Summary: A relationship with Jesus is to be honoured by all. No one should enter it lightly or selfishly, but responsibly and joyfully, with mutual respect and the promise to be faithful.
By Rev Heather Cetrangolo
We are now half way though our teaching series on Paul’s letter to the Colossians. This is exciting because we’re about to get into the very heart of what it’s all about – but first, let’s recap on how far we’ve come …
1.1-14 – Chris introduced us to the church in Colossae which was surrounded by a culture very much like ours of pick and mix religion – and Paul opens by saying that he is constantly praying for the new believers that they may lead lives worthy of Christ
1.15-23 – We went back to basics as Paul sets out the fundamentals about who Jesus is – the Son of God, supreme in all things
1.24-2.5 – We were encouraged to persevere – as Paul tells the Colossians of his sufferings for the gospel and of the energy that Christ continually inspires in him to persist against adversity
And now, from 2.6 Paul’s going to spell out the very adversity that the church is facing that he urges the Colossians to resist.
Is that not a teaching we need to hear about in our time? About - the church that’s under attack? The church that’s losing its way? The church that’s selling out to popular ideas and compromising on the gospel? Aren’t we, as a church, under attack in our culture? Do we not live in times where the default position is to be sceptical about the gospel? To say, there is more than one way? There is more on offer, than what Jesus has to offer? Humanism has been on the rise for centuries, but now it’s organised. There are conventions for non-believers … if we are concerned about the future of the church, we have good reason to be. I think maybe Australia could be Colossae.
And Paul has a round about way of getting there, but his message to this church is very simple actually … it’s basically this:
Problem: Our relationship with Jesus is under attack
Solution: To maintain a relationship with Jesus
v6 – As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.
What does it mean to live in Christ, to be rooted and built up in him?
- I saw a good example yesterday when I attended Maggie and Tom’s wedding (from the Cantonese congregation)
- The wedding began as all weddings do with that classic Pauline theology that marriage is a symbol of the union between Christ and the church
- Yesterday Maggie and Tom changed – they will never be the same again – they are no longer separate but have become one flesh (if you like, they are living in one another – in a married life together)
- Marriage is more than wearing a wedding ring – it is a relationship – it takes on its meaning by the daily choices we make and the ways we respond to the pressures around us … and yes, I think we live in a world where marriage is also under attack. And the answer to that problem, is staying grounded in the commitment that has been made, growing together and not apart, building a life together and not separately.
In the same way, Paul is urging us as a church to stay grounded in our relationship with Jesus; established in faith. He is writing to people who have already had their wedding day, if you like. They’ve already given their life to Christ and been reborn into his life. But now they face the challenge of going the distance with this relationship, in a world where the devil is laying out traps all around to distract us. Because he knows that with every believer who gets lost and distracted, the church loses a little more credibility and becomes a little bit less effective at its ministry.
In this war zone that we’re in, with an enemy that fights against our cause, we might start to worry that we are losing the battle. But we’re not going to do that, because Jesus has already won it. This is why Paul’s emphasis is not on fighting that which opposes the gospel. We don’t need to strategise about how to attack and discredit atheism. Jesus has already disarmed atheism, and every power and authority, on the cross – which he says at v15.
No, Paul’s message is, stick with him. Stay in relationship with the one who has already conquered every opposition. He’s saying, “Build yourselves up in him, and you will become a powerful church.”
But we are not always faithful. We all know something about the pain of infidelity in marriage (if not ourselves, then we have friends or family who have been hurt by it). And you know someone else who knows a lot about the pain of infidelity is Jesus. He has laid his life down for us, and we have received him, but his church has been unfaithful.