The Gospel’s Goal

Philippians – Colossians – Philemon Lesson 8

Colossians 1:24-2:3

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SUBJECT: MINISTRY

CENTRAL THEME: PRIORITIES OF MINISTRY

INTRODUCTION:  October puts us right in the middle of the major league baseball post-season with only a few teams vying for the World Series title.  Every team began with the hope of playing in that final series.  Players had goals for themselves that would contribute to the overall team goal of making it to the World Series.  The common goal of winning a championship brings together a group of people and makes them a team.  Spiritually, every believer should strive for a common goal: WHAT DO YOU THINK THAT GOAL IS?  Well, maturity is an important answer.  To be more like Jesus would be right.  To do ministry as we serve Him and others consistently.  So God wants us to become more like Him; it’s a goal He can help us reach.

WHAT ARE SOME QUALITIES OF A WINNING SPORTS TEAM?  HOW DO THOSE QUALITIES TRANSLATE INTO THE CHRISTIAN LIFE?

 

UNDERSTAND THE CONTEXT

COLOSSIANS 1:24-2:3

       In our lesson last week we saw that Paul identified himself and established his apostleship as he attempted to build a rapport with the local church at Colosse.  It is interesting that even though Paul felt a close connection with the believers in that city, he had not personally established that church.  In fact, he said to those Christians in Colosse that they, and others around Europe, had not seen his face (Col. 2:1).  So Paul wrote these instructions, knowing he did not have the same close relationship that he enjoyed with the Saints in a place like Philippi.  But he addressed the Colossian believers as Saints too, putting all who accept Jesus on the same level of importance.  Last week Paul had also established the theme that above all else, Jesus must be recognized as the Creator and Sustainer of all things.  All believers have that power within us as we strive to be like Him!  In our passage today, Paul continues to set forth spiritual transformation as a goal for every believer.  Paul declared his own calling and commitment to the ministry, even to the point of suffering for its advancement.  Even in those persecutions he rejoiced he was worthy to do that as a servant of Jesus Christ.   Paul understood his calling to be that of proclaiming the gospel and teaching with all wisdom.  His goal was helping believers grow toward spiritual maturity in Jesus.  He also made it clear he had a concern that all believers would possess assurance concerning their own knowledge of and relationship with Jesus.  Paul justified his ministry with the Colossian Church, sharing his sincere desire that they would grow in all truth and wisdom of the Gospel.

EXPLORE THE TEXT:  COLOSSIANS 1:24-2:3

Objective Statement: Christians should discover the importance of sharing the Gospel because of three priorities of ministry that Paul addresses.

 

PRIORITY OF MINISTRY #1 – COMMITTED AS A MESSENGER (col. 1:24-27)

Verses 24-27

24 Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for His body’s sake, which is the church:  25 Whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you, to fulfil the word of God;  26 Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to His saints:  27 To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory:

       In verse 23 and verse 25, the Apostle said, “whereof I [Paul] am made a minister.”  Into this ministry role, Paul found cause for rejoicing amid the sufferings he experienced.  He specifically referenced “my sufferings for you.”  Clearly, Paul went the extra mile in his sufferings for Jesus and the sake of the Gospel (see 2 Cor. 11:23-28).  Here he says he rejoices in being worthy to suffer persecution for Jesus’ sake.  After all he had done to persecute the early Christians prior to his conversion, (“that which is behind”), now he says he is willing to suffer, “the afflictions of Christ in my flesh” (vs. 24).  It sounds a lot like Phil. 3:7-10 where Paul wrote,

But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ.  Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ,  And be found in Him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith:  10 That I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable unto His death.” 

       So Paul told these Colossian believers that he gladly suffered for them, and the sake of the Gospel everywhere.  Even though Paul had never seen these Colossian believers, (Col. 2:1), he was willing to suffer for them, “in my flesh for His body’s sake, which is the church” (vs. 24).  So as Paul approaches the end of his life, he acknowledges that he had suffered much “in my flesh” but he considered all of those things as being done for the body of Christ; “which is the church.”  [This statement has confused some people, who want to interpret this statement as a support of a Universal, Invisible, ‘Body of Christ;’ the “Universal Church.”]  But this passage should be understood simply in the context of who Paul was addressing this Letter.  He was referring to the local, body of Christ, which is the local, visible, Church at Colosse!  Paul goes on to confirm that he was, “made a minister” (vs. 25), as he spread the Gospel around the then known world, whether in person or by his pen.  The phrase “according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you” (vs. 25b), literally means, ‘that God chose me for such a time as this to minister to you.’  AND WHY WAS HE CHOSEN?  Well, the next statement says, “to fulfil the Word of God” (vs. 25c).  All of Paul’s persecutions and ordeals were for the purpose of furthering the Gospel at Colosse, and around the world, because he was a minister of the Gospel.

       Verses 26-27 introduce us to a new concept for New Testament believers, that was not present to the Old Testament Jews.  WHAT WAS THIS “MYSTERY” THAT PAUL SHARES IN VERSES 26-27?  DOES ANYONE WANT TO TRY AND EXPLAIN IT?  Well, this “mystery” had clearly been hidden from the Old Testament saints.  Although there were many prophecies about Jesus coming, nothing was revealed to them about this mystery.  But because of Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection, the New Testament era introduces us to the plan of God that salvation will be offered to the Gentiles as well as the Jews.  With both Jewish and Gentile believers we have entered into the Church Age or The Age of Grace!  This “mystery” which is now being fulfilled, was never foretold or imagined by the O.T. Jewish people.  Even though the Jews were supposed to be “a light to the Gentiles,” they had become so introspective, and proud that they were God’s chosen people, they failed miserably in their evangelism to the nations beyond their borders.  By the time of Jesus most Jews hated the Gentiles and refused to accept them in the family of God.  So all of these new Christian developments truly were a “mystery” to the Jewish people.  Another part of the “MYSTERY” included the truth, “which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (vs. 27).  What a blessed hope and a glorious truth!  In the O.T. the Holy Spirit of God would come upon a Prophet or a King and then withdraw His presence after a time.  The idea of “Christ in you” was a brand new revelation to the N.T. believers.  To have the permanently, residing, Holy Spirit of God was a total mystery never before revealed to the O.T. followers of Jehovah.  “Being a Christian is a matter of having Christ living in us on our journey toward heaven and its glory.” (Explore the Bible, p. 86). 

 

PRIORITY OF MINISTRY #2 – FOCUSED ON MATURITY (COL. 1:28-29)

Verses 28-29

28 Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus:  29 Whereunto I also labour, striving according to His working, which worketh in me mightily.

       Continuing his statement from vs. 27, “Christ in you, the hope of glory:” Paul says in vs. 28, “Whom we Preach.”  That was a condensed way of summarizing the essence of his message.  He made Jesus the focal point of his preaching whether evangelizing the lost or seeking to mature the saved.  The purpose of his preaching was, “warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom” (vs. 28b).  The laser sharp focus of his ministry was to declare the consequences of dying without Jesus (“warning”), and instructing every believer (“teaching”), that they might mature, “in all wisdom!”  That is why Paul concludes this verse by saying, “that we may present, every man perfect in Christ Jesus” (vs. 28c).  When he says, “perfect,” he means “fully developed; totally mature.”  Paul sought to present God’s wisdom for a life that is full and meaningful. 

       The importance of helping believers mature in Christ was so dear to Paul that he could testify, “whereunto I also labour” (vs. 29).  He put it even more strongly by adding “striving according to His working, which worketh in me mightily.”  Paul was always so conscious of the fact that it was not his power or personality that made him effective.  It was God’s working powerfully through him that affected the conversion of unbelievers and enabled those converts to mature in Jesus.  Had Paul looked back over his missionary career, he could have honestly reacted in the words of the familiar hymn, “To God be the glory, great things He hath done.” 

WHEN YOU REFLECT ON A PERIOD OF SPIRITUAL GROWTH IN YOUR LIFE, WHAT PERSON COMES TO MIND WHO WAS GOD’S INSTRUMENT IN ADVANCING YOUR GROWTH IN CHRIST?

 

PRIORITY OF MINISTRY #3 – CONCERNED FOR THE FAITHFUL (col. 2:1-3)

Verses 2:1-3

1  For I would that ye knew what great conflict I have for you, and for them at Laodicea, and for as many as have not seen my face in the flesh;  That their hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the acknowledgement of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ;  In whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

       In verse 1, Paul assured the Colossians of his concern for all believers, even those whom he had never seen and who themselves had never seen his face.  Besides the Colossians, he also mentioned “them at Laodicea.”   The conclusion we can draw from this information is that Paul had not been personally involved in planting the churches in those two cities.  These cities were a hundred miles or so from Ephesus where Paul had engaged in an extended ministry of about two and a half years.  In all likelihood, Epaphras was the leader in taking the Gospel to the Colossians and planting the church there.  ISN’T THAT EXACTLY HOW GOD INTENDED CHURCH PLANTING TO BE?  Paul helped establish the church in Ephesus, and converts from that local church were discipled, trained, equipped, and commissioned, to go and start other churches where none existed.  So even though Paul did not actually plant the Church in Colosse, people he discipled and instructed were able to go and make that new local church thrive.  Even though Paul had never been there, or in Laodicea, he expressed the sincerity and depth of his concern by describing it as, “what great conflict I have for you” (vs.1).  In other words, he struggled in intercessory prayer for these churches he loved because of the heretical inroads that threatened these and other churches he felt related to in the ministry.  Never forget that, “prayer is an important part of spiritual weaponry in standing against theological error” (Explore the Bible, p. 88).  The question we should ask ourselves is, “How faithfully do we employ that weaponry?” 

       Verse 2-3 tell us that Paul wanted those believers in Colosse and Laodicea to know he wanted them all to “be comforted, being knit together in love” (vs. 2a).  Paul desired that these Christians would be “comforted” by the COMFORTER!  It was by the Holy Spirit of God that God’s love would be manifested within these churches.  Paul’s term for “comforted” was one used by a military leader speaking to his troops in order to strengthen their morale and willingness to engage in the battle.  We might simply say that Paul’s prayer in part was the Colossians would be filled with COURAGEHis prayer also was that their hearts would be united or knitted together in love.  Ultimately, it is God’s love that is the glue that holds the church together during difficult times. 

       Paul’s desire for unity is based on his concern about the activity of false teachers.  That is why he says in vs. 4, “And this I say, lest any man should beguile you with enticing words.”  So Paul warns them of these heresies that are around them and reminds them of the “riches of the full assurance of understanding” (vs. 2c), that are available to them.  Prayer is the way to access these riches in Him.  In other words, understanding and “acknowledgement of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ” (vs. 2) come through understanding the “mystery” of the Godhead in God and Jesus.  Here the “mystery” is not the unrevealed truth of the Church Age, hidden from the O.T. Jews, but rather the unity that exists between God the Father, and Christ, the Son.  This too had been kept from the O.T. saints.  So Paul underscores the “riches” (vs. 2), and “the treasures” (vs. 3), available to these Colossian believers.   They have access to the vast riches of God’s “WISDOM” (“understanding”) and “KNOWLEDGE” (vs. 3), that should help them understand that in Christ “are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”  These false teachers in Colosse were priding themselves on possessing hidden knowledge not available to ordinary believers.  Against such heresy, Paul confidently preached that those who trust Christ have available all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” needed for a God-pleasing life and the knowledge of God that makes their lives fulfilled and contented.

WHAT DID PAUL SAY WAS THE ISSUE THAT HELD THE BELIEVERS TOGETHER?  THAT SHOULD BE THE GOAL OF EVERY NEW TESTAMENT CHURCH!  [LOVE AND UNITY]

 

Remember our Objective Statement: Christians should discover the importance of sharing the Gospel because of three priorities of ministry that Paul addresses.

 

 

PRIORITY OF MINISTRY #1 – COMMITTED AS A MESSENGER (COL. 1:24-27)

 

 

PRIORITY OF MINISTRY #2 – FOCUSED ON MATURITY (COL. 1:28-29)

 

 

PRIORITY OF MINISTRY #3 – CONCERNED FOR THE FAITHFUL (col. 2:1-3)