Heresy is dangerous to the believer because it is usually __________________as supposed righteousness
Delude (paralogizomai / paralogizomai) – to deceive by ___________ reasoning
Great persuasion (piqanologia / pithanologia) oratory skills used to _____________thinking & beliefs
Paul’s Presence – Colossians 2:5
Paul could not be physically present, but he could be present in ________through his concern and prayer
Good discipline (taxiV / taxis) describes soldiers in an orderly line of battle – it requires _____________
Stability (sterewma / stereôma) -_____, firm, strong such as a fortified bulwark – requires a unified front
The Colossians were facing serious ________________, but had not fallen or wavered.
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