Summary: Sermon 2 in a study in Colossians
“I want you to know by this letter that we here are constantly praying for you, and whenever we do we thank God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ because you believe in Christ Jesus and because you are showing true Christian love towards other Christians. We know that you are showing these qualities because you have grasped the hope reserved for you in Heaven - that hope which first became yours when the truth was brought to you. It is, of course, part of the Gospel itself, which has reached you as it spreads all over the world. Wherever that Gospel goes, it produces Christian character, and develops it, as it had done in your own case from the time you first heard and realized the amazing fact of God’s grace. You learned these things, we understand, from Epaphras who is in the same service as we are. He is a most well-loved minister of Christ, and has your well-being very much at heart. As a matter of fact, it was from him that we heard about your growth in Christian love. JB Phillips translation of the N.T., Colossians 1:3-10
This is another of the letters Paul wrote while imprisoned in Rome. This man, Epaphras, described by Paul as ‘our beloved fellow bond-servant who is a faithful servant of Christ on our behalf’, has apparently visited Paul and Timothy there in Rome and told them of the work God had begun in Colossae through his preaching of the gospel.
It is supposed that the primary reason for his visit to Paul is the coming of false teachers to the Colossian church who were introducing heresy and mingling philosophy with theology and confusing the people.
He may have been there to ask Paul by his Apostolic authority to send something back to the church that would support the doctrine he had been teaching them and combat the deception of the false teachers.
If that is the case, then this letter would be what Paul handed Tychicus to take to Colossae with him, and in his usual fashion, Paul begins with praise and blessing and talking about Jesus.
WORD OF TRUTH
The temptation exists in constructing a sermon, to focus on the verses that have been chosen as the text to the exclusion or at least a negligence of the larger context.
The danger of doing that is that the preacher limits himself in his own understanding of what is being said or is not being said, and thereby limits whatever he ultimately gives to the people.
So in coming to these verses, 3 through 10 of Colossians 1, for example, if we just dive in and try to glean what we can out of them without looking at the larger context first, then we would miss some important points that could be made in getting ourselves settled down for the sharper focus.
I’m telling you this because this is also something the lay person should keep in mind in their private Bible study. Reading the scriptures is important. But do not only read and never stop to really study and meditate.
Read in large chunks to get the big picture, then go back and pay attention to what the smaller pieces have to say about the whole.
Now here before us we have this letter which was born of a need to address heresy. There is also some instruction later on for the Christian walk and behavior. Looked at as a whole, we have defense of the gospel, and then some discussion on the sort of life the gospel both makes possible and requires from the believer.
With that big picture in mind then, there is more dimension given to these opening words of Paul when we realize that before he goes on to defend the gospel he first just puts it all out there as though there is nothing else to consider.
This is the gospel and this is what comes from faith in the gospel and this is the One, the Person, who did all of this and to whom we now belong and He is preeminent. Ok, now let’s talk about these folks among you who are confusing the issue.
Now I go to sermon websites and I drive by church signs and I flip channels now and then and over all I get an impression that there is very much preaching out there about the ‘hot topics’. One guy wants to attack the issue of homosexuality and he certainly wants to address the issue of homosexuals in church leadership.
Someone else wants to make some things clear about abortion. Another is an expert in refuting the theory of evolution, and so forth.
And they all want to hold these things up against Scripture and tell us what the Bible would say about them and there is a degree to which this is needed. Christians should know what the Bible has to say about issues that are going to come up in conversation; with which they are going to be challenged at some point unless they live in a bubble, and they should know what to say.