Summary: The first in a series on the book of Colossians.
Sunrise Presbyterian Church
18400 NW 68th Ave
Miami FL 33028
Telephone: 305 821 5841
¡§Living A Worthy Life¡¨
September 2, 2001
The Rev. Dr. W. Maynard Pittendreigh
The Introduction To The Scripture Lesson¡K
This morning we begin a series of sermons on Colossians -- a brief New Testament book, you can easily read in less than an hour. The book was written by St. Paul, who wrote most of the books of the New Testament. Like all of Paul¡¦s books, Colossians is really a letter. This particular letter was one that Paul wrote while he was in prison, and he wrote it to a group of Christians he¡¦d never met. In all of his travels, he¡¦d never visited the city of Colosse (1:4-8, 2:1). Christianity was brought to that city by a man named Epaphras, a native Colossian (1:7). Epaphras visited Paul in prison and he told the apostle some good news and some bad news about the Colossian Church.
The good news is the people of that church have great faith and are working to spread the Gospel. The bad news is, people outside the church are trying to shape and influence the church.
Here it is 2000 years later and we are going through pretty much the same thing today. The world is trying very hard to tell the church what we should believe and what we should teach. The world is telling us that it is arrogant for us to teach that Jesus is the only way to God the Father. The world is telling us that the sexual ethics we¡¦ve taught for the past 2000 years are outdated. The world is proclaiming all sorts of New Age faiths. And the church is listening. And the church is adopting the teachings of the world, and the church is setting aside the teachings of the Word of God.
What is happening today was happening in the city of Colosse.
The world was telling the church that Christ was not both divine and human. The world was telling the church that people must be saved by works, not faith. The world was telling the church that angels should be worshiped. And that church was listening to the voice of the world, rather than to the Word of God.
So Epaphras visits Paul, and tells the apostle about what is happening in the church -- the good news and the bad news. And Paul sits down and begins to dictate this letter.
He doesn¡¦t begin the letter in the style of our letters today -- ¡§Dear Colossians¡K¡¨ but rather he begins the letter in the style that was used back in Paul¡¦s day. He starts in this way¡K
Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, To the holy and faithful brothers in Christ at Colosse: Grace and peace to you from God our Father. We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all the saints--the faith and love that spring from the hope that is stored up for you in heaven and that you have already heard about in the word of truth, the gospel that has come to you. All over the world this gospel is bearing fruit and growing, just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and understood God’s grace in all its truth. You learned it from Epaphras, our dear fellow servant, who is a faithful minister of Christ on our behalf, and who also told us of your love in the Spirit. For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
In this, the opening verses of his letter, Paul hasn¡¦t started dealing with the bad news that Epaphras has brought to his attention -- that the church is struggling to keep its faith pure of outside influences. Instead, he starts off by praising the Colossians for the good that is in their church, and by encouraging them in verse 10 to ¡§live a life worthy of Christ.¡¨