We are currently working on some “fundamentals of Christianity” (haven’t come up with a title yet) posts geared toward encouraging new or newly-learning Christians by focusing on the basics of our Faith, the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We feel it will be a necessary feature here at Faithful Stewardship as we move more toward exercising Biblical discernment in some of the more contentious or deeply ingrained issues of the modern-day church. From time to time we will also review some church history as it pertains to present-day denominations and their effect on the Body of Christ. The plan is to move more of the Old Testament studies to Thursdays. We will continue pointing to the Gospel in every post, we just want to really highlight it in our Wednesday posts. We are open to any questions or suggestions you may have, especially if you are a new (or renewed) Christian. We want to hear from you.
Paul Writes to a Church He Did not Plant
I have always loved Paul’s letter to the church at Colossae. In many ways, it feels more familiar in that the church at Colossae was not directly planted by Paul in his missionary journeys, so his letter to them in that sense seems all the more tangible, or connectable, to me as a Christian many centuries and miles removed from the Pauline missionary routes. Colossae was approximately 10-12 miles away from two other prosperous cities, Heiropolis and Laodecia (ref WebBible Encycolopedia). Colossae was also about 120 miles from Ephesus. We know that Paul spent 3 years working with the elders of Ephesus (Acts 20:31). If we go back a bit to Chapter 19, we see the impact of Paul’s first 2 years of preaching in Ephasus.
Acts 19:1-10 (ESV) | Paul in Ephesus
1 And it happened that while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul passed through the inland country and came to Ephesus. There he found some disciples. 2 And he said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” And they said, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” 3 And he said, “Into what then were you baptized?” They said, “Into John’s baptism.” 4 And Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, Jesus.” 5 On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 6 And when Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking in tongues and prophesying. 7 There were about twelve men in all.
8 And he entered the synagogue and for three months spoke boldly, reasoning and persuading them about the kingdom of God. 9 But when some became stubborn and continued in unbelief, speaking evil of the Way before the congregation, he withdrew from them and took the disciples with him, reasoning daily in the hall of Tyrannus. 10 This continued for two years, so that all the residents of Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks.
Without getting overly involved in the history of the region. Apollos had preached well in Ephesus before Paul arrived, but needed some additional training for he had been a disciple of John the Baptist and only knew of Jesus what was prophesied. He was not aware of the Baptism in the Name of Jesus Christ, only the Baptism of repentance. Jesus promised to send the Holy Spirit to dwell within those who believed and were baptized in His Name. We see the Apostle Paul completing the Gospel teaching of these disciples and they received the Holy Spirit, here with evidence and manifestation, but understand that the gift of the Holy Spirit is received by faith in the Promise given by Jesus Christ regardless of manifestation. Those who are baptized in the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are in dwelt by the Holy Spirit. Paul worked for two years preaching the Gospel to all the residents of Asia, both Jews and Greeks. It is possible that Epaphras and Philemon were discipled around this time. If you’ve been looking through the books of the New Testament, you know that there is a short, 1-chapter letter to Philemon. We’ll look at that letter once we wrap up Colossians.
Paul’s Letter to the Colossians
1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, 2 To the saints and faithful brothers in Christ at Colossae: Grace to you and peace from God our Father.
Thanksgiving and Prayer
3 We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, 4 since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints,5 because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel, 6 which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and increasing—as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth, 7 just as you learned it from Epaphras our beloved fellow servant. He is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf 8 and has made known to us your love in the Spirit.
9 And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding,10 so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.11 May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy,12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. 13 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
Paul, after properly introducing himself as he tends to do, immediately offers praise, thanksgiving, and prayer for the church at Colossae. We see here that Epaphras likely planted this church, and Paul is commending them by way of reminder to keep in the Grace of Jesus Christ as taught to them in Truth. Notice how quickly Paul anchors everything into the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He does not give a checklist of their deeds, their size, nor their finances, neither does he take the approach of “well we are all Christians, Praise God” and move on to the subject of the letter. No. Paul is encouraging them in the Gospel, letting them know that they are in the prayers of the Brethren, and urging them to continue walking in Christ. Everything is anchored in Christ. This is such a primary focus that Paul will continue on this thought further narrowing down the person of Christ as the Son of God.
The Preeminence of Christ
15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.
21 And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22 he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, 23 if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.
Here, we see Paul clearly proclaiming the deity of Christ. Might I ask that you take some time to really read what Paul is saying of Jesus here? Hollywood has done a great job of hyper-fixation on the singular “anti-christ”, but the New Testament warns of many false christs and many anti-christs in the last days (in which we live). How we view Jesus Christ is of supreme importance, for Only Jesus Christ as described in the Bible is the Way of Salvation. You cannot deviate in the person of Jesus Christ and somehow manage a True Gospel. It simply cannot be done. This is where the Mormons (Latter Day Saints) and the Jehovah’s Witness fail, though they both falsely claim to be “Christian”. This is also why any attempt to synchronize Islam and Christianity is abject heresy. While Islam has a name for Jesus (Issa), they deny the Biblical Jesus. What Paul is providing for us here is a clear starting point for discernment: Who do you say that I Am?
Paul’s Ministry to the Church
24 Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church, 25 of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, 26 the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints. 27 To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. 28 Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. 29 For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.
1 For I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you and for those at Laodicea and for all who have not seen me face to face, 2 that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ, 3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. 4 I say this in order that no one may delude you with plausible arguments. 5 For though I am absent in body, yet I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good order and the firmness of your faith in Christ.
The Apostle Paul describes his ministry as a stewardship from God, given to him for the Church. The Gospel is the Lord’s. It is His testimony we preach. We who share the Word of God, are stewards of God’s Grace and mercy, preaching the Word of God so that the lost might be saved. I sometimes wonder why the chapter mark is placed so early, it seems the closing thought of Paul’s intro doesn’t truly settle until verse 5 of Chapter 2. We will stop here for today, and pick up next week on the meat of Paul’s letter to the Colossians, that is Christian living and ministry.
But Who Do You Say That I Am?
In closing out today’s Gospel Wednesday, I want to focus on the question of who Jesus is. We mentioned it earlier, but I think it should be more fully explored. Let’s take a moment to turn to Matthew chapter 16.
Peter Confesses Jesus as the Christ
13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” 20 Then he strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ.
Jesus Foretells His Death and Resurrection
21 From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.22 And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” 23 But he turned and said to Peter,“Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”
Take Up Your Cross and Follow Jesus
24 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. 26 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? 27 For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done.28 Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”
There is no room for creativity in teaching who Jesus is. Failure to faithfully confess Christ is not the only false teaching out there, but it is (in my view) the most dangerous. They will invoke His Name falsely (blasphemy) and many will be (have been) deceived. You who have placed your faith in Christ, remain in Him, in His Word. As long as you abide in Him, the One is the Word made flesh, you will not be the one of whom Jesus prophesied:
Matthew 7:21-23 (ESV) | I Never Knew You
21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’
Remember when we pointed out earlier, that the Apostle Paul did not praise the Colossians by running down a list of accomplishments or works; rather, he praised them for their love and faith in Jesus Christ. Don’t be so eager to build a portfolio of righteous acts, that you skip over the only thing that matters, Jesus Christ. I encourage you to spend time reading the Gospels with a singular focus of who Jesus is. We’ll pick up next week in Colossians 2:6. Until then, be blessed, be faithful, and be ready.
Jude 1:24-25 (ESV)| Doxology
24 Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, 25 to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.
In Christ Jesus,