Genuine – A Walk through Colossians – Part 6
Rev. Dr. Brent Russett -Asbury Free Methodist
May 16, 2021
Colossians 1:28 – 2:5
This is part 6 in our series – Genuine – a walk through Colossians and today we are going to look at Colossians 1:28- 2:5.
I have taken a lot of leadership courses over the years and one of the key principles of leadership is to start with the end in mind. What is the future you want to see happen? If you don’t have a destination in mind, you are not leading you are wandering.
What is true of leadership is also true of our spiritual life. We don’t just get saved and then wait for heaven. We are on a spiritual journey. There is a direction to that journey – or else we will just end up wandering in the wilderness. So, what is the direction of the spiritual journey? That is one of the things that Paul wants to tell us in this morning’s text.
Another important leadership principle is that after you have a vision for where you want to be, after you have a destination in mind, you have to take concrete action to move towards that destination. You see a vision without action is just a wish. A vision without action is just a dream.
Now as we come to our passage today we are going to see a vision for our spiritual lives and steps to take to get there. You are also going to encounter the boldness of Paul and the tenacity of Paul and the faith of Paul.
Just to remind you, Paul is writing to a church that he has never been to. It was established by Epaphras, a disciple of Paul. Paul, when he writes this letter to the Colossians is in a prison in Rome. Epaphras is in Rome with him, and obviously the church has some sort of Elders or deacons – it has a church structure that keeps it growing. Now Paul is writing this letter.
Over the years I have mentored a lot of young leaders who have gone into the ministry. Let me use David Tysick as an example. I didn’t really mentor him all that much, but he went out from Asbury and now he is a pastor in a Wesleyan Church in Digby Nova Scotia. I have never been to that church and only know what David has told me about that church.
I cannot imagine writing the Wesleyan Church in Digby Nova Scotia and saying – I have a vision for your spiritual life. But that is precisely what Paul does. He writes the Colossians and says, I have a vision for your spiritual life.
If I did have a vision for their church, I would think I would need to travel there and build a relationship. Then maybe down the road we could work together. After that, maybe we could work on imparting a vision and the strategy to get there. That is not the apostle Paul’s approach.
Come with me to
Colossians 1:28–2:5 (NIV)
28 He (Jesus) is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ. 29 To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me.
2 I want you to know how hard I am contending for you and for those at Laodicea, and for all who have not met me personally. 2 My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, 3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. 4 I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments. 5 For though I am absent from you in body, I am present with you in spirit and delight to see how disciplined you are and how firm your faith in Christ is.
Paul outlines the vision. His vision is to present everyone fully mature in Christ. Then in verse 2 he outlines what this looks like.
. 2 My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, 3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
I want to spend some time on the vision Paul has for the Colossians. Remember if you are going to lead someone then you have to have a destination in mind. Here is Paul’s destination. Here is where Paul wants to take the people of God. He wants to take them to maturity.
He says I want two things for them as a church. I want them to be encourage in heart and united in love. Those are the prerequisites. If those happen then they have the opportunity to have the full riches of complete understanding. If they have that they will know the mystery of God – and we talked about that last week – the mystery of God is Christ. And in Christ are all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
Let me break that down for you. If I was to come to you and say I want you to be spiritually mature. In order to do that you are the full riches of complete understanding – so that you can know Christ – what would you think that you would need to acquire that understanding.
My first reaction is that – well I am going to need a good teacher. If I have a good teacher then I could arrive at understanding. Or maybe I need some books. That would help with understanding. I certainly would need a Bible study – I need that for understanding.
Although, all those things are good, Paul doesn’t suggest any of them. What Paul does say is that in order for them to have the full riches of complete understanding – in order for them to know Christ – my goal is that they be encouraged in heart and united in love. – No teachers – no books – encouraged in heart and united in love.
How does that work. This is so foreign to us in the western world. We tend to think that understanding in the domain of the mind and study is an individual pursuit. But putting that western mindset on our Christian faith will make it anemic.
If you view things through the lens of first century followers of Jesus – here is what they knew – you didn’t understand something until you were living it out. You could not separate knowledge and action. If you knew something you lived it out, or you really didn’t know it.
And the way you came to know something was through your community. Understanding was a communal pursuit not an individual one.
So, how does being encouraged in heart and united in love lead us to the full riches of complete understanding? – how does it lead us to Jesus?
The idea of being encouraged in heart is this – It is causing someone to be encouraged or consoled with words or with actions. You are encouraging and consoling their hearts. That is bible shorthand for your mind, you will your emotions, your conscience, your sense of right and wrong. In other words, your whole interior life. Paul says my goal is encourage and console your whole inner life.
My other goal is that you will be united in love. You will come together as a unit; you will be combined together in love. If those two things happen in Christian community, then you will have the full riches of complete understanding, you will know Christ.
In other words, people of faith, you need each other if you are going to have the full riches of complete understanding – if you are going to really know Christ.
And it is not just about being together, it is about being together in such a way where you can speak encouragement and consolation into each other’s hearts. – Into the core of who they are. To be able to do that you need more than a passing relationship with someone.
This is really counter cultural. We tend to think individualistically about our spiritual lives. But if we stay with what is normal for our culture we will be anemic Christians. If we are what Paul is calling us to be here, we will have an abundance of understanding and we will really know Christ.
So, let me give some examples so that we can get on the same page. Part of the culture of the early church was to confess their faults, their sin one to another. I don’t mean to say that it was usual that they got up in front of the church and said, I was a glutton this week, but they had a small group of people who they would confess their sins to each other and pray for each other.
When you have a relationship with people where that is normal, you can speak encouragement and consolation into the core of who they are. I would suggest that we at Asbury don’t have this as part of our culture yet. But it is a part of culture that needs to be developed.
Another example. The book of Colossians was written before most of the New Testament was written. They had been instructed by Epaphras who had been taught by Paul. But their primary teacher was the Holy Spirit as it was in the other New Testament Churches
Here is what the apostle John writes to the church in Asia.
1 John 2:26–27 (NLT)
26 I am writing these things to warn you about those who want to lead you astray. 27 But you have received the Holy Spirit, and he lives within you, so you don’t need anyone to teach you what is true. For the Spirit teaches you everything you need to know, and what he teaches is true—it is not a lie. So just as he has taught you, remain in fellowship with Christ.
John here, is not only talking about individual believers, he is talking about the church. Whenever we are hearing from God in your Spirit, we need each other to help discern what is true. That can only happen well when we are united in love.
We need to have a group of people around us who are also hearing from God. And we share with each other, here is what I am learning about God. Here is what the Spirit has been teaching me about who he is and how he works. And as we share with each other we learn from each other. But we love each other well, so we can say to each other, that doesn’t ring true to me. We need to pray about that and get a better understanding of that.
Remember understanding isn’t complete until we live what we learned. So, part of being united in love is to encourage people to live out what the Holy Spirit has been teaching them.
That is where the part we just talked about comes in. The Holy Spirit has been teaching me what it means to show love at work. When you are walking with others they can ask you – how did it go showing love at work. – Well, it didn’t go well. I did do what the Holy Spirit was teaching me. – We let’s pray about that.
If you are encouraged in heart and united in love you are going to move into a full riches of complete understanding. You are going to know Jesus.
What Paul is saying to the church is what Jesus said to his disciples,
John 14:21 (NIV)
21 Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.”
When you are living out what Jesus has shown you Jesus is going to reveal himself to you. Paul is just saying, you need each other to carry that out.
Friends, I know that Covid has isolated us. I know that church will not be the same as it was in 2019 things have changed. But I will tell you this, you were not designed to live out your faith alone. You were not designed to get to know Jesus on your own. You were not made to be isolated. The way to maturity in your faith if to journey closely with other people of faith.
I want to push on, but I want you to remember that as we give you opportunities over the coming year to allow your faith to grow together.
Paul says my goal is to present you mature in Christ. Now he tells us what he is doing to make that happen. Next week we are going to look at what the Colossians need to do to see this happen, but let’s look at Paul.
Remember he has never met these Colossians but this is what he says,
Colossians 1:28–2:1 (NIV)
28 He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ. 29 To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me.
2 I want you to know how hard I am contending for you and for those at Laodicea, and for all who have not met me personally.
He says twice, I am contending for you, and I am contending for the people in the church at Laodicea that I have never met. The idea of contending is struggling or fighting against strong opposition. It may be a physical force or a non-physical force but he is fighting for the Colossians.
Come for a moment with me to Colossian 4 as Paul wraps up this book. Paul writes
Colossians 4:12 (NIV)
12 Epaphras, who is one of you and a servant of Christ Jesus, sends greetings. He is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured.
The idea of wrestling is the same word as contending in Colossians 2:1.
Epaphras is from Colossae is contending in prayer for his home Church. Paul, from a Roman prison, is contending, is wrestling for the People in Colossae even though he hasn’t met them.
Paul tells us in Colossian 1:29 how he contends for the spiritual maturity of Colossians.
Colossians 1:29 (NIV)
29 To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me.
The power of Christ, the energy of Christ is working with him, and he uses that power to fight, to strive, to wrestle for the maturity of believers in Colossae.
Here is what this tells us. You need to be in a community of believers to grow to spiritual maturity, but you can be at a great distance from others and still contend for them and help them grow to spiritual maturity.
Paul being a scholar of the Old Testament did not use that word wrestle lightly. It brings back memories of Jacob who wrestled all night with an angel. When daybreak came the angels said, the morning is coming, let me go. And Jacob said, I will not let you go until you bless me.
Paul is contending for the Colossians in prayer. Praying God’s blessings on them. Paul is contending for them against the evil one who would try to thwart the work of God. Paul is contending for them in the power of the Holy Spirit, so he knows how to pray for them. He is looking for the Spirit of God to guide him in prayer.
You need to be in a community of believers to grow to spiritual maturity, but you can be at a great distance from others and still contend for them and help them grow to spiritual maturity.
Paul is in a Roman Prison but is contending for others. We are in a Covid lockdown. Could it be that we could contend for others as well? WE could contend for the church in Cuba, or the Free Methodist Church of Canada, or our friends near and far. Your prayers matter. They make a difference. When a church does missions work outside its own community, part of its responsibility is to contend for that mission.
Some of you are senior and are not able to be as mobile as you use to be. Would you contend in prayer for Asbury just like Paul did for the Colossians? We desperately need people to pray that we would reach maturity in the faith. We need people to wrestle in prayer that we might be encouraged in heart and united in love. Without those kind of people, we will not be the people that God is calling us to be. Seniors, we need you. Prayer Warriors we need you. People of God, we need you.
We are on a journey towards full maturity. Our hope is that you Colossians 2:2–3 (NIV)
… may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that you may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that you may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, 3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.