THE BOOK OF COLOSSIANS
Copyright © 2006 Trumpet Ministries, Inc. All Rights Reserved
Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.
The text of Colossians portrays genuine Christians, genuine disciples of the Lord. Paul addressed the. "holy and faithful brothers in Christ at Colosse." Perhaps we should use the term "saint," or "disciple," more than we do. What we mean by a "Christian" today comes short of the biblical standard, as may be seen by a study of the Book of Colossians.
Table of Contents
THE BOOK OF COLOSSIANS
My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, In whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. (Colossians 2:2,3)
Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, To the holy and faithful brothers in Christ at Colosse: Grace and peace to you from God our Father (Colossians 1:1,2)
When we see the expression “the holy and faithful brothers in Christ” we are reminded of the pitiful state of Christianity in the world.
The believers of today often refer to themselves as “Christians.” Yet a Christian, according to the Book of Act, is a disciple. The Lord Jesus told us no individual could be a disciple unless he turned aside from everything in his life, took up his cross, and set out to follow Jesus every day.
There are millions of churchgoers in the world, people who attend church on a weekly basis. But how many disciples are there? Not very many, apparently. If a Christian is a disciple by definition, and a disciple is someone who has turned away from the love of the world and is learning from the Lord Jesus every day, then we can say with assurance that only a small minority of churchgoers are Christians.
Christianity is a major religion of the world. But how many holy and faithful brothers in Christ are there in this huge array of people?
I conclude that there are very few actual Christians in America, although numerous fine people attend Christian churches. They refer to themselves as “Christians,” but they are not disciples.
If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters yes, even his own life he cannot be my disciple. And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:26, 27)
The churchgoers are good people, as I have said. They believe Jesus is the Son of God and that He died for their sins. But they have not forsaken their own life to follow Jesus. What their end shall be I do not know.
We are learning today that God wants to do more than forgive our sins. He wants to lead us to victory over sin. Are the numerous churchgoers of America hearing this call of the Spirit? Are they confessing and turning away from their sins? If they are not overcoming their sins, they will not inherit the rewards outlined in the second and third chapters of the Book of Revelation. What, then, shall their inheritance be?
I have pondered the issue of the difference between most churchgoers in America, and the demands of the New Testament regarding the holy and faithful brotherhood. Perhaps God is going to send severe judgments on America, and then we will start living according to the Bible standards.
Paul often wrote to the “saints” in a given place, never to the “Christians.”
What is a saint? A saint is a “holy one.”
What is a “holy one”? A holy one is a person whom God has called out from the population of the world to belong especially to Himself.
What is demanded of a saint, a holy one? That his or her entire life be wrapped up in God. We notice in the eleventh chapter of the Book of Hebrews how the saints mentioned there were wholly involved in God. Abraham was wholly involved in God. God was in all David’s thoughts. David said he had set the Lord always before him; the Lord was always at David’s right hand so he should not be shaken.
American Christians have a difficult time becoming completely involved in God. We are completely involved, most of us, in making a living. To compare us with Enoch, or Noah, or Job, or Abraham, or Moses, or Isaiah, or John the Baptist, or the Apostles of Christ, reveals that we often do not come up to the standard of those with whom we hope to have fellowship some day.
Are we Christians? Yes, in the sense of being members of the Christian religion.
What demands are made on us? We attend church regularly and support the church with our finances. We may perform tasks associated with the church, although numerous believers do nothing except attend church on Sunday.
Why do we attend? Because we believe it is the right thing to do.
Would we deny Christ if not to do so meant the loss of our family or livelihood? Probably.
What is our hope after we die? Our hope is we will not go to Hell but to Heaven to live forever.
What do we plan to do in Heaven? To talk to our friends. We believe we will have no major responsibilities there.
After we have rested in Heaven for a season, what will we do when the trumpet sounds and Christ is ready for us to ride the white war stallions and install the Kingdom of God on the earth? This will mean, of course, that we will have to fight against the wicked armies, Antichrist, Satan, and the False Prophet. How will we feel about leaving our mansions and coming back to earth to fight against evil?
We probably have not thought much about this. One Christian lady told me in all sincerity that Christ will do all the fighting; we will not do any fighting because that would get our robes dirty.
I have just outlined the position of the saint, and then of the average churchgoer in America, who hopes to be “raptured” from the surface of the earth in order to escape suffering.
How do the saints, the disciples of the Lord, differ from the average churchgoer?
As I said, they are wholly involved in the Lord Jesus. He affects everything they think, say, and do throughout every day and every night.
The average churchgoer views his church as a social group with whom he is affiliated. He may be deeply involved or related to his church tangentially. But we could not say he or she is totally involved with the Lord Jesus.
The goal of the churchgoer is rest in Heaven – eternal rest from the multitude of problems we experience on the earth.
The goal of the saint, the disciple, is change into the moral image of Jesus Christ and entrance into untroubled rest in the Father through Christ. Once having attained these two states, the saint then is eligible and competent to fulfill one or more of the many roles of the Kingdom of God, such as being a part of the eternal Temple of God; being a brother of Christ; being a member of the Body of Christ; being a part of the Wife of the Lamb; and so forth.
We understand therefore that there can be a considerable difference between being a typical churchgoer, and a disciple of the Lord Jesus.
I have noticed that numerous believers do not grow substantially in the Lord after many years of faithful church attendance and participation in the work of the church. Being a former educator, I have pondered what is missing in a system that permits people to attend church for forty or fifty years and yet not experience more change in their personality.
There are at least three passages which indicate the totality of the transformation that we, as disciples, are to be experiencing:
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! (II Corinthians 5:17)
The old personality has been crucified with Christ and has passed away. The new Christ-filled personality has come. All the old has passed away. All the new has come. This is to be a total exchange. No part of the first personality is to remain. There is a new – utterly new – creation.
And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. (II Corinthians 3:18)
Every time we see the Glory of the Lord, whether through preaching, or meditating in the Bible, or in prayer, or in a mature saint, or in some manifestation of the Lord’s Presence and power, we are changed. Moses face was transfigured from seeing the Glory of the Lord. Our inward nature is transfigured from seeing the Glory of the Lord Jesus Christ.
And just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven. (I Corinthians 15:49)
The likeness of the earthly man is common to all human beings. Adam was formed from the dust. He was an intelligent animal with a spirit that could communicate with God. We are Adam’s descendants. We are intelligent animals with a spirit that can communicate with God. We can pray, which is not true of any animal. This is the image of the earthly man.
The Man from Heaven is a life-giving Spirit. He is the Tree of Life, whom we first notice in the Garden of Eden. To partake of Him is to live and be healed.
We are to bear the likeness of the Man from Heaven. We are to become life-giving spirits. We are to be so full of the Lord that we can bring eternal life and healing to other people. We are to be trees of life, fountains of eternal life, from whom those who chose to do so may drink. The churchgoer begins his sojourn as an earthly man. He remains faithful to his church for many years. He dies an earthly man.
The disciple, the saint, the holy and faithful servant of the Lord Jesus Christ begins his discipleship as a saint. He remains faithful to the Lord and to his church for many years. He never dies. He passes into the Presence of the Lord as a life-giving spirit.
Why do we not experience these remarkable transformations? It is because we never have gotten down before the Lord and told Him that from this point forward we are going to live in and by His life. We are going to count ourselves crucified with Him. We are going to live so it is He who is living in us. No part of our personality whatsoever shall be held back from this consecration.
The movement from our life to His life must take place specifically, at a definite point in time and at a definite place. We must vocalize our determination, not just think about it. The step must be taken vigorously and for eternity. There can be no turning back from this sort of vow.
The believer, who has made this commitment and has followed through with it each day, will begin to grow. His or her progress over as little as one year’s time will be noticeable and outstanding.
This is the critical action that determines whether the individual remains as a churchgoer, or becomes a saint. This is how we become a holy and faithful brother in Christ.
We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, (Colossians 1:3)
The Apostles were men of prayer. They gave themselves to prayer and the ministry of the Word of God. They moved in prayer. They were directed in prayer by the Spirit of God.
There is a tendency today to make the Christian churches into businesses. The idea is to sponsor programs that will bring in more people and yet more people. Success is measured by how many people there are under the roof of the church.
This is a shameful practice and should be discontinued. The people who are added by our programs are not necessarily brought in by the Holy Spirit. The Lord did not add them to the church. The Father did not bring them to Christ. They are not disciples or saints, they are churchgoers and little else.
They may be fine people. But in the hour of tribulation they will fall away. They are the seed planted on shallow ground.
We measure success today by the number of people who attend a given church. The church that has five thousand communicants is infinitely better than one that has thirty. Isn’t it so?
But suppose the church of five thousand has three genuine disciples and the church of thirty members has twenty genuine disciples? Which is the "better" church? Which church will advance the Kingdom of God? Which church will offer to God the worship and holiness He requires from a body of believers?
So we are not measuring worth by the correct yardstick. We are encouraging superficial churchgoers who are bemused by the excitement of the gathering of thousands of people. Are such as these enduring the transformation from the earthly man to the life-giving spirit – a transformation that often is painful and calls forth the utmost patience and obedience on the part of the believer?
The only valid measure of the success of a local assembly is the number of people who actually are being transformed. The sheer number of people is not a valid measure. In fact, a large congregation may indicate superficiality. The people may be attending because intensive, soul-searching demands are not being made on them.
The answer to just about everything is prayer. The work that is built on prayer and sustained by prayer will result in the transformation of believers; in the construction of the Kingdom of God.
Because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all the saints. (Colossians 1:4)
The testimony of the brothers at Colosse was that they were strong in their faith in Christ Jesus; they loved all the saints; they were holy; and they were faithful.
The church at Colosse was not like the church at Sardis. The church at Sardis had a name that it was alive, but it was dead. The church at Colosse had an excellent reputation and no doubt was alive in the sight of the Lord Jesus.
If there is one barometer by which a church can be measured, an indication that the Lord is at work and the Divinely-ordained transformation is occurring, it is love among the saints.
When a Christian church begins to experience a significant amount of bitterness and division, it is mortally ill. The church leadership needs to pray until God either removes people or enables those in attendance to confess their bitterness and turn away from it. God will heal us if this is what we desire.
If roots of bitterness are not attended to, the lampstand of the church will be removed by the Lord. It no longer is giving a true testimony. It is dying. To continue attempting to shore up a church in which there is bitterness and division is a waste of time and energy. Unless God indicates otherwise it is best that it be abandoned.
The Lord’s disciples are known by their love for one another.
The faith and love that spring from the hope is stored up for you in heaven and that you have already heard about in the word of truth, the gospel That has come to you. All over the world this gospel is bearing fruit and growing, just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and understood God’s grace in all its truth. (Colossians 1:5, 6)
“The hope is stored up for you in heaven.” Our faith and love spring from this hope. The Gospel, the Good News of this hope, is bearing fruit all over the world. But notice that the hope is not Heaven, nor is our hope eternal residence in Heaven. Our hope is stored up in Heaven at this time but it is destined to come to the earth.
It may be true that the reason we have numerous churchgoers and few disciples is that we have gotten away from the true hope of the Gospel. Our tradition states that our hope is that when we die, we will go to Heaven and live there for eternity. The hope of eternal residence in Heaven is not found in the Old Testament or the New Testament. The original Gospel, the Gospel preached by John the Baptist, the Lord Jesus, and the Apostles of the Lamb, is the Gospel of the Kingdom. The Gospel of the Kingdom is that a kingdom, of which the Lord Jesus is King of all kings and Lord of all lords, is in Heaven at the present time but is coming to the earth. The will of God is going to be done in the earth as it is in Heaven.
Both the Old Testament and the New Testament speak of the coming of the Kingdom of God to the earth.
I suggested previously that the reason we have churchgoers instead of disciples may be due to the fact that we have changed the Bible hope from the coming of God’s Kingdom to the earth, to our going to Heaven when we die to live forever. Why would our change of hope produce churchgoers, that is, people who attend a Christian church but who are not totally consecrated to the Lord Jesus?
I would advance a reason. If an individual trusts that his belief in Jesus guarantees his entrance into Heaven when he dies, and there is nothing he can do to be admitted to Heaven other than believe, he will not see a clear relationship between how he lives and his entrance into Heaven. He may have a vague idea that it would be better that he at least try to live righteously. But he is being taught repeatedly that he will not go to Heaven by righteous behavior, but by the grace of God. Given the number of pressures we live under, he is not going to apply time and effort to a goal already achieved.
Isn’t this the case with multitudes of churchgoers throughout the world?
Kingdom thinking is quite difference from this. Kingdom thinking does not focus on our going to Heaven when we die. We understand our residence in Heaven is temporary while we await the all-important Day of Resurrection.
We know if Christ is our life we are going to return with the Lord Jesus Christ and establish the Kingdom of God, the doing of God’s will, in the earth. Since this is the case, every day of our life is one of preparation for this most awesome event. Also, we realize the type of resurrection we attain to, will depend on our behavior today.
We have our eyes fixed on a Kingdom that is coming to the earth, and we know our position in that Kingdom, whether it is of high rank or low, depends on our obedience and faithfulness now. It is not that we earn salvation; it is that we become qualified and competent to participate in the Kingdom of God.
We have an altogether different hope, and one that makes total demands on us.
When people realize they are going to be raised from the dead and live on the earth in a sensible world, and that their position will be one they have reaped from what they have sown, and not a fantasy land they enter with their “grace ticket,” they may change from their casual attitude toward their religion to one of fervent application to what is written in the New Testament.
You learned it from Epaphras, our dear fellow servant, who is a faithful minister of Christ on our behalf, and who also told us of your love in the Spirit. (Colossians 1:7,8)
“A faithful minister of Christ.” “Faithfulness” is an unshakeable determination to be true to those who trust us. God is faithful to us. We can stand on His Word and never be shaken. The One who is coming from Heaven is called “faithful and true.”
Why is there an increasing lack of faithfulness in the United States? It is because we have become lovers of pleasure. God has arranged the world so it often is true that circumstances cause pain to the person who would be faithful. So to escape the pain, the individual betrays those who trust him. He lies and evades responsibility.
Faithfulness and truth are another name for integrity. God has perfect integrity, as does His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Since we are being made in the image of Christ it is absolutely necessary we possess integrity. No matter what it costs us, we are to remain faithful and true in all we do.
No one will sit at Christ’s table who is not faithful and true.
For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. (Colossians 1:9)
Paul had heard about the fruit the Gospel had borne in these disciples, their faith and love for the saints.
Notice Paul’s prayer for them: "that God would fill them with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding."
The theme of this study of Colossians is what a true Christian believer, a saint, is supposed to be. I am contrasting this with what passes today for a “Christian.”
In our time a believer could attend church for a number of years and never grow in the knowledge of God’s will “through all spiritual wisdom and understanding.” After decades of faithful attendance he or she may not have experienced significant growth in God’s will. He or she could not say, as did the Lord Jesus, “I have finished the work you gave Me to do.” Why could the American believer not say this at the end of his or her life? Because he has little or no idea what God wants him to do.
Why does he not know what God wants him to do? Because he is being taught about the unscriptural “rapture”; or else he is being instructed as to how to have a more successful life in the world – a better marriage; how to manage his finances; how to get people to come to church. He is not directed to seek the Lord until He understands God’s purpose for his life; until he is filled with all spiritual wisdom and understanding.
I realize there are notable exceptions to what I am saying. I am reflecting on what appears to me to be the majority of churchgoers in America. I may be mistaken but it seems we are in an apostate condition. How many believers do you know who truly are cross-carrying disciples, following Jesus every day with all their might? When all is said and done, these are the only true Christians; the only ones who will be raised when the Lord appears; the only ones who will inherit what we often think of when we speak of ruling with Christ.
What about the majority? I am not certain, except that they will not walk in the white robes of the royal priesthood. They simply have not been found worthy. Of this is am sure because of what the Bible says.
And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, (Colossians 1:10)
“Live a life worthy of the Lord.” It is not uncommon for Christians to say, “I am not worthy. Only He is worthy.” This is not acceptable. Several times in the New Testament we are exhorted to be found worthy of the Kingdom of God. We are apt to cry “Lord! Lord!” and then not do what He says. This is not the way of the Kingdom of God. Those with this attitude will not enter, or more correctly, are not entering the Kingdom of God.
We are to bear fruit in every good work while growing in the knowledge of God. This means we are to be showing forth the Character of Jesus Christ in every aspect of our behavior, in the meanwhile learning about God, His ways, His will, and His eternal purpose in Christ.
Our greatest testimony is what kind of person we are as evidenced by our behavior. This is our light that will cause people to glorify God. By emphasizing salvation by grace and faith alone, we have destroyed the Christian witness. People cannot see our imputed righteousness. They see only our behavior. When we are not revealing the moral Character of Jesus Christ in our life, our testimony about Christ is nonexistent. We can talk about coming to see our new church and hearing our wonderful pastor, and even about the need to accept Christ as our personal Savior. But what we are and how we behave speaks with a louder voice.
The fruit the Christian is to bear is the moral image of Jesus. As we begin to bear this fruit, we grow in the knowledge of God. But such fruit is grown only in those who have left all and are following the Lord Jesus each day. It does not occur in those who are mere churchgoers, and this is why Christianity has the reputation in America that it does.
I asked the people in the congregation last Sunday night, people who have had considerable experience in Christian churches, what they assumed to be the percentage of genuine disciples in the churches. They said less than one percent.
Ask the same question in your church.
We do not bear the fruit of Christ’s image, nor do we grow in the knowledge of God, unless we are living as cross-carrying disciples. We have to be wholly involved with the Lord in all we do, practicing His Presence at every moment. It must be true for us that to live is Christ and to die is gain. We must endure all things, that Christ may be magnified in us. If this is not true of us, if we are not pressing forward to the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, we are not a true saint and we will not grow as we should.
You may protest: “Brother Thompson, if what you are saying is true, there are only a few Christians in our country.”
What I am saying is true and scriptural. As far as numbers of believers are concerned, God told Noah he was the only righteous person in the world.
There was a time when God searched Jerusalem and could not find one upright person. For the sake of one upright person, He would not destroy the city. But God could not find even one upright person. Not one!
Go up and down the streets of Jerusalem, look around and consider, search through her squares. If you can find but one person who deals honestly and seeks the truth, I will forgive this city. (Jeremiah 5:1)
I looked for a man among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it, but I found none. (Ezekiel 22:30)
The Jews of the days of Jeremiah and Ezekiel would say, “This is foolishness! There are many righteous in our city. You are being too extreme!”
We would say today, “This is foolishness! God is going to bring all who have taken the four steps of salvation to Heaven at any moment now. You are being too extreme!”
The Jews of that day were incorrect, weren’t they?
God’s Word can never be changed, not one iota. Those who adhere to the standards of the New Testament will inherit all things. Those believers who do not adhere to the standards of the New Testament are facing much pain, whether or not they believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. This is what the Bible teaches.
Being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully Giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. (Colossians 1:11,12)
“Strengthened with all power.” Righteousness is a question of power. The reason we sin and disobey God is that we are weak. The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.
If we pray, God will strengthen us so we may have great endurance and patience.
Entering the Kingdom of God requires much endurance and patience. The true saint has withdrawn from the world culture and is living each day as the Lord leads. Living in this manner requires much endurance and patience. We are not free to run about as do those who are not living as disciples. We need God’s strength that we may endure to the end.
The average churchgoer may not realize how much endurance and patience are required. Of course, he has his ups and downs in the world. While we are in the world we experience tribulation. This is common to all people, the unsaved, the churchgoer, and the disciple. (I understand disciples are churchgoers. I am using these terms to facilitate our understanding, to draw the distinction between what is regarded as Christianity in America, and what the New Testament regards as a saint.)
But the disciple, unlike the average churchgoer, is not free to do as he pleases; to go where he desires to go; to live as he desires to live. He has to wait on the Lord to gratify his fervent desires. Therefore patience and endurance are required, and Divine strength is needed to meet these requirements.
One of our main duties as members of the royal priesthood is that of joyfully giving thanks to the Father for all things. If it were not for His elect, all God would hear from the earth would be cursing and bitterness.
God has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints. How has God qualified us? By bringing us to Jesus Christ. By giving us the benefits of the blood atonement. By putting His Spirit in us.
Salvation is preached today as though it is a democratic process in which some people choose to be saved, and others refuse to be saved or else have never heard the Gospel. This is true in a superficial sense. But the truth is, no person comes to the Lord Jesus unless the Father draws that individual. It is God who qualifies us to share in the inheritance of the saints.
I believe trouble is coming to America (as if we are not having trouble already). If persecution is added to this trouble, or results from the trouble, we will find out who were brought into the churches by the artifices of talented preachers, and who were qualified by the Father to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light.
For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, (Colossians 1:13)
We are not preaching the Gospel correctly, are we? We are preaching and teaching that the purpose of salvation is to bring us to Heaven when we die so we can live there forever.
The truth is, to be saved is to be rescued from the dominion of darkness and brought into the Kingdom of Christ.
Today we have an unscriptural “rapture” that brings us from the earth to Heaven.
The true Gospel brings us from the dominion of darkness to the Kingdom of Christ.
But aren’t these the same or nearly the same? No, they are not the same at all.
The earth is not the same as the dominion of darkness.
The Kingdom of Christ is not the same as Heaven.
We can live on the earth and be free from the dominion of darkness. In fact, this will be the case for everyone when the Lord returns. But at the present time, we can be free from the dominion of darkness by pressing forward in Christ each day. This is what salvation is – freedom from the dominion of darkness; freedom from sin.
So no, the earth and the dominion of darkness are not at all the same thing.
The Kingdom of Christ is the doing of God’s will wherever we are. Heaven is a place in the spirit world. There are several heavens, the highest being the location of God, Christ, the holy angels, and the saints. Heaven is a place!
The Kingdom of God is a realm of authority. The Kingdom of God is not a place; it is God in Christ in the saints governing the works of God’s hands.
So we see we are not preaching what Paul preached. We are preaching our traditions. Our discipleship is not one of waiting to die so we can go to Heaven. Our discipleship is one of removal from the dominion of darkness and entrance into the kingdom of light right now – today. Can you agree with that?
In whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. (Colossians 1:14)
Redemption is shown here to be the forgiveness of sins. We notice in the Book of Acts the emphasis on the forgiveness of sins, and also on works of repentance.
It appears to me that for the two thousand years of the Church Era, the Gospel has primarily been that of the forgiveness of sins. The Lord Jesus Christ came to forgive the sins of whoever would reach out to Him by faith.
This Gospel is as true today as it ever has been.
However, in our day we are becoming aware the primary act of redemption is not, and could never be, the forgiveness of sins. The primary act of redemption is the removal of sins, which proceeds on the basis of the forgiveness of sins.
Let us think for a moment. What good would it do for God to forgive the sins of everyone in the world, or even just those who believe in Christ, if He did not remove the sinful nature? Obviously no good; for having been forgiven, the people would still be sinning. The world then would have abundant sin being continually committed by people who were being continually forgiven, with no hope of the root cause being removed so the cycle could be broken. We certainly do not look forward with joy to any such world!
No, we know somehow that the sinful nature must be removed if we are to have love, peace, and joy, in the world to come.
So the question is not whether redemption includes the removal of the sinful nature. Logic demands it and the Scripture promises it. The question is, rather, how, when, and where is God going to remove the sinful nature.
There are two main opinions today, as far as I know. The first is that when we die and go to Heaven we will not sin anymore. The corollary of that is, as long as we are alive in the world we are obligated to sin.
The second main opinion is that when the Lord Jesus comes He will remove sin from us.
The first main opinion, that when we go to Heaven we will not sin anymore, has no support in the Old Testament or the New Testament. The fact is, sin began in Heaven with Satan and the fallen lords. Therefore, this commonly held belief must be discarded. It is unscriptural.
The second main opinion, that when the Lord comes He will remove our sinful nature, also is unscriptural. In fact, the parable of the talents reveals that when the Lord returns He will demand an accounting from His servants as to how diligent they were with what He had entrusted to them.
So there is no scriptural support for the two main opinions of our day as to how God is going to deal with the sinful nature.
However, in the thirteenth chapter of the Book of Matthew we read that in the last days the angels of the Lord will come to His Kingdom and remove all that causes sin and all who do evil. In other words, sin will be removed at that time, and those who survive the cleansing will shine like the sun in the Kingdom of their Father.
As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear. (Matthew 13:40-43)
The above is the scriptural explanation of how the Lord will deal with our sinful nature. There is no question about this. I know of no other passage that states clearly when God will remove the sinful nature from His Kingdom. There are other passages, such as the third chapter of Malachi and the third chapter of Matthew, that speak of God purifying the royal priesthood. But I think Matthew, Chapter Thirteen is the clearest.
The question is, exactly when, where, and how this purging will take place?
“As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age.” The removal of sin will take place “at the end of the age.” Notice this is not speaking of the guilt of sin but of the sinful nature itself.
How will the Lord remove our sinful nature? “The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil.”
First, everything that causes sin will be removed, and then all who do evil. I think the first step will be opportunity for deliverance. “Everything that causes sin” will be removed from those who cooperate with the removal.
Then “all who do evil,” those who refuse to be delivered, will themselves be removed – not just the sin but the person himself or herself.
Notice in the following verse that it is people, not sin, who are in the Lake of Fire.
But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars – their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death. (Revelation 21:8)
If we do not permit the Lord to remove cowardice from us, then we shall be thrown into the fire. If we do not permit the Lord to remove lying from us, then we shall be thrown into the Lake of Fire.
It is difficult to picture how this removal will take place. So many times we picture angels with wings, when the Lord is referring to human messengers. The term “angel” means “messenger.”
I believe at least a part of this deliverance is taking place today. We have had physical deliverance, as people have been prayed for and been healed physically. Now we are experiencing moral deliverance, as we confess our sins and turn away from them.
As far as the messengers throwing sin and sinners into the fire, it must be kept in mind that all judgment has been given to the Son, and the Son has passed on much of the work of judgment to the members of His Body. Actually it is God in Christ in the saints who is doing the work of judgment.
May the praise of God be in their mouths and a double-edged sword in their hands, To inflict vengeance on the nations and punishment on the peoples, To bind their kings with fetters, their nobles with shackles of iron, To carry out the sentence written against them. This is the glory of all his saints. Praise the LORD. (Psalms 149:6-9)
If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven. (John 20:23)
What will happen to sin and sinners in that hour? “The messengers will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
What will be true of people once sin has been removed from them? “Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father.”
I don’t see how the Bible could be much clearer, more specific. But a question remains: Will this judgment and deliverance take place on the earth; in Heaven; or in both places? In my opinion the deliverance from the sinful nature will take place on earth and in Heaven at the same time. I derive this thought from the fourth chapter of First Peter, which states: “God is ready to judge the living and the dead.”
This may be difficult for us to accept. I think our difficulty in accepting the fact that the Lord will cleanse His people in Heaven (maybe we won’t have this much trouble with the idea of God cleansing His people on the earth) is due to our idea of what Heaven is like and what the people there are doing.
Because of some of the visions of the saints plus the traditional (but thoroughly unscriptural) idea of mansions in heaven, it is difficult to picture people, who have been laying about at their ease, suddenly confronted with messengers who want to deliver them from their sinful nature.
Paul says our sinful nature dwells in our flesh. So while we are contemplating this, we have to think about whether or not our sinful nature goes with us when we die. It probably does, because the sinful nature is spiritual, not physical. The sinful nature is not an integral part of the carbon compounds that compose our physical body. The sinful nature dwells in our flesh, according to Paul.
If we bring our sinful nature with us, do we continue to sin after we die? I rather doubt this, because Jesus said God’s will is done in Heaven. Perhaps it is true that the environment of Heaven, being free of demons, does not call forth the deeds of our sinful nature.
But according to the Apostle Peter, God is going to judge the living and the dead. In another place the statement is made, "It is appointed to men once to die, and after this the judgment."
So if people are held in a kind of spiritual limbo in Heaven, rather than reclining in mansions as our traditions hold, it is not too difficult to picture them standing before the Lord’s messengers and deciding whether they wish to retain their sinful nature or release it.
Those who decide to retain it will be thrown into the fire. Those who decide to let it go will shine with a righteous nature.
For this is the reason the gospel was preached even to those who are now dead, so they might be judged according to men in regard to the body, but live according to God in regard to the spirit. (I Peter 4:6)
When you stop to think about it, it is not unreasonable that people in the spirit world would have an opportunity to retain or release their sinful nature. I believe the spirit world is much like our present life on earth. Some people choose to release their sinful nature. Others choose to retain their sinful nature. Isn’t it so?
But would there be circumstances in the spirit world that would call forth dormant sinful impulses? I don’t know why not? We really do not know what goes on in the spirit world, do we? But I think Peter implies strongly that the Gospel is preached to those who are dead, so they must have an opportunity to choose forgiveness and deliverance or else reject forgiveness and deliverance.
Our problem in thinking along these lines may have to do with the fact we believe people somehow are different once they are released from their body. If this were the case there would be no need for the Lord to deal with us as He does while we are living on the earth. All He would need to do would be to bring us all into the spirit world, and the problem of worldliness, lust, and self-will would be solved.
But this probably is not the case, in that most of our Christian life is occupied with our decision whether or not to press forward into the fullness of righteousness, holiness, and obedience to God. Why would this painful journey be necessary if we could be found in the image of Christ and at rest in God’s will merely by dying?
I realize Peter probably is speaking of those he mentioned earlier, who died at the time of the flood of Noah. But if even one person heard the Gospel after dying, and would have been judged accordingly, then it is possible for any number of people to hear the Gospel after dying and to be judged accordingly.
We have to go by what the Scriptures teach no matter how they conflict with our traditions.
We know today the Holy Spirit is speaking to us to confess our sins and turn away from them. We have not been called to sin in this present world but to gain victory over our sins through the help of the Lord. I am certain all true disciples of the Lord Jesus will agree to this. I do not have the same confidence concerning the majority of churchgoers, the “mixed multitude” who today are included on the membership rolls of the denominations.
So judgment and deliverance are taking place, and everyone is invited to participate. After all, what true saint wants to continue in sin when the means of deliverance is at hand?
So yes, for two thousand years the emphasis has been on forgiveness. But logic and the Scriptures inform us that at some point God must remove our sinful nature from us so we can live in peace and fellowship with Him. It is my opinion, based on over fifty years of experience and thought, that the promised deliverance from the deeds of the sinful nature has begun. It is not an instantaneous experience. It is little by little as the Holy Spirit directs.
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. (Colossians 1:15)
It appears to me that the current Christian thinking concerning the Godhead leans too far in the direction of “oneness,” that is, that Christ and the Father actually are the same Person although in different forms. It is easy to see how this belief has come about. Not only does our present “oneness” doctrine appear to exalt the Lord Jesus, but several passages of Scripture seem to suggest one exalted Person who is God, but in three manifestations or forms; or even, somehow, in three Persons.
The present viewpoint is certainly reverent, but it works against what God is doing. God is bringing many sons to glory and plans on making them a part of Himself through Christ. This clearly is scriptural.
Now, if you stop to think about it, if Christ really were the Father in another form, there is no way in which we could be a part of this Oneness. Christ would always remain different from us.
But if Jesus Christ is the Son of God, if there truly is a Father whom Christ worships and obeys (which the Scripture plainly declares), and if He has been born of God and we have been born of the same Father, then we truly are His brothers. We were not the Word from eternity. We did not create all things. We are not Lord. But we are His brothers in truth.
And since we are not the Father in another form, or even Christ in another form, then it cannot be true that Christ is the Father in another form. If He is, then what we can become in Christ is limited as to relationship. Also, we would have the Lamb marrying something less than Himself.
If we stay with what the Scripture actually states, there is no problem. It is when we begin to make deductions from one or two verses that we create needless complexity.
Jesus Christ is the image of the invisible God. Fine. He is not the invisible God, He is the image of the invisible God. In like manner, we, according to Romans, are being fashioned into the image of Christ. This is a clear, forthright, scriptural statement.
Jesus Christ is the Firstborn over all creation. Perhaps the idea is that when He died on the cross, the first creation came to an end. He arose as the Firstborn of the new creation, we might say. The new creation began with His resurrection and will continue to develop until the new sky and earth come into view, and the glorified Christian Church, as the new Jerusalem, descends through the new sky to be established forever on the new earth. The Lord Jesus Christ is the Beginning of the new creation and the One who is developing the new creation. There shall be no end of that which began when Christ rose from the dead.
For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. (Colossians 1:16)
The Lord Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever, the Book of Hebrews informs us. I believe this. I believe Christ, as the Word of God, worked in the beginning just as He worked while on earth. He said nothing and did nothing apart from the Father. It was the Father who created all things, but the Father did this through Christ and for Christ. How could it be otherwise? Would Christ have created all things apart from the Father’s power and wisdom? I don’t believe so.
Now you see where we come in. If it is Christ who is living in us, as the Apostle Paul stated, then Christ may banish the present earth and sky to create a new earth and a new sky—through us! Wouldn’t that be fun? We are to stand in the same relationship to Christ, as Christ stands to the Father. I believe God’s will, love, and joy are commanding this.
According to the above verse, God through Christ created all the angels—even Satan, I believe. Could God have known that Satan would rebel? I think so. At the time the Word brought forth the marvelous creature known as Satan, the day star, the son of the dawn, could God have known that this remarkable cherub one day would stand in front of his Creator and ask for worship? I think the Father knew this.
Could God have known that the guardian cherub, brought forth in the joy of creation, would one day cause his Creator such anguish? I think the Father knew all this in advance. The Lamb was slain from the beginning of the world. God is greater than we understand.
He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. (Colossians 1:17)
In the beginning Christ was known as the Word. At some point, perhaps when He was born of Mary, He became the Son of God. Now He is Lord and Christ (Anointed) with all power in Heaven and on the earth. He sits on the highest throne. It is the Father who has done all this for His Son, in whom He is well pleased.
Christ upholds all things by the word of His power. Such power is absolutely incomprehensible to us. We are speaking of the power that upholds and directs all the stars and planets.
And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so in everything he might have the supremacy. (Colossians 1:18)
The Church is the Body of Christ, the fullness of His Being.
As I said, all things of the old creation, and the new creation as well, began with Jesus Christ.
He is the First to have come forth from the dead. All who have lived on the earth and then died will follow in their appointed rank.
It is the Father’s will that Christ be supreme in all things, and so He has placed Christ as the Beginning of everything in the universe.
For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, (Colossians 1:19)
Can you see how clear and simple the relationship is between the Father and the Son? God made a decision. It pleased Him to have all His fullness dwell in Christ. In the same manner, it has pleased God that all of His Fullness should dwell in us who are the Body of Christ.
And to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:19)
Some day people may wonder if the saints are actually separate people or if they are different manifestations of Jesus Christ. We know we have lost our individuality by becoming one with Christ in God. But we know also that our identity as a separate will, a separate person, shall remain intact.
In the same manner, Christ is not an individual apart from God. He is One with God. But Christ has never lost His identity as a separate will, a separate Person. His identity forever will remain intact, just as our identity forever will remain intact although we become one in Christ in God and are filled with the fullness of God.
And through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. (Colossians 1:20)
Let’s think about the idea of reconciliation. Through Jesus Christ, God has chosen to reconcile to Himself all things in earth and all things in Heaven. The things on earth have to do with sin and rebellion against God on the part of the peoples of the earth. The things in Heaven have to do with angels who sinned and rebelled against God.
By way of the blood shed on the cross, Christ, the innocent on behalf of the guilty, reconciled all things. We know some of the angels cannot be reconciled to God. We know also that some people will be thrown into the Lake of Fire. So the reconciliation is not a blanket amnesty. Rather it is a potential reconciliation based on God’s election plus the response of the creature.
Paul stated that he attempted to reconcile people to God.
The blood satisfies God’s sense of justice and righteousness so totally that when even the wickedest person truly repents, he will be forgiven by God. As for angels, so far as I know, once they rebel against God they are doomed. No repentance is possible.
In order for reconciliation to take place between God and a human being, the human being must choose to come to God on the basis of the blood of Calvary. God has taken the first step. The next step is ours.
Once we decide to make peace with God, we receive His forgiveness and then start on the difficult path that leads to eternal life. It is not enough to just ask forgiveness. We must prove our repentance by our deeds, as Paul says.
So the road to total reconciliation is long and steep, at least in the present hour as God’s rulers and warriors are being formed. After we are forgiven there still is the sinful nature to be overcome. Our most difficult task is that of submitting our self-will to God so His will prevails in our life.
God has done His part in the task of reconciliation. Now it is up to us to run the race, to fight the fight, that God has set before us. If we are going to run this difficult race and fight this difficult fight we have to be truly desirous of being reconciled to God.
Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. (Colossians 1:21)
There is no question that our mind is the enemy of God. This is because we want to plan and pursue our own way while God wants us to find out His plan and pursue His way. Complete consecration to God’s will is essential to our entering the rest of God. I am not certain how many Christians are ready at this time to give over their life to God so they may dwell in untroubled rest in God’s Person and will.
As for our evil behavior, as long as we are sinning we are alienated from God. We have been reconciled legally through the blood of the cross, but in order to have lasting fellowship with God we have to stop sinning. This is possible if we will confess our sins and turn away from them with the help of the Spirit of God.
“Walk in the Spirit,” Paul told us, “and you will not fulfill the lusts of your flesh.”
If we would have fellowship with God and be received by Him we have to come out of the ways of the world around us and cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit. Without holiness no one shall see the Lord.
But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation – if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant. (Colossians 1:22,23)
God has brought us to Christ and has reconciled us to Himself on the basis of Christ’s death on the cross. Those who receive this Divine act by faith are made holy in God’s sight, without blemish and free from accusation.
We might think of this as an imputed holiness; an imputed purity that leaves us free from accusation. So far so good. But what then?
This seems to be as far as our thinking goes, in many instances. We now are holy. We now are without blemish. We now are free from accusation. This is how God sees us.
But is this a permanent state? Or is it a fresh start for us so we now can begin to cleanse ourselves as the Holy Spirit begins to show us the moral filth in our personality? This is the important question today. Has Christ done it all, or is there something we must do to continue what God has done.
If we seek to continue what God has done by confessing our sins and turning from them, are we being legalistic, as some charge? Are we attempting to improve on the perfect work of Calvary?
We could deduce from these words in Colossians that there is nothing more to be done. But is this conclusion really supported by the New Testament? I realize some believe this is so. But look:
“Therefore come out from them and be separate,” says the Lord. “Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you. I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters,” says the Lord Almighty. Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God. (II Corinthians 6:17-7:1)
Now, did the same man write the Book of Second Corinthians and the Book of Colossians? Yes, the same man wrote both epistles.
Are both of these epistles the inspired Word of God? Yes, they both are the inspired Word of God.
If we receive them both as the inspired Word of God written by the same man, then we must conclude that after God has presented us holy, without blemish and free from accusations because of Christ’s physical death on the cross, we must come out from the unclean practices of the world and be separate. We must touch no unclean thing. We must purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit. We must perfect holiness out of reverence for God.
We absolutely must do these things if we really are saints. The churchgoers may or may not purify themselves. But every true disciple must. He knows he must obey the commandments given by Christ and His Apostles.
To say there is nothing we are to do but believe is obviously unscriptural.
Paul goes on to say, in the passage above, that God has reconciled us to Himself by Christ’s physical body “if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel.”
Again, we could conclude from this that all we are to do is to keep on believing, keep on rejoicing in our hope of meeting Christ some day. But the remainder of the New Testament does not bear this out. It simply is not enough to just keep believing in Christ, unless our believing is more than a mental assent to theological truth.
Our believing must be the kind that keeps the Lord Jesus before us at all times so we are being transformed from an earthly creature to a life-giving spirit; until we have been formed into the moral image of Christ and are dwelling in untroubled rest in the Father through Jesus Christ.
Our faith must be resulting in a daily transformation if we actually are being moved from the dominion of darkness to the kingdom of light.
Probably the greatest error in Christian thinking is that our salvation consists of a specialized belief system that is largely unrelated to our behavior. You may recognize this as the influence of Gnosticism on Christian theology.
Our salvation proceeds from a daily walk with a living Person, not from the “Statement of Faith” of our denomination.
So continuing in our faith, being established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the Gospel, is not referring to maintaining our belief system but has to do with pressing forward, pressing forward, pressing forward until we are living by the power of Christ’s resurrection and sharing the sufferings of the cross.
Now I rejoice in what was suffered for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church. (Colossians 1:24)
You don’t hear the above verse preached every Sunday. It really does not go along with our ordinary Christian thinking. Is it actually true that Paul was called upon to suffer in his flesh the pain of Christ’s afflictions that still are lacking? We have been healed by the lashes laid on Christ. Is it a fact that there are more lashes necessary to heal the Church? A difficult question indeed.
We understand the full and perfect atonement was made on the cross of Calvary. God’s sense of righteousness and justice has been totally vindicated.
What is this then about Paul filling up in his flesh a measure of afflictions still lacking, on behalf of the Church, the Body of Christ?
Is this what Paul meant by sharing the sufferings of Christ.?
I am not knowledgeable enough to answer this question authoritatively. But I can tell you what I do know. Whenever God wants something established in His Kingdom, someone has to pay the price. There are those who say the present prevalence of Gospel work in Africa is being built on the sacrifice of missionary families who went out at the beginning of the twentieth century. Many were martyred.
Have you ever read of a work of God that was established through much suffering on the part of the pioneer? It happens, doesn’t it. Perhaps this is what Paul is referring to.
The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church, it is said. Perhaps we have to see the travail of our soul before we can be satisfied.
I have thought sometimes of the Himalayas. There are some who believe there are demon strongholds there. Perhaps God will move on a believer to go there and plant the flag of Christ, so to speak. But I would think whoever is privileged to advance the Kingdom of God in that area may possibly go through years of spiritual warfare before anything permanent is accomplished.
That seems to be the way it is. If we are to enter the joy of our Lord, perhaps we will have to suffer in order for His Kingdom to be increased. I wouldn’t be surprised if such is the case.
I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness. (Colossians 1:25)
God commissioned the Apostle Paul to become the servant of the Church, the Body of Christ. Paul’s duty as a servant of the Church is to present the Word of God in its fullness.
One can see the drift of some of the large denominations of our day toward endorsing the ordination of homosexual ministers. I believe they are doing this in the interest of “social progress.”
However, it is not the duty of a Christian organization to implement social progress of this kind. The Christian organization has one, and only one, duty – to present to the members of Christ’s Body the Word of God in its fullness.
Both the Old Testament and the New Testament condemn the practice of homosexuality. Homosexual behavior is a sin like any other sin, no better and no worse. A denomination would not ordain someone who was robbing other people or publishing pornography. Why then should it ordain someone who is a homosexual?
It has nothing to do with prejudice, narrow-mindedness, bias or discrimination. The Word of God describes the practice of homosexuality as sin. Sin it is, and the Church and its ministers are to describe it as such.
My personal opinion is that these large denominations do not believe the Bible is the Word of God. If this is the case, perhaps they should go along with the social currents. God no longer is with them, and so at least they will have gained some friends who will welcome them when they die.
The mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the saints. To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. (Colossians 1:26, 27)
A very important part of “the word of God in its fullness” is the mystery of Christ in us. Paul said this mystery has been kept hidden for ages and generations. The truth is it still is hidden.
Now, what do I mean by that?
Think about it. In our church-going religion, how is Christ presented? Isn’t Christ usually presented as the Christ of Christmas, or the Christ of Easter, or the Christ in Heaven, or the Christ who is coming again? How often do you hear an emphasis on the forming of Christ in us, or the coming of the Father and the Son to dwell in us?
The reason we are emphasizing the Christ born in the manger and the Christ who was raised from the dead two thousand years ago is that we have not actually been born again. Perhaps Christ has been conceived in us, but when Christ has really begun to be formed in us, we know the Kingdom of God is not about the historical Christ but about Christ in us. This is the mystery of the Gospel and the hope of glory.
Before His resurrection, Christ was with His Apostles but not in His Apostles. There is a vast difference between Christ being with us and Christ being in us.
If the Christian Gospel were Christ with us, some demands would be placed upon us. But because the Christian Gospel is Christ in us, the demands on us are total.
In the religion of Christianity, Christ is with us. To the disciple, Christ is in us. What a difference!
How astounded Paul must have been. The Christ is to be formed in us and then to dwell in us with the Father for eternity!
But now we have moved outside of the Christian religion. We are talking about the true Gospel and the transformation that takes place as, bit by bit, our first personality is chiseled away and Christ takes its place.
We think about dying and going to Heaven so we can be with Christ. The truth is, if we truly have received Christ and are trudging along the difficult path that leads to eternal life, we already are at the right hand of God in Christ, and Christ is being formed in us.
We are becoming a new creation, if we are carrying our cross and following Christ. The old nature is being crucified. The new nature is Christ. When Christ has been formed in us, the Father and Christ will come and make Their eternal dwelling place in that which has been formed in us.
“In My Father’s house.” Christ is the Father’s house. But there are numerous rooms. Each true saint is a living stone in that house, a room for the Father to dwell in. This is the Church, the Body of Christ, the eternal Temple of God.
Can you see what I mean when I speak of the difference between being a churchgoer and being a saint, a holy one of God? One is a religion like the other major religions of the world. But what I am speaking about is not a religion in that sense. It is a personal transformation that is occurring in us as we encounter the living Jesus each day.
Christ has been conceived in us. The supernatural Seed of God has been conceived in us. The living Word has been conceived in us. This is the hope of glory. What kind of glory? The glory of being an enlargement of God’s Person through Jesus Christ. The glory of living in eternal, incorruptible resurrection life. The glory of inheriting the nations and the farthest reaches of the earth.
For all things of the creation are of Christ and for Christ. We are an integral part of Him, a coheir, if you will, of the Father’s wealth.
The Prophets knew about the coming of Christ. They knew a Child would be born. They knew about the importance of Galilee. But I don’t believe they had an inkling that the Christ was to be formed in people. It is a mystery to the present hour because we still refer to the Christ of history, what He did and what He yet will do. But the central issue of the Gospel, the blessing for which Calvary paid, is the forming of Christ in the saints.
We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so we may present everyone perfect in Christ. (Colossians 1:28)
It is easy to fall into the trap of preaching about Christ instead of preaching Christ. It is easy to conduct our services in such a manner that they are about Christ but do not include Christ. It is relatively easy to sing about Christ, instead of worshiping the Father along with Christ.
We need more of Jesus in our services. Don’t you agree? The believers must come prayed up, with the thought in mind that they have something spiritual to give – if it is nothing more than a prayer or a smile for someone. The pastor must be living in Christ to the extent he knows what Christ wants from the service.
There should be a certain amount of flexibility in the service so we do not drift into a routine. I have started to put my Bible on a chair in the front of the church and preach from it instead of going up to the pulpit. Sometimes I walk around while I am preaching and address someone personally. Stan our worship leader, is thinking of different ways to break up the routine of just singing.
Last Sunday night, after the Communion service, I called everyone to the front. There were approximately fifty in attendance, all people I knew well.
I wanted to do something different. So I said to the people, “I want to do something different but I don’t know what. So would everyone please come forward?” We have a large area in front of the chairs where we do our flags, banners, tambourines, and expressive moments.
I asked the musicians to take their places. Then I asked Stan to lead us in a chorus titled, “Shout to the Lord.” After we sing it once we all are to shout.
So I said, “as soon as we come to the place where we all shout, I want you to pick out someone while your are shouting and pray for them at the top of your voice.”
Well, that kind of broke the ice and we had a good spirit in which to fellowship and then leave the building.
This is what I mean by preaching Christ and not about Christ. We just have to get in and bring Christ to people where they can respond actively and get hold of the Lord. We were shouting to the Lord and shouting in prayer; I hope bondages were being broken.
I wait before the service until I know what God wants said to those people at that time. Sometimes I tell them in a few words what God is saying, before I expand upon it with passages of Scripture. It may be that everyone does not hear from God in the same manner I do, but I am sure that all preachers have their way of finding out what God is saying.
When we find out what God is saying, then we get down in front of the people and lay it before them as well as we can. We try to bring Christ to them; to preach Christ to them; not talk about the historical Jesus. The living Christ is here, now. Let’s lay hold on Him and find out what He has for us.
Maybe this is what Paul meant when He said, “proclaim him, teaching everyone so we may present everyone perfect in Christ.”
Everything in a Christian service should be designed to present the believers perfect in Christ. If what we are doing is primarily entertainment, then we need to hold this before the Lord to see if we truly are redeeming the time and doing the Lord’s will.
To this end I labor, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me. (Colossians 1:29)
Preaching is labor. Preaching is a struggle as we attempt to bring Christ into the personalities of people. God gives us the energy we need when we are doing His will.
There are forces that fight against us as we labor in the Word. Sometimes there is demonic interference. I pray before every service that God will give a clear spiritual atmosphere in which to preach.
Sometimes the people are lethargic. This often is true during holidays. It is difficult to get them up into the Presence of the Lord.
Sometimes there is brooding discontent in the congregation. Then we have to be careful to remember that God did not call us to berate the sheep but to feed them. We just keep on feeding them, feeding them. This is what we have been commanded to do. So we do all we know to do to arouse their interest in what we are saying.
If we are saying what God wants said, the Holy Spirit works with us. We do not have to bring about the results by our own wisdom or strength. The Spirit will give the increase if we are faithful to present the burden of the Lord and not our own ideas or the prevailing traditions.
If we have been absolutely faithful to bring to the people what God is saying, whether it is something pleasant or a rebuke, those same people will be our joy and rejoicing in the Day of the Lord. A part of us has been sown in them.
I want you to know how much I am struggling for you and for those at Laodicea, and for all who have not met me personally. (Colossians 2:1)
Paul is struggling for the saints in Colosse that they may come to a fuller grasp on Christ. If a minister of the Gospel is not struggling to accomplish God’s will in the people, then he or she needs to go to the Lord to find out why. Is he merely entertaining himself by preaching marvelous sermons?
This reminds us of Paul’s statement in Galatians that he was travailing that Christ might be formed in the saints. The disciples in Galatia had been saved and filled with the Spirit, as we use these terms. But they were being influenced by Jewish teachers who were attempting to bring them back under the Law of Moses.
Paul understood well that the reason the Galatian believers were vulnerable was that Christ had not been formed in them. We realize from this that just because we have been saved and filled with the Spirit does not mean redemption has been completed in us. The truth is, being saved and filled with the Spirit is the entrance into the process of redemption, not the finished work.
The work of redemption includes three great dimensions. The first dimension is that of removing from us all of our sinful nature, all of our self-will and all of our worldliness. The second dimension is the forming of Christ in us, which results eventually in the redeeming of our body at the coming of the Lord. The third dimension is the coming of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit to make Their eternal abode in us.
The removal of all spiritual darkness from us.
The forming of Christ in us, including the making alive of our mortal body.
The entrance into us of the Fullness of God.
The physical people and land of Israel are an example of God with people.
The Lord Jesus Christ and the Apostle Paul are an example of God in people.
God being with people is necessary, and God shall be with His elect and with the saved nations for eternity.
However, the purpose of the work of redemption is not only or primarily to enable God to be with people. Redemption enables God to be in people, and this is what God desires.
As long as God merely is with people the results can be disappointing. We see this in the Garden of Eden. We see this ineffectiveness in the history of Israel. We see this in the history of the Christian churches, which to this day have not focused on the forming of Christ in people.
The goal of redemption is to produce new creations in which God can dwell; in which God can find rest.
I was meditating this morning on the thirty-sixth chapter of the Book of Ezekiel. I noticed how the Lord described the purpose for the new covenant, the covenant described in the Book of Hebrews.
Therefore say to the house of Israel, “This is what the Sovereign LORD says: It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am going to do these things, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations where you have gone. I will show the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, the name you have profaned among them. Then the nations will know I am the LORD, declares the Sovereign LORD, when I show myself holy through you before their eyes. For I will take you out of the nations; I will gather you from all the countries and bring you back into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. You will live in the land I gave your forefathers; you will be my people, and I will be your God.” (Ezekiel 36:22-28)
God is saying here that He is going to give a new covenant to His elect so He will be revered as holy among the nations of the earth. Jesus told us our light would be our righteous works that would cause the people of the world to glorify God.
If we maintain that God is speaking here to the physical people and land of Israel, and not to the Christian people, we do not understand the relationship between Israel and the Christian Church.
First, not all Israel are Israel. As Paul said, it is not by physical birth that someone becomes Israel but by God’s calling. No Jew is Israel by birth. He must be called, as were Jacob and his sons.
Second, we who are Gentiles are Israel in this sense. In Christ there is neither Jew nor Gentile; there is only the one new Man, the one Olive Tree, the one Seed of Abraham, which is Christ. The Messianic prophecies in the Old Testament, such as the passage from Ezekiel above, do not apply to someone merely because he or she has been born a Jew. They apply only to God’s elect, whether Jewish or Gentile by physical birth. There is only one Israel, one Seed of Abraham, one Church of God. The issue is the Divine calling, not physical birth.
This is why “Replacement Theology” is so fundamentally incorrect. Replacement Theology states that the Christian Church has replaced Israel. The Christian Church has not replaced Israel; it is an integral aspect of the whole house of Israel, the house that began with Abraham.
The first Christian church comprised 5,000 Jewish men plus whatever wives and children were included, all keeping the Law of Moses. These Jews were the first members of the Body of Christ, the Wife of the Lamb. At what point, then, did replacement occur? The replacement doctrine is unscriptural, and mischievous in its consequences.
God said he would cleanse us from our impurities and idols; give us a new heart and a new Spirit; move us to follow His decrees and be careful to keep His laws.
How totally we have misunderstood the new covenant! We have taken a covenant whose intent was to create righteousness in God’s elect so the nations would glorify God, and have transformed it into a means of our going to Heaven with no moral transformation being necessary. We have totally perverted God’s intentions, turning it into a means of bringing unchanged man into God’s Presence in Heaven.
This is the work of Satan, the master deceiver.
This further understanding of what I have been teaching for years caused me to stomp around the house (before breakfast) and otherwise express indignation and upset.
Then there came a sort of picture into my mind of how unsatisfactory it is to God that He merely be with us. God wants to be in us – as close to us as possible. He wants to be in all our thoughts, words, and actions. It is the body and blood of Christ that accomplish this ultimate closeness.
The Life of Christ, which is the Life of God, is formed in us. Then the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit can find rest in us in perfect fellowship. This ultimate closeness is what God desires, and absolutely nothing else will suffice.
How God is going to bring His people to understand His purpose in forgiving them is that He might work in them until they keep His moral laws, and that He wants to dwell in them for eternity, I have no idea. It will require more than a reformation. It will demand an absolute revolution in Christian thinking, because our understanding of the nature and purpose of Divine grace has been removed from the Scriptures and mangled until it does not even resemble God’s intention; it is the very opposite of God’s intention.
I know the power of God’s Spirit is sufficient to accomplish such a revolution, and that the revolution shall occur; because this is what God wants. There is no power in the universe that can prevent the will of the Father from being accomplished. I rest in this.
My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, (Colossians 2:2)
I think in the verse above we may see the problem with the current emphasis on evangelism. It appears almost all of the time and energy of the Christian churches is spent on gaining converts. People who have been Christians for twenty or more years sit in church Sunday after Sunday hearing the same evangelistic message, in the hope somehow there may be a sinner present who needs to hear the “old, old story.”
I do not say there are not churches that God has impressed to emphasize evangelism. But I am certain this is not true all of all churches.
If it is God’s intention that the saints be encouraged in heart and united in love; if they are to have the full riches of complete understanding that they may know the mystery of Christ; if they are to have Christ formed in them and come to the stature of the fullness of Christ, then it is obvious this is not going to be accomplished by listening once again to the old, old story.
Time and effort should be spent on the forming of Christ in the believers, and everything done in the services should be directed toward this goal. Evangelism is scarcely mentioned in the Epistles. The emphasis is on the growth of the believers in Christ.
One disciple who is growing into the image of Christ, who is dwelling in untroubled rest in the Father through Christ, is more of a threat to the kingdom of Satan than ten thousand spiritual babies who are living in their fleshly appetites. This is why I believe the emphasis on evangelism and numbers of people and churches, with almost total neglect and ignorance of bringing the church members to maturity in Christ, is of Satan. It reflects nothing more than the desire of the Christian leaders to be “successful.”
I understand there are exceptions to the above statements. I know there are men of God upon whom God has placed the burden of evangelism. But my observation tells me that most of the emphasis on evangelism is not coming from the Spirit of God but from the ideas of leaders who are not hearing from God.
If I am hearing from the Lord, He is demanding that we follow the Holy Spirit in the work of confessing our sins and turning away from them. Am I really hearing from God or am I deceived in this? Is this God’s will for His churches today? Should we be stressing the need to come to a greater knowledge of the mystery of God? Should we be pursuing Christ with all our strength that we might know Him in fuller measure? How do you feel about this?
In whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. (Colossians 2:3)
If we want information in any area of the universe, the Person to ask is the Lord Jesus Christ.
I know from experience that He knows how to patch a hole in a wall. I know, also from experience, that He understands algebra.
A friend of mine said the Lord helped him perform giant swings on a horizontal bar.
“All the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”
One time when I was driving home after preaching at Brother Dowell’s church in Lemon Grove, I was crossing a bridge over a major valley. The valley, in San Diego, is filled with stores and other major structures. I don’t know how many homes are down there.
Anyway, it is a known fact that this valley is a major conduit between a dam to the east, and the Pacific Ocean to the west. If we had enough rain, and the dam broke, a major catastrophe would occur. Much of what is in the valley could be carried off to the ocean.
As I was thinking about this, the Lord said: “I take no pleasure in the pain people suffer, the destruction of their goods, during this kind of event. If the builders had asked Me, I would have shown them how to avoid destruction.”
In Christ are hidden “all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”
It is a shame that people do not ask the Lord about everything in their life, since He has the answer to every question.
People might think the Lord doesn’t want to be bothered with the details of their life. They are mistaken in this. He does indeed want to be bothered. If we ask, our joy is increased as we receive the answer. Also, God is glorified in Christ.
But when we do not ask, trusting in our own wisdom, everyone loses.
I tell you this so no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments. (Colossians 2:4)
Arguing religion is a useless practice. Each individual defends his own position. Nothing is gained except people are able to get their opinions and irritations off their chest.
The demons love to reason. They will reason with you all day and all night if you are foolish enough to respond to them.
One time a preacher called me and wanted to set a time to discuss the pre-tribulation “rapture.” He knows I will have nothing to do with unscriptural traditions and he wanted to show me how the “rapture” is scriptural.
I told him that arguing eschatology is against my religion. He seemed to be amused by my answer. He said, “I like that.”
There is no need for any of us to lack wisdom. The Bible says if we lack wisdom we are to ask for help from God, and He will give us wisdom generously and not scold us for asking.
There is a simplicity in Christ. When Jehovah’s Witnesses or Mormons come to the door, I notice that they try to start our mind along some line of thinking. I imagine they are trained to do this.
I always bring the conversation back to Christ. When we have Christ we have all we need. It is not necessary to enter a discussion about some other emphasis. Such talk and reasoning lead away from Jesus Christ and produce confusion.
For though I am absent from you in body, I am present with you in spirit and delight to see how orderly you are and how firm your faith in Christ is. (Colossians 2:5)
It is a marvel to me how many religious ideas there are in the world. Brother Dowell used to comment that of all the religions in the world, he could not understand how he ended up in the right one.
It is true. When we have the Lord Jesus Christ we have everything. Satan will attempt to lead us into another line of thought, another emphasis. We need to hold steady in our faith in Christ, praying always that God will keep us from deception and help us to draw closer to Christ each day.
As a pastor I know how quickly people can be drawn into unprofitable beliefs and practices. We have to pray fervently and patiently that God will open their eyes and bring them back to a daily walk in Christ.
So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, Rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. (Colossians 2:6, 7)
We have to learn to live in Christ. Living in Christ is much more than just going to church on Sunday, as important as that is. We are to live in Christ every moment of every day and night, seven day a week, if we are to regard ourselves as disciples of the Lord.
I have learned that the best way to live in Christ is to keep asking Him about everything I am doing. I ask Him to help the people in the church. I ask Him to help me write what He is showing me. I ask Him what to eat so I can remain strong and healthy.
I ask Him about the little things also, such as what to do about something that is broken; what time to go to bed and what time to get up; how much exercise to perform; the balance between work and rest. Sometimes people do not have these choices, but they have other decisions to make. There is nothing too insignificant to bring to the Lord. He is interested in the smallest detail.
Our life is made up of numerous decisions, isn’t it. Well, if we look to the Lord for each decision, we are living in Him. It is just as simple as that.
Living in Jesus in the manner I have just described can be difficult in America because of the rapid pace of our life. There is so much to do each day, so many pressures and responsibilities, so many dangers. It is very easy to just flow along without looking to the Lord. We use time making decisions. We can use that same time asking the Lord for His help. Try it and see!
Anyone who works with plants knows how long it takes to grow roots. Roots do not appear suddenly. It is true also of Christ. When we first receive Christ the roots are very small and fragile. But if we keep praying, reading our Bible, gathering with fervent saints if possible, obeying what the Lord tells us personally as well as from the Bible, our roots will grow strong and deep.
Growth in Christ occurs slowly. There are saplings, and then there are oaks of righteousness. I personally have been a disciple of the Lord for 61 years. As I look back on my life, I realize becoming a disciple of Jesus was a wise choice. I am very thankful that God has put in my heart the longing to seek His will diligently. This desire for righteousness is a gift.
As I draw near to the end of life in this world I know I will not die but walk into the Presence of the Lord and continue with the tasks He has given me to accomplish. It is no small blessing to have no fear of death.
See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ. (Colossians 2:8)
I am not certain what Paul means by “hollow and deceptive philosophy”; “human tradition”; “basic principles of this world.” I do know, however, that the Judaizers were attempting to convince the new believers that they were to be circumcised and keep other aspects of the Law of Moses.
Perhaps Paul is giving the same warning that we find in verse 20 and 21 of this chapter: “Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules: ‘Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!’”
Some were stressing these regulations, perhaps under the direction of angels they were worshiping.
In any case, Paul is telling us to avoid such human commands and keep our eyes focused on the Lord Jesus. In Him and in Him alone is all we need for life in the present world and preparation for the next.
For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, (Colossians 2:9)
Now here is a marvelous statement. The Fullness of God lives in bodily form in the Lord Jesus Christ. As I stated previously, it is not that Jesus Christ is the Father, it is that the Fullness of the Father dwells in Christ.
The reason that I make a point of this is that God wants to dwell in us in His Fullness.
And to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:19)
Being filled with all the Fullness of God does not make us Lord, as Jesus is. Jesus is unique, having been the Creator from the beginning. However, I think we need to emphasize more than we do that the Lord Jesus, not Heaven, is the Father’s House. And we, who are members of the Body of Christ, are rooms in that House.
The eternal House of God is of central importance to the Lord. It was spoken of by Stephen on the occasion of his martyrdom. It was prophesied by Isaiah, when the Lord asked, “What house will you build me?” King David, who often was moved concerning Kingdom issues, spoke of his desire to build a house for God.
When we Christians refer to the well known “In my Father’s house,” we immediately go to the thought of mansions for ourselves. We do this because we are immature and self-centered. The important aspect is not our “mansions” but the Father’s house.
When the Father created the physical world He intended ultimately it would be a way of making Himself visible and available. The Father is visible and available when Jesus Christ is among us. But God is not content with this enlargement of Himself. He wants to add a Body to Jesus Christ in which the Father can find rest. God’s eternal House of Christ – Head and Body.
We have little idea of how important the House of God is. It is of supreme importance!
If the purpose of salvation were to forgive us and bring us to Heaven, there to do nothing but lay on a couch in our mansion, our main task in life would be to try to live as decently as we can, attend church on a regular basis, and maintain our belief in Christ until we die and go to Heaven.
But this is not the purpose of salvation. The purpose of our being saved is to make us a living stone in the eternal House of God. Thus our main task in life is not merely to try to live as decently as we can, attend church on a regular basis and maintain our belief in Christ until we die and go to Heaven. Rather our task is to cooperate with the Holy Spirit until we have been transformed totally; the sinful nature removed from us; Christ formed in us; and our body transformed by the power of Christ until it resembles His body.
As soon as we have become a new creation, in which the old things have passed away and all things have become new and are of God, then God can dwell in us in His Fullness. We have become a visible, available representation of Christ, and God in Him.
There has to come a point in our life when we choose to give up our life and become a new creation. We cannot cling to our first personality, neither the good nor the bad of it. All the old must go and all the new must come.
We must decide to give up what we are, before we can become the dwelling place of God, just as the Lord Jesus is. How many of us are willing to let go of our right to be an individual apart from God? Jesus Christ is a unique Person, but He is not an individual apart from God. You cannot have Christ without God or God without Christ.
This same oneness is to be true of us such that no one can have us without Christ and God and no one can have Christ and God without having us. It is one total, complete entity. We are in Christ, who is in God, and God is in Christ, who is in us. It is the wheel in the wheel of the first chapter of the Book of Ezekiel.
I am not certain how many believers will consent to enter Christ to this extent. I know all saved people, from God’s firstfruits through to the saved people of the nations, will have a portion of Christ in them. The Kingdom of God is first an inner rule; then an external kingdom.
But some believers will pursue Christ until they reap Christ a hundredfold. Some believers will pursue Christ until they reap Christ sixtyfold. The remainder will have a thirtyfold portion of Christ. Since the hundredfold experience is available now, and some day may not be, a human being would be foolish to let this opportunity slip by. The choices we are making now have eternal consequences.
And you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority. (Colossians 2:10)
When we possess Jesus Christ we possess all that is of value in the universe. God the Father is Head over Christ. Christ is Head over us. We are head over the works of God’s hands, including the angels according to my understanding. This does not mean, however, that we are to be attempting to command angels, as some are suggesting. We had better leave the commanding of the angels to the Lord Jesus.
Much of our Christian life consists of Christ bringing our idols under our feet so we are ruling them, instead of them governing us and coming between us and Christ.
These idols may be relationships with people. They may be circumstances, such as where we live; the amount of money we have; our job or profession. Our idol may be a talent we are developing, such as in music or athletics. Some people worship their own body or their health. Sometimes our children are our idols.
We can tell if someone or something is an idol when the Lord begins to call for it. If we find it extraordinarily difficult to let go of someone or something, then that is an idol. It has not been put under our feet as yet.
Until we can let something go, or enjoy it in peace, as the Lord directs, we are in bondage. The Lord will not permit us to be governed by any person or thing other than Himself.
When we have Jesus we have all we need and all there is of worth. God has placed Him in authority over everything else in the universe. He is on the highest of all thrones, and we are there in Him and with Him.
In him you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ, (Colossians 2:11)
Our circumcision is not that of the flesh, according to the Jewish covenant, but the putting off of our sinful nature. The Law of Moses could not deal with the sinful nature. The new covenant contains the Divine grace necessary for the destruction of our sinful nature, utilizing the Holy Spirit and the blood of atonement. There is the power and the authority to rid us of the sinful nature.
I have no idea why the destruction of our sinful nature, being part of the new covenant, is not emphasized more than it is. Have we been blinded spiritually? Why have we made the Christian covenant one of forgiveness only, and not also of putting off the sinful nature? Well, what’s done is done. We can’t go back in time. We have to move forward and get busy with the task of putting off the sinful nature. We are not obliged to sin under the new covenant. We can be delivered if this is what we truly desire.
Having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead. (Colossians 2:12)
Through water baptism, we declare that our first personality has been crucified with Christ, and that we have emerged from death and are walking in newness of life – life free from the sinful nature. We believe this is an accomplished fact and that the resurrection power of God will make it so. It remains only for us to cooperate with the Holy Spirit as He makes our death in Christ a literal, observable fact. This is true salvation from sin.
When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, (Colossians 2:13)
When we came to Christ we were dead in our sins. Our sinful nature had not been circumcised, had not been cut away from us. When we were yet in our sins God forgave us all our sins. When Paul said we were saved by grace he meant we were declared righteous apart from observing the statutes of the Law of Moses. Even though we were guilty in terms of the Law of Moses, God reached down and declared us guiltless.
We are misusing grace today. As Jude points out, we are using grace as an excuse for immoral behavior. Divine grace is not an alternative to righteous behavior. It is God’s way of freeing us from the Law of Moses so we can get on with the business of following the Holy Spirit as He cuts away our sinful nature and forms Christ in us.
Having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross. (Colossians 2:14)
The Law of Moses is against us. It stands opposed to us. It condemns us but does nothing about our sinful nature. It drives us to Christ for deliverance. Christ fulfilled the commandments of the Law of Moses perfectly, and then nailed them to the cross. The Law of Moses no longer has dominion over us. It is gone, as long as we are following the Holy Spirit in the work of making us a new creation in Christ.
And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross. (Colossians 2:15)
I believe Paul is speaking here of Satan and the rebellious angels. They always could accuse us because we were not able to keep the moral commandment of the Law of Moses.
But Jesus Christ, a Man and not an angel, through the power of the Holy Spirit, kept the Law perfectly and then offered Himself as a sin offering for those who would accept the atonement. How then can the wicked angels accuse us? Christ has answered all of their accusations.
Because we are part of Him, living by His Life, we are under that protection. Satan will seek to deceive us, but he cannot harm us as long as we abide in Christ.
The cross is the power of God and the wisdom of God, and the evil ones cannot overcome it in any manner. This does not mean we can commit sin and not be judged. We are judged when we sin, until we come to God and name that sin, resolving by His power to never practice it again.
The problem today is we are presuming upon God’s goodness. We are saying we can go ahead and sin but unconditional love forces God to forgive us. This is a monumental misunderstanding of God’s love and grace, and is going to bring down judgment on our nation because we are not repenting and turning from our evil ways.
Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. (Colossians 2:16)
There are good Christians today who are observing the Sabbath. They do not work on Saturday. There are believers who are going back to other parts of the Law of Moses. They are proud to be studying Torah, as they say. Some are circumcising their children, not for health reasons, but because they believe somehow this is a holy act. They might just as well return and observe the entire Law. Of course they cannot legally sacrifice animals, and they cannot put witches or homosexuals to death without going to jail.
By keeping part of the Law of Moses they are making the cross of Christ of no effect.
This is so ridiculous. Now that Christ has come and nailed the Law to the cross, we cannot earn righteousness by observing any part of the Law. We have died to the Law with Jesus Christ. We have been set free from the Law.
However, we are under a far stricter law, the law of the Spirit of Life. If we are to remain justified we have to follow the Spirit and not our sinful nature. Otherwise we are guilty as lawbreakers.
For he who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do commit murder, you have become a lawbreaker. (James 2:11)
The above was written to Christian Jews who were making the transition from the Law of Moses to the freedom of the law of the Spirit of life. But it applies to any Christian who does not live by the Holy Spirit. When he continues to obey his sinful nature he removes himself from the law of the Spirit and reverts to the condemnation of the Law of Moses.
We never are to be without law. If we do not count ourselves crucified with Christ, and seek the Lord each day that we may walk in the Spirit, we revert to the Law of Moses. This is what James is saying. The Christians today often are spiritual “singles.” They are under neither the Law of Moses nor the law of the Spirit of life. They are lawless people, and God will not accept this. He will judge them as lawbreakers.
These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ. (Colossians 2:17)
The numerous statutes and ordinances of the Law of Moses were a shadow of the reality that is in the Lord Jesus Christ. Whether the Ten Commandments, the kosher laws, the feast days, or the numerous moral ordinances – these all are fulfilled in us when we are abiding in Christ. Christ fulfilled them all and gave us His Law-abiding righteousness as a gift, provided we now obey the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit Himself is the Law of the new covenant.
When we walk in the Spirit we do not yield to the lusts of our sinful nature.
There is no need for a Christian to go back to any aspect of the Law of Moses. The Law in its entirety has been fulfilled in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you for the prize. Such a person goes into great detail about what he has seen, and his unspiritual mind puffs him up with idle notions. (Colossians 2:18)
The scholars say there was considerable activity concerning angels at the time this epistle was written. One can notice today that there is an unusual interest in angels. But the first chapter of the Book of Hebrews reveals that Christ is the Son of God and thus is infinitely superior to all angels. Regardless of the role they may have played in the giving of the Law, they now are ministering spirits to the heirs of salvation.
Angel are not to be worshiped. Neither are they to be commanded to perform services for us, as some have suggested. They are God’s servants; God directs them and they answer to Him.
Paul is warning us not to humble ourselves in the sight of spirits of any kind. We are part of the Lord Jesus Christ and one day will share with Him in the governing of the creation. No angel possesses this authority – only the Lord Jesus and those who are His.
He has lost connection with the Head, from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow. (Colossians 2:19)
Anyone who becomes involved with angels, worshiping them, humbling himself before them, has, as Paul states, lost connection with Christ. He no longer is growing as God causes the whole body to grow. He is adrift in the spiritual world, not understanding who he is or where he is.
Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules: “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”? (Colossians 2:20.21)
No doubt this is the same “hollow and deceptive philosophy” we noticed in verse eight of this chapter. Since this exhortation immediately follows the discussion of angels, it may be that the Jewish teachers were following the instruction of angels who were commanding that certain items not be handled, certain food and drink not be tasted, and some objects not be touched.
Weak believers of today sometimes become involved with these sorts of rituals and superstitions. Such practices do not promote righteousness or faith. Those who submit to these have forgotten they no longer are bound by this world’s elements on the basis of their crucifixion and resurrection with the Lord Jesus Christ.
These are all destined to perish with use, because they are based on human commands and teachings. (Colossians 2:22)
Religious practices that have to do with what food we eat, what clothes we wear, what we do on certain days, and other such of observances are sometimes entwined in the faith of individuals. As Paul told us in another place, if our eating certain food makes our brother stumble, we should refrain from eating for his sake.
But our salvation does not consist of such rules of behavior. However, neither are we to behave in a manner that causes other people to be offended. If we are among Jews we should not be eating pork. If we pray, the Lord Jesus will show us what to eat; what to wear; what to way; how to act. We are to live with the benefit of other people in mind.
We ourselves have faith for all things. But we do not abuse our privileges. We do all we can to save others and build them up in Christ.
Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence. (Colossians 2:23)
Here is an important concept. Religious practices designed to show that we are holy or to develop our holiness, such as various abstinences or acts of humiliation, are not effective in removing our sinful nature. In fact, they may create religious pride in us. I have noticed that people who are rigid in their observance of particular religious rules do not seem to show in themselves the Personality of Christ.
For myself, I do not see that it does any harm if a Christian refrains from eating pork; does not work on Saturday; keeps the Passover; wears a head covering during the service (this applies to women); or practices foot washing in the congregation every Sunday evening. This is part of their faith toward God. If I am with them I will do as they do. Better this than the foolish, undisciplined behavior that sometimes occurs in American churches.
But these special observances do not accomplish the two great objectives of our redemption: they do not remove the sinful nature; nor do they form Christ in us. In fact, they may foster religious pride, and animosity toward our fellow believers who do not practice the same rituals.
Paul would have us free from all that is not coming from the Head, Jesus Christ. We as today’s churchgoers are part of the great Christian religion. As such our observances may vary from group to group. But the important matter is to be a saint, a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ. When we are true disciples, all the things of the creation belong to us; we belong to Christ; and Christ belongs to God.
Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. (Colossians 3:1, 2)
Perhaps our principal task as disciples of Jesus is to keep our attention focused on Christ and the Throne of God. So many things in life seek to tear us down from our high position in God!
Worldly interests, the lusts of our sinful nature, and our personal ambitions keep our focus on things and situations other than on the Throne of God. It is a battle every day as the cares and anxieties of life call for our attention.
Evil is increasing in the world. We see the antics and perversities of Satan exhibited in people. Sometimes it seems as though we have witnessed the greatest possible evil, only to have a greater wickedness appear the next day.
The Bible commands us to cease fretting about evil. To fret is to sin. To fret is to cast doubt on God’s ability to operate His world.
When there is nothing we can do about an evil situation, we are to stop thinking about it. We are to keep affirming to ourselves that all things are working together for the good of those who have been predestined to be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ.
The ruling personality that is being developed in us now could not be developed in Paradise. We note that even the Lord Jesus Christ was made perfect through the things He suffered on the earth. The longer God permits us to be here, the stronger our character will become if we respond to our difficulties with prayer and faith, not blaming other people.
The earth is a marvelous training ground for the rulers of the future.
Muscle is developed as we push against resistance. Ruling character, the rod of iron, is developed as we overcome the sin in the world.
God is in control; while the present evil works are not caused by the Lord, they are used by Him for the training of the rulers of the world to come.
It is not enough that we be righteous. We must be militantly righteous. Our robe must be radiantly white, not just white. Righteousness has to do with power. Melchizedek is the king of righteousness. Jesus Christ is a Priest after the order of the king of righteousness. The scepter of Christ’s Kingdom is a scepter of righteousness, the rod of iron. This tells us that righteousness is obtained and maintained by power.
Therefore we are not to fret because of the evil of the world. Fretting tears us down from our high place in God. Fretting is sin. When Satan cannot persuade us to sin, he tears us down by showing us how evil he is until we fret. Learning to overcome fretting is going to be exceedingly important during the age of physical and moral horrors we are approaching.
For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. (Colossians 3:3)
We already are there. When we are born again a firstfruits of our personality, that part which is born of Christ, is raised in Christ to the Throne. Paul speaks of this in another place.
And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, (Ephesians 2:6)
Most of our personality is alive on the earth. The part which is of God is already at the right hand of God in Christ. Our task, as I have stated, is to keep it there. It is possible to be pulled down. It is possible to lose our crown.
A symbolic picture of our being caught up to God’s Throne is found in the twelfth chapter of the Book of Revelation, where the male Son, the Ruler of the nations, is caught up to God and to His Throne.
I think this is what the Lord meant when He said: “Whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die.” If we manage to keep our place at the right hand of God when the great shaking comes, we will never die. We are alive in Christ in God now. We will be alive in Christ in God after we die (I do not know where the rest of our personality will be, although our body will be in the ground somewhere). And we will still be in Christ in God in the Day of Resurrection. Thus we never shall die. A wonderful thought, isn’t it?
Since our first personality has been crucified with Christ and we have risen from the dead (so to speak), and a firstfruits of our life already is in Christ at the right hand of God and we are walking in newness of life, wisdom tells us that we should spend each day and night in the Presence of Christ, as much as possible, continually speaking to Christ and interacting with Him. There is nothing of worth behind us. We are to press forward, press forward, press forward until our entire personality – body, soul, and spirit – is always found in the Center of the Person and will of the Holy One of Israel.
How does that sound to you? Is it something you desire? Then seize it by faith and never relent.
When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. (Colossians 3:4)
The above verse is of great importance. It means Christ will not appear alone but will be accompanied by a multitude of saints.
But notice – those who appear with Him have been living by His Life. This certainly is not true of all churchgoers. They are living by their own life.
When the unscriptural “rapture” is emphasized, the focus is on the “going of the Church.” This is incorrect. The emphasis should be on the “coming” of the Church.
I understand the newly resurrected and transformed saints will be caught up to meet Him in the air. This is not so, after waiting for so many years to return to earth and regain their bodies, they can then return to Heaven. Rather it is so they all can descend with Christ to install the Kingdom of God on the earth.
We go to “meet Him” in the air, just as you would go to meet someone at the airport. It is said in the days of the Romans, when a dignitary approached a village, the leading men would go out to meet Him and then escort him to the village.
Nothing – absolutely nothing! – is said in the Scripture about the Lord coming and then returning to Heaven. This is a pure fabrication, an invention of the carnal nature seeking to escape trouble.
We believe Jesus died and rose again and so we believe God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. (I Thessalonians 4:14)
“God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.”
Those who appear with Christ will greatly outnumber the saints who are alive on the earth at the time. So the passage is speaking of the coming of the Church, not the going of the Church.
Most of those who are caught up to meet the Lord in the air will have returned with Him, regained their bodies, been clothed with glory, and then have been caught up.
Those of us who are alive at the time will be changed, made immortal, clothed with glory, and then caught up with the multitude of those who returned with the Lord.
Now, here is something to ponder. A great portion of churchgoers in America are hoping to suddenly be caught up to Heaven. Some practice for this event by jumping up and down next to their pews. Isn’t this preposterous?
What they do not realize is, they have to be changed first. They will have to be changed in order to be caught up to join the Commander in Chief who is stationed with His angels in the air.
Now here is the problem. We have to be changed first. Do you remember that Enoch was translated by faith? Well, it will require faith in order to be changed. This is why the Lord told us not to look back.
I know of an incident that took place in a Christian high school. There was a girl who was lame. An evangelist with a gift of healing came to the school. She was prayed for and healed.
However, her leg now felt unusual. The strange feeling came from a normal leg frightened her. So she asked the Lord if she could go back to the way she was.
Her prayer was answered!
The churchgoers of today picture themselves suddenly flying up through the roof of their house or their church or their car, just as they are, and disappearing into Heaven. They are not picturing the change from mortality into immortality. They are not imagining the faith that will be required as they feel the blood leave their body and the Spirit of God take its place.
If the lame girl felt strange when she was healed, what do you think it will feel like to be changed from an adamic soul to a life-giving spirit?
It will require a life of cross-carrying obedience to the Lord if we are to have the faith necessary to survive a change from that which merely is human to that which is supernaturally human.
I believe some years past I had a sort of vision of the coming of the Lord. The graves broke open and the saints came forth. What I saw at that time surprised me. They were not caught up immediately. Like the Lord Jesus, there was a period of time between their resurrection and the beginning of the catching up. I say beginning of the catching up, because they did not shoot up suddenly like a rocket but ascended slowly and majestically.
But I want to think for a moment about the interval of time (with the Lord it was forty days) between their resurrection and their catching up. This period gave them an opportunity to adjust to their new life in their regained bodies, and also to have fellowship with the other newly resurrected saints.
What, then, of those who are alive at the time? Their bodies will be redeemed by the Life of the Spirit of God and then they will be covered with Divine Glory. They will join the newly resurrected during a period of adjustment and fellowship.
It seems to me that the average churchgoer in America is not spiritually mature enough to participate in such a supernatural event. His or her faith would fail. He is accustomed to living in the flesh. His idea of the “rapture” is that he will be caught up suddenly to Heaven, much as one would wake up and find himself in Disneyland. He has no idea of what it means to attain to the resurrection. He has been saved, perhaps has been filled with the Spirit; but his life has been largely that of the adamic man.
He is preparing himself by jumping up and down in place. A far better preparation would be to present himself to the Lord as a disciple, take up his cross, confess his sins and turn away from them, and press forward to the resurrection from the dead.
Does this sound sensible to you? It does to me.
The teaching of the any-moment catching up to Heaven of fleshly churchgoers has left the believers unprepared for the great and terrible Day of the Lord. They are picturing a Sunday-school picnic in the sky. They have no idea of the powers that will be unleashed in that day that made even the prophet Habakkuk tremble.
Those whose life He is, and had previously gone to be with the Lord, will appear with Him and regain their bodies. Those whose life He is, and are alive on the earth, will be changed. Then all will be caught up to meet the Lord in the air, in the area where the thrones that govern the earth are located. They shall mount the white war stallions. Then they shall descend with the Lord in the onslaught of Armageddon. The wicked shall be driven from the earth, and the Lord Jesus shall be crowned King on the throne of David in Jerusalem.
Can you imagine today’s churchgoers participating in anything like this? They would be frightened and disobedient. Never having turned over their lives to do the will of the Father, they still are part of the problem of rebellion, not part of the solution. Therefore they will not be prepared when the Lord appears, and will have their portion with the unbelievers.
Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. (Colossians 3:5-10)
“Put to death, therefore.” Because you are at the right hand of God in Christ; because Christ is your Life; because you are going to appear with Him in glory; for these reasons put to death whatever belongs to your earthly nature, your sinful nature.
If we are to be a saint and not a mere churchgoer, we have no choice. We have to put to death all that belongs to our sinful nature.
We have to confess our sexual immorality as sin and turn away from it with the strength God gives.
We have to confess all impure words and actions as sin and turn away from them with the strength God gives.
We have to confess all lustful words and actions as sin and turn away from them with the strength God gives. God will bring the fire of judgment on the lust in our mind and heart and destroy it, but we have to ask Him to do this.
We have to confess our evil desires to God as sin and ask Him to remove them from us.
We have to confess our greed as sin and ask God to remove it from us. American Christians have been taught that wealth is a proof of godliness. We have to confess this evil teaching as sin, if we have agreed to it, and ask God to remove every trace of the love of money from us. Americans, including American Christians, worship money, in many instances.
“Because of these the wrath of God is coming.” Because the churches have preached grace and not righteous behavior, American Christians often practice the sinful behaviors mentioned above. For this reason there has not been an effective testimony given by the churches in our country, and the land is filled with immorality of all kinds. We are going to be judged by the Lord for the wickedness we are practicing.
“You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived.” We Christians, before we received Christ, did the things mentioned above.
“But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, filthy language from our lips…”
Isn’t Christ going to remove these from us? The Bible says we are to rid ourselves of these practices.
We are to confess anger and rage as sin and cease giving way to these demons.
We are to confess malice as sin, and ask God to help us rid ourselves of it.
Slander is another name for gossip. The Christian churches are filled with gossip. Doesn’t grace take care of our gossip? No it does not. We have to rid ourselves of gossip. If our gossiping proves to be so strong we cannot stop, we are to go to the elders of the church and ask them to pray for us that we may have the strength to overcome the urge to gossip. Those who gossip are worthy of death, according to the Book of Romans.
We are not to lie to each other. All liars will find themselves one day in the Lake of Fire if they do not stop lying, whether or not they “believe in Christ.”
“Since you have taken off your old self with its practices.” Have we taken off our old self, or have we believed the lie that as long as we are in the world we have to sin? Paul assumes that the saints in Colosse have taken off their old self. We take off our old self by assigning it to the cross, and then confessing its deeds as sin and turning away from them.
“And have put on the new self.” We are to put on the new self by presenting our body a living sacrifice that our mind may be renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. Because we have been told for so many years that it is not possible to stop sinning; that it is not possible to put off our old self and put on the new self; that it doesn’t matter if we sin because God sees us through Christ, we have resigned ourselves to a passive acceptance of anger, rage, malice, gossip, and a host of other demonic influences.
The day of the passive acceptance of sinful practices on the part of Christians is past. We are to follow the Holy Spirit as He leads us into victory over each aspect of our sinful nature.
It is time now to enter our land of promise. Our land of promise is, first of all, our own personality. The Holy Spirit will lead us each day against some enemy in our land. The Holy Spirit, after defining the enemy, will show us how to overcome the behavior. The war has begun. The authority and power are here. Let us begin to take the Kingdom.
No believer who still is living in the earthly nature is qualified or competent to be changed into immortality and caught up to meet the Lord in the air. This is a huge misunderstanding in our day, isn’t it? The people think they are ready to go to meet the Lord, but they are not. They have substituted a belief in grace as a substitute for becoming a new moral creation.
We need to sound the alarm, because there is going to be widespread disappointment when the believers who die find they are not in a mansion of gold but somewhere in the spirit realm with those of like spiritual development.
Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all. (Colossians 3:11)
This fact needs to be imprinted on our minds – especially the truth that in Christ there is neither Greek nor Jew. Christian people are still referring to a “Gentile Church” that is going to be caught up to Heaven while the Jews are left here with the Antichrist. This is nothing more than mythology.
There is no such thing as a “Gentile Church.” This expression has been manufactured by people who do not read the Bible – perhaps by “Dispensationalists.” The Apostle Paul has stated that there is only the one new Man. The one new Man is the one Olive Tree, which is Christ. How, then, can there be a “Gentile Church.” This idea prevents a sound interpretation of the Bible.
There is only one Church, one Body of Christ, one Bride of the Lamb. There is every kind of race and nationality in the one Church. The one Church is Israel, which one day will come down to the new earth in the form of the new Jerusalem.
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. (Colossians 3:12)
The people of Colosse were Gentiles, although there were Jews there also. So it is remarkable that Paul addresses them all as “God’s chosen people.” True Israel, as I have said previously, consists of all who belong to Jesus Christ regardless of the race into which they were born.
When we put off the old earthly nature we put off our racial identity. Our race dies on the cross and the new resurrection man is of a transcendent humanity. Even the distinction between slave and free citizen, male and female, is abolished. We now are citizens of the new world that is coming.
In the world in which we are living there are practical differences in the role of male and female, slave and freeman. But these distinctions are not carried over into the Kingdom of God.
We are to clothe ourselves with compassion, with kindness, with humility, with gentleness, with patience. How do we do this? By disciplining ourselves to act compassionately, kindly, gently, patiently, and with humility. We have to keep praying and asking the Lord to help us. And He will, if we are determined to put away our lack of compassion and kindness, our pride, our harshness, and our impatience.
Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. (Colossians 3:13)
We have to adopt these virtues. We have to add them to ourselves, as Peter says. The Holy Spirit will call our attention to when we need to bear with one another and forgive one another. Jesus will help us by giving us His body and blood, which contain Divine Virtue.
When we make a practice of praying each day and reading the Bible each day, the Holy Spirit is able to point out to us when we have been harsh and unforgiving. Then we are to repent, turn from our wicked ways, and receive grace to help in our time of need.
A church of several hundred people is worthless to the Kingdom of God if harshness and unforgiveness, malice and spite, gossip and criticism abound in it. Such a church is sick, and the Spirit cannot do anything with it until it is healed. And it can be healed, but the leaders and people will have to approach the problem with determination and prayer.
And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. (Colossians 3:14)
There is much talk today about love, both in the secular and religious realms. There is love that is found in our earthly nature, and then there is love that is found in God’s Nature.
In our earthly nature are found the love of parents for their children, and children for their parents. There is the love between man and wife. There is the love between people who share a common task, such as soldiers during a war.
Sometimes teachers have love for their students, or students for their teachers.
Because we human have strong reproductive hormones, love often becomes confused with lust, and lust with perversion. Lust and perversion are widespread throughout the world, and epidemic in America.
It often is true that human love is a desire to be loved, such as in the case of a parent who showers his children with gifts, even though the gifts tend to spoil the character of the child.
There is a false concept of God that is prevalent in our day. It is that God’s love is like human love. God would never punish severely because He is merciful and loving. Sometimes we cite the unconditional love of God, meaning no matter what we do, God will never punish us.
In the first place, God is a Spirit. We know because He demands a blood sacrifice in order to appease His wrath. A human would not be appeased by a blood sacrifice.
Second, God is not moved by an emotion of love as we are. When we speak of love and mercy we sometimes are projecting our own emotions as though God feels as we do; that God is sympathetic – like a parent who cannot bring herself to punish her child.
This is a dangerous, satanic view of God. This kind of thinking prompts people to believe God will eventually forgive Satan along with truly wicked people who never have repented. As far as we know, the Lake of Fire endures forever. Our minds are not able to conceive of eternal punishment; neither are we able to conceive of God having no beginning, or eternity having no ending.
God is not emotional, sympathetic (in the sense that we are), maudlin, or sentimental. Every experienced saint knows the crises and traumas that God permits. I think it was Saint Anthony who complained about spiritual attacks he was enduring. The Lord responded to Saint Anthony to the effect that the cup a king drinks from must be burned in the fire.
So no – God is not Santa Claus in the sky. He is a Spirit.
God is a Consuming Fire. He also is love. Divine love is qualitatively different from human love. God’s love resulted in Calvary; and we see in Calvary the goodness as well as the severity of God.
God’s love is powerful. It drives missionaries to sacrifice their lives on the field. It causes young ladies to forsake marriage and serve God in institutions for the insane in Africa. God’s love caused Father Damien to live with the lepers on Molokai.
I think I felt God’s love one time for children whose development had been aborted. But it was a holy place that no human being could survive emotionally. One could weep forever.
God loves the world, not just His Church. God loves the smallest animals. They all have been produced by His love.
So when Paul tells us to “put on love,” which binds all virtues into one, he is not asking us to dredge up from our earthly nature a feeling somehow will make us behave better. He means we are to live by the Life of Jesus so we can receive the Divine love that is more powerful than all other forces.
Yet, there is a practical aspect to this. We can discipline ourselves to act as though we are feeling love, such as giving a drink of cold water to our enemy. God accepts this action as love even though no emotion is involved.
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. (Colossians 3:15)
Something will rule in our heart, whether fear, courage, faith, peace, anxiety, fretfulness. Through prayer we can choose what rules in our heart.
Our peace is shown especially in how we treat other people, particularly members of the family of God. We have been called as saints to dwell harmoniously with one another. Such peace, such ability to quench irritation and bitterness, is a mark of Christian maturity. The more Christ is formed in us the more able we are to be a peacemaker, to be a son of God.
It is good always to let our requests be made known to God, meanwhile giving thanks continually.
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. (Colossians 3:16)
We have an advantage over the disciples of Paul’s time in that we have Bibles. We can study the Word of God as often as we please, meditating in it day and night.
It is amazing how much strength and wisdom we can gain from the Scriptures, both Old Testament and New. They are bread that strengthen us and build us up in Christ. They also point out to us the areas of spiritual darkness in our personality so we might go to God for help in washing our robe.
Teaching and admonishing one another. This speaks to me of a fairly small, tightly knit group of believers who meet often, who talk to one another frequently. There appears to be a tendency today to want huge churches. But there is too much anonymity in a church of thousands unless there are smaller groups that meet during the week. Even in the smaller groups I wonder if the people are close enough to encourage one another daily or teach and admonish one another, or if the smaller groups are little more than Bible studies or prayer meetings.
A church is not a business. It is the lampstand of God, the voice of God in the community. It is not a social group; neither is it part of the local community. It is a group of people who have been called of God to be saints, to be holy ones. As such the people of the church should have close fellowship and be able to pray for one another and encourage one another. A local church is a family.
If there is persecution in the future in America, then we may have to adopt a more communal social pattern, perhaps meeting in secret. In this instance we will be drawn together; teaching and admonishing one another will be a natural way of life.
It is good to go about singing hymns and spiritual songs, praising God at all times. Genuine disciples do this.
And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Colossians 3:17)
I referred earlier to the practice of bringing everything to God in prayer. It is a way of life we can cultivate if we choose to do so.
For the true saint there is no division between the sacred and the secular. He is the same at work as he is in church. Everything he thinks, says, and does is being influenced by the Lord. He brings all decisions to the Lord. He keeps reminding the Lord of what he is doing, what problems he is having.
When a problem is solved and everything falls in place he gives thanks to the Lord – even in the busy areas of his life, such as when he is working on the car, or sowing seed in the field, or developing computer software, or working on the highway.
There is nothing a person does that is too small for the Lord’s attention. He can help a mother change diapers or wash dishes. Christ wants to be totally involved in our life. He understands that if He isn’t, Satan soon will be. We are of great interest to the personages of the spirit world.
So whatever we do, we do it in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to the Father through Him.
Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. (Colossians 3:18)
We seem to have a difficulty with this admonition, don’t we. It appears we either demand that our wife obey us, or else we allow our wife to govern us. Our adamic nature can’t seem to find a biblical balance.
I am not certain it is as much a question of love as it is of common sense. In America there is too much emphasis on romance, infatuation, falling in love. Such emotional experiences are usually transitory, often based on a sudden attraction toward someone we know little about. We need to be clear that this is not love, it is, as I said, a momentary attraction based on little more than a sudden feeling.
We may be impressed with someone’s beauty, or manly strength.
Dating is an accepted practice in America. The problem with dating, especially for Christian young people, is that it does not take into account the fact that one or the other may have a special Divine calling on his or her life. This is why Christian young people should not date. They should wait until they are fairly confident that God is directing them, and then make a commitment in the form of an engagement. They can put marriage into the future; but there ought to be more of a commitment than is true in dating.
The reason I am saying these things is that marriage is not ordinarily a protracted infatuation. After marriage it becomes apparent that the feeling of infatuation has passed. Then we have the problem of two people, and two wills, being required to continually adjust their desires to the desires of the other person.
This is why there is so much divorce in America. People “fall in love,” are married, and then find the feeling of being “in love” is vanishing. Since Americans are accustomed to getting what they want, and pleasing themselves without sufficient regard for other people, they soon are looking for a way out of the marriage. They are not “happy.”
Marriage is a practical business, a working relationship. People of integrity recognize that if the marriage is to endure, adjustments to one another’s desires have to be made continually. Not too many believers in America are willing to make these adjustments, and so remaining married is difficult.
Now we come to wives submitting to their husbands. It is not that the husband is to order his wife around while he is yelling “I am the head of the house.” This is not the way of the Lord.
If the wife is to submit to her husband, she should have decided before getting married that her biblical role is to be an appropriate provider of support for whatever her husband feels he is to do. This is the meaning of the Hebrew terminology concerning the purpose of Eve being created.
A Christian woman should never marry a man unless she is persuaded he is worthy of her support and prayers, that she is ready to help him with his career, whatever it may be. If she feels that no man is worthy of her support, then she should not marry.
The proper role relationship is not that the man is to enable his wife to achieve her ambitions in life. God did not create Adam so he could enable Eve to do whatever she desired to do. If I am not mistaken, the reason Christian marriages founder is that when the wife discovers that her husband has faults, she feels betrayed, and finds it easier to take the children and leave rather than pray for her husband until he is able to perform God’s will for his life.
Now I know well that there are marriages that cannot be saved. There come times when the woman must leave or the man must leave. God has not called us to the slow death of tortured relationships. But having left a partner who is abusive, or wicked in some other way, the Christian man or woman must be exceedingly careful of relationships in the future.
Man was not made for the marriage laws. The marriage laws were made for man, to avoid promiscuity. God regards with gravity the vows that are made at the altar and He expects them to be kept.
But God knows also there are times when the marriage has died, and the union after that is destructive to one or the other, or both of the partners. God will work with someone who has come into such a painful situation. But God will not bless the person who breaks the marriage vow because he or she is not “happy.” That individual shall have an abundance of trouble.
If the woman has chosen the man because she feels God has called her to be an appropriate provider of support for him, then her submission will follow accordingly. If the man loves his wife, then he will respect her opinions and they will make their major decisions together in prayer.
But if she has been dating, and has become infatuated and has rushed into marriage, then she is going to resent her husband when he expects her to set aside her own desires and support him. She is going to find it difficult to be submissive.
The current practice of living together on a trial basis, or to avoid the responsibilities that always go with marriage, is not at all acceptable. It is fornication. Those who fornicate shall not inherit the Kingdom of God.
Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them. (Colossians 3:19)
There is quite a bit of domestic violence in America at this time. Husbands beat their wives physically, or sometimes abuse them verbally until they lose their creativity and spontaneity. This leads to depression.
To marry a woman, and then beat her or abuse her, is an abomination to God. No true saint would ever treat his wife harshly. If he did, the Lord would deal with him severely. God did not create Eve so Adam would have someone to abuse.
Women are emotional creatures and sometimes act perversely. We notice this as Sarah blamed Abraham for having a child by Hagar, after advising him to do so. If the man is to keep his family together he must accept emotional instead of logical reactions, and gently let them go. If he does not, if he expects his wife to always respond logically and rationally, their life together will be one long season of bitter wrangling about who is at fault. It is the man’s responsibility to keep the peace. If he is not willing to be a peacemaker, then he should not marry.
Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. (Colossians 3:20)
We Americans often have a problem with authority. It may be because our nation was born in rebellion. However valid the reason may have been for the American Revolution, it was a revolt against authority.
We enjoy voting our leaders in and out. We like to call them by their first name, or by nicknames. We do not want any kings over us.
Whether or not our attitude toward leadership is proper, I do not know. I do know, however, that the Kingdom of God is a rule from the top down. God’s judgments, as exercised through Christ and then through the members of the Body of Christ, cannot be appealed. No lawsuit can succeed against them.
We do not approve of such government. We have become accustomed to being our own king. We want to decide whether or not God is fair when He elects some to the royal priesthood and not others. Satan uses this defiant attitude to bind us to his person and will. We either are the slave of Christ or the slave of Satan. We are helpless against such powerful spirits.
God always works in terms of government. Many governments are corrupt, we understand. Numerous politicians are self-seeking and enrich themselves at the expense of those whom they are supposed to be serving.
But we are to work within the system, as much as possible, and serve the Lord in it. On one occasion the Lord advised the Jews in captivity to seek the good of Babylon:
Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper. (Jeremiah 29:7)
We are not, as saints, to rail again the political leaders. The unsaved may do this. But the Lord is displeased if His people act defiantly toward authority. The exception is when the rulers command us to disobey God. Then we are to obey the Lord. I think this does not happen very often. Ordinarily it is our pride and presumption that direct us to defy authority.
The first authority figures with whom we are faced are our parents. It often is true that our parents are unjust. We have to pray for wisdom and grace so we can survive their injustices and cruelty. When we are of age we can move away. But as far as possible we should keep our heart clear of animosity toward our parents.
Even the Lord Jesus was subject to His parents after His bar mitzvah.
As American Christians, one of our chief accomplishments as saints is to learn to obey authority and not break rules.
Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged. (Colossians 3:21)
Malachi spoke of turning the hearts of the children to the fathers and the fathers to the children, or else the Lord would come and strike the land with a curse.
These are solemn words and reveal the interest the Lord has in a proper relationship between fathers and children.
How much trouble, would you estimate, is produced because fathers do not have a good relationship with their sons or their daughters?
It is up to the father to make sure he leaves enough time in the week to spend with his children. This is important for his sons. This is equally important for his daughters.
If the only contact he has with them is as a disciplinarian, the result will be destructive. He must hear them out when they do something that warrants punishment, and find out why they did what they did. Sometimes there is a good reason and they would be punished unjustly.
In our culture it often is true that the father leaves his family for a woman with whom he has become infatuated.
It sometimes occurs that the father molests his son or daughter – even in Christian families.
On other occasions he loads his children with gifts, trying to buy their affection, until he injures their character.
Very often the father is so busy he has no time for his children. When he comes home from his job or profession he is so drained that no strength is left to speak reasonably with his children. Sitting down with them in front of the television is no substitute for speaking with them and hearing how their day went.
It is easy to speak harshly to children and force them to behave the way we believe they should – much easier than sitting down and taking the time to hear them out. But the result of a dictatorial approach is resentment and alienation.
My guess is that the American family, Christian or not, in which the father has a warm, loving understanding with his children is in the minority.
Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to win their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. (Colossians 3:22)
America has a troubled history when it comes to slavery. The way black people were brought forcibly from Africa and sold like animals is indefensible. So we scarcely can think clearly on the subject.
The practice of enslaving prisoners of war goes back many centuries. There were guidelines, under the Law of Moses, for the treatment of slaves.
The Bible does not speak out against slavery. It does suggest if we can obtain our freedom, this is better.
Rather, Paul tells us to obey our masters with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. This goes back to my previous comments about obeying authority. Our attitude as Americans is: “No one is going to tell me what to do.” Because of this defiant attitude, we find it difficult to receive Jesus Christ as Lord of our life.
The truth is, there is nothing wrong with someone telling us what to do. A meek, humble spirit is highly regarded by the Lord. In fact, it is the meek who will inherit the earth.
Paul tells us to become the slave of righteousness. We are to submit ourselves to the principles of righteousness and obey them, whether or not to do so brings us pleasure.
Whoever commits sin is the slave of sin. It is ironic that the Western nations pride themselves on being democratic – not under subjection to anyone. The truth is, the Western nations are the slaves of demons. They have political freedom but are in spiritual slavery. What fools we make of ourselves.
God is pleased when we are not defiant but sincerely serve those who have been placed over us.
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. (Colossians 3:23, 24)
Here is a solution for those of us who resent being told what to do. Whatever we do, whatever we work at, let us hold before us the idea that we are working for the Lord. Let us look past our boss on the earth and work for the Lord. This should motivate us to do our best, without having to worry about how unfair and neurotic our supervisor is.
When you work for the Lord Jesus, the Lord Jesus will be your Paymaster. Your employer on the earth may or may not appreciate your diligence, but Jesus will. So if you work for the Lord Jesus you will never be disappointed. He will make sure that you are rewarded in due time.
Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for his wrong, and there is no favoritism. (Colossians 3:25)
How often people are treated unfairly. How often one is favored and another is neglected. How often the conscientious are robbed and the wrongdoers are enriched.
Let us be patient. Eventually those who do wrong will be amply repaid. Also, the conscientious will be amply repaid for their honesty and diligence. We have need of patience that when we do the Lord’s will we shall be rewarded.
For evil men will be cut off, but those who hope in the LORD will inherit the land. (Psalms 37:9)
Masters, provide your slaves with what is right and fair, because you know you also have a Master in heaven. (Colossians 4:1)
Employers should share their gains with their employees. This is not always the case in America. Labor unions came into being because of the unwillingness of employers to share their profits with their workers. The employers lived in fine homes and had every advantage while the employees were one step away from being completely destitute.
Because of the pressure from the unions, employees in America now enjoy better conditions, sometimes with medical and other benefits. I am not saying the unions are always honorable; I am stating they came into being because of an unfair distribution of profits.
Even today there are chief executive officers who are making more money than they can spend in their lifetime. I am not certain they are providing their workers with what is right and fair. Christian employers, and others who exercise control over the efforts of others, must make every effort to insure that they are being fair to those who are doing the work.
Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. (Colossians 4:2)
In the case of numerous churchgoers, I believe they expect their pastor to do most of the praying. But a true disciple of Jesus lives in prayer. He is praying without ceasing, as Paul said. He always is interacting with the Lord Jesus.
The saint always posts a guard. Whether he is at home, or working, or on vacation, or at a party or celebration, he has a guard posted. This means he or she always is watchful in prayer. There never is a time when we are safe, unless we are abiding in Christ. We need to keep in mind that Satan always is looking for an opportunity to trip us up.
There never is a time, no matter where we are or what we are doing, that Satan is not watching to see if he can tempt us or trap us in some way. There never, never, never is a time when he is not watching. So we must never, never, never let down our guard. The moment we cease watching in prayer we are exposed to harm.
The novice might think it is impossible to live this way. It is not. It is a habit that we become accustomed to. We learn to live in prayer.
There are numerous opportunities during each day to give thanks to God, and we should be faithful in doing so: for a good night’s sleep; for our food; for our health; for our friends; for every problem that is solved during the day. When there is a concern, we need we are to go to the Lord immediately and let our requests be made known. Then we are to thank the Lord for our many, many blessings.
Always praying! Always being watchful! Always being thankful! This is the way the true disciple, the true saint, lives. Anything less than this is nothing more than membership in the Christian religion. When we are nothing more than a member of the Christian religion, not interacting with the Lord Jesus each day, we will never change from the earthly nature to the Divine nature. We will never become a new creation in Christ. Our destiny will not be the glorious inheritance we had hoped for.
And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. (Colossians 4:3)
You can see in these words that the Apostle Paul counted himself as one of the disciples. He asked them to pray for him, not holding himself above them or claiming to be some great one.
Did you ever hear a preacher say he wanted to proclaim the mystery of Christ? I never did. Paul in another place said the mystery of the Gospel is Christ in us. Paul preached Christ in us, the hope of glory.
We say today, “Let Jesus into your heart.” But after that we do not stress, perhaps as much as we should, the forming of Christ in us. We seem to be content with the initial experience, and then the emphasis is on going out and getting others “saved.”
According to what the Lord Jesus said about open doors, we know in the last days, just before the end of the Church Age, the Gospel of the Kingdom will be preached to every nation as a witness. At that time the Lord will open every door for us. So we need not be worried about doors opening, but about preparing ourselves so we are ready when God fulfills His Word.
No country has the power to close themselves off from the Gospel. God will open doors when He is ready. It is always good for us to pray, and God will answer prayer. But we need not be afraid. God has given to the Lord Jesus authority over all mankind. No person on the face of the earth can do so much as take a breath apart from the Lord Jesus Christ.
In the work of missions, there certainly is a necessary balance between our efforts and God’s efforts. It seems to me today we are getting off balance. We have several schemes operating that are intended to “reach the nations for Christ.” I, for one, am concerned about the Arab peoples.
My opinion is that the Lord has a tremendous revival in store. But it may be as in the case of Gideon. The Lord may work until we have been so reduced in power that it is obvious the revival is of the Lord and is not due to our skill in managing missionary programs.
Remember, Paul was in chains at the time of writing the epistle to the believers in Colosse. Paul could not possibly have had any idea at the time of writing the Book of Colossians that, while his efforts at the time were important, the letters he was writing to the churches would affect uncounted millions of people for two thousand years. It is true of us also that if we will just listen to Jesus and do what He says He may use us in an outstanding manner. We do not have to build the Kingdom of God in our own strength. Our task is to listen to Jesus and be obedient. “Whatever He says to you, do it,” His mother said.
I do not have much faith in the several programs that are being advanced to build churches and gain members. I can remember the glory of the Lord from the old days in Pentecost. What we need is a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit. We will not get a fresh outpouring of the Spirit until we cease from our own works and obey the Lord Jesus. I guess every generation of saints has to grasp this fundament concept for themselves.
Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. (Colossians 4:4)
It is one matter to have a message. It is another matter to be able to proclaim it clearly. Remember that even the Lord did not do many miracles in His hometown because of their lack of faith.
If people are to hear God’s Word from a man of God they must be receptive. If they are not, he may not be able to express all the good things God has for them. If the Apostle Paul were to come to America he would not be able to tell us what the Lord has for us unless he found faith here.
Did you know God is performing Bible miracles, such as raising the dead, in some of the poorer nations? There is revival in the world, but not in the richer nations of the West. I am not certain why it is that preachers who are able to work miracles in the poorer countries are not able to do so in America. It may have to do with the fact that we are too educated, or too proud, or too rich. Sometimes God loves the poor and blesses them, and sends the rich away empty-handed.
It ought to be a sobering thought to us in America that God will work outstanding miracles in other countries, but not among us. Perhaps we will not be so proud after considering this.
Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. (Colossians 4:5)
Do you know Christians sometimes do foolish things? I don’t know why. Perhaps it is because we feel we are better than other people, or are God’s pets. I shudder when I hear of some of the things that are done. We must be insulated from reality!
We have to put ourselves in the place of people of the world and think how they are receiving something we say or do. We are not to collar them and try to force Christ on them. We are to give an answer to everyone who asks us concerning our hope, and we are to do this courteously, not arrogantly as though we have all the answers to life.
Sometimes it is best just to be friendly, to sympathize with someone who is unsaved and experiencing difficulty. They realize intuitively that we are a Christian and fear God. Unless the Lord directs otherwise, it often is best to just be helpful and friendly. Let them judge for themselves whether or not we are reflecting the true God.
It is easy, for example, to be scornful toward Muslims, telling them that Mohammed is of the devil. Can you see what a stupid, insensitive remark this is? Christ wants to be received by the Arab people. But great wisdom is needed in approaching them. They have in common with us that they want to serve God. It is not up to us to blast them with our superior knowledge. It is best to be friendly and let them test our spirit for themselves, unless the Lord directs us otherwise.
God is permitting the Arabs to punish the Jews and the Western nations. This is because we are not serving the Lord as we should. The saint who loves Jesus will recognize His concern for the Arab people, and not count them as enemies. I believe God has in mind to bring millions of Muslim people to Christ in the future. Let us prepare our hearts for this and not be drawn into the hatred that the terrorists are sure to evoke.
Let us remain in prayer so we can make the most of the opportunities we are given.
Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so you may know how to answer everyone. (Colossians 4:6)
James tells us it is difficult to control the tongue. Until we learn to pray without ceasing we are going to say things to people that are foolish, spiteful, and otherwise not edifying. Continual prayer will bring Divine grace into our speech.
You know, the Bible has a lot to say about salt. Salt was put on the sacrifices. Jesus exhorted us to have salt in ourselves. But what does salt signify?
Salt is a compound of sodium and chlorine. Likewise I think spiritual salt is a compound. Since salt is that which makes something taste good, I suspect we would have to have kindness in the compound, gentleness, love, humor, integrity, sensitivity, understanding, wisdom, and patience. If we have these ingredients in our speech, we will answer people in a manner that will be pleasing and helpful.
Tychicus will tell you all the news about me. He is a dear brother, a faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord. I am sending him to you for the express purpose that you may know about our circumstances and that he may encourage your hearts. He is coming with Onesimus, our faithful and dear brother, who is one of you. They will tell you everything that is happening here. (Colossians 4:7-9)
The above passage makes Paul seem homey and real, doesn’t it? The churches were like families. Some of Paul’s epistles conclude with lists of the saints he knew. I think it may be true that he named everyone in that local church. We may imagine that Paul preached to multitudes, and perhaps on occasion he did. I rather suspect that for the most part he met in homes or rented buildings and taught only a relatively small number of believers.
We don’t get the feeling here that Paul was dealing with churches of thousands of people. “Onesimus and Tychicus will tell the folks how we are doing” – this sort of thing.
My fellow prisoner Aristarchus sends you his greetings, as does Mark, the cousin of Barnabas. (You have received instructions about him; if he comes to you, welcome him.) Jesus, who is called Justus, also sends greetings. These are the only Jews among my fellow workers for the kingdom of God, and they have proved a comfort to me. (Colossians 4:10,11)
Again, note the emphasis on a few individuals. Aristarchus was a Macedonian from Thessalonica who traveled with Paul. Mark was probably the Mark of the Book of Acts. Little is known about Justus.
Paul mentions the Kingdom of God. John the Baptist, the Lord Jesus, and the Apostles preached the coming of the Kingdom of God to the earth. This Gospel seems to have been lost, to a certain extent, since the first century. Today the emphasis is on going to Heaven when we die. But the Lord promised us that just before the end of the Church Age the Gospel of the Kingdom would be preached to every nation for a witness.
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. I vouch for him that he is working hard for you and for those at Laodicea and Hierapolis. (Colossians 4:12,13)
Epaphras either came from Colosse or settled there. Paul did not usually speak of other believers as being a servant of Christ Jesus, so this designation is an honor. Paul viewed Epaphras as a hard worker.
Notice the prayer of Epaphras for his fellow believers – that they would stand firm in God’s will, mature, fully assured of their hope. To me this prayer somehow calls to mind the difference between a Christian church of today, and the assembling of saints of the first century. I have not often heard a pastor pray like this for his flock. The idea seems to be that once you “accept Christ” you have your ticket and that is all that is required. Now you are to go out and tell others about the free trip to Heaven.
Our dear friend Luke, the doctor, and Demas send greetings. (Colossians 4:14)
Luke is the Luke with whom we are familiar from his Gospel account and as the author of the Book of Acts. Demas is the one who later left Paul.
Give my greetings to the brothers at Laodicea, and to Nympha and the church in her house. (Colossians 4:15)
The churches of Paul’s day must have been relatively small groups of people, since they met in houses. It appears there were no Christian church buildings as we know them.
Having been in large churches and small churches, it seems to me that the smaller churches are much more apt to produce saints, to promote growth to maturity as measured by the stature of the fullness of Christ. The large church has to be conducted in a fairly formal manner if things are to be done decently and in order.
In the smaller assembly the people become familiar with one another. The pastor knows everyone’s name, including the children and babies. There is a strong sense of accountability, because the members are aware of what each individual is doing. They know one another and they pray for one another.
It is up to the pastor to insure that there are no roots of bitterness, that no one is being harmed by criticism and gossip. From time to time a few people will become disgruntled and leave. This is not pleasant but it is to be expected.
The church finally becomes a family. This is especially helpful for the young people who internalize the values of the adults and grow strong in Christ. I would not be surprised if some of the relationships formed on earth are not carried forward into eternity. I know the Lord likes to group people in families.
That probably is why some people leave – they just don’t belong in that particular family.
If my judgment is true, if the growth of the believers is helped greatly by being members of relatively small, concerned families, then we need to steer away from the present emphasis on turning the local assemblies into businesses whose main responsibility is to gain more members. At some point the Lord has to build the local assembly with the people He has chosen.
But if the large assembly sponsors small cell groups, won’t that solve the problem? I am not certain it will. The saints are built to maturity by the operation of the several ministries and gifts of the Spirit. Ordinarily these do not work in small groups, only in the main assembly. There has to be the strong oversight of elders, because otherwise the operation of gifts and ministries can drift into error.
So if the main assembly is too large for the building up of individuals by various gifts and ministries, and if the cell group does not have the operation of the various gifts and ministries, then the believers are not receiving the guidance and spiritual nourishment they need to come to maturity.
Perhaps if our goal changed from accumulating vast numbers of people to presenting every believer perfect in Christ, the problem would solve itself. As soon as the leaders saw their goal was not being attained, they would take steps to adjust their programs.
But what about evangelism? Don’t we care about the various kinds of outreach ministries?
We certainly do. But these should flow out from the maturing of the saints, as God makes His will known to them. The main assembly, with its elders, apostles, prophets, teachers, pastors, gifts of healing, miracles, and so forth, should serve as “filling stations” at which the maturing saints are refreshed and are able to function in the ministries the Holy Spirit has for them.
After this letter has been read to you, see that it is also read in the church of the Laodiceans and that you in turn read the letter from Laodicea. (Colossians 4:16)
Scholars have speculated about the circulation of Paul’s letters. What stands out to me is the fact that Paul had no idea his letters, some written while he was in chains, would become Scripture, along with the Hebrews Scriptures. How could Paul know of the millions upon millions of people who would live their lives in terms of his writings? This is an inspiration to all of us to take the perfume of our own life and pour it on Jesus’ feet. When we do, in one way or another, our act will be spoken of wherever the Gospel is preached.
The Lord sees our patient efforts to serve Him conscientiously. Our work, as in the case of Paul, will have an impact on eternity.
Tell Archippus: “See to it that you complete the work you have received in the Lord.” (Colossians 4:17)
A gentle reminder to a man, whom we shall meet some day, to remain diligent in the task entrusted to him. Let each one of us be able to say with the Lord Jesus: “I have finished the work you gave me to do.” There can be no greater reward than to be able to say that at the end of our life on the earth and the beginning of our life in the new world.
I, Paul, write this greeting in my own hand. Remember my chains. Grace be with you. (Colossians 4:18)
“Yes, Paul, writing to us in your chains. Little realizing that 2,000 years later, in a day of technological marvels you never imagined, your words would be to us as the voice of God. You are an example to us of what Christ can do with our feeble efforts.
“Your faithfulness has brought Divine guidance to us. Now it is our turn to attend to the Lord so He may use us as He will.
“Paul, we will see you one day. May we not be ashamed. May we greet you confidently, knowing that you will be blessed to see what your travail has wrought in us.”