Colossians 2:6-8

So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.

See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.
(Colossians 2:6-8 NIV)

Paul begins today’s passage with the phrase “So then…”, signifying a transition dependent on the points he shared before with the statement he is about to make now.  the phrase “so then” is equivalent to the more familiar “Therefore…”, causing us to ask the question “what’s the ‘Therefore’ there for”?  In fact, both the NASB and ESV translations use the word “Therefore” instead of the phrase “So then”.

So what was Paul referring to?  Paul had just commended the Colossian church for their deep faith in Christ and for their disciplined life in Christ (v. 5).  Paul continues to follow the reason for his commendation of the Colossian church back to the point when they received Jesus as Lord of their lives (v. 6).

When we look at verses 5 and 6 together, we see Paul painting a chronology, a timeline if you will, of the Colossians’ life in Christ.  Paul begins in the center of the canvas, showing where they are now.  Paul then moves to the left-hand side of the drawing and recounts the point where they came to Christ.  Having shown the Colossians’ beginning point in Christ as well as their current coordinates, Paul then masterfully moves to the right-hand side of the canvas and paints the road ahead.

What does Paul forecast for the Colossians’ future (and for ours, as followers of Christ)?  That we would continue to grow deeper in Christ, to abide (as Jesus said in John 15, referring to the vine and branches visual) in Christ.

If we continue to abide in Christ, what will the outcome be?  Paul enumerates the blessings in verse 7:

  • we will be more deeply rooted in Christ, even more grounded than we were before
  • we will be strengthened in our faith, just as we have been taught by faithful men and women who walked this road of faith before us
  • our hearts will be overflowing with gratitude and thankfulness to Christ

Paul does not waste time with idle words depicting a bright and rosy future filled with rainbows and butterflies, where all our circumstances are pleasant and outcomes peaceful.  This painting is not an idyllic pastoral scene with delicate spring flowers, blue skies, and wispy white clouds sailing by in the gentle breeze.

In fact, it’s quite the opposite.  Paul is painting a picture of our future with Christ as a seascape along a rugged shore, where we are like a tree that has withstood the storms of life and the test of time, and continues to prosper and grow.  Our future success has nothing to do with our circumstances, and everything to do with our deep roots in Christ so that nothing can move us or shake us.  Paul says that despite the storms of life, we will be overflowing with thankfulness and gratitude.

Paul paints this picture in verses 5 through 7 as a backdrop to what he has to say in verse 8:  Don’t surrender to anyone or anything that tries to uproot you from your groundedness in Christ.  The arguments may be compelling, and the promises enticing, but there is nothing there but emptiness, captivity, destruction, and death.

May we always remember our source of life is not a religious set of rules, nor a philosophy, nor our own sense of morality or self-righteousness, but a relationship with the God of the universe, made possible through His Son, Jesus Christ.

Blessings,
~kevin

Colossians 2:1-5

I want you to know how hard I am contending for you and for those at Laodicea, and for all who have not met me personally. My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments. For though I am absent from you in body, I am present with you in spirit and delight to see how disciplined you are and how firm your faith in Christ is.
(Colossians 2:1-5 NIV)

As we begin chapter 2, we see Paul’s passion for Christ and his compassion for others come through via pen and parchment.  Verse 1 further indicates that Paul had not visited the triad of cities (Colossae, Laodicea, Hierapolis).

Paul mentions the church at Laodicea here in chapter 2, then more extensively in chapter 4.  Paul also mentions Hierapolis briefly in chapter 4, indicating he had built long-distance associations with believers in all three cities.

In verse 1, Paul says he is contending (fighting) for the Colossians.  Paul is not fighting against the Colossian church; he is on their side, fighting the battle for truth and Christ.  And who was Paul fighting against?  The heretical teachers in their midst who were not preaching Christ, but instead were preaching a mix of Christ and Eastern mysticism, with all its speculations and rites and self-proclaimed superiority over all, including Christ.

Starting in verse 2 and continuing through verse 4, Paul asks and answers the reason he is contending (fighting) for the hearts and minds of the Colossians (and us).  Paul uses a series of implied “why” questions to build his case and make his point.

Paul begins with his clearly stated goal:  to encourage and love on the faithful Christ followers in the Colossian church (and us).

When you’re in the midst of a circumstance or trial, how encouraging it is to have someone let you know they are praying for you and offer you genuine words of hope, reassurance, and support.  And that is exactly what Paul is doing for the Colossian church.

Why did Paul want to encourage us?  To remind us that we have the full riches of complete understanding in Christ.  The heretics were trying to persuade the Colossians that they were “missing out” on the secrets of spirituality – that God was holding out on them.  They (the heretics) claimed that they had the “secrets” of spiritual insight.

And why did Paul want us to know that we have the full riches of complete understanding in Christ?  So that we may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ.  Paul agrees with the heretics that there is a mystery to be found, but it is found in none other than Christ.  The mystery is not to be found in the heretics’ Eastern rites and ceremonies or secret meetings.

And why did Paul want us to know the mystery of God, namely, Christ?  Because it is in Christ in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.  Paul was reminding the Colossians that Christ is their source of wisdom and knowledge, not the heretics and their “enlightened” philosophies and musings.

And why does Paul point to Christ as the treasure of wisdom and knowledge?  Verse 4 is clear:  “I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments.”.  Human logic and reason are often quite persuasive, and we are easily enticed by others’ thoughts and ideas.  We must carefully weigh and measure both the words of others (using the knowledge of Christ) as well as the intents of others (using the wisdom of Christ) to know whether they will bring us closer to Christ or lead us away from Christ.   Anything or anyone that does not point us back to Christ leads us away from Him.

Paul concludes his thoughts in this paragraph with a very personal note to the Colossians (v. 5).  Paul lets the Colossians know that even though separated physically, he is with them spiritually and rejoices in their discipline to follow Christ and in their firm grounding of their faith in Christ.

Dear family and friends, verse 5 echoes my heart, and why I write this blog each day.  May you be encouraged and strengthened in your walk with Christ as we read and study God’s Word together.

Blessings,
~kevin

Colossians 1:28-29

28 He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ. 29 To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me.
(Colossians 1:28-29 NIV)

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.
(Colossians 1:28-29 ESV)

Today, Paul wraps up his opening remarks to the Colossian church.  Paul summarizes his message, purpose, and focus.

I have included both the familiar NIV text as well as the ESV (English Standard Version) text today.  The ESV communicates Paul’s heart in such succinct and memorable fashion that it merits repeating along side the NIV.

“Him we proclaim…”  Paul uses three simple words to destroy the teachings of the heretics in the Colossian church.  Let’s take a look at each word, and its impact:

  • Him – Paul taught and preached none other than the person of Jesus Christ.  The heretics would talk about ideas, philosophies, theories, as well as religious systems, rites, practices, and observances.  Paul did not talk about abstract ideas of his own or even his musings or thoughts of Jesus – he taught about the concrete reality of Jesus the person.
  • We – Paul identified himself with those who had gone before him as apostles, witnesses, and preachers of the Gospel of Christ.  Paul did not make this about himself and his teachings as the heretics did, in order to lead people astray and gain a following.  Paul clearly aligned himself with Christ, the teachings of the other apostles as well as Timothy (v. 1) and Epaphras (v. 7).  In verses 23 and 25, Paul clearly states that he aligned himself with Christ, making himself a voluntary servant to Christ and His teachings.
  • Proclaim – Paul was not shy about his message of Christ, nor did he use the message of Christ to control or manipulate others.  The heretics walked around and talked in hushed tones.  They met in secret groups to discuss their ideas.  They excluded others from their midst as “not worthy” or “incapable of understanding”.   Paul preached Christ to all; the heretics lectured about ideas like a college professor.   The heretics provided dispassionate clinical analysis like a scientist examining a sample under a microscope; Paul pastored people with the heart and care of Jesus.

So how did Paul proclaim Christ?  By warning (admonishing) and teaching with all wisdom.

First of all, let’s be clear about warnings and teachings.  They are not two ends of a linear spectrum, but rather, two sides of the same coin.  Let’s examine both:

  • Warnings are to correct our beliefs, which then informs and corrects our behavior.  Warnings are about bringing us to repentance (literally, “a change of mind”) which then requires a change of action.  Warnings are all about addressing sin.
  • Teachings are to challenge our beliefs and actions, encouraging us to step out and in obedience as we follow Christ.  Teachings are all about exercising our faith.

Notice that Paul said “warning and teaching”, not “warning or teaching”.  Paul knew both were required as a part of discipleship, as it takes time and practice to learn how to grow into spiritual maturity.  A good analogy is learning to play a sport or a musical instrument.    The student has to have a teachable spirit, willing to receive both correction and encouragement, and the discipline and accountability to practice in order to grow.  And so it is with our walk with Christ.

Why does Paul proclaim Christ?  “… that we may present everyone mature in Christ.” (v. 28b).  It’s not about Paul’s credit or glory.  It’s all about being like Christ.  Notice in verse 22 Paul says that God reconciles us to Himself through Christ in order to present us holy and blameless in His sight.  Paul is once again aligning himself with the ministry of Christ, working alongside God to present everyone mature in Christ.

Jesus made similar comments during His ministry.  In John 5:17, Jesus said, ““My Father is always at His work to this very day, and I too am working.”  Like a child mimicking his father’s actions, Jesus was doing what He saw His Father doing.  And Paul was following in Jesus’ footsteps, doing what he heard God asking him to do.

In verse 29, Paul says this process of discipleship is exactly where he focuses all of his energy which the Lord provides.

Whom are you discipling, and being discipled by?

“Him we proclaim…”  Words to live by.

Blessings,
~kevin

Colossians 1:24-27

24 Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church. 25 I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness— 26 the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the Lord’s people. 27 To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.
(Colossians 1:24-27 NIV)

Today, Paul comes full circle and talks about his role in the Gospel.  We will need to look at some historical context to understand today’s passage.

The first historical context we must review is Paul’s personal situation when he wrote this letter to the Colossian church.  Paul was imprisoned in Rome when he wrote this letter.  Paul mentions this in passing at the end of his letter to the Colossians when he says, “Remember my chains” (NIV) or “Remember my imprisonment” (NASB) in chapter 4, verse 18.

We can correlate Paul’s situation from his short letter to Philemon, where Paul refers several times to his imprisonment:

  • “Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus…” (v. 1)
  • “… a prisoner of Christ Jesus…” (v. 9)
  • “… in my imprisonment for the gospel…” (v. 13)
  • “Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus…” (v. 23)

Just a short aside – notice that Paul never plays the “victim” card here.  Never does he say he is a prisoner of Rome, or of his Jewish or Gentile detractors.  He sees himself as a willing prisoner of Jesus, as a servant of Christ.

Going back to the context, we see a second historical factor coming into focus.  Paul had never been to Colossae, so he felt compelled to share a little bit about the role and responsibility God had told him to step into.

In verse 1 of chapter 1, Paul introduced himself as “… an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God…”.  In verse 18, Paul says, “This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant.”  Note in both cases that Paul does not say that he volunteered for the joy or that he was elected by popular vote.  In both cases, Paul says he is under orders from God and is obeying as a servant obeys his master.

Why is this context important?  To understand what Paul is about to tell us.

In verse 24, Paul says, “Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you…”.  Paul was referring to his current imprisonment as it benefitted the Colossian church.  The Lord had told Paul that he would have to suffer for the sake of Christ (Acts 9:16); Paul was rejoicing because he knew he was in the center of God’s will, even as he sat in a Roman prison.  Paul knew that as a follower of Christ, whatever happened to him in this life was the worst he would ever experience.  He knew that he could endure a few inconveniences and discomforts in this life because the next life is heaven, where sin, pain, and death are no more.

The second phrase of verse 24 is a little harder to understand.  Paul says, “… and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church.”

What does Paul mean when he says “… I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions… “?

Paul is saying, “they came after Jesus, and they whipped him, mocked him, and killed him.  Now they’re coming after me, as I am identified with Jesus.  They have beat me up a little bit and thrown me into prison, but that is nothing compared to what they did to Jesus.  I am happy to be associated with Christ, even if it means physical suffering.”

It is also important to state what Paul is NOT saying.  Paul is not saying that Christ’s suffering for our sins was insufficient for our salvation.  That would be undoing everything that Paul had been teaching.

Paul is also not saying that we must self-inflict our own suffering to become acceptable before God, as some denominations teach.  Again, this would go against everything Jesus and Paul taught.  Jesus said that we will experience suffering because of our association and relationship with Him (John 16:33).  We don’t need to inflict it on ourselves as a way to please God.

In verse 25, Paul refers to his role as a servant of the Lord, under orders (commission) to share the Gospel.

In verses 26 and 27, Paul alludes to the fact that there is a mystery to be shared, but it’s not what the Eastern mystics in the Colossian church were trying to teach.  The mystery was and is Christ, the only hope of reaching heaven (glory).

There is a lot to digest here today in these four verses.  There are three basic takeaways in this section:

  • We can experience joy when we endure suffering because of our relationship with Christ
  • We have the fulness of God available to us in His Word (the Bible) and His example (Jesus)
  • The mystery and hope of Messiah from ages past has been revealed to us in Jesus

Blessings,
~kevin

Colossians 1:21-23

21 Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. 22 But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation— 23 if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant.
(Colossians 1:21-23 NIV)

In our last time together, we looked at the supremacy of Christ:

  • as God (v. 15)
  • over creation (vv. 15-17)
  • over the church (v. 18)
  • as God’s first and only plan for redemption and reconciliation of humans (vv. 19-20)

Today, Paul starts out by reminding the Colossian church (and us) of their need (and ours) for reconciliation.

Let’s stop and remember the core truth about what Paul is saying:

  • Before mankind’s fall into sin, there was no need for reconciliation. Mankind (Adam and Eve) lived in perfect relationship with God.
  • Before mankind’s fall, there was no death (separation of relationship). There was only life.
  • Before mankind’s fall, there was no grace (unmerited favor due to a separation of relationship).  There was only love.

Looking back at verse 18, Paul reminds us that Christ is supreme over the church (the composite whole of fallen mankind who have accepted Christ’s offer of redemption).  Paul also reminds us that Christ is not only supreme over the church but also over death itself, leading the way for the redeemed  to spend eternity in restored perfect relationship with God.

Paul finished yesterday’s text by reminding us that we cannot reconcile ourselves to God.  Only God can reconcile us to Himself, through Christ, and specifically, through Christ’s death on the cross.

All this was to say that only Christ can bridge the vast chasm between God and mankind.  There are no other intermediaries, as some in the Colossian church tried to teach.  Remember Peter’s words before the Sanhedrin, when Peter and John were brought in and told not to preach the gospel of Christ:  “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12 NIV)

All that leads us back to today’s text, where Paul reminds us that we were once separated from God and in need of reconciliation.

As followers of Christ, we are now reconciled to God and are holy and blameless in His sight, without accusation because of Christ’s death on the cross (v. 22).

In verse 23, Paul lays out the condition for our redemption – “if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel.”

Is Paul implying that we can lose our salvation, our redemption, our reconciliation to God?  No, not at all.  If that were the case, then some part of our reconciliation would be dependent on our good deeds or works to get us into heaven.

Paul is saying that our salvation, our reconciliation is demonstrated, is evidenced when we continue (grow) in our faith.

Jesus shared this same thought in the parable of the seed and the sower (Matthew 13:1-9).  It’s the seed that finds the good soil and grows and produces fruit that evidences life.  All the other seeds that sprout up and die do not evidence life.  There is no continuation of life to the point of producing fruit.  And it’s the same for our spiritual life – the evidence of our salvation, our redemption and reconciliation is life, growth, and fruit in Christ.

Paul says our faith is in the gospel of Christ, and that gospel is the same throughout history and time (v. 23).  This was not Paul’s word against those teaching other things in the Colossian church.  Paul was not making this up as his “version of the truth”, to gather followers.  In fact, Paul says the opposite – Paul made himself a servant of the gospel of Christ.  Paul said he had to transform (change) to receive life in Christ.

May we examine our lives and see whether we are planted in good soil, the gospel of Christ, and are growing and producing spiritual fruit, not to earn our salvation, but to show evidence of it.  And may we remember that there is only one gospel – that of Christ.

Blessings,
~kevin

Colossians 1:15-20

15 The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. 17 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 and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. 19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.
(Colossians 1:15-20 NIV)

The Apostle Paul gets right to the heart of his message to the Colossian church in today’s passage – the person of Jesus Christ.

Let’s take a quick look at Paul’s letter so far:

  • Paul’s introduction and greeting (vv. 1-2)
  • Paul’s thankfulness for all the good he had heard about the Colossian church (vv. 3-8)
  • Paul’s prayer for the Colossian church (vv. 9-14)

As we look into today’s passage, we must ask ourselves why Paul decided to speak about Jesus.  Was Jesus the next nice thing to talk about?  Or was Jesus something that Paul, out of obligation, always talked about?  Or was there a deeper reason for Paul’s focus on Jesus?

Let’s look briefly at the context in which Paul wrote this letter to the Colossian church.  Like many churches, as people came to Christ, they brought some of their old baggage and beliefs with them.  The Colossian church was no different.  The truth of the Gospel became mixed with former beliefs and practices that diluted the Gospel and began leading them away from Christ.

So what was the heresy that had crept into the Colossian church?  The belief was that God is high and holy and righteous and cannot allow sin in His presence.  So far, so good, right?  Here’s where the heresy comes in.  Human logic (there’s our first clue) reasoned that because God is spirit only and so holy, He could not possibly participate directly in a sinful material world.  Therefore (again, based on human logic), God had set up a series of partially spiritual / partially material beings to bridge the gap between God (living in a spiritual world) and mankind (living in a material world).  Based on this logic, some were teaching that a follower of God needed to worship the entire “food chain” of beings between themselves and God.

This belief system allowed these heretical teachers to insert themselves into the “food chain” of beings (on the lower end, of course) and proclaim special knowledge about God, His Word, their ability to provide spiritual guidance, etc.  Now with such “enlightened” status, these teachers gained a foothold in the church and a following of many, leading them away from Christ.

So what did Paul write about?  The supremacy of Christ:

  • as God (v. 15)
  • over creation (vv. 15-17)
  • over the church (v. 18)
  • as God’s first and only plan for redemption and reconciliation of humans (vv. 19-20)

Paul’s point is clear:  God is God and needs nothing else and no one else besides Christ to bridge the gap between Himself and humans.

May we take inventory of our lives and set aside anything or anyone that comes between our direct relationship with Christ.  Restated another way, let us keep our relationship with Christ first and foremost and let everything and everyone else take second place.

Blessings,
~kevin

Colossians 1:9-14

For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, 10 so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, 11 being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, 12 and giving joyful thanks to the Father,who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. 13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
(Colossians 1:9-14 NIV)

As we step into the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Colossians, we have seen Paul introduce himself to his readers (vv.1-2), and express his thankfulness for them (vv. 3-8).  Today we see Paul pray for the Colossians (vv. 9-14).

In verse 3, Paul mentioned that he prayed for the Colossian church.  Today we see the substance of his prayer for them.  Verse 9 (“… since the day we heard about you…”) indicates that this is not an occasional prayer, but a daily prayer for the Colossians.  Again, like yesterday, Paul’s word choice (“heard”)  indicates that Paul had not been to Colossae.

Let’s stop for a moment and consider Paul’s words.  Even though Paul had not been to Colossae, he lifted them up in prayer before God.  This indicates the power of our prayers.

From yesterday’s text, we see Paul praising the Colossians for all the good things he had heard about them.  This shows us a pattern of praying not only for others’ needs but also for those who are doing well.  We are often quick to pray for others who are struggling with a circumstance or issue, and we praise God for good things that are happening in others’ lives.  How often do we pray for those who are doing well with the Lord, that they may do even better?  Today we see that as Paul’s example as he prays for the Colossians.

So what does Paul pray on behalf of the Colossians?  The knowledge of God’s will, given by God’s Holy Spirit.

And why does Paul pray this prayer on behalf of the Colossians?  So that the Colossians may live a life worthy of the Lord, and please Him in every way.

Paul then describes the things that please God:

  • bearing fruit in every good work
  • growing in the knowledge of God
  • being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might
  • giving joyful thanks to the Father

Paul also reminds the Colossians that God’s strength produces endurance and patience.

Paul also reminds the Colossians that they are to be thankful for the inheritance they have in eternal life, in heaven itself.  And why should we be thankful for this inheritance? Because we were rescued from the dominion of darkness (our sin) and brought into God’s kingdom by none other than Christ Himself, who paid the price of redemption for our souls.  And what was that price?  Forgiving our sins – the past, the present, and the future.

Before we wrap up our time together, let’s stop and pray as Paul prayed, for those who are walking with the Lord and doing well.  May our prayers reflect Paul’s heart, that those for whom we pray may grow even deeper in their love for and walk with the Lord.

Blessings,
~kevin