OPEN: One of the greatest scientists of our time was Albert Einstein. He was a man who was so focused on his scientific theories. He was so focused, he often neglected even the simplest things of life, such as personal appearance (as evidenced by his hair).
One time, Albert Einstein was taking a train out of town for a speaking engagement. As he sat in his seat engrossed in his work, the conductor stopped by to punch his ticket. Looking up in shock, Einstein realized he didn’t know what he had done with his ticket. Frantically, he began to search his coat pockets, and then his briefcase.
Gently, the conductor said, "We all know who you are, Dr. Einstein. I’m sure you bought ticket. Don’t worry about it."
But, as the conductor moved along, he looked back to see Einstein on his hands and knees searching under the seats for his ticket. The conductor walked back, "Dr. Einstein, please, don’t worry about it. I know who you are."
Exasperated, Einstein looked up and said, "I, too, know who I am. What I don’t know is where I’m going."
APPLY: The Christians at Colossae had gotten to the point that they weren’t sure where they were going either.
Somebody had begun to convince them that they weren’t going to heaven like they tho’t.
Somebody had slipped into their midst and begun to tell them they weren’t acceptable to God
Somebody was confusing them so much that they weren’t even sure what was expected of them anymore
They had gotten to the point where they not only didn’t know where they were going…
They weren’t even sure WHO they were.
I. To understand what was going on here, it helps to realize that back in the days of this letter - behind the scenes - there was a spiritual battle taking place
You see, the congregation at Colossae was composed of Gentile believers. A Gentile was anyone who was not of Jewish descent. (I asked the audience how many of them had “Jewish blood” in their veins? No one raised their hands. “Well, then – you are all Gentiles”)
Gentiles had always been despised by God’s people. The Jews referred to them as dogs, and perhaps had even worse names for them. Jews refused to spend any time with them if they could avoid it. Jews wouldn’t eat with them, work for them, play with them. If a Jew purchased anything from a Gentile, the product was washed to cleanse it the filth of those who had no part in God’s covenant.
So when the church 1st got started… it is no surprise that there were no Gentiles in the church. However, after the church had established itself in Jerusalem, God gave the Apostle Peter a vision indicating that (the once hated Gentiles) were now acceptable in His sight to receive salvation. And then God sent him to the household of a Roman Centurion named Cornelius - to preach the Gospel to him and his family.
Along with Peter, there came 6 Jewish Christians. And these Jewish believers had every intention of circumcising these Gentile dogs before they ever let them be baptized. However, God had something else in mind
Back in those days, the normal process of salvation was as it is now: belief, repentance, confession and baptism in to Christ. THEN, after you’d had the Holy Spirit living within you,
…an Apostle might lay hands on you so that you could receive a special “gift” from God…like tongues or prophecy.
However, this time, God short circuited the process.
Before Cornelius & household could express their belief in Christ
Before they could declare they wanted to repent of their sins
Before they could confess Jesus as their Lord
And before they could be baptized into Christ…
… God bore witness to them (Acts 15:8) that they were acceptable just as they were - no circumcision required.
These uncircumcised, unbaptized Gentiles began to speak in tongues & glorify God. At that point, Peter turned to the Jews that were with him and asked: "Can anyone keep these people from being baptized with water?…” Acts 10:47
Why ask the question? Because that was exactly what the Jewish believers intended to do. They weren’t about to allow Gentile dogs to enter the waters of baptism uncircumcised. However, once God had born witness that He had accepted them as they were… no one dared say “no” to their baptism.
II. However, there were a number of Jews in the church that refused to accept this
They would visit Gentile church, after Gentile church, and demand Gentiles become Jews before they could become Christians. And a group of these “circumcisers” had just hit town in Colossae. Their message was basically this:
UNLESS you are physically circumcised… and
UNLESS you have obeyed the laws of the Old Testament on top of everything else taught in the church
you weren’t saved
you couldn’t be a Christian
you couldn’t be acceptable to God
you had no hope of ever reaching heaven
III. But what Paul was telling the Colossians that there was something these false teachers didn’t understand…
There was something about Christianity that was a Mystery to these false teachers, and that mystery was this: “The mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, … is now disclosed to the saints. To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery,”
And, what was that mystery? It’s…”Christ in you, the hope of glory.” Colossians 1:26-27
IN OTHER WORDS:
The Gentile believers in Colossae were already saved
The Gentile believers were already acceptable before God.
And the Gentile believers there already had the hope of living in Glory.
they were going to heaven.
WHY? Because Christ was living inside of them. And BECAUSE Christ was living inside of them they didn’t have to jump thru any hoops and do any dramatic deeds. Because, they were acceptable just as they were.
IV. Now… that was then… this is now
There are no Jewish believers visiting modern day congregations telling us we need to get circumcised. So, you might ask: “What difference could their situation ever have on us today?”
(I paused and repeated the question until somebody actually asked me the question)
…I’m glad you asked – because I was going to keep on asked it until somebody did.
You see, the mystery wasn’t just that God would accept the Gentiles
The mystery wasn’t just that God had changed the rules so that circumcision was no longer a vital part of His covenant with His people.
The mystery was this: That God would let anybody be acceptable to Him.
The mystery was that God would allow those who had been His enemies to now be called His friends
The mystery was that God would ever accept anyone like you - or like me and allow us to become His children
AND, it’s even more of a mystery that God would accept those who EVEN we would have trouble accepting: The prostitutes, homosexuals, adulterers, thieves & swindlers, and worse… God certainly couldn’t forgive such people the hurt and pain and loss they had caused others.
And God agrees… these people don’t deserve to go to Heaven
“Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God” I Corinthians 6:9-10
These people have no right to get into heaven… but that’s the mystery. They can get into heaven. Paul continues telling the Corinthian church “… that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” 1 Corinthians 6:11
And Paul tells the Colossian Christians exactly the same thing: ONCE you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. Colossians 1:21
OH? What did they DO to be acceptable to God?
What act of contrition was sufficient to ever make God change His mind and forgive them?
The answer: NOTHING…nothing… they could do nothing to make God change His mind.
Then, what changed God’s mind. What made them acceptable to God. What changed them from being enemies to being His children?
Look again with me to Colossians 1:21-22
“Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. 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—“
Note.. nothing you have done has merited your salvation.
Neither your faith,
nor your repentance,
nor your confessing Him as your Lord,
nor your baptism
– none of that has EARNED you a place in heaven.
That’s how we respond to God’s gift… but those responses didn’t do one single thing to “purchase” your salvation. It is Christ’s death on the cross that gives you your salvation
AND He is the only one who will ever get you into God’s presence, BECAUSE, He is the only one who has died to take your place. He is the only one who has shed His blood so that your sins could be removed…
ACCEPT NO SUBSTITUTES
Don’t be fooled into believing that there is something else that can make you acceptable to God
There is no other way to be saved – Jesus and His death, burial & resurrection is it!!!
V. Paul is telling the Colossians (and us) this is reality
Now – LIVE LIKE IT.
Accept it… Believe it… Live like it
Don’t let anybody rob you of your faith and your hope by getting you to accept the lie that your salvation has to somehow be earned. If Jesus’ death on the cross for you isn’t enough for you – then nothing will be
That’s why Paul continues…
“…he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation — if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel.” Colossians 1:22-23
In other words, you will only be without blemish in His presence
You will only be free from the guilt & accusation of your past sins…
… IF you continue in your faith
… IF you are firm in your belief
… IF you refuse to be moved from the hope that’s yours in the gospel.
CLOSE: A Youth minister shared his experience I left work early so I could have some uninterrupted study time right before the final in my Youth Ministry class….
When I got to class, everybody was doing their last minute studying. The teacher came in and said he would review with us for just a little bit before the test. We went through the review, most of it right on the study guide, but there were some things he was reviewing that I had never heard of.
When questioned about it, he said that they were in the book and we were responsible for everything in the book. We couldn’t really argue with that. Finally it was time to take the test.
The professor passed out the exam with these instructions: "Leave them face down on the desk until everyone has one and I’ll tell you to start."
When he gave the order, we turned them over, every answer on the test was filled in!
At the bottom of the last page we read the following words:
"This is the end of the Final Exam.
All the answers on your test are correct.
You will receive an ’A’ on the final exam.
The reason you passed the test is because the creator of the test took it for you. All the work you did in preparation for this test did not help you get the A. You have
He then went around the room and asked each student individually, "What is your grade? Do you deserve the grade you are receiving? How much did all your studying for this exam help you achieve your final grade?"
Now I am not a crier by any stretch of the imagination, but I had to fight back tears when answering those questions and thinking about how the Creator has passed the test for me.
Discussion afterward went like this: "I have tried to teach you all semester that you are a recipient of grace. I’ve tried to communicate to you that you need to demonstrate this gift as you work with young people. Don’t hammer them; they are not the enemy. Help them, for they will carry on your ministry if it is full of GRACE!"
The teacher also explained that he had never done this kind of final before and probably would never do it again, but because of the content of many of our class discussions, he felt like we needed to experience grace.
SERMONS IN THIS SERIES
· Remembering What We Have - Colossians 1:1-1:14
· He Is Lord Because Of Who He Is - Colossians 1:15-1:23
· The Mystery - Colossians 1:21-1:29
· Jesus is Lord Because Of How He Rules - Colossians 2:1-2:23
· Feet On The Earth, Head In The Sky - Colossians 3:1-3:17
· Prescription for a Healthy Family - Colossians 3:17-3:21
· Working For Jesus - Colossians 3:22-4:1
· Thinking Like Jesus - Colossians 4:1-4:6
· Someone Else - Colossians 4:7-4:18