Summary: This is the first sermon in a walk through the book of Colossians. It introduces Paul, the city of Colossae, and other important aspects of the Colossian letter.
The Anatomy of the Church
JOKE - A man lay sprawled across three entire seats in the movie theater. When the usher came by and noticed this, he whispered to the man, "Sorry, sir, but you're only allowed one seat." The man mumbled but didn't budge. The usher became impatient. "Sir, if you don't get up from there I'm going to have to call the manager." Again, the man just mumbled, which infuriated the usher who turned and marched briskly back up the aisle in search of his manager. In a few moments, both the usher and the manager returned and once again the man wouldn’t move. Finally, they summoned the police. The policeman surveyed the situation briefly then asked, "All right buddy, what's your name?" "Sam," the man moaned. "Where ya from, Sam?" With pain in his voice Sam replied "the balcony."
Well, sometimes things aren’t quite what they seem. And with our topic and text this morning we are going to find that the Colossian church was very different on the inside than from what it appeared to many on the outside. On the outside they had a reputation for a faithfulness in Christ and love for the saints, however there was a plethora of issues tearing at the heart of this congregation.
Now, in this series we are going to take a step-by-step walk through the book of Colossians. It’s important to know that Paul is writing to confront some issues that had arisen in the church.
Colossae, a city we will talk about in a few minutes, was a place with a large mix of cultures. There were four cultures in particular that had firm footholds in the area. There was a Jewish population with heavy influence. The Historian Josephus tells about 2000 Jewish families that were transplanted into the area. There was also an underlying Greek culture and then the heavy influence of the Romans who were the political and military rulers. Underneath all of these was a deep seated pagan culture that had participated in all manner of religious worship. Christianity was taking root here, but there would be the influence of all of these cultures into the church.
Three issues in particular that Paul will face were the worship of angels, the rising Gnostic beliefs (belief in hidden knowledge), and the mixing of Jewish law with the covenant of grace.
As you can see, there was more than meets the eye when it came to this congregation.
Well, let’s jump right into verse one and we will just stop along the way as the text merits.
TEXT - "1Paul," - (STOP!)
Okay, we won’t stop after every word, but it is important to establish right of the bat just who it is we are talking about here.
If you grew up in the church you are surely familiar, to at least some degree, with the Apostle Paul. But let’s give ourselves a quick reminder anyway.
Paul was born about the same time as Jesus. His original name was Saul, and he had his name changed to Paul, perhaps to note a radical transformation in his life. It’s interesting that the name Paul means “little or small” and this one who was so puffed up in pride was humbled by God and perhaps his name was always a reminder that he served one who was much greater and bigger than he.
Paul came from a city called Tarsus, the capital of Cilicia, a Roman province in the southeast of Asia Minor. We’ll talk about that place a little more in a few moments. But the fact that Asia Minor was his homeland was probably a big reason so much of his ministry took place there.
Growing up, Paul was educated at the best schools and was a person of prominence his whole life. His father was a Pharisee, which was a very strict segment of the Jewish population. And although his father was Jewish he was also a Roman citizen. We’re not sure how, but he was. And this fact this would come into play in Paul’s life. It’s the reason that he is writing this letter from prison in Rome.
As you read through the book of Acts your find that Paul was about to be killed for his faith while in custody in Jerusalem and right before the sentence was carried out Paul made an appeal to Caesar, something only a Roman Citizen could do.
This meant two things: 1 – no Jewish court could kill a Roman Citizen, and #2 – every Roman Citizen had a right to have their case heard by Caesar. That’s why Paul was transferred from Jerusalem to Rome and at the time of this writing, was sitting in house arrest under Roman guard.
I’m not going to go into any more detail regarding Paul, other than to say that he had an encounter with Jesus Christ and would go on to be the most influential writer of the New Testament. He would write at least 13 of the books in our New Testament. (well that’s a lot of info for one word). Moving on: