Friday, July 27, 2018
Studying Colossians – Serving Christ
In these next few weeks we will continue studying the Book of Colossians from the Bible. Colossians is a letter written by Saint Paul to the Colossian Church. The Christians in the Colossian church were excited about their new faith and were eager to follow Christ.
False teachers had found their way to the new Christians in Colossae and were telling them that Jesus wasn’t enough to save them and that they needed more. The new Colossian Christians became confused and Paul was anxious to build up their faith in Jesus Christ so that they would not falter the next time that false teachers came their way. Today we will read more of Paul’s letter to the Colossian Church. Today we will be reading Colossians 1:24-29.
“I rejoice in my sufferings for you. There are things that Christ must still suffer through His body, the church. I am accepting, in my body, my part of these things that must be suffered. I became a servant of the church because God gave me a special work to do that helps you, and that work is to tell fully the message of God. This message is the secret that was hidden from everyone since the beginning of time, but now it is made known to God’s holy people. God decided to let His people know this rich and glorious secret which He has for all people. This secret is Christ Himself, who is in you. He is our only hope for glory. So, we continue to preach Christ to each person, using all wisdom to warn and to teach everyone, in order to bring each one into God’s presence as a mature person in Christ. To do this, I work and struggle, using Christ’s great strength that works so powerfully in me.” (Colossians 1:24-29)
We modern Christians don’t talk much about suffering for Christ. Some expect our faith to be “logical” and instead we discover “mysteries”! Our Scripture reading today begins with the mystery of Christ’s sufferings and the mystery of our suffering with Him! Paul tells the Gentile churches that he “rejoices in his sufferings for you. There are things that Christ must still suffer through His body, the church.” (vs. 24) Paul was suffering because he was serving Christ. And all who serve Christ will suffer too. Scripture mentions “the fellowship of His sufferings.” (Philippians 3:10) Like the early apostles, many of whom were martyred, Paul rejoiced that he was “counted worthy to suffer shame for His Name” (Acts 5:410
An old Christian hymn goes: “Are you able, asked the Master, to be crucified with Me. “Yes” the sturdy dreamer’s answer, to the death we follow Thee.” We followers of Christ are commanded to “take up our cross and follow Him”. (Matthew 16:24) We too are asked to suffer with Christ. All Christians who serve Christ must take up their cross. The apostles, the prophets and the early believers were all devoted to God, all committed to serving Him and all constantly in trouble. Scripture says: “If indeed we suffer with Him, that we may be also glorified with Him.” (Romans 8:17) The old hymn asks the question- “Are you able to be crucified with Christ? “ What is your answer?
God called Paul to go out and serve as a missionary to the Gentiles and spread the gospel – to make disciples for Christ. Nearly everywhere Paul traveled and preached, a new church of believers sprung up. Of course, the Holy Spirit was with Paul, and through him the Christian faith, like a flame of fire, ignited hearts and minds and soon spread throughout all of Europe. But along with the great joy that this ministry gave Paul, it also came with a great cost.
Paul suffered many things because he served the Lord. Among other problems, during Paul’s ministry, he suffered hunger and cold, he was persecuted by many, was shipwrecked, stoned and left for dead, whipped and beaten, jailed and finally martyred. How would things have been different in early church history if Paul had chosen not to suffer with Christ and spread the gospel to the Gentiles?
In our Scripture readings today, we also read: “This gospel message is the secret that was hidden from everyone since the beginning of time, but now is made known to God’s holy people. God decided to let His people know the secret which He has for all people. This secret is Christ, Himself, who is in you. He is our only hope for glory.” (Colossians 1:26-27) Here is another mystery in God’s Word. The mystery of God’s amazing love! And a secret too, which has been revealed to us.
This secret, “Christ in you the hope of glory”, was “hidden from everyone since the beginning.” (vs.26) The ancient peoples who loved God tried to follow His laws. The ancient Israelites knew that God had promised them salvation through the blood of the lamb. The Jewish prophets foretold of the coming Messiah, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. They saw Him from a far off. But when He came, the mystery and the secret was finally revealed. Revealed to those who believe in Him and follow Him. A very rich and glorious secret. The secret Is Christ Himself! Christ in you, the hope of glory!
Many of the ideas for this blog were taken from Max Lucado’s book, “Colossians and Philemon” and “The Wiersbe Bible Study Series”
Sunday, July 22, 2018
Studying Colossians – The Preeminence of Christ
In these next few weeks we will continue studying the book of Colossians from the Bible. Colossians is a letter written by Saint Paul to the Colossian Church. The new Christians in the Colossian Church were excited about their newfound faith and were eager to follow Christ.
But then, false teachers found their way into the Colossian Church and started teaching lies and heresies. These false teachers were teaching that Jesus Christ was just a great man and a nice example to follow, but not the Son of God or our Savior. The new Christians in Colossae listened to these false teachers and were becoming confused about their faith in Christ. So, when Paul hears about this, he doesn’t stop praying for these beloved Colossians as well as writing them this letter. Today we will read more of Paul’s letter to the Colossian Church. Here it is: (Colossians 1:15-23)
“Jesus Christ is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by Him (Jesus) all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether throne or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence.” (Colossians 1:15-18)
“For it pleased the Father that in Him (Jesus) all the fullness should dwell. And by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross.” (Colossians 1:19-20) “
And you who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy and blameless, and above reproach in His sight. If indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard, which was preached to every creature under heaven, of which I, Paul, became a minister.” (Colossians 1:21-23)
When Paul realizes the Colossian Christians’ faith in Christ was being attacked, he writes his letter reminding them of the basic message of Christianity: - That Jesus Christ is God in the flesh. That He created and sustains the whole universe. That all things were made through Christ and for Christ. (verse 16) And as the Savior of the world, He is all our souls will ever need.
In the Scripture reading today, the term “firstborn” is used to describe Jesus. (Colossians 1:15) Bible scholars say that word “firstborn” does not refer to time, but to place or status. Jesus Christ was not the first being created, since He was never created. He is the Creator of all things. “Firstborn” simply means “of first importance, of first rank.”
Scripture tells us that Jesus is God the Son and is the Alpha and the Omega – the beginning and the end. (Revelation 22:13) One of the names for Jesus is the “Word”. Here we read: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through Him al things were made: without Him nothing was made that has been made. In Him was life, and that life was the light of humans. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it. (John 1:1-5) “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)
We also read in Paul’s letter to the Colossians that in Him (Jesus) all things hold together. (Colossians 1:17) A guide took a group of people through an atomic laboratory and explained how all matter was composed of rapidly moving electric particles. The tourist studied models of molecules and were amazed to learn that matter is made up primarily of space. During the question period, one visitor asked, “If this is the way matter works, what holds it all together?” For that, the guide had no answer. But the Christian has an answer: Jesus Christ! Jesus is also the glue that holds our faith together. (Hebrews 12:2)
Because our belief in Christ as our Lord and Savior is the very center of our Christian faith, the false teachers in Colossae, like the false teachers of our own day, will first attack who Jesus is. False teachers will always deny the importance of Jesus Christ. They will simply dethrone Him and deny that He died for our sins. They will play games with who He is. Clump Him in with Moses, Elijah, Buddha, Muhammad or Confucius as one of many religious teachers. But they will turn over heaven and hell to keep you from believing that Jesus Christ is Son of God and Savior. And that He bled and died for your sins.
The false teachers back then were trying to undermine the Colossians faith in Christ as Savior and Lord, as false teachers are trying to undermine our faith in Christ today. The Colossian church was fighting a spiritual battle. And so are we. As believers of Jesus as our Savior and Lord, we will be attacked! We must be on guard and ready to fight to protect our faith and that of others. It is a matter of life and death spiritually!
Scripture tells us to pray constantly and to put on the armor of God so that we can fight this on-going spiritual battle. God gives us our armor to fight with, which includes the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the shield of faith, along with the helmet of salvation. We fight with the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. Also, we are given (by God) shoes fitted with the readiness to run with the gospel of peace. (Ephesians 6:10-18)
Paul knew that if the Colossians could see who Jesus really is, they would stop listening to these false teacher’s lies. One look at the real Jesus will do that. Our faith in Christ is our life and truth and salvation. Believing in Christ as our Lord and Savior is the most important decision we can ever make! Of course, Satan is going to try to take that away from us. We are warned about this in the Scriptures we read today, - Colossians 1:22-23.
Once I was talking to a young man who didn’t believe that Jesus could possibly rise from the dead or forgive our sins or give us salvation. He said that he was too intelligent to believe all of that. He believed that Jesus was just another famous religious leader, one of many. When I read him the Scriptures that proclaim that Jesus is the Son of God, Creator and Savior, the eyes of his spirit were opened! Finally, when he saw Jesus for who He really is, this young man was able to believe in Christ as his Savior and Lord. He is active in his Christian church today and his life has been forever changed. It was a wonderful thing to watch.
Paul’s teaching about Christ being God the Son, our Savior and Lord, lay a foundation for the new Christians in Colossae to battle false doctrines. And remembering who Jesus Christ really is, can shield us from Satan’s fiery darts of doubt and unbelief. And from being blinded by the lies of the enemy.
The new Colossian Christians had first believed in Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord. But then the false teachers came with their “knowledge”. Soon their eyes became dim and they could no longer see their Jesus, their Rock and their Redeemer! The false teachers were giving them a counterfeit watered down Jesus to believe in and the Colossians were losing their way. They were being tempted to give up their Christian faith.
Scripture says that we need to constantly watch and pray that we are not tempted to forget who Jesus is. That our eyes do not become dim and we no longer see the Light of Life. We need to hold onto Jesus, the Cornerstone of our faith. Stay true to Him and never run after the counterfeits. We need to study the Scriptures and believe the truths we find there, - the truth that Jesus Christ is Preeminent. Open our eyes Lord, we want to see Jesus!
Some of the ideas in this blog were taken from Max Lucado’s book, “Colossians and Philemon” and from the Wiersbe Bible Study Series.
Friday, July 13, 2018
Praying with Power (Colossians 1:9-14)
In these next few weeks we will continue studying the book of Colossians from the Bible. Colossians is a letter written by Saint Paul to the Colossian Church. The new Christians in the Colossian church were excited about their new faith and were eager to follow Christ.
But then, false teachers (wolves in sheep’s clothing) found their way into the Colossian Church and started teaching lies and heresies. These false teachers were teaching that Jesus Christ was just a great man and a nice example, but not the Son of God and our Savior. The new Christians in Colossae were becoming confused about their faith in Christ. And a concerned Paul, who is in prison at the time, doesn’t stop praying for the Colossians, as well as writing them this letter. Today we will read more of Paul’s letter to the Colossian Church. Here it is: (Colossians 1:9-14)
“Because of this, since the day we heard about you, we have continued praying for you. Asking God that you will know fully what He wants. We pray that you will also have great wisdom and understanding in spiritual things, so that you will live the kind of life that honors and pleases the Lord in every way.
We pray that you will produce fruit in every good work and grow in the knowledge of God. And that God will strengthen you with His own great power so that you will not give up when troubles come, but you will be patient.
And we pray that you will joyfully give thanks to the Father who has made you able to have a share in all that He has prepared for His people in the kingdom of light. God has freed us from the power of darkness, and He brought us into the kingdom of His dear Son. The Son paid for our sins, and in Him we have forgiveness.” (Colossians 1:9-14)
Paul tells the Colossian brothers and sisters that he and other Christians are constantly praying for them. And then he tells the Colossians the specific things he is praying for them. Paul’s prayers for others are much different than mine. Paul’s prayers are very specific. How would you describe your prayers for others?
Paul prays here for five specific things for these new Colossian Christians. (1) First Paul asks God for the Colossians to be able to know fully what God wants. Do we know what God wants for our lives? The Bible tells us how we are to live, and God promises to guide us in the ways that we should go. We can pray and wait on the Lord for our answers. And (2) second, Paul asks God to give the Colossians wisdom and understanding in spiritual things. He adds that if they have wisdom and understanding in spiritual things then they will live the kind of life that honors and pleases the Lord.
Then (3) third, Paul asks that God produce “fruit” in the lives of these new Christians. He prays for good work for them and God given knowledge of how to do good work. The “fruit” that Scripture says the Holy Spirit gives us is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (Galatians 5:22)
And (4) fourth, Paul prays that God will strengthen this new little church in His own power so that they will not give up when troubles come. Do we forget that God promises to give us strength to make it through our troubles? And (5) fifth, Paul prays that these new Christians will joyfully give thanks to God and be joyful and thankful people. Are we a joyful and thankful people? Is someone praying for you and your spiritual growth? And are you praying for someone?
Our heavenly Father has ordained that our prayers play a key role in the building of His kingdom! There are some basic guidelines in the New Testament for how to pray. We are commanded to pray unselfishly and with a pure heart. (James 4:3) We are to Pray relentlessly. (1 Thessalonians 5:17) We are to pray believing that God will work. (Mark 11:24) We are to pray according to God’s will. (John 15:7) And we are to pray being willing to surrender to God’s will in the matter. (Luke 22:42)
In the last verses (Colossians 1:12b-14) that we are studying today, Paul tells the Colossians that God has given them a share in all that He has prepared for His people in the kingdom of light. We cannot imagine all that this Scripture passage means. And then in the next verses God has “delivered us from the power of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of His dear Son. The Son paid for our sins, and in Him we have forgiveness of sin.”
The greatest problem we humans have is sin – a problem that can never be solved by a philosopher or a great religious teacher. Sinners need a Savior. And these verses in Colossians 1:12b-14 give us a vivid picture of four saving actions of Jesus Christ our Savior. (1) He frees us from the powers of darkness, and (2) brings us into the kingdom of light. (3) Christ, the Son redeems us and (4) He forgives us. Everything we will ever need or want is in Him! It doesn’t get any better than that!
Some of the ideas in this blog were taken from Max Lucado’s book, “Colossians and Philemon” and also the “Wiersbe Bible Study Series.”
Sunday, July 8, 2018
The short little book of Colossians in the Bible is a letter written by Saint Paul to the Colossians. Paul’s letter was addressed to the “Colossians” because they were the Christian believers who lived in the little town of Colossae. Paul had never met these Colossian believers personally (Colossians 2:1) But Epaphras, a Christian brother from Ephesus, had written Paul about the new Christians in Colossae, and he had asked Paul to pray for them.
Epaphras lived in Ephesus, a town about one hundred miles from Colossae. Epaphras had traveled to the town of Colossae and spent some time there preaching the good news of salvation through Christ to the people. And many of the Colossians listened to Epaphras and put their faith in Christ! And their lives were changed!
A Christian church sprang up in Colossae, full of new Christians eager to follow Christ and learn more about their faith. So Epaphras stayed with the Colossians for a while encouraging and teaching them. Finally, Epaphras had to go back to his home in Ephesus, but he would always love and pray for his beloved Colossian brothers and sisters in Christ. Epaphras knew that God had used him to bring the Colossians to salvation and he felt like he was their spiritual father. The Holy Spirit was moving among these new Colossian Christians. They were growing in their faith and in their love for one another.
But then it seemed that false teachers traveled to the Colossian church and started teaching heresies that were threatening the very foundation of the faith! We Christians are engaged in a spiritual battle. Satan, our enemy, always tries to cause the Christian to doubt his or her faith in Christ. Often the false teachers will look and act like the Christians, coming to church so that they can sneak in their poisonous doctrines. The Bible calls these false teachers, “wolves in sheep’s clothing” (Matthew 7:15) They look like fellow Christians (sheep) but they are really in church to destroy the Christian’s precious faith, like wolves follow a herd of sheep to eat them (or destroy them).
These wolves in sheep’s clothing who came to the Colossian church, attacked the person and work of Jesus Christ! They didn’t “deny” Christ, but they “dethroned” Him. They taught that Jesus Christ is only one of several great religious teachers and not the Son of God come in the flesh. These false teachers told the Colossian Christians that they had special “knowledge” and that simply believing in Christ as Savior and Lord was not enough. Some of the Colossian believers were confused and started believing the false doctrines.
When Epaphras heard this terrible news, as their spiritual father, he was very upset! He wrote Paul a letter telling him about the false teachers who were trying to subvert Christ’s beloved church in Colossae and begged him to pray for these new Christians. Paul may have been in prison at that time, so he couldn’t travel to Colossae. But Paul prayed fervently for them and he also wrote a letter to the Colossians – a letter that today is part of our Bible.
The false teachers were teaching the Colossians that they needed more than Jesus for their salvation. That He wasn’t enough. Paul’s main message to the Colossians was that Christ is enough! That Jesus is preeminent! That Jesus Christ is Creator and Lord – the all sufficient Savior of the world! In our union with Him – by grace and through faith – the Christian finds ALL he or she will ever need. Today we will read the first part of Paul’s letter to the Colossian Church. Here it is: (Colossians 1:1-8)
“From: Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timothy our brother,
To: the saints and faithful brothers in Christ who are in Colossae:
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:
We give thanks to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of your love for all the saints:
because of the hope which is kept safe for you in heaven, of which you heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel,
Which has come to you, as it has also in all the world, and is bringing forth fruit, as it is also among you since the day you heard and knew the grace of God in truth:
As you learned from Epaphras, our dear fellow servant, who is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf, who also declared to us your love in the Spirit.” ((Colossians 1:1-8)
Paul’s letter to the Colossians is filled with thanksgiving. Paul gives thanks to God for the church in Colossae. (Colossians 1:3) And he prays that the Colossian Christians might grow in their own thanksgiving to God. (Colossians 1:12) Our prayers should always include thanksgiving. (Colossians 4:2)
Along with thanksgiving, Paul begins his letter with encouragement, telling the Colossians that he has heard of their faith in Christ and their love and hope. And he reminds them that their “hope will be kept safe for them in heaven.” (Colossians 1:5) Do we need to learn how to be more encouraging? Do we need to remind each other of our great spiritual heritage in Christ? And that our hope is also being kept safe of us in heaven?
Given that the Colossian Christians were having a difficult time, how do you think they might have responded if Paul’s letter had started right off with arguments against the false doctrines that they were starting to believe? Instead of criticisms, perhaps true thankfulness plays a role in encouraging others toward a right doctrine!
In Colossians 1:6, Paul states that the gospel is bearing fruit all over the world. The word of God is the only seed that can be planted anywhere in the world and bear fruit. The gospel can be preached “to every creature which is under heaven.” (Colossians 1:23) False teachers do not take their message to all the world. They go where the gospel has already gone and try to lead believers astray. They have no good news for lost sinners!
Paul reminds the Colossian Christians that the good news of Christ is changing lives all around the known world. Perhaps a larger perspective on the impact of the gospel may help these Colossians Christians realize the value of their faith. Maybe these new Christians in Colossae will realize that their faith in Christ is alive – a living thing – and be encouraged to hold fast to their faith.
Amazing things happen when we put our faith in Christ. We are born again (John 3) We become God’s children (John 1) Our sins are forgiven. (Ephesians 1) We receive eternal life (1 John 5) and the Holy Spirit takes up residence in our lives (Roman 8) We have been given so much in Christ! Let’s hold on to our precious faith and never let any religious philosophy or any person or false teacher try to take it from us!
Many of the ideas in this blog were taken from “The Wiersbe Bible Study Series” and by Max Lucado’s book, “Colossians and Philemon”