A2 Follow-up from Solomon’s Porch 3.4.12

Part 5 in our Sunday Night Study Series in Colossians

Colossians 2:1-5 ESV

For I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you and for those at Laodicea and for all who have not seen me face to face, that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. I say this in order that no one may delude you with plausible arguments. For though I am absent in body, yet I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good order and the firmness of your faith in Christ.

If I were arrested for my faith in Christ and placed under house arrest I would be tempted to think my ministry was over.  I might lapse into self-pity, may be even dabble in a small amount (or a large amount) of spiritual depression.  But that’s not what the Apostle Paul does, he goes on a letter writing campaign.  Colossians, one of Paul’s prison letters, was written to a group of Christians Paul had never laid eyes on, in fact, he knew he would never see them.  Listen to what he tells the elders at Ephesus just before his arrest.

Acts 20:18-32

“You yourselves know how I lived among you the whole time from the first day that I set foot in Asia, serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials that happened to me through the plots of the Jews; how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house, testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. And now, behold, I am going to Jerusalem, constrained by the Spirit, not knowing what will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me. But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. And now, behold, I know that none of you among whom I have gone about proclaiming the kingdom will see my face again. Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all, for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God. Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish every one with tears. And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.

 

Paul not only was not surprised by his imprisonment, but, as you read above, he was also not surprised by some of the trouble that was sure to come once he had been imprisoned.  Listen to his words again

Acts 20:29-31

“I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish every one with tears.”

 

We have to remember that this is why Paul is writing this letter, as well as others considered prison letters.  Paul is wanting to shore up the faith of the Gentile Churches that had “not seen his face”, like Colosse, and Laodocea,  (Also Hieropolis which is mentioned in Chapter 4)  Listen to some of the language found in Colosse,

Colossians 1:11 ESV

May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy,

 

Colossians 1:23 ESV

if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.

 

Colossians 2:6-7 ESV

Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.

 

I love the language of stability found in Colossians.  Our passage for today comes just before the last passage quoted.  Paul, in the first five verses of Colossians 2 wants us to know first, that he has a great internal struggle going on in his soul over the churches he hasn’t seen.  He longs to teach them, to be with them, to help shepherd them.  He gives us three particular things in this passage that he wants for them.  These three things are at the root of his prayers for them, and they are the cause of the inner turmoil he feels for them.

First, he wants them to encourage each other, to strengthen the hearts of one another.

“that their hearts may be encouraged”

 

This is a tough time in the life of the newly formed community in Colosse.  As Paul foretold Ephesus,

Acts 20:29

I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things

 

What he knew would happen when he left has begun to happen.  Listen to what says in Colossians 2:1-5 again

For I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you and for those at Laodicea and for all who have not seen me face to face, that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. I say this in order that no one may delude you with plausible arguments. For though I am absent in body, yet I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good order and the firmness of your faith in Christ.

 

Again a little later in the same chapter

Colossians 2:8 ESV

See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.

 

Then again just a few verses further

Colossians 2:16-18 ESV

Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind,

 

It should be obvious at this point……….there are some folks that have come to Colosse preaching another Gospel.  History tells us who they were, Judaizers, a group trying to merge Christianity with Old Testament Judaism among the Gentiles, and Gnostics, a group trying to merge Christianity with Greek Platonic philosophy.  But we’ll talk about these guys in the next sermon and article from the Book of Colossians.  For now, what’s important for you to know is that the believers at Colosse needed to encourage one another.

The second thing Paul wants for them is, “to be knit together in love”.  Paul wanted them to be more than some sort religious society.  The Greek world already had enough of that sort of stuff.  He wanted them to be beholden to one another above all else in the love of the Lord Jesus Christ.  He wanted them to care for one another’s needs, share their hearts, pray for one another, eat together often, live as one body under the same head.

Now why did Paul want them to become an encouraging loving close-knit community?  Because he knew they would never come to a full understanding of the Gospel any other way.

For I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you and for those at Laodicea and for all who have not seen me face to face, that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ

 

As we watch each other suffer, encourage one another in our struggles, bear one another’s burdens, and meet one another’s needs, the marvelous mystery of “Christ in us” is revealed in one another before our very eyes.

2 Corinthians 4:7-11

But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.

 

And as the life of Christ is manifested in our physical bodies, the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are revealed to the spiritual body, the Church.  For in Christ “are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”  In short, as we grow in Christ together we learn to govern ourselves wisely, gain the ability to discern the Truth (enabling us to protect our weaker brothers), and proper behavior is established in the Church.  So, plausible arguments become less plausible and the Church grows in her “good order” and in turn so does “the firmness of your faith in Christ.”

 So go forth and encourage your brothers and sisters in Christ.  Press into your calling as one body being knit together in love.  Pray together, fast together, share meals together, support one another, and be willing to suffer for one another.  Only then should we expect to enjoy Christ and the fullness of His Spirit.  Then Gospel transformation will envelop our own hearts and our churches.  Where there is an encouraging, close-knit, loving Biblical community, Christ is revealed and so are His treasures of spiritual wisdom and knowledge.  There the flock of God is safe, well tended, and in good order.



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