Summary: Sermon 7 in a study in Colossians
“And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds, 22 yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach— 23 if indeed you continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel that you have heard, which was proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, was made a minister. 24 Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I do my share on behalf of His body, which is the church, in filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions. 25 Of this church I was made a minister according to the stewardship from God bestowed on me for your benefit, so that I might fully carry out the preaching of the word of God, 26 that is, the mystery which has been hidden from the past ages and generations, but has now been manifested to His saints, 27 to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. 28 We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ. 29 For this purpose also I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me.”
In the construction of my past several sermons I have made my breaks somewhat differently than I think is the traditional approach to these verses. From verse 13 through verse 20 the overarching theme is the preeminence of Christ, and some might include verses 21-23 in that also. I have made my divisions slightly different in order to get a slightly varied angle on the same truths that must be taught from Paul’s words here.
So as we come to verse 21 and see that he says we ‘were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds,’ that is a helpful reminder to us that apart from Him we are lost, helpless, entirely unable to comprehend spiritual truth or come to God in any way.
But, he says, ‘He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach’ and we find in this the whole picture of salvation; our need for it, His provision of it, and our eternal profit in it.
This is a theme that runs through these verses now to the end of the chapter and I’d like that to be our point of focus today.
PREACHING THE WORD
Beginning in verse 24 Paul begins to describe his calling as a minister of God’s Word, and the way he goes about it falls in a strange way upon our 21st century patterns of thinking.
He says he rejoices in his suffering for the sake of his readers and talks about doing his share in fleshly suffering, again, on behalf of the church, and only then goes on to talk about his having been made a minister and given a stewardship and having a duty to preach the Word of God.
Frankly, if I was writing I would prefer to just jump right in to telling you how much I delight in the ministry that I was called to, and I might declare my duty to be a good steward of the Word of God and talk some about how very much I love preaching. In my self I would never be inclined to connect these things with the idea of suffering.
That is because I have never had to suffer for preaching. Others might suffer on occasion as I preach, but I have never been imprisoned for it, I have never been beaten for it, I have never been censored or ridiculed for it.
Now that may be due to some area of faithlessness on my part or it may be that by God’s blessing I have so far done all of my preaching in a friendly atmosphere.
But there are many who have suffered for their preaching and many who suffer today for their faithfulness to preach the Word even in the face of opposition and adversity. Paul was one of the first of that noble company.
He is not masochistic. He is not gleaning some perverse pleasure in suffering so he can get attention and consolation from believers around him.
He is saying that since the hardship he is undergoing is because of the gospel, then it is for their sakes that he is in this position and his rejoicing stems from seeing the Godly result in them; that is, the growth and strengthening of the church.