Colossians 2:1-7

All of us hear our share of weird statements about our work. That is because people who never did our work do not understand our work. I do not understand the work that many of you do, and many of you do not understand the work I do. I would not swap jobs with many of you, and many of you would not swap jobs with me.

Is it not true that some people admire you because they cannot understand how you do what you do? Is it not true that some people think you "have it made"?

Both reactions are frequently expressed to me concerning my work. This week someone said in all sincerity, "I do not see how you do it. How do you do what you do week after week?" And there are people who think I "have it made." "You just have to talk two or three times a week, and really you just work hard one day a week."

When we were on the mission field we received letters from American friends who said, "I do not see how you live in those conditions." At that same time, we had visits from African friends who wanted to be as prosperous as we were.

Consider a thought that most of us will acknowledge to be true. Meaningful work that produces blessings always requires sacrifice and the determined commitment.

  1. Paul never visited the Christians who lived at Colossae.
    1. He invested a major effort to teach in the city of Ephesus.
      1. Acts 19 states that Paul taught in the Jewish synagogue for three months, then left that teaching environment because some in the synagogue publicly spoke evil of his teachings (Acts 19:8,9).
      2. He then began teaching daily in the school of Tyrannus for two years (Acts 19:9,10).
        1. As a result, people throughout Asia heard the word of the Lord.
        2. People came to Ephesus from all over Asia.
        3. Some of these visitors studied with Paul and took what they learned home with them.
        4. On occasions Paul sent men to specific cities to study with the people.
        5. Paul's work in Ephesus produced the congregation in Colossae.
      3. When this congregation heard that Paul, their spiritual mentor, was in prison, it had to discourage them.
        1. Paul also was concerned by the report he received about the focus and foundation of the Colossian Christians' faith.
        2. So, from prison, Paul wrote them a letter, and we call this letter Colossians.
    2. Read with me Colossians 2:1-7.
      For I want you to know how great a struggle I have on your behalf and for those who are at Laodicea, and for all those who have not personally seen my face, that their hearts may be encouraged, having been knit together in love, and attaining to all the wealth that comes from the full assurance of understanding, resulting in a true knowledge of God's mystery, that is, Christ Himself, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. I say this so that no one will delude you with persuasive argument. For even though I am absent in body, nevertheless I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good discipline and the stability of your faith in Christ. Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, 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.

  2. Paul wanted them to realize that it was not easy for him to do what he did.
    1. I do not think that Paul was making a pitch for their sympathy.
      1. In this letter Paul emphasized some sobering truths.
      2. It was extremely important for them to consider carefully the things Paul shared in this letter.
      3. It was spiritually critical for them to understand the importance of Jesus Christ.
    2. How they received what Paul said would be greatly influenced by their view of Paul.
      1. If they saw Paul's life as a life of convenience, that would affect the way they received his message.
      2. If they understood that Paul struggled, and they were partially the cause for his struggles, they would receive his message quite differently.
      3. Paul said, "I want you to know that I greatly struggle for you."
      4. "My struggles are not just for you, but for all the Christians in that region that have never seen me in person."
    3. Paul wanted them to have four experiences.
      1. He wanted their hearts to be encouraged.
      2. He wanted them to be knit together in love; he wanted a powerful closeness based on love to bind them together.
      3. He wanted them to discover and possess the wealth.
      4. He wanted them to have the complete assurance that is produced by understanding.
    4. Those four things would be the result of this essential knowledge: they had to have true knowledge of God's mystery.
      1. Last Sunday night we discussed Paul's use of the word mystery.
      2. A mystery was something that had been hidden in the past but was now clearly revealed.
      3. The true knowledge of God's mystery was based on knowing Jesus Christ.
      4. Let's use a question to focus our understanding on Paul's point: how can you understand God and what He is doing?
      5. There were different ideas at Colossae about how a person could understand God and determine what God was doing.
        1. Some thought the way to know God and understand what He did was to possess a special kind of knowledge that only a few people had.
        2. Some thought the way to know God and what He did was to approach God through mysterious sets of mediators in the other world.
        3. Some thought the way to know God and what He did was to use the self-denial of asceticism.
        4. Some thought the way to know God and what He did was to practice the correct religious rites.
      6. Paul said that there is only one way to understand God and what He does: the only way is to understand Jesus Christ.
        1. All the treasures of God's wisdom are hidden in Jesus Christ.
        2. All the treasures of God's knowledge are hidden in Jesus Christ.
        3. You do not need a mysterious knowledge that is not available to most people.
        4. You do not need some divine forces in the other world to be your guide.
        5. You do not need to practice self-denial in pointless ways as though it produced spiritual power.
        6. You do not need to learn a secret set of religious rites.
        7. You need to develop and grow in your knowledge of Jesus Christ.
      7. Paul said, "I am telling you this so no one else can delude you (mislead you through deception) by making you believe it takes something more than Jesus Christ to understand God's work and purposes."
        1. "My body may be away in prison, but I am with you in spirit."
        2. "I want to rejoice in your good discipline: I want the joy of knowing you will continue to place your faith in Christ and not place it in something else."
        3. "I want to rejoice because you stabilize your faith by putting it in Jesus Christ."
      8. "Never forget what you received in Jesus Christ."
        1. Jesus Christ died on the cross for them to destroy their sins.
        2. Jesus Christ gave them the assurance of resurrection from the dead.
        3. Jesus Christ made them spiritually alive.
        4. Jesus Christ made them God's children.
        5. Jesus Christ placed them in God's kingdom as citizens.
        6. Jesus Christ placed them in God's family.
        7. Jesus Christ was their constant access to the grace and mercy of God.
      9. "When you decide how you are going to live and act on a day by day basis, remember what Jesus Christ did for you."
        1. Be firmly rooted in Jesus Christ.
        2. Be built up in Jesus Christ.
        3. Establish your faith in Jesus Christ.
        4. This is what you were taught.
      10. When you realize all that God has done and is doing for you in Jesus Christ, overflow with gratitude.

I want you to see something very clearly. Christians at Colossae placed their faith in something other than Jesus Christ. Christians believed that the key to understanding God was something other than understanding and trusting Jesus Christ. Christians believed that the key to salvation was something other than understanding and trusting Jesus Christ.

That should frighten all of us. It should frighten us to know that people who call themselves the "Christ-like ones" can build their spiritual identity and existence on something besides Christ. It should frighten us to examine our own lives and the church and see how little is actually based on our knowledge, our understanding, and our trust of Jesus Christ.

We discover God's eternal wealth when this happens: we have a true knowledge of God's mystery. The true knowledge of God's mystery is Jesus Christ.

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Evening Sermon, 11 June 2000
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