Summary: We need to be aware of false teaching which mixes other elements with the finished work of Christ.
This sermon is an introduction for the next several Sundays as we go through the book of Colossians. The theme of the book is the sufficiency of Christ for all things.
This is one of four Prison Epistles written by Paul from Rome about AD 60-62. (The others are Ephesians, Philippians, Philemon.) Paul did not establish this church or even go there, as far as we know. The church was proably founded by Epaphras (1:7), and it may have been an outgrowth of the great revival in Ephesus, recorded in Acts 19.
Acts 19 begins with immature believers being filled with the Holy Spirit. Then the gospel was rejected by the local Jewish leaders, but many Gentiles came to faith. One of the greatest evidences of revival is in Acts 19:18-20: A lot of people who had been trapped the occult and other Satanic activity burned their magic books and other paraphenalia, amounting to 50,000 pieces of silver. We don’t know what that was worth in our currency, but it must have been a staggering amount, to say the least. From this we learn that when revival takes hold of a community, it takes hold of peoples’ lives, and they gladly give up whatever isn’t in keeping with the faith.
Another outgrowth ot revival is that it spreads, and this is perhaps how the Colossian church was founded. But the very existence of the book of Colossians shows how easy it it to get off track in a short time. Here was a church founded during Paul’s ministry, and he had time and occasion to write them and address a flaw in their fellowship.
Paul wrote to the Colossians to correct false teaching which mixed other elements with the finished work of Christ. Now, just as then, we need to be aware of false teaching which mixes other elements with the finished work of Christ.
Why do we need this book and the lessons it gives? In my study, I ran across a couple of paragraphs by Warren Wiersbe, and I can’t improve on it. Wiersbe says,
“The church today desperately needs the message of Colossians. We live in a day when religious toleration is interpreted to mean “one religion is just as good as another.” Some people try to take the best from various religious systems and manufacture their own private religion. To many people, Jesus Christ is only one of several great religious teachers, with no more authority than they. He may be prominent, but He is definitely not preeminent.
“This is an age of “syncretism” [the combination of different forms of belief or practice]. People are trying to harmonize and unite many different schools of thought and come up with a superior religion. Our evangelical churches are in danger of diluting the faith in their loving attempt to understand the beliefs of others. Mysticism, legalism, Eastern religions, asceticism, and man-made philosophies are secretly creeping into churches. They are not denying Christ, but they are dethroning Him and robbing Him of His rightful place of preeminence.” (The Bible Exposition Commentary).
As we said, Colossians’ theme is the sufficiency of Christ for all things. In future weeks, we’ll take the book section by section and break it down. But today, I’d like to take the entire book and point out dimensions of the believer’s life in Christ. I usually make my own outlines for a sermon, but this time I chose to use the excellent outline (and only the outline) by Norman Geisler, writing in the Bible Knowledge Commentary.
The first dimension of our life in Christ is this:
1. We have deeper life in Christ (1:1-2:7).
This is a doctrinal section. Doctrine has to do with what we believe. A group of Christians in England quite some time ago had a saying that went something like this: It doesn’t matter what you belive, it’s how you behave. Now if they were speaking against hypocrisy, saying one thing but doing another, I guess I could agree with them.
But one thing I’ve learned over the years is that what we do is greatly influenced by what we believe. The folks in Colossae were doing all kinds of things (mostly ceremonial) that they didn’t have to do because they had wrong beliefs about who Jesus is and what He had accomplished.
Just who is this Jesus? Many people would say nice things about Jesus but stop short of saying He is God. Paul wan’t about to let that happen if he could help it. There in the first chapter he leaves no doubt as to exactly Jesus is. Jesus is the…
1. Source of wisdom (1:9-10)
2. Source of strength (1:11-12)
3. Source of deliverance (1:13-14)
4. Creator of the universe (1:15-17)
5. Head of the church (1:18)
Incidentally, Ephesians and Colossians are very similar books. However, Ephesians emphasizes the church as the body of Christ while Colossians emphasizes: Christ as the head of the body.)