The Gospel’s Power
Philippians; Colossians; Philemon Study Lesson 7
CENTRAL THEME: THE POWER OF THE GOSPEL
INTRODUCTION: In the early days of our nation, our first U.S. President, George Washington, gave a very generous reprieve for two men who had committed a serious crime. John Mitchell and Philip Weigel were sentenced to hang for treason. At first, Washington stayed their executions on two separate occasions. Then on November 2, 1795, the President granted the men a full pardon. Though guilty, Mitchell and Weigel were freed. That is the power of a PARDON. For the believer, the Gospel also pardons us from our guilt. Through faith in Jesus, we gain eternal forgiveness for all our sin, being released from our sentence of eternal separation from God. God, judicially, declares us FORGIVEN and grants us a full PARDON because Jesus paid it all!
HOW MIGHT RECEIVING A PARDON FOR A PAST WRONG, IMPACT THE WAY A PERSON LIVES AFTER RECEIVING THAT PARDON?
UNDERSTAND THE CONTEXT
In Colossians 1:1-8, Paul begins his Letter to the Colossians with the standard first-century salutation for letters. Paul identified himself as the author of the Letter and an apostle of Jesus Christ. This set forth his authority as a spokesperson for God. Paul also recognized that Timothy was with him. Then he identified the recipients of his letter there in Colosse as the saints and faithful brothers. In his typical greeting, he bids them God’s grace and peace, and also thanks God for all of them with prayers and supplications. Paul expressed his true thankfulness to God for the Church in Colosse and applauds their testimony of faith and love for all the saints. Then he reminds them of the hope of rewards they have laid up in heaven for all their belief in the Gospel. Paul paints a beautiful word picture of how the Colossians had experienced and seen the “truth of the Gospel” and how it had produced “fruit” in them, as well as all the people that heard it. Because of the Gospel, these saints, “knew the grace of God in truth” (vs. 6). Paul concluded this introduction by acknowledging how Epaphras, a faithful minister of Christ in Colosse, had carefully expressed the love of that Church for Paul.
EXPLORE THE TEXT: COLOSSIANS 1:9-23
Objective Statement: Christians should learn that the power of the Gospel frees us from sin and Satan’s control because of these three declarations.
Declaration #1 – we are set free (col. 1:9-14)
9 For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; 10 That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God; 11 Strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness; 12 Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: 13 Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of His dear Son: 14 In whom we have redemption through His blood, even the forgiveness of sins:
Epaphras had shared with Paul the love of the Colossian Church for him (vs. 8). Paul stated that since he and his friends heard those encouraging words we, “do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding” (vs. 9). Now that did not mean Paul prayed every second of every day for these friends, but he did have a consistent and frequent time of prayer when he remembered them as well as the other churches. Paul kept them on his ongoing prayer list! WHAT DID PAUL DESIRE FOR THEM? That they would be filled with God’s knowledge related to His will, and they would arrive at that will in “all wisdom and spiritual understanding” (vs. 9b). Every believer wants to know God’s Will for their life. That revelation comes from Holy Spirit wisdom and understanding. Paul also wanted them to “walk worthy of the Lord” (vs. 10a). For believers who walk worthy there is a very practical outcome of “pleasing” the Lord; and “being fruitful in every good work” (vs. 10b). The language structure of that phrase implies a life of continuing fruitfulness, not just one of a seasonal harvest. The specific variety of this fruit is termed, “every good work.” Another result of the worthy walk, happens inwardly, namely, “increasing in the knowledge of God” (vs. 10c). That becomes the life-long goal of every sincere believer! Paul said it this way in Phil. 3:10, “That I may know Him.”
In verses 11-12, Paul encouraged the Colossian believers to be “strengthened with all might” (vs. 11a). When Christians remember that they are up against the triad of powerful opponents – the world, the flesh, and the devil – nothing short of God’s powerful enablement can bring victory. Every believer must remember from where that strength and might come. It is “according to His glorious power” (vs. 11b). DO YOU WANT VICTORY IN YOUR LIFE? Well, it comes from God’s power, but the result is not an outcome we might think. It is not Samson-like strength, but rather it results in “all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness” (vs. 11c). Instead of gaining God’s “glorious power” for our own feats of prideful strength, God gives us His might and power to control our inner self with patience, longsuffering and joy! Those seem like odd results of a powerful life, but in Jesus, that is how we are to react, to God’s glory! When we get the power to control our lives then we are to respond by “Giving thanks unto the Father” (vs. 12a). Another thing we are to recognize and give thanks to God for is that He has made us WORTHY “to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light” (vs. 12b). Among the chief blessings of being the people of God is His equipping us to participate in the inheritance that belongs to all believers.
In Verses 13-14, Paul declares to the Colossian believers, and by application to every true Christian, that Jesus has SET US FREE. He has “delivered us from the power of darkness” (vs. 13a). We were trapped and enslaved to sin and we were blinded by Satan’s lies and his depraved “darkness.” But Jesus transformed us! He redeemed us out of the darkness and He “translated us” into His glorious kingdom. So because of God’s “dear Son” (vs. 13c), we find the way out of “the power of darkness” and into His wonderful light. HOW DID THAT TRANSFORMATION HAPPEN ACCORDING TO VERSE 14? It is Jesus who is the WAY, the TRUTH, and the LIFE (John 14:6). He has provided “redemption through His blood” (vs. 14a). WHAT DOES THAT REDEMPTION MEAN TO US? Jesus purchased us out of the marketplace of sin by “His blood;” that’s how He paid for our deliverance. That “redemption” also means that we have received more than just being set free; we experience “the forgiveness of sins” (vs. 14b). HOW MANY OF OUR SINS? ALL OF THEM! HALLELUJAH!
Declaration #2 – FREED BY CHRIST (col. 1:15-20)
15 Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: 16 For by Him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by Him, and for Him: 17 And He is before all things, and by Him all things consist. 18 And He is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things He might have the preeminence. 19 For it pleased the Father that in Him should all fulness dwell; 20 And, having made peace through the blood of His cross, by Him to reconcile all things unto Himself; by Him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven.
In this most superlative paragraph, Paul elevates JESUS to some of the most matchless expressions of Jesus’ power, authority, and worth, anywhere in the Bible. These verses are packed with theological truth about Jesus, speaking of His relation to God the Father, to the created order, and the church at Colosse and churches everywhere. Let’s break down some of the exalted accolades that Paul reserves for JESUS, ONLY! This paragraph is a continuation of vs. 14 where Paul wrote, “In whom we have redemption through His blood, even the forgiveness of sins:” which ends with a colon. So Paul continues his thought, under Holy Spirit inspiration when he says, that Jesus is God! Do you see it (vs. 15)? Since God is a SPIRIT (John 4:24), the best way for us to see God, is when God became a man in the person of Jesus! In His incarnation, Jesus enabled mortal beings to have a clearer understanding of God’s person and purposes. In relation to the created universe, the declaration about Christ as the image of the invisible God goes further to assert that He is the “firstborn of every creature” (vs. 15b). Some cults suggests that Jesus was not God because He was created. They totally ignore the first part of vs. 15. This assertion most likely is meant to tell us two truths. As “firstborn,” Jesus had priority in time, being in existence from eternity past and before all creation. As “firstborn,” Christ also possesses superiority in rank. A firstborn child has a certain honored position in the family. In ancient Israel a firstborn, male, child was called, the ‘Primogeniture,’ (Prime-o-gin-a-ture), with birthrights and a special blessings. Jesus is over the created order in both position and dignity!
Jesus’ superior relation to the created order is given a sweeping explanation in the declaration that “by Him were all things created” (vs. 16a). In this fact we have the basis for His dominion over creation. This overarching dominion is itemized in the next statements. It begins with “in heaven, and . . . in earth” (vs. 16b). The things that are “in heaven” are the things that are presently “invisible.” But all the things “on earth” can be seen and appreciated by our physical sight; the “visible.” To show Jesus’ absolute control, Paul then lists things that are visible and invisible in the universal realm when he says, “whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers” (vs. 16c). These references are all-inclusive. Whatever supernatural powers exist, whether on earth or in the spiritual realm, Jesus is their Creator and Ruler. The summation of this exalted view of Christ is that “all things were created by Him, and for Him” (vs. 16d). Even though human eyes cannot see the vast expanse of Jesus’ control, He was integral to its creation as the divine agent of its origin, and He is the heir of it all! In God’s plan, all that exists is moving toward this crowning exaltation of Jesus Christ as “all things were created . . . for Him.”
In verses 17-18, the greatness of Jesus is further set forth by the repeated truth of His own eternality: He was “before all things.” WHAT POWER DOES JESUS POSSESS? Verse 17 reminds us, “by Him all things consist.” Our exalted Savior not only addresses humanity’s need for a Redeemer, but He is at the same time the personal sustainer or divine cohesive power that holds all things together in the Universe. What a remarkable Creator God! In verse 18, the realm of Christ’s exaltation moves from creation to the church (used here in the generic sense, meaning the Institution of churches; in this case it was the Church at Colosse). He is “the head of the body, the church.” To be the head of something is to be its sovereign ruler. No matter what kind of lofty titles humans may bestow on their religious leaders, only Jesus is the absolute head of His churches. As the “head” Jesus controls the “body.” Just as it is in the human body, the head controls the rest of the bodily functions and movements, so it is to be with churches. As members of the body, we are to exercise our spiritual gifts so that the body can move and operate with Jesus as the head. Furthermore, He is, “the beginning, the firstborn from the dead” (vs. 18). Jesus was the first to return from the dead in possession of resurrection life and He would never again be subject to death. And because He lives, we too shall live! All of these accolades directed to Jesus culminates with this noble goal, that “in all things He might have the preeminence.” Jesus’ preeminence is universal; and it extends to all things including life beyond death. Ultimately, the exaltation of Jesus will result in Him occupying the supreme place in all of heaven and earth (also see Phil. 2:9-11).
Verses 19-20, express the majestic witness to the Incarnation because, “it pleased the Father that in” Jesus “should all fullness dwell” (vs. 19). Jesus, in human form, was equal with God but He humbled Himself and became a servant for us (Phil. 2:5-7). But never forget that in Jesus all of God’s essential attributes were manifested to us. Because He was God, Jesus was able to make, “peace through the blood of His cross” (vs. 20). What a blessed statement. We are brought into relationship with God and given “peace” because of “the blood of His cross.” When God made peace with us, He did it, “by Him to reconcile all things unto Himself” (vs. 20b). We used to be enemies of God because of our sin, but Jesus made us His friends! The conclusion to this exalted passage on Christology is God’s redeeming work which was accomplished by His sacrificial death, referred to as “the blood of His cross” (also see vs. 14a). Jesus’ death also had the scope of embracing “things in earth, or things in heaven” (vs. 20c).
Declaration #3 – FREED BY HIS DEATH (col. 1:21-23)
21 And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath He reconciled 22 In the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in His sight: 23 If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister.
The accomplishment of Jesus’ redeeming death provided salvation for sinners who were “alienated and enemies” of God. It wasn’t just that we didn’t know God, we actually were so depraved in our sins that we were His enemies, and far away from knowledge of His grace. This hostility towards God is evidenced by the “wicked works” of all humankind. The source of evil actions is what is in a person’s heart. Jesus declared: “For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies: These are the things which defile a man” (Matt. 15:19-20a). “Wicked works” are but the outward reflection of one’s inward condition. But Jesus’ redeeming work has reconciled us to God; making us His friends rather than His enemies. Jesus did His reconciliation achievement, “In the body of His flesh through death” (vs. 22). In other words, while we were enemies with God, Jesus came in order to bring us into a right relationship with Him (reconciliation), by His own death. That marvelous act of GRACE imparted to us the very righteousness of Jesus to our lives. By the Gospel, we are made “holy, and unblameable and unreproveable in His sight” (vs. 22b). There are a couple of words we seldom use in our daily lives. WHAT DOES IT MEAN “UNBLAMEABLE”? Well, since we have Jesus’ righteousness given to us, all our sins are forgiven. We stand blameless before God! WHAT DOES IT MEAN “UNREPROVEABLE”? To be reproved is to be rebuked, scolded, or chastised. Because Jesus has made us “holy” we can stand before the Almighty God one day, being freed from accusation or condemnation. We are JUSTIFIED (Just as if I’d never sinned), because of what Jesus did for us on the cross.
Verse 23 contains an “if-clause:” “If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled.” Some have tried to suggest this means a person can lose their salvation. That is not what Paul is teaching. The truth of the matter is for someone who is genuinely converted, ‘the faith that saves is a faith that perseveres.’ Eternal security and the perseverance of faith are the necessary sides of the coinage of redemption. Continuance in faith is the evidence of its genuineness. The reverse side of that “if-clause” is that a believer does not shift away from “the hope of the Gospel.” The danger of heresies, in Paul’s day as well as ours, is that they tend toward including other requirements in addition to faith in Jesus, Only. False teachers, then and now, are always adding works to salvation and suggesting Jesus’ death on the cross wasn’t enough (Col. 2:20-23). Paul’s reference was to the Gospel that had been “preached to every creature which is under heaven” (vs. 23). Epaphras had proclaimed it to the Colossians. This also was the very good news to which Paul had committed himself as a “minister” (vs. 23).
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO YOU THAT AS A CHRISTIAN YOU HAVE BEEN RECONCILED TO GOD?
Remember our Objective Statement: Christians should learn that the power of the Gospel frees us from sin and Satan’s control because of these three declarations: