­­­Colossians Study – Session 5

CrossPointe Community Church – Denton, TX

February 10, 2013 - Larry Reynolds, Teacher

 

II.   The Ministry of Paul (1:24—2:7) - At the end of Colossians 1:23, at which we looked last week, Paul described himself as a “minister”...that word literally means “servant” and the Bible teaches that every Christian is a minister, a servant of Christ and others...and in the verses that follow from 1:24 all the way down to 2:8, Paul describes in detail how he goes about the task of ministering or serving...

 

The thesis statement of this section, in my opinion, is the first part of v.25 where Paul writes, “Of this church I was made a minister according to the stewardship of God bestowed on me for your benefit…”

 

     “I was made…” – Reminiscent of 1:1 where Paul said he was “…an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God…”

 

     “minister”diakonos – Means servant.  Paul viewed himself as a servant of the body, the church.  He understood that the church did not exist for him, but he for the church.

 

     “according to the stewardship of God…”oikonomia – Our word economy comes from this word.  Means manager, as in manager of a household.  Paul was responsible to God for his ministry.

 

This larger passage describes Paul’s ministry.  Tells us four things about his ministry.

 

1.     It is a ministry of suffering (24)

 

“now” – It would be easy to overlook that little word, but there’s important truth behind it...sometimes that word is used merely in a transitional since to move us from one thought to another...like when we say, “Now listen to what I’m about to say...”...and sometime the word is used to denote time...like we say, “I’m going to leave now”...in this verse used in the sense of denoting time....at this precise moment I rejoice...that’s significant because at the moment in which Paul wrote these words he was in prison...and to make matters worse, was there on a bogus charge...and what he is saying is, “Even at a time like this my life is characterized by joy...”

 

“in my sufferings” - He didn’t rejoice because he was suffering. But, he was able to rejoice in the midst of suffering.

 

“for your sake” – At the time of this writing Paul was in prison because of his work with Gentiles like the people of Colossae.

 

“I do my share … in filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions” – That is a difficult phrase to interpret.  Some interpret that phrase to mean that the redemptive suffering of Christ on the cross was not enough to accomplish our salvation...we too must suffer to be saved...two things make that interpretation suspect—

          --it contradicts the broader biblical teaching about Christ’s redemptive suffering...

--the word translated “afflictions” is not used anywhere in the Bible to refer to redemptive suffering...

I think what Paul means by this statement that as he serves and as he suffers for the sake of gospel, Jesus is with him in a special way...as Paul suffers, Jesus is alongside suffering with him...that’s one of the first lessons Jesus taught Paul when he asked him on the road to Damascus, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” (Acts 9:4)

 

 

2. It is a ministry of preaching (25-29)

If you will look carefully at these verses, you’ll see that Paul says several specific things about our message...for example, he describes our message as—

--”the word of God” in v.25...that phrase can mean two things...it can mean the message which comes from God...that is, the source of the message is God, Himself...it is not something of human origin...or it can mean the message which is about God...that is, the focus of the message, the subject of the message is God and His plan for our lives...in relation to the good news about Jesus, both of those meanings are accurate...the gospel comes from God and it is about God...

 

--a ”mystery” in v.26...in our language the word mystery carries the idea of something we don’t understand...however, that’s not how Paul uses the word...in Paul’s vocabulary, “mystery” means a secret which has been revealed...the false teachers infecting the church at Colossae claimed to have secret knowledge about spiritual things known only to them... Paul says the greatest secret of all is no longer hidden...it is the fact that it’s possible for everyone, Jew and Gentile alike, to have a personal relationship with God through a faith commitment to Jesus...in a nutshell, the “mystery” to which Paul refers is “Christ in you” as v.27 puts it...

 

--“we proclaim Him” - That simple statement really says it all...the thing the world should be hearing from us the good news of the birth, life, teachings, ministry, death, resurrection, and saving power of Jesus... the word translated “proclaim” in this passage means to declare publicly a truth or happening...and we declare truth, not just with our words but with our lives...our attitude toward others...our general demeanor...our disposition will have much more impact on those who come into contact with us than our words...

 

“every man” – Notice the repetitive use of the phrase “every man” This was a radical concept in the first century world...

·        Most people with a Jewish heritage would never agree that God cared about and had use for every person...to their way of thinking, non-Jewish people, were unimportant to God... they could not bring themselves to believe that God would care about saving Gentiles...that attitude was prevalent even among many of the early Christians...when Peter and Paul first began to share the gospel with non-Jewish people, their doing so was a source of great conflict in the early church...

·        The false teachers who had infiltrated the church at Colossae would certainly never agree that God cared about and had use for every person...to their way of thinking, not every person was capable of understanding real spiritual truth...spiritual truth was reserved for the special, chosen few...

 

As one writer put it: “The fact is that the only thing in this world which is for every person is Christ.  It is not every person who can be a thinker.  There are gifts which are not granted to every person.  Not every person can master every craft or even every game.  There are those who are color blind and to whom the loveliness of art means nothing.  There are those who are tone deaf and to whom the glory of music does not exist.  Not every person can be a writer or a student or a preacher or a singer or a speaker.  Even human love at its highest is not granted to all people.  The one thing which is for every person is Jesus Christ.  There are gifts a person will never possess.  There are privileges a person will never enjoy.  There are heights of this world’s attainment which a person will never scale.  But to every person there is open the good news of the gospel, and the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord, and the transforming power which can bring holiness into life.” [Barclay]

 

 

 

3.     It is a ministry of intercession (2:1-5) - When we read these verses in a moment you will notice that the word prayer is not used in this text...the paragraph begins with Paul saying, “For I want you to know how great a struggle I have on your behalf...”...since Paul wrote these words while in prison, chained to a Roman guard, his ministry on behalf of the Colossians was limited to a ministry of prayer...and it is interesting that Paul used the word “struggle” to describe this ministry of prayer...it is the word “agon” from which our word agony comes...the word carries the idea of strenuous activity or difficult work...in effect Paul says “I want you to know that I am so concerned about your spiritual welfare and I care for you so much that I agonize over you in prayer...”...now look at Colossians 2:1-5 to see what Paul asks of God on their behalf...

 

It is interesting what Paul did not ask of God on behalf of the church at Colossae...

     --there is no mention in this prayer of Paul interceding for their material prosperity...that was not Paul’s main concern for them...


          --there is no mention of their physical health...that was not Paul’s main concern for them...

Paul’s main concern for the Colossians is expressed in v.4 in the phrase “...that no one may delude you with persuasive argument...”...”persuasive argument” was a legal term used to describe the words of a lawyer who was trying to make wrong appear right and right appear wrong…in other words, Paul was concerned that some smooth talking false teachers not lead them astray from the basic truths of the gospel...

 

So that they would not be led away by false teachers, Paul continually asked of God three things on their behalf…

 

a.     “…that their hearts may be encouraged…” - Word translated “encouraged” is “parakaleo”...literally it means “to call alongside”...because a person can be called alongside another for many reasons, the word has a wide range of meanings...among them are entreating, exhorting, appealing, comforting, and strengthening...seems to me the idea of strengthening best fits the context of what was happening in Colossae...they were being besieged by false teachers...and they needed strength to stand against them... William Barclay cites an example of the use of parakaleo in classical Greek: “There was a Greek regiment which had lost heart and was utterly dejected.  The general sent a leader to talk to it to such a purpose that courage was reborn and a body of dispirited men became fit again for heroic action.  That is what parakaleo means here.  It is Paul’s prayer that the Church may be filled with that courage which can cope with any situation.” [Barclay, p.129]  Paul prayed that their “hearts” be encouraged or strengthened...in our vocabulary we use the word “heart” either literally to refer to the organ in our body which pumps the blood or figuratively to refer to our feelings or emotions... when we say someone broke my heart we are saying that person hurt my emotions/feelings...however, in Bible “heart” does not generally refer to the seat of emotions...it refers to the seat of thinking or intellect...often used as synonym for the mind...So when Paul prays that their “hearts may be encouraged” he is saying “I pray that you minds be strengthened...”...and that is precisely what the Colossians needed and that is precisely what we need to keep from getting thrown off course...

 

b.     That they would be “…knit together in love…”  - Don’t let that word “knit” mislead you...in our language “knit” is sort of a delicate word... whenever my grandmother Reynolds would sit down, she would always have in her hands knitting needles and in her lap some garment which she was making...and that fragile, delicate image is the image the word “knit” tends to bring to my mind.  However, there is nothing fragile about the word Paul uses here.  In first century this word was a medical term, used to describe the mending of broken bones.  I’ve read that when a broken bone heals properly that the place of fusion becomes stronger than the surrounding bone.  And what Paul is saying here is that Christians should be so bound together, so close to each other, that nothing or no-one can drive a wedge between them. 

 

c.       That they would have “...a true knowledge of God’s mystery, that is, Christ Himself...” - I like the way The Living Bible paraphrases the last part of v.2 and v.3...listen to what it says: “...that you will have the rich experience of knowing Christ with real certainty and clear understanding.  For God’s secret plan, now at last made known, is Christ himself.  In him lie hidden all the mighty, untapped treasures of wisdom and knowledge. [TLB]  The secrets of God are not hidden away in the so-called secret books of the Gnostics.  They are hidden in Christ and are available to all who come to Him.

 

Verse 5 describes Paul’s desire for them.

          “good discipline” – Military term denoting orderliness…

          “stability” – A solid front…not weak…caving in at first sign of pressure…

 

 

4.     It is ministry of exhortation (6-7) – Basically in these verses Paul encourages his readers to do three things:

 

a.     To Remember their initial commitment to Christ”As you therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord…” points to something that happened in past time...something which they have already done...there was a definite point in time in the past when they made a decision about who Jesus is and accepted Him into their lives...they received/accepted Him into their lives as—

          --”Christ” - Christ is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew word Messiah...they received Him as the Anointed One, the Promised One, the One God promised to send ages before through the prophets of the OT...

          --”Jesus” - That name is a reminder of His earthly mission as Savior...the name literally means “salvation is from Jehovah” ...to say “Jesus saves” is almost redundant because “Jesus” means “savior”...

          --”Lord” - That title is a reminder of His deity...as Paul says a little later in this chapter, “For in Him all the fullness of Deity [God] dwells in bodily form...”

Paul instructs them and he instructs us to look back and remember our initial commitment to Christ...

 

b.     To continue to grow and mature in the faith”…so walk in Him, having been firmly rooted and now being built-up in Him, established in your faith…”  The verb “rooted” is in the perfect tense carrying the idea of a completed action in past time.  It happened once and for all.  The verbs “walk…built-up …established…” are in the present tense indicating continuing action… Warren Wiersbe points out that behind each of those verbs is a special picture of the Christian life...

          --”Walk” pictures the Christian life as a pilgrimage in process...it is a journey which begins with our conversion and continues until we get to heaven and perhaps even beyond...this is one of Paul’s favorite ways of describing the Christian life...

          --”Built-up” pictures the Christian life as a building under construction...the foundation is laid at the time of conversion but on that foundation a structure is being built...the building continues until we get to heaven and perhaps even beyond...

          --”Established” pictures the Christian life as a school...the word translated “established” carries the idea of “being strengthened through learning”...Christians are continually being taught by God’s Spirit and God’s Word, and the teaching continues until we get to heaven and perhaps even beyond...

 

c.      To abound in thanksgiving“overflowing with gratitude…”  ...that is, a spirit of thanksgiving should bubble out of our lives...thanksgiving is a major theme of Colossians...at least six times in the four chapters of this letter Paul stresses the importance of having a grateful heart...And there is a good reason for that...those who lack a deep sense of gratitude to God and especially vulnerable to being led astray... as one writer put it: “Those who bubble over with gratitude for what God has already done are not easy prey to anxiety and doubt.  They have no need or desire to look for fulfillment elsewhere and cannot be taken in by false promises or shaken by bigoted detractors.” [Garland, NIV Comm., p.140]

 

Colossians 2:6-7 – “And now just as you trusted Christ to save you, trust him, too, for each day’s problems; live in vital union with him.  Let your roots grow down into him and draw up nourishment from him.  See that you go on growing in the Lord, and become strong and vigorous in the truth you were taught.  Let your lives overflow with joy and thanksgiving for all he has done.” [TLB]

 

What does the brief description of Paul’s ministry in Colossians 1:24-2:7 say to you about what we should be doing as God’s people in our world?

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