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.