Thursday, July 31, 2008

Colossians 2:1-5

Day 8

For I want you to know how great a struggle I have on your behalf and for those who are at Laodicea, and for all those who have not personally seen my face, that their hearts may be encouraged, having been knit together in love, and attaining to all the wealth that comes from the full assurance of understanding, resulting in a true knowledge of God’s mystery, that is, Christ Himself, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. I say this so that no one will delude you with persuasive argument. For even though I am absent in body, nevertheless I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good discipline and the stability of your faith in Christ.

Paul had never met the Colossians, nor had he visited Laodicea. Yet he tells them he is struggling on their behalf, in order to encourage them. Have you ever put yourself out for a stranger, someone you have never laid eyes on? It is hard to conjure up sympathy for someone you have no investment in, whether in time or emotion. Yet Paul seems fairly passionate about the Colossians. How was this possible?

I think the answer lies in the verses that we viewed yesterday. Paul had a purpose and a singular passion: to present every man complete in Christ. Paul’s purpose and calling was much broader than any individual or even a specific church. Paul’s purpose was to build The Church. The encouragement of the Colossians was an important part of the overall picture.

How did he intend to encourage their hearts? He is targeting three things for the Colossians.

1. Having been knit together in love:
Unity is a big theme for Paul. He stresses it in most of his letters in the New Testament. For instance, when Paul first wrote the Corinthians, they were up to their ears in serious problems. There was incest in the church. People were abusing the Lord’s Supper. Spiritual gifts were being exercised inappropriately. People within the body were suing each other. But after his introduction in his letter to them, what problem does Paul tackle first? The division within the body takes center stage.

Unity is an outward expression of a healthy body. Unity means its members have decided that to love each other is more important than to struggle over differences in doctrine or opinion. They have decided to esteem the other as more important than themselves. And they have placed Jesus Christ where He belongs: at the head of the body. They are acting in submission to Him.

2. Attaining to all the wealth that comes from the full assurance of understanding:
The Colossians needed understanding. They were being influenced by false teachers who were mixing truth with false teaching. Paul was praying that they would have a great understanding of the truth, so they could meet the false teachers head-on with full assurance.

3. Resulting in a true knowledge of God’s mystery, that is, Christ Himself, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge:
Again, Paul is working against the false teachers in this phrase. The heresy going around the church in Colossae taught that only a select few could ever gain the mysterious knowledge needed for salvation. Paul is stressing that ALL of them can know Christ.

One last observation: Paul expresses two marks of a mature Christian. He rejoiced to hear of the Colossians’ 1. good discipline, and 2. the stability of their faith. The discipline was an indicator that the Colossians had their actions under control. The stability was a comment on their character. They knew who they were and Whom they served.

How do you fare in the marks of a mature Christian? Does discipline mark your life? Would those around you consider you a stable person, especially in the area of your spiritual life? Make a list of those areas in which you wish to see improvement. Commit them to prayer.

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