Summary: Paul finishes his letter by giving us a model of Christian Ministry, or a model of passionate ministry
Well, we come today to the end of Colossians. If you’ve been here for the last month and a half, I wonder if you can remember what the major themes of the letter have been? There are perhaps three I can think of. The most important is the centrality of Christ. I called this series, Christ the One and Only. As we’ll see in a moment the gospel is about Christ and Christ alone. Everything else is subsumed in him. If in our preaching and teaching Christ isn’t central, then we’ve missed the point.
A Second theme, which is almost as important as the first is that of Passionate truth. That is, the exhortation to us as Christians to be passionate about what we believe. Not to generate passion for passion’s sake, but to be passionate because what we believe is so mind-blowingly amazing. To be passionate, that is, about the truth: the truth of the gospel; the truth of God’s revelation to us through Christ; the amazing truth of Christ’s incarnation, his becoming human; the truth of the forgiveness he provides through his death on the cross.
A third theme is that of Christ’s word dwelling in us richly as we teach and admonish one another in all wisdom. This was how Paul saw his task as an apostle, and it’s what he encourages us to do as followers of Christ.
Well, if those are the themes of the letter, how does Paul finish it? It seems to me that he finishes by giving us a model of Christian Ministry, or, might I suggest, a model of passionate ministry. So let’s look at Ch 4:2-18 and see what he has to teach us.
I’d like to look at this under 3 headings: The Message; The Method; and the Messenger.
He doesn’t start here but we will. What is it that makes up the content of our message in Christian Ministry? How does he characterise it? Have a look at v3. What Paul wants to proclaim is the mystery of Christ. Now notice this. If I were to ask the average person in the pew what the Christian message is about, I imagine I’d get a whole range of answers: God’s love, reconciliation, forgiveness, wholeness, new life. Now all of these are important parts of the message. The Christian message includes all of these, but when Paul wants to summarise his message what does he say? The mystery of Christ. That is, our message can be summed up in one word, Christ. He is its centre, its major focus. Everything else flows out of who he is and what he’s done. And that’s what we find as we think back to what we’ve already seen in this letter: Christ is the image of the invisible God. He’s God incarnate, God made flesh. Everything there is to know about God, you find in Jesus Christ. He’s the creator and sustainer of the universe. He’s the head of all things: the church and everything that exists. He incorporates all the fullness of God yet appears in a human body. He’s reconciled all things to himself, whether they’re physical or spiritual beings, by making peace through his blood shed on the cross. He sets us free through his death and resurrection. We’re raised with him and because of that our life is now tied up with his life with the Father in heaven. If you like, he’s our origin and he’s our destiny. So Christ is at the heart of the message we have to share with those around us.
Well, if that’s the message, what’s the method? That is, how does Paul suggest we should go about sharing this message with others. Where does he begin? V2: "Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with thanksgiving." The first piece of advice he gives is to devote yourselves to prayer. If you think you’re going to go out and convert people, simply by telling them the gospel, you may be in for a shock. No, to expect to see people converted is to expect a miracle, and the only way miracles happen is when God is involved. So before you start preaching the gospel, and while you’re doing it, and after you’ve finished doing it, you’d better be praying that God’s Spirit would speak to the hearts of whoever you’re talking to.
Now I’d guess if I were to ask most Christians what they find hard in the Christian life, this would be one of the most common areas of difficulty. We all find it hard to pray. There are always so many pressing demands on our time and attention. It seems so much more important to be sharing the gospel with people than to be praying about it. And Satan works hard to divert us from this activity. That’s why Paul says we should devote ourselves to it. Not just think about doing it more often, but set our minds to doing it as a first priority.