Introduction to Colossians part 1

18 Jul

I wonder if you can think back to when you first became a Christian or at least when you were in the beginning stages. I want you to think about some of the basic truths you started to understand and confess as a new or at least beginning believer.

It’s not like you have to even go all that deep.

Maybe creation.

Or the fall.

Or the incarnation.

Maybe redemption.

Or we can keep going, the future restoration.

If you look at the way some people talk and act and feel and sing about some of these things you might go away thinking that those truths are really kind of ordinary but I think if you slow down and even just say them out loud to yourself, like I believe that, you’ll have to admit that even those like really basic truths that we believed all the way back when we first were converted, are actually quite shocking.

I believe that the way things started, there was nothing and then God spoke and there was something. An entire universe. From a word.

I believe that all of the problems we have in this world ultimately go back to this man and this woman in a garden who refused to listen to what God said.

I believe that God the Son became man and when I say he became man I don’t mean He just took on the form of a man, but that He somehow united Himself to human nature in such a way that we could say He was fully God and fully man and that He did all this not because He needed to but because He wanted to, and He wanted to so that these people who were hating him could enter into an eternal relationship with Him.

I believe that God the Son became man and died like a criminal on a cross. Crucified. Because of what we did. And then he rose again.

I believe that there is this day in the future when Jesus is going to return and bodies are going to start flying out of the grave and meet their souls in mid-air and be transformed somehow into these glorious bodies that are going to enjoy the presence of God forever in this perfect new world that God is going to create.

If you look back at what you received when you became a Christian, you weren’t just picking up some nice little tips on how to live a better life. It wasn’t like you went to this seminar and you thought the guy had some good ideas about how to be a better person or something like that.

When you became a Christian you were basically receiving this shocking, alternative view of reality, this way of looking at what has gone on in this world and what is going on in this world and what is going to go on in this world that is completely different than the way you looked at it all before.

It’s not like this nice little thing that you can put in a compartment over here and have it not affect every other area of your life. When you became a Christian, you were embracing this whole new of thinking and looking at every area of your life and really a big part of growing in your Christian life is learning to look at everything in light of this new reality.

If you think about most of the New Testament this is what the writers are trying to help people do.

Take Paul on marriage.

This is reality.

God designed marriage to be a picture of Jesus’ relationship with the church. And this is how you are to live in light of this reality.

Or maybe Paul in Colossians 2:6, the theme verse, really the point of the whole book:

“Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him.”

As you have received.

Paul’s looking back to what they learned when they first became Christians and he is saying that they need to live their lives in light of that reality.

That’s the way they started and that is what had been happening and that is how they need to keep going.

Verse 7:

“Having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed and overflowing with gratitude.”

Your faith.

Probably not personal trust but doctrine.

The faith. Objective truth.

Paul is saying you were rooted in these fundamental realities and now your life is changing because of them and as you look ahead that is what needs to keep on happening.

The problem is and this is a major problem, it is that if you look at many people’s lives this whole process of renewing one’s life in light of the new reality that we have received seems to have almost been aborted.

Maybe not completely.

But it is definitely stuck.

They hear the gospel. They become Christians. They get all excited. They learn this whole new language, all these big God-words that they can throw around like sanctification and justification and they become more religious maybe and stuff like that and that is different, but if you look real closely at their fundamental way of looking at reality, that hasn’t changed all that much.

It is not that they out and out reject what they said they embraced when they became Christians, it is like they try to meld or fuse the new view of reality that they have embraced as Christians with the old real view of reality that they used to live by before they became Christians.

There’s a big word you can use for that.

It’s called syncretism.

Trying to blend radically different and even opposite sets of beliefs or ways of looking at the world into one.

And that is basically what motivated Paul to write Colossians. This is kind of the occasion you might say for the letter itself.

The Colossians were fairly new believers.

Paul hadn’t even met them but he had heard about them though through Epaphras who was the man God had used to plant the church there in Colossae.

Probably Epaphras had become a Christian through Paul’s ministry in Ephesus which wasn’t too far from Colossae. Ephesus was kind of the commercial and cultural center of the entire region. If you wanted to come to a big city and see some entertainment and do business maybe, you would come to Ephesus and after doing what you came to do, you would probably go over to this lecture hall, it was called the lecture hall of Tyrannus, that’s where you would have these debates going on and people presenting philosophies and ideas, and Luke tells us in Acts that Paul actually preached the gospel there for two years. (Acts 19) And so I am guessing that Epaphras came up from Colossae, went over to the hall of Tyrannus, heard the gospel, may have been discipled by Paul and then went back to his hometown and started sharing the gospel and the gospel like it was doing all over the world, accomplished some amazing things in the lives of many of those who heard it.

Paul makes that very clear in the first chapter. He talks about their faith in Christ and love for all the saints, and comes back to that and speaks of their love in the Spirit. He describes the gospel as bearing fruit and increasing. And as you might expect, when Paul heard all that, he was pretty excited and even though he hadn’t met the Colossians, his heart went out to them, he loved them.

And yet in spite of all the great stuff he had heard about them, he was concerned for their long term spiritual health. He didn’t just sit down to write a letter because he thought it might be a nice thing to do. It seems that Epaphras, besides telling Paul all the good stuff that was happening, also shared some of the concerns he had for what was going on in Colossae. And his concerns centered in on this, what we might call, heresy. Or even more specifically, he was concerned that the Colossians were beginning to try to combine the view of reality they had learned from Epaphras with this old, worldly way of thinking about things.

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