Grace For The Journey
One memorable movie of the 1980s is film “St. Elmo’s Fire” with Andrew McCarthy as Kevin Dolenz. McCarthy’s character is an obituary writer obsessed with discovering the meaning of life. Throughout the movie he is forever asking others, “What is the meaning of life?” As I recall, his perpetual sullenness while pursuing the answer was at times annoying to the other characters. Fortunately for Dolenz, he apparently learns something of the answer as he publishes an article on the topic, proudly displaying his name in the byline.
The search for “the meaning of life” is a common pursuit of reflective people. We want to know whether life has any real meaning – and what the “next life” holds, if there is such a thing. We want to experience the fullness of our existence.
In Colossians 2:1-7, Paul, as he writes under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, teaches that the meaning of life is bound up in Jesus Christ. He suggests that if one were to go searching for the riches of ultimate meaning and significance, he would find in Christ “all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Verse 3).
As we study the passage in today’s blog, let’s remember that Paul is writing this letter mainly to address false teachings that were going on in the church at Colossae. There were teachers there who had been influenced by a brand of Greek philosophy that was becoming popular in that day. Much of this Greek thinking centered upon the notion of mystery and secret, hidden knowledge or meaning.
These false teachers suggested to the Christians in Colossae that . .
It was one thing to have Christ, But
If one really wanted to grow in Christ
And really wanted to experience
Profound spiritual blessings,
Then there was something that needed
To be added to Christ;
Something to supplement their faith.
Their teaching was, in essence:
“You have Christ and that’s good,
But listen now to our secret teachings
And you will have so much more.”
Paul counters that false teaching with the truth that . . .
Every Christian has all
That he or she needs
In Christ Jesus.
And in writing this letter, Paul uses some of the false teacher’s same words in refuting their teachings. That’s why he writes of Christ as the “mystery.”
Remember that word from yesterday’s blog? The mystery is “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” (Colossians 1:27). And the point is, “There is no secret knowledge a Christian needs or some hidden mystery the Christian must solve. Christ is the preeminent One, the source and substance of all knowledge.”
In essence, Paul says . .
1) Know What You Have In Christ.
What do you have in Christ? What does every Christian possess? All the glorious riches of Christ! Paul says in Christ “are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” In a word: “everything.” You have everything in Christ.
In fact, in Paul’s sister letter, the letter to the Ephesians, he describes this same “mystery” as the “unsearchable riches of Christ” (Ephesians 3:8). Unsearchable riches! In other words . . .
There is no end to the storehouse
Of blessings and treasures in Christ.
They are endless; boundless.
As chapter 2 begins, you can really see the heart of the apostle as he is at pains to teach this completeness of the believer in Christ:
In verse 1 he says, “For I want you to know what a great conflict I have for you and those in Laodicea, and for as many as have not seen my face in the flesh (met me personally).” Note the word “conflict.” It is the same word translated “striving” in the previous verse, verse 29 of chapter 1. It is the word from which we get our English, “agony,” to agonize. In essence, Paul says, “I am in agony for you all as I write to you! I’m really wanting you to know that you have everything you need in Christ.”
Someone has suggested that Paul may just as likely have said something like, “You know, when Epaphras shared with me about the church there, about what was going on, and about how some of these teachers got into the congregation there at Colossae and began teaching that you needed to add things to your belief in Christ, may heart just broke for you.” Paul is agonizing over the Christians. He’s saying, “I just want to encourage you to know what you have in Christ.” He’s wanting to encourage all the believers in Colossae:
Verse 2 goes on to say, “That their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, and attaining to all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the knowledge of the mystery of God, both of the Father and of Christ.” That last phrase is best translated as “to the knowledge of the mystery of God, which is Christ Himself.” That’s how most of the modern translations have it and we know already from verse 27 that Christ Himself is the mystery.
The profound revelation of God
To the believer is “Christ in you,”
A personal knowledge of God,
And a personal relationship with God,
That comes by grace, through faith, in Jesus Christ.
Paul writes to encourage the Colossians, desiring also that their hearts are “knit together in love.” Imagine yourself an individual strand of fabric. Your fellow Christian believers are also strands of fabric; a bunch of individual strands. Paul seeks to weave all believers together in unity. He seeks to weave all these strands together into a beautiful quilt with fantastic color, order, and symmetry. What can knit all Christians together as one beautiful quilt? Love – “being knit together in love.”
Love is what keeps a congregation together. As Neil Sedaka wrote in the 70s, “Love will keep us together!” Paul doesn’t like the fact that some false teachers have worked to not keep the congregation together. Their false teachings had fractioned the church and divided the church. Paul is teaching that there is not one “select” group of folks in the church who have some sort of “hidden knowledge.” He says . . .
Who has Christ,
Verses says, “In whom (Christ) are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” One scholar describes it this way: “Hidden not in the sense of being utterly beyond our reach, but rather as treasures in a mine which has already been opened, and from which by diligent search a constant supply of precious stones may be extracted.” Paul wants his readers to know what they have in Christ! Every believer has in Christ “all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” And it is this knowing what you have that propels you forward in joy and thanksgiving.
Paul describes the ultimate consequence of our knowing what we have at the end of verse 7 where he says it causes the Christian to “abound in thanksgiving.”
When we know what we have in Christ
It just causes our hearts to overflow
In gratitude and thanksgiving,
Causing us to bless others
With the love we ourselves have received.
2) Know What You Believe About Christ.
Paul reminds the Christians what they have in Christ so that they are not deceived by false teachers telling them they don’t have everything they need. Verse 4 says, “Now this I say lest anyone should deceive you with persuasive words.” To be deceived is “to be led to believe something as true that is not true.” And . . .
How can we keep ourselves
From believing something
That is not true?
By knowing what is true!
Knowing what we believe.
Knowing the Bible.
Verse 5 says, “For though I am absent in the flesh, yet I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good order and the steadfastness of your faith in Christ.” Paul is saying, “Though I can’t be with you physically, I am with you spiritually.” And he adds, “I rejoice to see your good order and,” – and this is a great phrase at the end of verse 5 – “and the steadfastness of your faith.” The word “steadfastness” is better translated, “firmness” It is the same word used by Luke as a verb where he describes the strengthening of the paralytic’s leg outside the temple gate (Acts 3:7).
Paul celebrates . . .
The strengthening of their faith,
The “firmness” of their faith.
How does our faith become firm?
By knowing what we believe.
By the teaching of sound doctrine, correct theology.
Remember that right theology is absolutely critical to our lives.
Right thinking leads to right living.
3) Know How You Live For Christ.
Verse 6 declares, “As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him.” The majority of the translations have verse 6 as, “Live in Him,” or, “Go on living in Him.” That’s because the word “walk” in the Bible is often used metaphorically for “living.”
Your Christian “walk”
The way you live your faith.
This is at least as old as Psalm 1:1, “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful.”
Know how you live for Christ. You have “received Christ Jesus the Lord (verse 6).”
Remember that “Lord” means “Ruler, The One in charge.” He is more important to the Christian than spouse, girlfriend, boyfriend, job, sport, money, and stuff. He is Lord. So, “As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him.” So live in Him.
Verse 7 tells us how we are to live in him, “Rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving.” We must be “rooted and built up” in the faith so that we are not easily uprooted or broken down. When I was in college I worked for a landscaping company in the growing Atlanta area. There’s no telling how many begonias I planted or how many mums or pansies. Those pansies, in particular, were so feeble and frail. You could plant those little annuals in a flower bed and all it took was one rain, or one strong gust of wind, or one clumsy foot to knock those little things over on their side. You’d pick them back up and try to plant them again, but there’s hardly any root system to those things; just like a few tiny strings.
Contrast the root system of those pansies with the root system of box hollies, like the ones someone planted in a customer’s yard. They had been there for over 40 years ago. The owner tried killing one of those hollies. He took a pickax to it and struck it over and over again, chopping up its hard roots into small pieces and covering it all up with dirt. But by the following spring he began to see little tiny holly leaves growing up out of the soil. A box holly is not easily uprooted!
What Paul is says is . . .
Don’t be a fragile,
Tiny pansy of a Christian.
Don’t be someone
With no “root system”
Of biblical knowledge.
Never be satisfied
With a small, infantile grasp
Of the first teachings
of the Christian faith.
Grow Deep And Grow Strong!
Get in the Word. Know what you have, and what you believe, and then you will know how to live. You will be a hardy, sturdy, unmovable, box holly that cannot be easily uprooted. When someone tries to sell you on some sort of false teaching, you’ll recognize it right away as error. And you will remain firm in the faith.
And when the winds blow and the storms of life come your way, and the difficulties and dangers of living in a fallen world strike at you like a pickax to the wood of a hardy shrub, you will not be defeated. You will remain firm in Christ. You will be living in the fulness of “the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” that are ours in Christ.
This is God’s Word …
This is Grace for your Journey …
Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!
Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”
Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”