Col. 1:20 and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven.
Col. 1:21 And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds,
Col. 1:22 yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach—
Col. 1:23 if indeed you continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel that you have heard, which was proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, was made a minister.
Paul transitions away from a discussion of the person of Jesus Christ to a discussion of the work of Jesus Christ
False teachers were teaching a new Gospel for being saved – Christ plus something
But Paul talks of Christ’s work on the cross as the saving work of creation
Whether things on earth of things in heaven = broad scope
Rom. 8:20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope
Rom. 8:21 that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God.
Rom. 8:22 For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now.
It is not just that you and I were born into sin, but when Adam sinned he put the whole world into bondage
By the curses God pronounced in response to his sin
God did not curse man (or woman)
He cursed the ground, and the enemy
To be cursed is to be forever condemned to Hell
So what happens to the creation?
Paul alludes here (and elsewhere) that eventually this world will be burned up by fire
But will be replaced, as a function of God’s need to provide a dwelling place for His children
He has to provide a corrupt free environment for His corrupt free children He is producing by the work of Christ on the cross
Given that Jesus is pre-eminent in all these things, Paul concludes in verse 21 that the Colossians can offer nothing in support of their own salvation
There is nothing they can do to prompt, ensure, hold on to, enhance or make better their salvation
It was done once for all on the cross
Paul is about to make an interesting point, that you are to continue in your salvation they way you received your salvation
But entering into salvation, we start as enemies of God
In another parallel with the Ephesian church, Paul made a similar statement on this point:
Eph. 2:1 And you were dead in your trespasses and sins,
Eph. 2:2 in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience.
Eph. 2:3 Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.
Eph. 2:4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us,
Eph. 2:5 even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved),
Grace means that before you deserved it and before you knew it, He was already making us a child of God
In using the analogy of baptism, we were dead and now we’re alive
No more could a physical corpse bring itself back to life, than we could do spiritually
I received a letter from a listener in New Zealand who wrote to tell me about a conversation between her 13-year old daughter and a schoolmate who was an unbeliever
My 13 yr old daughter, Georgia, (who was just baptized) came home from school the other day. She told me she had a conversation with her friend which went something like this….
Georgia: Ashley, do you know that you hate God?
Ashley: I don’t hate God!
Georgia: Well actually, the Bible says that if you are not with Him, then you hate Him, even if you don’t personally feel like you do.
What a bold conversation for a newly baptized 13 year old to have with a friend, but her words were truth
Do we sometimes forget the truth of that statement?
It sounds like Paul was concerned that the false teaching in Colossae must have included some kind of teaching that personal achievement – obtaining some kind of special knowledge – was a part of obtaining or maintaining our salvation
But then Paul in verse 23 says this assurance is only true for someone who holds to the true gospel
Close doesn’t count
There is nothing more dangerous than something close to the truth that is not in fact the gospel
But if you have not held to the true gospel, you have no right to share in the promises he is giving out to the church
He’s trying to differentiate the two groups up front as he begins to teach
Not to say anything about someone who has already believed the truth and is in someway in jeopardy
Paul is making this dramatic turn to emphasize the seriousness of this church tolerating false teachers who present a false gospel
It leads people astray
It becomes a stumbling block
For a true believer, it stunts their maturity
To the unbeliever who falls prey, it becomes a diversion to finding the path for truth
Paul’s concern is that this church has abandoned its responsibility to protect the flock
At the end of verse 23, Paul made a reference again to his authority
He calls himself a minister of the gospel – diakonos, servant
This leads Paul to spend another moment establishing his credibility with this church
And he’s doing this because of where is preparing to go next
Paul is acting on the principle: What you think of me, has a lot to do with how you will receive my criticism
As an aside, the reason we teach verse-by-verse is to avoid accusations of false motives in our teaching
We’re just teaching what God wrote
Paul is trying to establish his own motives to be pure, honest, and good intentioned
Let’s look at what he says about himself
Col. 1:24 Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I do my share on behalf of His body, which is the church, in filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions.
Col. 1:25 Of this church I was made a minister according to the stewardship from God bestowed on me for your benefit, so that I might fully carry out the preaching of the word of God,
Col. 1:26 that is, the mystery which has been hidden from the past ages and generations, but has now been manifested to His saints,
Col. 1:27 to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.
Col. 1:28 We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ.
Col. 1:29 For this purpose also I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me.
Verses 24-29 are again one sentence, so let’s take it apart in pieces
To begin, the whole point of this sentence is to communicate Paul’s credibility
But even more than credibility, it explains his motives
First, he says he is not taking a privileged place in the Body of Christ, but rather he is doing his part
Specifically, he’s doing his part to suffer for Christ
This verse is one of the most controversial in all of Paul’s writing
Filling up what is lacking in Christ’s sufferings
Some use it to suggest we have more work to do in accomplishing our salvation
A sense of works on top of grace
Paul is actually saying that the Body of Christ is appointed to suffer at times
That suffering began when our Lord suffered Himself while on the cross
And we are the body of Christ now, and we continue his suffering
Acts 9:4 and he fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?”
This is not to suggest this additional suffering is the atonement – that was done through Christ’s physical death on the cross
But it is God’s purpose that there continue to be suffering so that we identity with Christ
We share in His inheritance and His suffering
Paul says that he is doing his part to fill up the afflictions that are lacking in the body of Christ until the appointed suffering has reached its end
Paul was writing from jail, whereas I doubt the false teachers were taking the same persecution
Second point – Paul was to preach the mysteries of God’s word
Paul was granted the privilege of revealing certain mysteries to the church
The word mystery, in Biblical terms, is any truth that was revealed in the Old Testament, but its meaning was hidden until a later date
And chief among these mysteries was that God would bestow His grace upon the gentiles
The fact that God planned to saved Gentiles through Christ was revealed in Genesis (to Abraham), but not understood until after the resurrection
So the mystery Paul has to tell the Colossians is about God’s plan to redeem them, Gentiles
So Paul’s motive is for their good, to bring them good news that God has prepared beforehand
Then Paul shifts in v.28, to say with that responsibility comes the necessity of preparing men to stand before Christ
Admonishing and teaching
The work of ministry is first and foremost about shaping lives
Correcting wrong behavior and thinking
Teaching truth from scripture
Paul is going to so much effort, laboring on their behalf, so they are brought up in the right way
Now he is going to go a little further…