Sunday, July 28, 2013

The Good News (Introduction to Colossians)


The letter to the Church in Colosse was written around AD62 by the Apostle Paul while imprisoned at Rome under Nero. History accounts the first five years of Nero’s reign as the “golden days” however things soon changed – not only for Nero, Rome, and the Apostle Paul, but also for those living in Colosse. History amazes us with how quickly things can change …

The city of Colosse boasted a large population in the early 60’s and was known to be one of the chief cities of Phrygia, a prominent region in Asia Minor near the city of Laodicea. Both Colosse and Laodicea are situated in the country we now know as Turkey.

Whether or not the Apostle Paul had earlier visited Colosse is uncertain and argued by many scholars, nonetheless we know he had traveled extensively through the region of Phrygia on more than one occasion. Without respect to a potential earlier visit, Paul had confident knowledge of the Church in Colosse and was concerned for their future.

This letter to the Colossians is not prophetic but is rather instructional. Had it been prophetic surely Paul would have mentioned the soon coming earthquake which overwhelmed the city in AD66, less than 4 years forward, or the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem less than 8 years away. Rather Paul, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, found it more critical to deal with the fundamentals of the Christian faith and encouraged the Believers in the Church of Colosse to maintain a close watch over the doctrines of Christ. Paul did not address their physical safety but rather their continued maintenance of spiritual security.

The Apostle Paul was more than familiar with the central truths of the doctrines of Christ. He understood them from the standpoint of revelation, not argument. It was his calling to be an Apostle and overseer of the Church and to this call he was fully committed.

Paul’s concern was not that the Christians in the Church in Colosse had been taught wrong but rather that some, having received the truth of God’s grace, were now being drawn away with:

Colossians 2
8 Don’t let anyone capture you with empty philosophies and high-sounding nonsense that come from human thinking and from the spiritual powers of this world, rather than from Christ.

Bear in mind grave times lay ahead for every Christian living in the Roman Empire. The faith of some Believers would soon be shaken and many would search for answers that made emotional sense. Paul desperately wanted the Church to know and be established in the truth of the Gospel before trouble came. We cannot allow tragedy to determine theology.

We must establish “Principles before Problems” …

Not only were Christians in mortal danger at that time but within a few short years Nero would even execute his own mother after failing the first try; allow his female consort to banish and murder his wife; he would poison his step-brother who was rightful heir to the throne; repeatedly kick his pregnant wife so hard in his fit of rage that it caused both her death and the death of their unborn child; falsely blame Christians for the burning of Rome; begin persecuting Christians, the likes which had never before been seen – like using Christians as human torches to light his gardens; he would spend the state into bankruptcy; crucify the Apostle Peter and behead the Apostle Paul, and finally on June 9, AD68, at age 30, commit suicide rather than face the judgment he knew was forthcoming.

Needless to say, a tumultuous time was brewing and there were so many issues Paul could have taken to account - Yet Paul remained focused on the stability of the Church and purity of the doctrine of grace above all else. He knew the importance of keeping the main thing the main thing.

Troubles may come and go but the Church will outlast them all. The Apostle Paul was not distracted from his calling to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He did not allow himself to be drawn into arguments over smaller matters – rather he stuck to the unchanging truth of God’s grace.

This morning we are going to survey the first chapter of Colossians and secure three certain truths which will never change.

What are we going to learn and confirm from the message today? Without regard as to what may be taking place around us -
1.  The Good News is changing lives all over the world.
2.  You stand before God without a single fault.
3.  We should work hard but we must depend on Christ who lives in us.

Colossians 1 NLT
1 This letter is from Paul, chosen by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, and from our brother Timothy.
2 We are writing to God’s holy people in the city of Colosse, who are faithful brothers and sisters in Christ. May God our Father give you grace and peace.

Note: Paul was chosen by the will of God, not the will of man.

3 We always pray for you and we give thanks to God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
4 For we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and your love for all of God’s people,
5 which comes from your confident hope of what God has reserved for you in heaven. You have had this expectation ever since you first heard the truth of the Good News.
6 This same Good News that came to you is going out all over the world. It is bearing fruit everywhere by changing lives, just as it changed your lives from the day you first heard and understood the truth about God’s wonderful grace.

The Good News is changing lives all over the world.

15 Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation.
16 For through Him God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth. He made the things we can see and the things we can’t see – such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world. Everything was created through Him and for Him.
17 he existed before anything else, and He holds all creation together.
18. Christ is also the head of the Church, which is His body. He is the beginning, supreme over all who rise from the dead. So He is first in everything.
19 For God in all His fullness was pleased to live in Christ,
10 and through Him God reconciled everything to Himself. He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of Christ’s blood on the cross.
21 This includes you who were once far away from God, you were His enemies, separated from Him by your evil thoughts and actions.
22 Yet now He has reconciled you to Himself through the death of Christ in His physical body. As a result, He has brought you into His own presence, and you are holy and blameless and you stand before Him without a single fault.
23 But you must continue to believe this truth and stand firm in it. Don’t drift away from the assurance you received when you heard the Good News. The Good News has been preached all over the world, and I, Paul, have been appointed as God’s servant to proclaim it.

This includes you: You stand before God without a single fault.

Colossians 1
25 God has given me the responsibility of serving His Church by proclaiming His entire message to you.
26 This message was kept secret for centuries and generations past, but now it has been revealed to God’s people.
27 For God wanted them to know that the riches and glory of Christ are for you Gentiles, too. And this is the secret: Christ lives in you. This gives you assurance of sharing His glory.
28 So we tell others about Christ, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all the wisdom God has given us. We want to present them to God, perfect in their relationship to Christ.
29 That’s why I work and struggle so hard, depending on Christ’s mighty power that works within me.

We should work hard but we must depend on Christ who lives in us.

These truths will never change! This is the truth unvarnished …