John 17:17, “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth”
Our Key Verse – Colossians 2:6-7, “Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, 7 rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving”
Our Text – Colossians 2:1-7
Our Theme – Christ is the source of all wisdom for spiritual growth
The Baptist church where I’m a member is over a hundred fifty years old. We are so very thankful for what the Lord has done during this time, having carried us through many trials and difficult times to grant to us a loving fellowship of believers in Christ. However, we can’t assume the spiritual condition of our church will always be like it is today. Things can quickly change in any church and there are numerous examples of such churches today and more importantly those mentioned in Scripture. Many churches have grown spiritually and have experienced a wonderful sense of God’s Spirit at work; while others have drifted so far away from the truth in denying essential key areas of sound Biblical doctrine such as the Virgin Birth, Christ’s sinless life and His Bodily Resurrection. Countless churches today have embraced worldly philosophies rather than holding to the inherent, infallible, inspired and Eternal Word of God. Paul knew that anything could happen in the church at Colossae. So he struggled over them both in prayer and action. Our study calls for each of us to carry on this same struggle for our local church and others around us.
Are you burdened for the church? To be more exact are you burdened for your church where you attend regularly? In today’s study the apostle Paul had not physically been part of the church at Colossae because he had never been in the city as far as we know. Yet, he stated that he had “a great struggle” on behalf of the Colossae church and the others in the Lycus Valley. What caught my attention was if Paul could have such a struggle for a church he had never been physically a part of, how much more we should be concerned for our own church, that we’re a part of. The word for struggle pictures an athletic contest wherein a person strains with his or her whole being, facing the demands of the contest with it taking a toll on their body. Paul’s struggle isn’t physical but spiritual. It brought him to prayer and action through exhortation. Why? Because the church is more than an organization, it is the body of Christ, indwelled by the Holy Spirit, purchased by the blood of Christ, and representative of Christ in a fallen world. Shouldn’t we also join the apostle in struggling for the church of Jesus Christ? Our desire should be to see the church of Christ to be unwavering, strong in Biblical truth and doctrine wherein God will be uplifted and glorified.
I submit to you there is a lack of interest in today’s society regarding the church and its membership. In many countries around the world multitudes of people are dying because they have professed faith and trust in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord of their life; while in our part of the world the prevailing attitude toward the church is almost nonexistent. Many are unconcerned concerning what it even means to be part of the church and more specifically a local church. They give no thought to the spiritual condition of the church as long as there are plenty of social and recreational activities. Many take their covenant vows of membership too lightly or not at all. They discredit their baptism which first identified them with Christ’s body. They mock the Lord’ Supper where they partake of Christ’s body and blood as fellow-members of Christ’s body. It is demonstrated over and over in the lack of concern about faithfulness, participation, and responsibility in the local church. None of us are apostles; however, I believe we need to join the Apostle Paul in struggling for the stability, purity, and life of the local church. We cannot be presumptuous about the church as though it will do just fine (that is what Satan wants us to do). We need to rethink once again about what it truly means to be a Christian and especially a member of a local body of believers in your church, or in any other church.
Focus on the Scripture
This particular portion of Scripture in Colossians is the continued personal commentary of the Apostle Paul on the focus and goal of his ministry, beginning in Colossians 1:23, “If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister”. These verses contain Paul’s desires and goals for this church over 2,000 years ago. His goals and instructions would be the same for our church as it was for the church in Colossae and Laodicea. Can you imagine the Apostle Paul going to your church this coming Sunday to bring you instruction on how to glorify God, by living in such a way, as to exalt Jesus Christ in all that we do? To get at the heart of what Paul desires from the church at Colossae is to get at the heart of what God wants from our church in our time. When I say “church” I don’t mean the establishment that cares more about its building than it does the people in it, or the “church” that is a social club for religious hypocrites. When I speak of the “church” I mean that living organism, which is the body of Christ, comprised of Christ followers who love and follow Him and are called together to worship God with their whole life. The Apostle Paul loves this kind of “church” because this is the kind of church he is guiding the Colossians to become and this is the kind of church that Paul beckons us to become also!
When Pilate interrogated Jesus, he asked, “What is truth?” The answer was within his reach. Jesus, who is the Truth, stood before him. Through the centuries, people have continued to ask, “What is truth?” So, if we don’t know what truth is, then how will we know if the answer is correct or not? The atheists have concluded that there is no meaning in life, and their definition of truth is that man is the source of all truth. Truth is something that is without error. God, the Creator, states in His Word that He is the truth (John 14:6), which means that His Word also is the inerrant truth (John 17:17)! If God’s Word had error in it, then ultimately we couldn’t trust what it states to be truth; however, this isn’t the case because God is infallible, perfect, reliable and flawless (i.e., without error). Why then, would people rather trust fallible man over infallible God? God’s Word comes with the authority of God.
We have to know that God’s Word is the truth, so we can trust it as our authority in every area of our life. Even if the atheists speak authoritatively, it does not mean that they have the truth. So when people ask questions like the one above, we will know where to look because God’s Word is the truth. Sadly, most people, including Christians, end up trusting fallible man and his opinions over God’s Word in order to learn “truth.” Compromising on the truth, God’s Word, by adding man’s opinions to Scripture leads people (including our children) to think that Scripture is, in fact, not the authority of truth. This allows a person to conclude that if one part of Scripture is not true, then the rest might not be true, so “let’s throw out God’s Word, because it is not inerrant and infallible after all.” This is why it is so very important to understand that God’s Word is the truth, inerrant, infallible and as the Psalmist stated, “Forever, oh LORD, thy Word is settled in Heaven”.
I. Grasping the Truth – (2:1-3)
A. The Objects of Paul’s Concern.
(2:1, “For I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you and for those at Laodicea and for all who have not seen me face to face”)
Like a parent, the apostle Paul was very concerned about his readers. He wanted only the best for them. As a matter of fact, he agonized over them. However, he was under arrest in Rome and unable to have a face-to-face chat with them. Paul specifically mentioned his concern for the Colossians and the Laodiceans.
B. The Objectives of Paul’s Concern.
(2:2-3, “that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ, 3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge”)
Paul wanted God’s best for all the believers in the Lycus Valley. First of all, he strongly desired that “their hearts may be encouraged” (2:2). The Greek word for “comfort” comes from a union of the word for “call” and the word for “alongside.” The fact that the Holy Spirit is called alongside us forever should encourage us greatly. The word “comforted” means “encouraged.” Jesus used a form of this word to identify the Holy Spirit (John 14:16-17). Paul wanted to make sure the Lycus Valley believers’ eyes were opened to the truth and not dimmed by the claims they heard from the Gnostics. The believers in the two churches were also trying to figure out how to handle the false teachings of the Gnostics. This problem opened the door for potential disagreement among the believers. Paul wanted their hearts to be “knit together in love” (2:2). They would renew their love for one another and God, if they kept their eyes on the Christ that they knew at their salvation, rather than the watered-down Christ the Gnostics presented to them. The true treasure is in Christ (v. 3). The Gnostics insisted that knowledge is secret and accessible only to a few individuals. However, Paul wanted his readers to understand that “all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” are stored in Christ and are accessible to those who know Christ as Savior (v. 3). The mystery he mentioned in verse 2 is God’s revelation that Christ is the source of all wisdom, knowledge and truth.
He further prayed that these believers might be joined and kept together in the unity of love. Solitary believers are apt to be weak believers, for in this sphere as in all others “union is strength.” If Christian individuals are not truly knit together, the cause of Christ may suffer, for through the separation caused by division the enemy can keep thrusting his darts which must be circumvented alone. A believer or church practicing separateness and exclusiveness because of nonessential differences of opinion or policy is one of the best wedges of Satan and one of his most effective workers. That is why the apostle elsewhere urges believers earnestly to strive “to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3). One of the greatest powers that Satan wields today is due to disunion among the genuine people of God. It is true of the Christian home, congregation, and denomination that this wedge of discord can become one of the enemy’s most powerful weapons. On the other hand, where the brethren are able to “dwell together in unity,” there the Lord commands His blessing (Psalm 13 3:3). This unity, however, is only possible “in love.” It is the love of God to us that unites us to Him and it will be the love of God in us that unites us to our brethren.
II. Guarding the Truth – (2:4-5)
A. We Need to Guard the Truth. (2:4, “I say this in order that no one may delude you with plausible arguments”)
God’s truth is a priceless treasure. The psalmist declared, “The law of thy mouth is better unto me than thousands of gold and silver’ (Psalm 119:72). The word “delude” in this verse refers to someone using what seems to be good, rational, and even believable arguments that are not biblical to draw the Colossians and believers today away from the Truth. Does this happen often today? You better believe it does. “Plausible arguments” simply means the ability to talk someone into something even though it is based on wrong conclusions. We need to be like the Bereans and check out what we hear from the pulpit, evangelist and teachers against the immovable Word of God. As members of the Body of Christ, we have the responsibility to study the Scriptures so we can effectively discern the presence of false teaching, those who try to sell a new and improved means of salvation.
True wisdom and knowledge are found only in Christ. Jesus cannot be improved upon. He is the ultimate and perfect treasure. Even an attempt to tweak Him a little bit here or there is a failure to recognize Him for the treasure that He already is. Paul wanted those in Colosse and Laodicea to be satisfied with Jesus Christ as He was and to reject the Gnostics. A pastor shared that while he was a seminary student, religious tolerance was invading the association to which his home church belonged. One of his professors, known for his fatherly charm and gentleness, alleged that the virgin birth of Christ is a myth; the Cross, a mistake; and the Resurrection, a hoax. Hearing these assaults on Christ from the mouth of such a highly respected professor unsettled him at first. Then the words of a hymn pulled him back to firm theological ground, “On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand, All other ground is sinking sand.” Sometimes religious deception comes packaged in persuasive, smooth talking, gentle teachers, but believers can never go wrong if they draw their wisdom and knowledge from Christ and God’s Word.
B. Something to Rejoice Over
(2:5, “For though I am absent in body, yet I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good order and the firmness of your faith in Christ”)
The Colossians had received the truth, and they were living testimonials that the truth works. Although Paul was in Rome when he wrote the Colossian letter, he was with the Colossian believers ‘in the spirit” (2:5). Paul expresses that from what he had learned of the church, he could rejoice over them, in their “good order. Or it could be rendered good discipline.” The word was used in military circles and referred to “order.” It might be the condition of troops in the field being found in proper order for the battle before them. The translation helps us to grasp what Paul meant by this. We might paraphrase it, “you are living the way you are supposed to be living as Christians.” They were giving attention to their spiritual lives and the graces which are necessary for spiritual maintenance. We might summarize some of these things in the opening greeting Paul gives in Colossians 1:3-8. These believers had a:
(1) Faith anchored in Jesus Christ alone;
(2) Vibrant love for their fellow-believers;
(3) Lively hope in Christ;
(4) Fruitfulness in their grasp and application of the Word;
(5) Consistency in growth;
(6) Teachable spirit; and
(7) Love orchestrated by the Holy Spirit.
But they had not arrived spiritually! There was much more room to increase, and there was certainly concern to maintain their spiritual maturity. Paul refers to “the stability of your faith in Christ.” Again, Paul uses a military term which points to “a solid front.” It pictures a people who were anchored in the truth of Christ and Him crucified. Though they were surrounded by false teachers trying to delude them, their ranks were unbroken. They still trusted in Christ without retreating to some claim of personal merits. The effort on the part of all the membership in exercising spiritual disciplines to increase spiritual growth is not a luxury but a necessity. Stability through a lively faith in Christ is ongoing, not merely decisional. I think it is no accident that Paul uses military terminology at this point. Effective military units do not just happen. They work hard at their discipline and attitude to be prepared for whatever kind of battle they may face. The church must have this same posture. When it does, it is certainly something to rejoice over! Although we may think we can succeed on our own, the New Testament teaches that we need one another.
IV. Growing in the Truth – (2:6-7)
A. By Walking in Christ.
(2:6, “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him”)
While writing this study my thoughts were of the time I lived in Washington, DC … looking at the map of the Washington, DC area, I knew I could do it. The boarding house I was staying in was centrally located off Thomas Circle in downtown DC. I wanted to see the Capital Building which was approximately twelve blocks from the boarding house. A nice walk on a sunny Saturday morning would be good for me. I could have taken a cab or bus, but if I really wanted to see the DC area, I knew walking was the way to go and so I did. Hearing the sounds, smelling the smells of the various pastry shops, studying the people, watching the traffic and visiting the shops along the way, I really felt like a part of Washington, DC. Although, it took some time and effort, it was well worth both. You might be asking what this has to do with this study. Well, as we travel this journey we call the Christian life, we face a similar choice. We can take the easy route, depending on others to give us all our instructions, short-cutting our way past a good prayer-life, or speed-reading a passage of Scripture and calling it “devotions.”
Or we can make the effort and take the time to get into the Word and closer to God. Why not take a long walk with God today, tomorrow and the next day? As you map out your course, choose to “seek Him with your whole heart”, study His Word, and obey what He says, because such a walk through His precious Word will be a most delightful experience! For the believer in Christ, you started out with faith in Him, after recognizing your sinfulness and a need for a Savior, when you asked God to forgive your sins. You were a baby in Christ; however, you don’t stop there! No one who has put their faith in Christ can afford to let spiritual growth and maturity start and stop with only one act of spiritual surrender. Your salvation must be followed by spiritual growth wherein you are weaned off the “milk of the Word” and start enjoying the “meat of the Word”. My friend, keep your heart and mind open to the Word and the leading of the Holy Spirit, be receptive and obedient to it, and above all as the Scriptures tell us, “…grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ”. I’m afraid there are too many who should be on the front lines in their spiritual growth but are still in basic training.
The Christian life should be progressive active walk rather than inactive one. Every believer in Christ should to be growing in the faith. The maturing believer will be walking in Christ, settled in the faith, and abounding with gratitude. The Colossian believers had received a person, Jesus Christ. It is extremely important to understand that salvation depends upon a relationship with Jesus Christ rather than upon a mere intelligent agreement to doctrinal statements about Christ. James exposed the lifelessness of invalid faith. He wrote in James 2:19 that “devils also believe, and tremble.” A person may attend Sunday school in a Bible believing church from the cradle to the grave; however, the person’s long record of perfect attendance can’t save him or her. A person may have verbatim knowledge of the church constitution, including its statement of faith and covenant, but lack salvation. Correct doctrine leads us to Christ, but He does the saving. The only way to be saved is to believe on Jesus Christ as Savior (John 1:12; Acts 16:31; Romans 10:13). Having received Christ Jesus, we must walk in Him. We received Him by faith; we need to walk in Him by faith. Faith, of course, comes through the Word of God (Romans 10:17). As we study the Bible, we learn what God wants us to be and to do. Recognizing that Jesus Christ is our Lord, we submit to His authority and depend upon Him for the wisdom and strength to honor Him. The word “walk” suggests that Christian living is a progressive experience. Nothing in this life catapults a Christian from spiritual infancy to spiritual maturity. We gradually become like Christ one day at a time and one step at a time. Our spiritual development is described as a walk, not a leap.
B. Being Settled in the Faith.
(2:7a, “rooted and built up in him and established in the faith”)
When the Colossians trusted in Christ as Savior, the Holy Spirit planted them in Christ (1 Corinthians 12:13). They were “rooted and built up in him” (2:7). If the foundation isn’t solid, the superstructure that is built upon it, regardless of its sturdy appearance, will soon crumble and eventually come down or won’t be fit for habitation. The apostle Paul used the metaphor of a building to warn us that we who have made Jesus Christ the foundation of our faith can still build a poor superstructure. We do this when we use materials like “wood, hay, straw,” which can’t stand the fire test. These combustibles represent wrong doctrines and careless behavior; every thought and deed that is false, impure, or worthless. If we build with these qualities, our lives will accomplish little of eternal value. The Bible speaks of our lives as buildings (2 Corinthians. 5:1) and describes for us the kind of foundation upon which our life must be built. Thus, our life will be different if we use gold, silver, and precious stones! These valuable elements stand for materials of a lasting quality. Our life is a process of building, and for to it to weather the storms, it must be built on a solid foundation. My friend, Jesus Christ is that solid foundation (I Corinthians 3:11). In addition to a good foundation, quality materials, ingredients, and workmanship must also go into the building.
From the first century until now, false philosophies and religions have given their adherents only to empty promises and unfounded claims. From first-century Gnosticism to twenty-first century New Age, every system of error has failed to give lasting peace and eternal hope. Having been rooted in Christ, the Colossians were to be “built up in him, and established in the faith” (v. 7). Just as a structurally sound building rests on a firm foundation, so the Christian life rests on Christ the Solid Rock. Having Christ as their foundation, believers build their lives on Him, layer by layer. They find that “the faith” provides all the building materials they need. The Colossians didn’t need the Gnostics’ “building materials.” Having been taught the faith, they had everything they needed.
Foundations are paramount in regards to solid growth. You wouldn’t try to build a skyscraper without first preparing the foundation and making sure you were on solid ground? And if the quality of the building is poorly constructed, the devastation is the greatest. We all know that weak buildings don’t survive very well during an earthquake, and so it is in our spiritual life. Many people do well when their life is going well; however, when the storms of difficulty crash upon them they begin to fall apart. Why? Because their life is built upon a weak foundation of their own human abilities. As long as their problems aren’t greater than their own ability to cope with them, all is well, on the surface, but when the problems grow larger than their own inner strength, they crumble. Thus, without a solid foundation they cannot cope with the seismic shocks of life.
C. By Abounding with Gratitude
(2:7b, “abounding in thanksgiving”) – As we grow in the truth, we find more and more reasons to be thankful. We abound in the faith “with thanksgiving” (v. 7). We discover in Christ all we need to be content and productive. Just as a well-fed person would reject scraps of food from a garbage can and with believers who daily feed on God’s Word find it easy to reject false doctrines. From a full heart we give thanks to God our Creator for all that we have in Christ Jesus, which is: A love that can never be fathomed; a life that can never die; a peace that can never be understood; a rest that can never be disturbed; a joy that can never be diminished; a hope that can never be disappointed; a glory that can never be clouded; a happiness that can never be interrupted; a light that can never be extinguished; a strength that can never be overcome; a beauty that can never be marred; a purity that can never be defiled and resources that can never be exhausted. Thus, my friend and brethren, we are “complete in him” (v. 10).
Further reflection and thoughts:
Grand juries. Investigations. Accusations and denials. Special prosecutors. News leaks. Criminal trials. Civil suits. Too often the guilty are acquitted and justice takes a back seat. It seems that getting to the truth is just about impossible. Many people have given up on truth. They say things like, “Nothing is true for everyone all the time.” Is that true? No! It’s like saying, “All statements are false.” But if all statements are false, so is that one. It’s self-contradictory. We call this modern form of thinking relativism. Relativism is the belief that there is no absolute truth, but that all truth is relative to each situation. As believers and follows of Christ, we believe in absolute truth and base our convictions on the Bible, which says that Jesus is the truth (John 1:14-17; 14:6). When He prayed for His friends, He asked His heavenly Father to “sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth” (John 17:17). Whatever God says is always true. Why? Because He created everything (John 1:1-3), He knows everything (Hebrews 4:13), and He cannot lie (Hebrews 6:18). Even though we may not know the truth about everything that’s happening around us, we can take comfort in this, “We know the One who always speaks the truth!”
To close this study my thoughts were of Jesus when He talked to Nicodemus about the new birth and eternal life, He spoke “under oath.” Notice how He prefaced His words in John 3:11, “Most assuredly, I say to you.” He used the Greek phrase “amen, amen,” which can also be translated “verily, verily,” “truly, truly,” or “I tell you the truth.” In the gospel of John, Jesus used the phrase 25 times. In his book The Unity of the Bible, Daniel Fuller writes, “Jesus … did not speak for God but as being God Himself. Of all the biblical spokespersons, only Jesus attached amen to His own statements, thereby declaring that He Himself as God had the authority to affirm His teaching as reliable and true.” Thus, the words of our Lord are the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. So my brethren, believe them and obey them, because knowing the truth is a matter of life or death!
Christ Himself is the truth – we need nothing more.