Sunday, July 15, 2018

Colossians 1:21-23 Changed by the Gospel

Colossians 1:21-23 (HCSB) Once you were alienated and hostile in your minds because of your evil actions. But now He has reconciled you by His physical body through His death, to present you holy, faultless, and blameless before Him — if indeed you remain grounded and steadfast in the faith and are not shifted away from the hope of the gospel that you heard. This gospel has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and I, Paul, have become a servant of it.

This epistle is addressed to the saints in Christ at Colossae, faithful brothers (chap 1:2). Paul says to them, ONCE, you were alienated and hostile in your minds because of evil actions. It is a truth that the children of God were chosen unto salvation before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:3-6; 2 Timothy 1:9-10; Titus 1:1-4; Revelation 17:8). At the same time, we are raised up to new life in Christ IN TIME, at God's timing. The point being, until a person is brought to life spiritually, he is dead in Adam, an enemy of God, full of evil and unwilling and unable to want God or what is good. ONCE, we were alienated and hostile - hostile toward God (Romans 5:10) and others. Alienated is a word pretty much lost in our culture. We aren't supposed to call people aliens, they're undocumented. To be alienated means to be at odds with, unreconciled, lacking peace.

You will hear politicians proclaim that man is naturally good and in need only of the right education, etc. Some will teach that God's elect are not under condemnation, but born as "covenant children" and members of the New Covenant by fleshly heritage. Paul will have none of either of these arguments. He said much the same to the church at Ephesus: Ephesians 2:1-2 (HCSB)  And you were dead in your trespasses and sins  in which you previously walked according to the ways of this world, according to the ruler who exercises authority over the lower heavens, the spirit now working in the disobedient. These saints were in the same boat as the ones in Colossae! They HAD walked in disobedience, being dead in sins and trespasses. Paul went on, Ephesians 2:3 (HCSB) We too all previously lived among them in our fleshly desires, carrying out the inclinations of our flesh and thoughts, and we were by nature children under wrath as the others were also. Paul changes from YOU to WE, to show that he - an apostle - was no better off than they were. Children of God are BY NATURE children of wrath, like the others - the people of the world that do not love God and will not be reconciled to God. If this was not so, what would be our need of Christ to reconcile us to the Father?

Before we came to faith in Christ, each of us was alienated, hostile, disobedient, fleshly, and children of wrath. This is why no man can tell who the elect are until God effects salvation. Once made new in Christ, the believer has different appetites, is no longer alienated, etc. While we cannot hold to a litmus test, we must hold to the truth that a good tree will bear good fruit.

And this is the next point Paul brings to our attention. Colossians 1:21-22 (HCSB) Once you were alienated and hostile in your minds because of your evil actions. But now He has reconciled you by His physical body through His death, to present you holy, faultless, and blameless before Him. Being born again by the Spirit of God happens in time - today is the day of salvation! BUT NOW, He has reconciled us - this is something God has done. Those who think man makes the initial or determinative move in being reconciled to God overlook many passages that show Who does this all important work. Christ reconciles spiritually dead sinners to holy God by His physical body which was broken for us, put to death on our account, so He could present us to the Father as holy, faultless, and blameless.

Compare those attributes to those attached to us before He reconciled us to God. Between our text and Ephesians 1 there are about 11 descriptions of how evil and deserving of God's wrath we were before He bestowed the riches of His grace on us. BUT NOW, having been reconciled, there are three words that describe us: holy, faultless, blameless. We should hang on that first word, for God is holy and without holiness no one will see Him.

A.W. Pink is helpful in our understanding God's holiness:
He only is independently, infinitely, immutably holy. In Scripture He is frequently styled “The Holy One”: He is so because the sum of all moral excellency is found in Him. He is absolute Purity, unsullied even by the shadow of sin.
This perfection, as none other, is solemnly celebrated before the Throne of Heaven, the seraphim crying, “Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts” (Isa 6:3). God Himself singles out this perfection, “Once have I sworn by My holiness” (Psa 89:35). God swears by His “holiness” because that is a fuller expression of Himself than any thing else.
“The thoughts of the wicked are an abomination to the LORD” (Prov 15:26). It follows, therefore, that He must necessarily punish sin. Sin can no more exist without demanding His punishment than without requiring His hatred of it. God has often forgiven sinners, but He never forgives sin; and the sinner is only forgiven on the ground of Another having borne his punishment: for “without shedding of blood is no remission” (Heb 9:22). Therefore we are told “The LORD will take vengeance on His adversaries, and He reserveth wrath for His enemies” (Nah 1:2).
God's holiness is a characteristic of His person, not merely something He does. There are some who teach that we become holy, as required, by doing the good works He prepared for us. One popular teacher in Baptist circles says our good works are what saves us at what he calls our "final salvation." On the other extreme are Baptists who say NO good works are necessary for one to have assurance of his salvation. But in our text, Paul was led to declare that our Savior presents us before the Father as holy. This makes clear that the holiness without which we will not see God is His holiness! While our good deeds are judged, they are not part of the determination of whether we are saved. Rev 20:11-15 is one depiction of Judgment Day; this passage makes it crystal clear: our works have NOTHING to do with our destiny. The determining factor is whether or not your name is written in the Lamb's book of life, something that was done before the foundation of the world (Rev 17:8). Since our redemption and resulting good works take place in time, and our destiny was determined before the foundation of the world, nothing we could do could influence God's choosing His sheep.

Without a clear picture of God, we cannot have a right view of sin or self. Left to ourselves or distracted from Biblical truth we will see self in a far better light than is warranted; we will see our sin as a light thing; and we will see God as One who winks at our sin. One author observed, "There is a god we want and there is a God Who is. They are not the same God." When we come to grips with Who God is, we will see OUR sin as more grievous than our neighbors, we will long for His holiness. Take comfort that if you are IN Christ, He WILL present you to His Father as holy, faultless, and blameless.

Those last two words supplement holiness with sinlessness and giving no opportunity for God's name to be profaned. Having sin - which includes causing His name to be profaned - renders a verdict no man can withstand. In Christ, being in union with Him, is the essential aspect of our salvation that guarantees, insures, our right standing with God. None but Jesus can do helpless sinners good. Trust Him wholly - let no other trust intrude. Good words from an old hymn!

We come now to what causes some to think salvation is conditional upon our performance. What we see as verse 23 is a continuation of verse 22. Paul writes that we HAVE been reconciled, we WILL be presented; IF we continue, grounded and steadfast in the faith and not shifted away from the hope of the gospel.

What do we make of this? Considering how the Scriptures reveal the saving work of God being a certainty (Romans 8:28-30; John 6; Ephesians 2), we must not think in this place Paul speaks of conditions that put our eternal souls at risk. But care must be taken so our preconceived ideas do not lead us astray. The word we see as "if" is from a Greek word that means, if. Paul is not telling us our destiny is in question; he's telling how we can KNOW we are reconciled, to be presented holy, faultless and blameless.

One who has had an experience, claims Christ but does not remain grounded and steadfast in the faith, should not think he is reconciled to God. The Bible is full of these "conditional statements" which are there to prompt us to examine ourselves to make sure we are in the faith. Hebrews 3:6 (HCSB) But Christ was faithful as a Son over His household. And we are that household if we hold on to the courage and the confidence of our hope. This warning is repeated in verse 14. Romans 8:16-17 (ESV) The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. 1 John 2:24 (HCSB) What you have heard from the beginning must remain in you. If what you have heard from the beginning remains in you, then you will remain in the Son and in the Father. 2 Peter 1:10 (HCSB) Therefore, brothers, make every effort to confirm your calling and election, because if you do these things you will never stumble. These warnings are not there to make us think we can lose our standing and be damned; they are there so none of us will take for granted what we profess with our lips.

Today in our country, far too many fellowships are full of people who wrote down the date they made their decision for Christ, as they say. But we are never told to look back on our decision for assurance; always and only are we told to look unto Christ and the work He is doing in us today. Our salvation is a "done deal" in that Christ has paid our sin debt. But it is very much a current status - IF we hold onto the confidence of our hope. Since we know it is the Father's good pleasure to give the kingdom to His children, that His Spirit works in us to will and to do what please Him; since we know that Christ Jesus will lose none of the sheep He was sent to redeem, we CAN have confidence in our hope that is in Christ! Rather than worry about the IF statements, let us look unto Christ, the author and finisher of our faith, seeing His Spirit work in us that which is pleasing to Him. Others will see and hear of these things and rejoice that God is faithful to His promises, even on our account. So we do not lose heart, we do not grow weary, we do not get shifted away from the sure hope we have Christ, as announced in the gospel.

The last part of verse 23 ties back to the opening of this letter. Recall from verse 6: the gospel has come to you and is bearing fruit and growing all over the world. Here Paul says this gospel has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven. What does he mean by this? If the gospel had been proclaimed to the entire world and was bearing fruit all over the world back then, why are we still here? Why did Jesus tell us to preach the gospel to all creatures (Mark 16:15) if Paul was going to get that done?

It's mostly like that Paul meant was that, by this time, the gospel had been preached to all the world, as Paul knew it. As we see throughout the Bible men say things that reveal their limited human understanding, it shouldn't be unthinkable that Paul might be saying this, based on what he knew of the world. As far as he knew the world, the gospel had been preached to all of it. Paul quotes Psalm 19:4. Romans 10:17-18 (HCSB) So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the message about Christ. But I ask, “Did they not hear?” Yes, they did: Their voice has gone out to all the earth, and their words to the ends of the inhabited world. The proclamation in Psalms refers to general revelation, as the sun and stars testify to the glory of God. At the writing of Romans, Paul uses that message to describe the world-wide testimony of the apostolic gospel of Jesus Christ. So it makes sense in our text that Paul was speaking about the growth and success and spread of the gospel over the whole known world. Hard for Paul to know the unknown world!

The last words we have from Paul in this section is his oft-mentioned connection with this life-giving gospel: he was a servant thereof. He did not serve his own ambition, but worked and labored to make the name of Christ known everywhere to everyone. This ought to be our ambition as well! It will be if we've been changed by the gospel.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Colossians 1:15-20 The Supremacy of Christ

Colossians 1:15-20 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For everything was created by Him, in heaven and on earth, the visible and the invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities— all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and by Him all things hold together. He is also the head of the body, the church; He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He might come to have first place in everything. For God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile everything to Himself by making peace through the blood of His cross whether things on earth or things in heaven.

This one paragraph sums up everything essential to know about the Lord Jesus; His deity, humanity, role in creation, place in history, role in His church, position in eternity, and authority over all things. Most of what we read in the Bible about Jesus can be traced to Paul’s description of Him here. And several of Paul’s statements were taken from other places in God’s Word. When we study the Bible rightly, we will see that the entire Bible truly is about Him – just as He stated in John 5:39 and Luke 24:27

Speaking to the Pharisees who had seen the many miracles Jesus performed and had just heard His testimony of His mission on earth, Jesus said, You pore over the Scriptures because you think you have eternal life in them, yet they testify about Me. (John 5:39)

Speaking to the disciples who had seen the crucifixion but did not comprehend what they had seen: Then beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, He interpreted for them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures. (Luke 24:27)

The whole Bible, and every message from it that we are to bring forth must have the Lord Jesus as its topic, its solution, its main point. If a man preaches without pointing people to Christ as the Savior of sinners, he has preached in vain.

In saying that Jesus is the image of the invisible God, I dare say our thinking will bring to our recall Genesis 1:27: So God created man in His own image; He created him in the image of God; He created them male and female. Note a major difference: Adam (and all humans) are created in the image of God; Jesus is the image of God. Man is a created being; Jesus is the eternal God. The likeness of God present in Jesus is far superior to the image possessed by Adam, even before the Fall. This image is something given to man by Creator; it is something inherent to the character of Christ, for He is God. Later in Paul's letter to Colossi we read that we have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator (chapter 3:10). As we pursue the Lord, walking as children of the light, we are being ever conformed and renewed in grace and knowledge so we will reflect Him better, to bring more glory to the Lord Jesus.

He is the beginning, meaning without Him nothing was made that was made. He is essential to all that is, the agent of creation Who will judge all of creation. Jesus is also the firstborn of all creation, by this is meant He is preeminent over everything that has been created. We are all familiar with the Jewish culture in which all the blessings of inheritance went to the firstborn male. This is the connection with the phrase, firstborn. It is not, as some cults try to assert, that Jesus came into existence when He was born as a man. Jesus is the ruler over all creation - just as the firstborn son became ruler over his father's estate when the son was of age. Having accomplished the work given Him to redeem the lost sheep, Jesus was exalted, enthroned in majesty, and all things were put under His feet. Because He is the firstborn Son of God - sovereign over all creation.

He is preeminent over all created things because all things were created by Him (verse 16). But we read in Genesis how God the Father created all things. We must keep in mind the unity of God within the holy Trinity. We see this unity in many places in Scripture. When God the Father completed His creation work, He rested from that work. He continued to guide redemptive history and the Scriptures, actively involved in shaping history and the lives of men. When the Lord Jesus had finished His work of atonement, He sat down at God's right hand, resting from His work of redemption. He yet works, serving as our high priest and advocate, our protector and shepherd. And so it is with the third person in the holy trinity; the Holy Spirit worked during and after Pentecost to bring about the birth of the church, with many signs and miracles. Though the bulk of these miracles has ceased, the foundation of the church having been completed, the Holy Spirit continues His work of giving us illumination as we read the Scriptures; convicting the world of sin and revealing the righteousness of Jesus. In each of these creation/recreation works and in all of the ongoing works, the three persons of the trinity are completely unified. Recall that the world was created by the Father through the Son, with the Spirit hovering over the waters during this event, as if giving birth. The Father chose those to be redeemed, Jesus atoned for them, and the Spirit has sealed them until the Day of Judgment. They each had a role in one-time creation work and in regeneration work, followed by resting from that work, while continuing on, in unity, with other work required for our good and their glory. This is the work of the Trinity, each completely unified with the other two; one God, three persons in covenant with one another for the redemption of sinners to bring glory to their name.
Don’t miss the scope of what was created by Him, everything in heaven and on earth, the visible and the invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities. This is very similar to what Paul wrote in Romans 8:38 & 39 - For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor principalities, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Jesus is Lord over all, heaven and earth; creator of all things. This is why we can have confidence in Him to not lose us to anything – He truly is Lord of all and nothing He has created can overthrow Him!

Building on the preeminence of Jesus, Paul tells us He is before all things (see Jesus’ statement in John 8:58 – before Abraham was, I am!) and He holds all things together. Do not think that materials such as wood and Styrofoam keep their qualities is due to nature. Nature is held together by the will of God in Christ Jesus. If, as some assert, the devil is the absolute ruler of this world, all would be chaos and materials could not counted on to maintain their characteristics. While Satan is the ruler of this age, he is, as Luther said, God's devil. He is bound and has as much influence as it pleases YHWH to give him. Jesus holds the devil on a leash; Christ is Lord of all. At His word, these heavens and the earth will be judged, put to death, and resurrected to serve as our eternal home. He decreed the destruction of the world in the great flood that wiped out the human race, save 8 souls. He promised to provided seed-time and harvest, rain and sun, until the end of this age, when He comes a second (and final) time. Unlike you and me, He is the faithful One; He will keep His promises!
Of importance to our life in this age, as members in a local church, Jesus is heralded as the head of the church. We are His body and He is the head – of the universal church (all believers in all ages) and of the local church. We read body language as regards the church in several of Paul's letters, reminding us of the importance of giving ourselves to one another and recognizing Who is the sovereign head to Whom we owe our allegiance. Let all who put man at the head of the church repent! We see this phenomenon in hierarchical church denominations, with the papist religion as the most grotesque example. But we also see it in our own circle of the faith – with “senior pastors” and his minions. The structure of these tends to induce people to think more highly of their elders and for the elders to think the people are right! Peter warns those who serve as elders not to lord their position over the people, just as Jesus did when His disciples argued over which of them could at His left and right hand. Recognizing Christ Jesus as the head of His body, wherein we are each called a member thereof, is vital to our health! If man can give us assurance, it is false. If man saves us, it is false. If man condemns us, it is false. In Christ alone my hope is found; He is my light, my strength, my song.

Paul continues to repeat what he’s already said, so important is the idea of seeing Christ accurately.
He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He might come to have first place in everything. His preeminence, being firstborn, having first place in everything. Get the idea that we tend to think too little of Christ and too much of man? I think that’s the point in repeating these truths about the supremacy of Christ in all things. We are weak and feeble creatures and tend to grow attached to the comforts and false treasures. As Peter said, I think it is right to refresh your memory as long as I live in the tent of my body (2 Pet 1:13). This is one of the core functions of the local church – to equip the saints for the work of the ministry so we will not be tossed about by the deceitful cunning of men (Eph 4:12 – 14). If Christ be not first in our lives as individuals and in our corporate life as a church, we will drift into lesser things and end up as fables. We need one another to guard against this.

The last two verses are one sentence that sums up the redemptive historical reason for Jesus coming to us as a man.

Colossians 1:19-20 For God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile everything to Himself by making peace through the blood of His cross— whether things on earth or things in heaven.

We see here that God the Father and God the Son are two distinct persons, with distinct but complimentary roles. The Son is not the Father, but the fullness of God is in the Son – Jesus is fully God and fully man. It pleased the Father to send the Son to reconcile everything to Himself, doing so by the blood of His cross. It’s been rightly said that the Christian faith is a bloody one. Without the shedding of blood there is NO remission of sin. And for true forgiveness of sin, rather than the temporary covering of it for a season, the divine blood of the Lamb of God was required.
As to His mission, to reconcile everything whether on earth or in heaven, does this mean Jesus will save all people and angels? This passage ties this reconciliation to the blood of His cross – it MUST mean reconciliation with the Father. So all people will be saved?

We must go back in order to answer this properly. We recall how the entire creation was cursed at the fall (Gen 3:18), and Paul tells us creation eagerly waits with anticipation for God’s sons to be revealed.  For the creation was subjected to futility—not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it—in the hope  that the creation itself will also be set free from the bondage of corruption into the glorious freedom of God’s children. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together with labor pains until now (Romans 8:19-22).

Because of sin, creation was cursed and is in every bit of need of being set free from that bondage as are we. George Whitefield said that every time a dogs barks at a man, every time a bear growls at a man, they are taking up their Master’s charge, reminding man of what his actions have done.
Peter tells us this present earth will be destroyed (2 Pet 3:10-13) at the end of this age. It make most sense to understand this as creation being put to death and resurrected in a glorified state – just as we will be. On that new earth, righteousness will dwell – that is a pointer to the Lord Jesus Himself, as He will be among His people on the new earth forever.

Revelation 21:1-5 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea no longer existed. I also saw the Holy City, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared like a bride adorned for her husband. Then I heard a loud voice from the throne: Look! God’s dwelling is with humanity, and He will live with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death will no longer exist; grief, crying, and pain will exist no longer, because the previous things have passed away. Then the One seated on the throne said, “Look! I am making everything new.”

This the way Jesus reconciles "everything" to Himself. When the end of the age is come, all whose name is not written in the Lamb's Book of Life will be thrown into the lake of fire. All the saints from every generation will be resurrected with eternal bodies and the heavens and earth will be made new. All things will be reconciled to Jesus - all will know He is Lord and all will submit to Him.
This is the certain promise of eternal life that God has extended to all who have placed their faith in Christ. Jesus Christ came into this world to find the lost sheep – He will rescue each and every one of us. John 10:14-16 “I am the good shepherd. I know My own sheep, and they know Me, as the Father knows Me, and I know the Father. I lay down My life for the sheep. But I have other sheep that are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will listen to My voice. Then there will be one flock, one shepherd.”

Trust the Lord Jesus. He is the image of the invisible God. He is supreme over all created things. He will have satisfaction for His sacrifice by bringing many sons and daughters to victory.

When the end of the age comes upon man, the only place of refuge is in the Lord Jesus.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Colossians 1:9-14 Prayer of the Saints

Colossians 1:9-14 Prayer of the Saints

Colossians 1:9-14 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;  That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God; Strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness; Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins.

This passage shows us the vibrant nature of the prayers continually offered up by Paul and Timothy for the saints in Colossae. We gain much insight as to how we should pray. Our time this morning will be to mine this passage to see how we should pray. Ever been convicted by Scripture?
There should not be any argument that prayer should be a steady part of every Christian’s daily walk with the Lord. As with any part of our Christian life, we can easily be pulled away by apathy, laziness, distraction, distress, abundance, joy, and pretty much anything else that comes our way. It sometimes seems like we have as much trouble staying focused on the invisible God as did the Jewish people so long ago, when they demanded a human king just like the pagan nations had. Samuel was told by God that he, the prophet of Israel, was the one being rejected; He – their God – was being rejected, since the day I brought them out of Egypt until this day, abandoning Me and worshiping other gods.

As we reflect on prayer in this passage of Scripture, I pray we will each be inclined to be more biblical and consistent in our prayer life – and not reject God as the Jewish nation did. We have been delivered from the power of darkness much like Israel had been delivered from Egypt. Let us learn from them and this apostle how to not follow in their steps, but follow after Christ!

We will look at 4 aspects of pray that this passage teaches on: Why we should pray, when we should pray, how we should pray, and who can pray. If these questions have never entered your mind, I hope in Christ you will consider them this day.
     Why pray (read verse 9)

Paul begins this paragraph with a phrase that calls our attention elsewhere – for this cause we pray for you. Where do we find Paul’s reason? If we look back to verses 4-6 we’ll see Paul & Timothy were prompted to pray because they were thankful for the work God was doing among the saints in that small, remote town. The gospel was bearing fruit and spreading throughout the region; the saints loved one another and had put their hope in heaven; their lives were grounded in the truth of God’s Word and the grace He gives to each of the redeemed.

One of the biggest reasons found in the Bible for the saints of God to pray is to give thanks to Him! In addition to the reasons found here, we find Jesus giving thanks to the Father when He multiplied the fish and loaves as He fed the masses; when He broke the bread and shared the cup of at the first Lord’s Supper. We see Anna, a servant in the temple when Jesus was brought for circumcision, giving thanks to God for the redemption that had come to Jerusalem. The one leper returned to Jesus, fell at His feet and gave thanks for his healing. During his shipwreck, Paul gave thanks to God for the food and gives thanks to God for the victory we have in Christ Jesus. He told the Ephesians that he always thanks God for them as he remembered them in his prayer. And Paul also tells us all food created by God is good and should not be rejected if received with thanksgiving.

Are we thankful people – even for the everyday things such as what we eat? Even for the eternal things like the salvation of one another?

2.      When to pray

It’s in verse 9 that we see when to pray for others – when we hear of the reason we ought to pray. How often do we tell people “I’ll pray for you”? And then we fail to pray for them. How much better, in many ways, to pray right then! When we are the most busy – it’s time to pray. When Jesus was mere hours away from being arrested, He withdrew to spend time in prayer with the Father. When danger lurks, we should pray so we do not enter into temptation – no waiting until we fall into it! Cornelius knew of God but knew he didn’t know God – and he spent time in prayer, seeking understanding. When Peter was in prison (Acts 12), those who loved him prayed for him. When a married couple is having difficulties, praying together is God’s way for them to be healed. And in Ephesians 6 Paul tells to pray all the time – for the spread of the gospel and for the church. James tells us to pray when we’re sick and to pray for those who are sick. And Peter instructs us (1 Peter 4:7) Now the end of all things is near; therefore, be serious and disciplined for prayer.

Are we a praying people? I don’t know about you, but I need BIG improvement in this area. It would be good for us as a church to spend time together praying – not merely as a short time after Bible study. Maybe instead of Bible study. It’s always a good time for God’s people to draw near to Him in prayer.

3.      How to pray (verses 9b-12)

In our daily lives, what constitutes most of our prayers? Is it not things of our fleshly bodies – health, finances, families? What do we see here? I am sure that the saints in Colossae, as well as Paul and Timothy, had nagging problems with their health, finances, weight, and myriad other earthly aggravations. Yet we don’t see them praying or asking for prayer for those matters in this passage.

One thing that can help is pray properly is to recognize the nature of prayer. One author (Brian Hedges) observed, “prayer is the greatest, most exalted form of communication a human being can attempt. For prayer is communication with God. Communion with God. Speaking to God, the Creator of the universe, the Sustainer of worlds, the Lord of the ages. Prayer is speaking to this God—and being heard!”

We find in our passage prayers for wisdom and spiritual understanding; obedience (walk worthy); bearing fruit; and growing in knowledge of God. Woe unto those who think they can slide along without diligence, woe to those who think they’ve arrived, woe to all who think need no more wisdom from God!

But do we, who acknowledge our woeful inadequacies in each of these areas, plead with God through prayer to be ever conformed to and content with Him? Our prayers should primarily contain thanksgiving for the blood of Christ that cleanses us from sin; praise to God for He alone is worthy of our praise as our Creator and sustainer and advocate; confession to Him as we realize how imperfectly we walk as He has called us; and requests that He have mercy on those who are perishing, strengthen the weak, grant us wisdom as we witness.

We are free to pray for physical things – for ourselves and others – once we take of first things. As we think of all the things that crowd our minds for attention, let us remember the instructions to fix our minds on heavenly things that we might be mindful of the first things we ought to pray for.
Lest we forget, the apostle also shows us here that our prayers ought to be filled with praise to God for Who He is – greatly to be praised. Not only in corporate praise, but in our personal time when we approach Him in prayer. Since we have so much to be thankful for, praise to Him Who provides is not merely just, but good for our souls. These prayers remind us of our dependence upon the Lord our God, as well as His faithfulness to provide for us.

4.      Who can pray? (verses 112b - 14)

Does the one who is rescued deserve credit for his rescue from sin and death? As Paul mentioned to the church in Rome, where then is the boasting? It is excluded! By what law – of works? No! By the law of faith! (Rom 3:27) In whom do we boast? Only in Christ Jesus! So the one who boasts must boast in the Lord. (2 Cor 2:17) When we look in our passage at who can pray, we see it is those who have been qualified, rescued, transferred, and redeemed; all of these actions noted by Paul in these verses have God as the one taking them. We boast in the name of the Lord, our God! (Psalm 20:7) We will take a quick look at these 4 characteristics to see how they qualify us to pray to God rightly.
a.       Qualified. In verse 12 Paul gives thanks for the saints in Colossae whom the Father has qualified to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. The KJV says we were made to be partakers in this inheritance. Formerly we walked in darkness, as do all the children of Adam. But having been made partakers in Christ Jesus, we now walk in the light as children of the most high God; heirs of His kingdom in the age to come. By calling us saints, God denotes we have been set apart and as such, we can approach Him with boldness – with the holiness He provides, without which none can approach Him. Only those qualified can pray to Creator God.

b.      Rescued. In verse 13, Paul starts off saying we have been rescued or delivered from the domain or authority and rule of darkness. When Judas betrayed the Lord Jesus, and the chief priests, temple police, and elders were upon Him, He asked them why they came with weapons and force, observing, “Every day while I was with you in the temple complex, you never laid a hand on Me. But this is your hour — and the dominion of darkness.” (Luke 22:53). Though he is bound from deceiving the nations for the time, Satan is the power behind those who wreak havoc and cry out against the light of the Word of God. People how have no shame, but demand full acceptance of their debauchery as normal. We have been rescued from that dominion, sin is no longer our master. Those who belong to the darkness do not have the ear of God, for He is not their father.

c.       Transferred. Still in verse 13 the apostle tells us where we’ve been delivered to. For God has not merely rescued us from the dominion of darkness, He has transferred or translated us into the kingdom of His dear Son that He loves! Our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. (Phil 3:20) So many seem to miss this idea – God does not merely set us free from master sin; He delivers us to Master Grace! If we were only set free from sin, we would be as Adam and Eve – having to live perfectly to enjoy fellowship with our Creator. But, in truth, we are in far better shape than Adam and Eve – we have been made righteous in Christ. Not only free from master sin, but reconciled to Master Grace! This means we have access to our Father, our prayers are sweet aroma to Him. What a privilege!

d.      Redeemed. In the last verse in our passage, Paul tells us we have redemption in Him, Christ Jesus. This word redemption means to buy back something that has been sold or put away in a pawn shop. In our case, we were slaves in the sin market and God redeemed us from that kingdom, at the high cost of the death of His Son, bringing us into the kingdom of Light. This redemption in Christ brings us forgiveness, the act of God putting our sins away; put away as certainly as is the death of Jesus; so nobody can buy them back and hang them around our necks! Forgiveness of sins, redeemed: the highest act of love, God became man, lived under the Law, was tempted in every way yet sinned not, and drank the cup of God’s wrath due us. Because we are forgiven, we have standing before the throne of God.

Having seen all that has been done so we can approach God, having seen the glorious truths that we can thank Him for, being in awe at being found in Christ having His righteousness – we should be unable to keep quiet or be distracted from rightly praying. John Hedges summed it up:

Astronomers have discovered that some stars seen with a naked eye in the night sky are actually whole clusters of stars. What appears to be a single star is actually an entire system filled with burning orbs of light. That’s what this passage is like. The truth here is vast, containing more glory than we can fully grasp. No wonder Paul bursts into thanksgiving to God! And so should we.
When we truly begin to grasp the extraordinary power of the gospel of Christ that turns us into the new creation people of God characterized by faith, hope, and love—people who bear fruit in every good work, growing in our knowledge of God and strengthened by his power—how can we not give thanks? The saving power of God has rescued us from darkness through the new exodus accomplished by the redeeming death of his Son, our Lord Jesus. He has transferred us into the kingdom of light. He has given us a share in the inheritance of God’s holy people.
Let us rejoice as God’s holy people. Let us sing His praises and pray with joyful hearts for the glorious blessings He has given us – including each other. Henry Lyte helps us keep these things is proper perspective in his hymn:
Praise, my soul, the King of heaven;
to his feet your tribute bring.
Ransomed, healed, restored, forgiven,
evermore his praises sing.
Alleluia, alleluia!
Praise the everlasting King!

Brian Hedge: “When we truly begin to grasp the extraordinary power of the gospel of Christ that turns us into the new creation people of God characterized by faith, hope, and love—people who bear fruit in every good work, growing in our knowledge of God and strengthened by his power—how can we not give thanks”, in prayer and praise?

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Colossians 1:1-8 The Fruit of the Gospel

You Can Listen to This Sermon Here

Colossians 1:1-8 The Fruit of the Gospel

I. Paul’s identity (verse 1)
II. Paul’s greeting (verse 2)
III. Paul’s thanks to God (verse 3 & 4)
IV. Paul’s confidence in Christ (verses 5 & 6)
V. The Fruit of the gospel (verses 6-8)


We each ought to imitate Paul in these things:
1.      Our identity is in Christ, not of fleshly things. Yes, we love our parents and grandparents and we rejoice when any of our earthly family is reconciled to God. But fleshly genealogies are fables – fleshly and unable to save. The Jews had fallen into the pit of thinking their fleshly relationship to Abraham insured their right standing before God. It is by grace through faith in Christ that we and anyone else is saved. He is our life – we are complete in Him. Let us not add to or subtract from the One Who gave Himself for us.

2.      We should love one another, all who are in the family of God, not thinking we or anyone else is better than another. We must take care not be swayed by those who have money and nice clothes, preferring them over one who has nothing and wears rough clothes. Skin color, social status, rank – none of these have any place in the body of Christ as things that should divide us.

3.      As Paul wrote in another place, we should (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18) Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. Envy has no place in our midst. When one suffers, we all suffer. When one abounds, we all rejoice. We work together as God has gifted us, for the equipping of the saints – each other. Thankful to God He has called us to Himself and given us to one another.

4.      Just our identity is in the Lord Jesus, so our confidence is to be in Him. It is all too common for Christians to get burdened down with cares of this world and forget the One they are yoked to. Worry and anxiety about earthly things crowd out the joy we to have as God’s children. We should keep our mind fixed on heavenly things, where Christ is seated. He is our strength and strong tower when the storm gales of this age blow.

The fruit of the gospel is what we seek – not fleshly things the world values. When we see Christians concerned about big, fancy buildings, flashy programs, entertainment – all designed to look attractive to the world and bring in unconverted people by the score, we see those who have lost sight of the power of God unto salvation. He will bring every lost sheep back to His sheepfold and He has given us His gospel as the means of serving Him in this redemptive plan. 

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Introduction to Paul’s Letter to the church at Colossae

You can listen to this sermon here.

He (Christ Jesus) is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. This is the thesis statement, the core truth of Paul’s letter to the Colossians. A study of this epistle will reveal Jesus as the answer to life.

Nearly every New Testament letter from Paul was written to combat heresy in one or more local churches; Ephesians is the exception. While Colossians doesn’t specify what heresy had infected that church, one can almost hear the whispers, “Jesus is not enough.” Many think an early form of Gnosticism was emerging. What makes this epistle so vital for life in the church in this age, until Christ returns, is the glorious picture of our Lord Jesus is painted in words by the apostle. It is instructive for us to see the evil distractions from the gospel the enemy put into the church in Paul’s day, but it is essential for life and godliness that we grasp the gospel and the person of Christ as held forth in Scripture. In this short letter, the lord Jesus is presented as our life – quite a contrast to our drab routine; something that ought to bring renewed life to weary saints.

This introduction follows the commentary by John Kitchens and covers 5 questions we should answer:
1.      Who wrote this letter?
2.      To whom was it written?
3.      What were the circumstances?
4.      Why did Paul write it?
5.      What does this letter teach us?

1. This first topic is important but not vital. We who believe in the inspiration of Scripture know the dual-authorship of the Bible and know God is the Author of what His people wrote. Yet knowing the human author helps us when we can learn about him through other passages. This is particularly helpful in rightly understanding Proverbs, for example.

Nobody questioned Paul’s authorship of this epistle until a few 19th century scholars offered up an alternative. The first two verses seem pretty clear to us: Colossians 1:1-2 Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timotheus our brother, To the saints and faithful brethren in Christ which are at Colosse: Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. But some smart people, as men see them, said the vocabulary, theology, and style of writing is too different from Paul’s other letters; that Paul works against Gnosticism which was not fully developed until the 2nd century. None of these objections stand up in light of a basic understanding of the Bible. Liberals seem to have it as their goal to cause us to doubt the Word of God.

2. Written to the saints in Colossae, a town that had been prominent but was now bypassed by the major highway that had driven its commerce; not unlike Gowen or Hartshorne – both of which were prosperous in the mid-20th century as goal mining and defense electronics provided a large bounty of gainful employment. The region Colossae is in was also severely affected by an earthquake, and commerce went with the new highway to Laodicea and Hierapolis. We see in 2:1 that, at the time of this epistle, Paul had not been to Colossae or Laodicea: 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. What kindness of God, to have this apostle write to these people in a small neglected town he had never met, yet loved in Christ having been told of the work the Lord had been doing in their midst.
Most likely, Epaphrus had established this church, as we read in 4:12-13 Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ, saluteth you, always labouring fervently for you in prayers, that ye may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God. For I bear him record, that he hath a great zeal for you, and them that are in Laodicea, and them in Hierapolis. Paul’s confidence was not in his personal work, but in the work done through him and others by the Spirit of God.

One thought occurred to me –apostles were foundational to the New Covenant church (see Eph 2:20) yet most of them wrote no Scripture and are not mentioned much by those who did. Men who labor in obscurity, in man’s perspective, always are in view of our heavenly Father. Our service to one another is pleasing in His sight, even if we are not famous among men; as it is His Spirit that wills and equips us to do so. Let us never drift away from seeking God’s approval in favor of man’s.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Job – A Story About the Sovereignty of God

You can listen to this sermon here.

(Background – from ESV Study Bible) The story of Job has its setting outside Israel to the east and south (Uz is related to Edom, which may be the setting of the book), the author of Job is a Hebrew, thoroughly immersed in the Hebrew Scriptures. The time in which the account of Job is set is not known with precision – many consider the context of Job’s culture and put him in the time of Abraham.

The earliest reference to Job outside the book itself is in Ezekiel. The prophet names three paragons of virtue (chap 14:12 – 14): And the word of the LORD came to me: "Son of man, when a land sins against me by acting faithlessly, and I stretch out my hand against it and break its supply of bread and send famine upon it, and cut off from it man and beast, even if these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, they would deliver but their own lives by their righteousness, declares the Lord GOD.” It is not certain whether Ezekiel knew of these men from the biblical narrative or if his knowledge was from God. If Ezekiel knew of Job through the biblical book, then Job would have lived prior to the Babylonian exile.

The author of Job makes direct allusion to the Hebrew Scriptures (e.g., Ps. 8:4; cf. Job 7:17–18), and at times quotes lines directly (Ps. 107:40; Isa. 41:20; cf. Job 12:21, 24). Such precise repetition of phrases and reapplication of biblical thought indicates that Job had access to these writings, though again it cannot be certain in what form they existed. The author uses a lot of vocabulary with meanings known in later Hebrew. This does not confirm a more precise dating but may favor a date that is during or after the Babylonian exile (538 BC). It would appear that this book may have been written as many as 600 years after Job lived – not without precedent in Scripture, as Moses wrote Genesis some 2,700 years after Creation. None of this is cause for worry, as it is God Who is the primary author of all Scripture.

The book of Job asks the question – “Can God be trusted?” It is fair to say that most of our attention is on Job and his loss and the rough treatment received at the hands of his friends and wife. But the lesson we are to gain from this book is found in the reply from God; that He alone can be trusted, that He alone is creator and sovereign – He is God and He is not obligated to answer His creatures! This maddens those who deny His existence or sovereignty, but ought to comfort us who are redeemed by Christ. If God is not sovereign over all things, He cannot be trusted in anything.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

God’s Faithful Promise

In anticipation of the Christmas season, last week we reviewed the biblical account for why Jesus had to come as a man to save us. We are by nature in desperate need of a savior, having no hope and without God in the world (Eph 2:12); Christ Jesus is the only One Who can save us, reconcile helpless sinners to God – He is our peace!

Today, we review the biblical account of God’s faithful promise to provide this savior.
Several decades back, a Christian para-church organization took the nation by storm. Promise Keepers filled football stadiums with hundreds of thousands of men, listening to preaching and singing hymns. Many of those who went wanted to be better men, men who would keep their promises to lead their families rightly and walk in obedience to God. And for several years, many men were redeemed, revived, and reconciled. But the leaders of this ministry were found to be much less than their public facades portrayed. The founder confessed that he was a miserable failure and his right hand man drifted into gross theological error. And many critics and men who benefited from this ministry turned aside and followed them no more.

We read in the Scriptures that God is not like man, that He should lie (Numbers 23:19); so a promise made by God is something more sure than any promise man can make. God warns man that it’s better for us not to make a promise or vow than to make one and not keep it (Eccl 5:5 & 6). The gap between the two – creature and Creator – in keeping promises is as great as the gap between us in character. Our confidence must therefore be in God and Christ Jesus (He is the faithful witness – Rev 1:5), for they are faithful and rock-solid, while we are weak and fickle. With this reminder, let us see the awesome power of the One Who can make a promise and is certain to keep it.

The birth of Jesus and His work of redemption was not a reaction to the creature’s faithlessness. We see this in 1 Peter 1:20 & 21 - He was chosen before the foundation of the world but was revealed at the end of the times for you who through Him are believers in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God. The Fall was not unplanned; the redemption found in Christ was not a reaction. Since man’s fall was inevitable, due to our weak frame, God determined before the world was created that the Son would redeem sinners and bring many sons to glory (Heb 2:10). The main reason creation exists is to glorify the Creator. Again we turn to Peter – If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen. (1 Peter 4:11) The first phrase shows us how the man who preaches must not speak as a mere man with an opinion, but as a man who stands in fear of God to proclaim and preach the Word of God. Next we see that all who serve in any capacity are to do so recognizing it is God who gives such gifts. Lastly we see the reason – that in all things, preaching and serving, God will be glorified. And this glory is possible because we are in Christ Jesus. The oracles of God tell us Jesus is the focus of Scripture (Luke 24:27), promised to us before the world began (Titus 1:2).