Study of Colossians

THE APOSTLE’S THANKSGIVING AND PRAYER

Colossians 1:1-14

Introduction: – The author of this epistle is the Apostle

Paul as testified to in verse one. It was written sometime between A.D. 60-64 from Rome where Paul was imprisoned. He had not founded the Colossian church and had probably never seen them. It was founded
apparently through the ministry of Epaphrus, who then kept the Apostle informed about the state and growth of the church.

From the tone and content of the letter, it appears that the church was besieged by being bombarded by errors concerning the person of Christ and the doctrine of sanctification or holiness. These errors
which were a mixture of Judaism, Gnosticism, and the teachings of the Essenes. The basic fault of the errors lay in the fact that they obscured the glory of Christ and that they sought to show that salvation and sanctification were not by grace alone, but came in gaining secret knowledge transmitted by a select few, and by adhering to strict legalistic practices of ritual and self-denial.

From the general good tone of the epistle, we can surmise that the church had not been overtaken by these errors but was perhaps beginning to waver on its sure foundation.

We shall see the following sections as we progress through the epistle:

1. The Apostle’s thanksgiving and prayer

2. The supremacy of the Lord Jesus Christ

3. The Apostle’s labor on behalf of the true gospel

4. The freedom that Christ gives from man-made traditions and legalistic rules

5. Some true rules for holy living, including rules for Christian homes and businesses In this study, we shall examine the Apostle’s thanksgiving and prayer.

The Apostle’s thanksgiving (vv. 3-8) takes place in his continual prayers on behalf of the church. Even though he has never seen the saints in Colossae, he still shares the same concerns for them that he does for the churches he has himself founded. He thanks the Lord for two things namely, FAITH and LOVE.

Their faith is in Christ Jesus. Paul says this to assure them that the basis for true faith lies only in Christ, not in the rules and regulations of mortal men. Their love is for all the saints. Both their faith and love spring from a hope which they have in heaven. Their hope is the promise of present salvation through Christ and the promise of a sure reward now reserved for them in heaven.

Love for the saints should naturally spring from one’s faith in Jesus Christ. Too often we are prone to base our love for someone else upon whether or not we will receive an immediate reward. Our love for
others is to be based upon the hope of a promised future reward from our Lord Jesus Christ.

Only the gospel of Jesus Christ offers a true hope for the future. John Eadie has said:

The truth contained in the gospel throws its radiance beyond the sepulcher, unveils the portals of eternity, and discloses the reality, magnitude, and character of ‘the hope laid up in heaven.’

The gospel of Jesus Christ is not a philosophy to be discussed or disputed, nor is it a ceremony whose observance will guarantee entry into heaven. The gospel of Christ is a living, life producing organism
which changes lives and motives, and which offers hope where there is no hope. The gospel does not produce growth in occasional spurts, but is constantly producing a progressive growth of fruit.

If your pastor were writing this epistle to you today, would he be able to give thanks to the Lord for your faith in Christ and your love for the saints? Could he truthfully include your name as one of those who have a sure hope laid up in heaven?

In verses 9-14 we see the contents of Paul’s prayer for the Colossian believers. In addition to the thanksgiving which he offers because of them, he also makes a certain request of the Lord. Paul assures them that his prayers on their behalf are continual, not spasmodic or seasonal.

Paul’s specific request is this – that the Colossian believers be filled with a knowledge of God’s will. In order to combat error, the Christian church must know more of God’s will. When his will is discovered his Son is also discovered. A knowledge of God’s will will serve to prod their discernment when tempted to believe the strange doctrines which floated into their ears.

The same is true for us today. Error abounds on every side; humanism abounds in school, at work, and in the media; one cult group after another beckons us to join forces with them; and, situational ethics is
the ruling consideration for moral actions. Only when the believer is armed with a knowledge of God’s will can he or she withstand these missiles of Satan.

How does a knowledge of God’s will come about? It comes about through spiritual wisdom and understanding. The early church of Colossae had no New Testament so they were limited to the Old Testament Scriptures where available, the work of the Holy Spirit in their understandings, and the ministry of those whom God had set apart to equip the saints for the work of ministry.

Today, we have a completed canon of Scripture. We have the Holy Spirit. We have pastors and teachers. Why is it then that so many have a limited knowledge of God’s will? It is because too few Christians will avail themselves to these various means of learning. Some will not submit to the authority of the Scriptures. Others deny or practically deny any work of the Spirit in the church today. Others will not submit themselves to sitting under the ministry of teachers of the word. When truth is presented these days people receive it as though it were an option to be used only if it suits their purposes. When many read the
Scriptures it is only that – a mere cursory exercise of the eyes methodically scanning the printed page instead of a meditated intake of spiritual food.

Our Lord told his disciples that when the Holy Spirit came he would reveal more complete truth about Christ. If that is true, why are so many Christians living in a constant state of spiritual infancy?

Something is desperately wrong when a professing believer has no desire to know more about God and his ways, and about his holy Son. The heartbeat of a genuine believer is like that of the Apostle Paul who, when writing to the Philippian church said:

I want to know (by constant experience) Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings… (Phil. 3:10)

The genuine follower of Christ will earnestly be seeking to heed the exhortation of the Apostle Peter who wrote:

Like newborn babes, crave spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation… (1 Peter 2:2) and who also said:

But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ… (2 Peter 3:18)

Paul made this request of God, that the believers have a knowledge of his will, so that they might live lives worthy of the Lord (v. 10). What does it mean to live a life worthy of the Lord? Eadie comments:

To walk worthy of the Lord, is to feel the solemn bond of redeeming blood, to enshrine the image of him who shed it, to breath his spirit and act in harmony with his example, to exhibit his temperament in its
elements of purity, piety, and love, to be be in the world as he was in the world, to be good and to do good, and to show by the whole demeanor that his law is the rule that governs, and his glory the aim which
elevates and directs.

Bearing the fruit of the spirit, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with God’s power so that we may have endurance and patience in the midst of trials and difficulties, and offering thanksgiving for our heavenly inheritance are all ways in which we live lives pleasing to God and walk worthy of his Son. His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ has made it possible to be qualified for admittance into God’s heavenly palace. Can we then do anything less, but seek to know more of the Father and the Son, and to live lives pleasing to them?

Paul closes this first section by reminding the Colossians that it is in Christ that they have redemption and the forgiveness of their sins. This is for our consideration also. Men can make rules which bind you but they cannot remove the darkness which blinds you. Men can make up list after list of possible sins, but they can never forgive nor can they pay the necessary price for sin.

My prayer for each of you this day, and I pray your prayer for me as well, is that together we might grow in a knowledge of God’s will for our lives and for his holy church. Do you truly know his Son today? If you do, are you seeking to know more?

May the Lord grant us grace from his Word and by his Spirit.

THE INCOMPARABLE CHRIST

Colossians 1:13-23

The passage under consideration in this study must be understood in light of a heresy which was just sprouting up when the letter to Colossae was written. The heresy was an early form of what later came
to be known as Gnosticism. This heresy was a system of belief based solely upon the intellectual knowledge of “mysteries” or “secret truths.” One key aspect of this system was the teaching than man in his physical body was utterly corrupt and unworthy of approaching God. Now, this may seem at first like standard New Testament teaching, but I assure you it was not.

Those who held to this heresy believed that anything physical was evil. Therefore, if Jesus Christ was a man and possessed a human body, he could not be on the same equality as God who was a total spirit. Therefore, while they would consider Jesus to have a small measure of deity, these people considered Jesus to be the lowest being in a ranking of other beings. The higher a being was up the ladder, the closer to God he was and thus was less physical than those below him.

This early Gnosticism said this: Since God was a total spirit, he was therefore holy; a holy God could not have created a sinful, physical universe. Therefore, he must have used angelic beings as his instruments of creation.

Well then, how was a person to be saved? Simple. By learning the secrets of these mysterious beings and the structure of their levels.

In the passage before us, the objective of the Apostle Paul is to set forth the glory of Christ and to show that Christ stands supreme and unique in his relationship to God. Christ is not merely partial deity, but as Paul points out, “it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in him (Christ).” In Christ dwells the fullness of the Godhead. Jesus is God’s only beloved Son; the very image of the invisible God. Thus, by virtue of his divine nature, Jesus Christ is not the lowest of angelic beings, but is truly above and beyond every angelic power. Indeed, Paul sets forth for us the glory of the incomparable Christ.

Christ’s relationship with the world is that of Creator to creature. He has completed the work of redemption. There is nothing left which neither men nor angels must accomplish in order to obtain salvation. Christ has satisfied the total demands of a broken law and by his crucifixion and resurrection has won a complete victory over all the powers of evil. Thus, Christ’s people do not need to try and keep the
law as a means of justification, for Christ has met the law’s demands and has “cancelled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us and which was hostile to us; and he has taken it out of the
way, having nailed it to the cross” (2:14). And, furthermore, his people do not need to try and fight against cosmic powers in order to obtain salvation.

But Christ has not done these mighty acts on behalf of his people, while still remaining distant and apart from them. We are his body and are in organic union with him. We were involved in his glorious
redemptive acts. We died and rose with him and our baptism is a public profession and identification with him. We are no longer slaves to darkness, gloom, and despair. We are no longer slaves to the hostile
world around us. We have been made free by virtue of our union with Christ and we must realize our status in our everyday experience.

We, as believers, do not need some higher, mystical teaching in order to achieve perfection, for in Christ we are complete. Our goal as Christians is not to achieve some dead orthodoxy, but rather, to achieve a knowledge of the grace of God through Christ our Savior. Our goal is to be able to comprehend in both mind and heart “the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge” so that we may be filled up to the fullness of God and so that Christ may dwell in our hearts by faith.

Let us consider then The Incomparable Christ by looking first at his person and then by looking at his work.

I. The incomparable person of Christ.

In verse 15 we read that Christ is the image of the invisible God. Men have often tried to make images of God but in doing so they corrupt his glory. “Professing to be wise they became fools, and exchanged the
glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures” (Romans 1:22-23). In Christ, the glory of God is not defaced but is
perfectly seen, for as Hebrews 1:3 tells us, Christ “is the radiance of his glory and the exact representation of his nature.” Christ is the brightness of God’s brightness. Stephen Charnock the Puritan has said,
“In nature, we see God, as it were, like the sun in a picture; in the law, as the sun in a cloud; in Christ we see him in his beams.”

Jesus Christ is the visible of the invisible God. The Lord told his disciples that if they had seen him then they had also seen God. God dwells in light inaccessible, hidden from our sight, but in Christ we
see God’s exact nature and character.

Christ is beyond comparison. Nothing or no one else can adequately represent God Almighty.

Notice also if you will, that Christ is the first-born of creation (v. 15). We must understand this phrase in terms of position instead of in terms of time. The first-born son has certain rights and privileges in a family. The first-born was the father’s representative and acted in his father’s name. So it is with Christ. He is the Lord of creation. He has the pre-eminence over all creation. All of God’s transactions take place through Christ, the first-born of creation.

Christ’s incomparable glory as the first-born of creation means that he is manifest deity; appearing, speaking, working, ruling, and saving on behalf of, and in the name of, God the Father.

Therefore, Christ is not merely the lowest of the angelic beings, but is indeed the first-born, God’s deputy, the acting President of the Universe, the Alpha and Omega. O, believer, see Christ in his exalted glory and bow before his majestic greatness this day.

In verse 16 we see that Christ is both the agent and object of creation. He is the creator not only of the visible world, but of the invisible world as well. All things exist for his glory and are subservient to his eternal purpose.

What had no being was brought into being by and through the person of Christ. Every form of matter, life and energy owes its origin to the Son of God. Every form and kind of substance, simple or complex, the
atom or the star, the worm or the angel – every order of intellect and being around and above us, the splendor of heaven and the beauty of earth are the products of the first-born Son of God. Everything is
under the sovereign rule of Jesus Christ.

Having seen the incomparable person of Christ, let us now consider:

II. The incomparable work of Christ.

Verse 17 says that Christ is the sustainer of all things. He is not only the agent of creation, but is also the agent of preservation. Ancient philosophy sought to find the principle of unity or cohesiveness to the universe. In the Son of God, the believer finds the true coherence of all things. It is the power of Christ alone which holds all things together. Hebrews 1:3 tells us that he “upholds all things by the word of his power.” John Eadie has said that Christ’s arm “upholds the universe, and if it were withdrawn, all things would fade into their original non-existence.”

I like the words of Lightfoot: “He is the principal of cohesion in the universe. He impresses upon creation that unity and solidarity which makes it a cosmos instead of a chaos.”

Not only is Jesus Christ the sustainer of the universe, he is also the sustainer of the believer’s salvation and hope. Not only does he create, he also re-creates. He preserves his elect, for “he who began a good work … will perfect it” (Philippians 1:6). He sustains his creation by the power of his Word and he sustains his re-creation by the power of his blood!

The God of Genesis 1:1 is the babe of Matthew 1:21. He who measured the waters in the hollow of his hand and charted out the span of the heavens is the Christ crucified of apostolic preaching. He who is the true God, the living God, and the everlasting King is also the Word made flesh, the weeping Jesus, the teacher girded about with a towel washing the disciples’ feet. He who crumbled the walls of Jericho and set Israel’s enemies to flight is the suffering servant crowned with thorns and nailed to the cross. He who was victor over mighty armies is he who is victor over death and hell!

Surely, my friends, we can say with the Apostle, “I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day” (2 Timothy 1:12).

In verse 18 we see that Christ is head of the church. Christ is the chief cornerstone of God’s tabernacle. “The stone which the builders rejected, this became the very cornerstone” (1 Peter 2:7). Whether in
creation or in the church, Christ is the Supreme Head, the only guardian, and the great benefactor. Both creation and the church are under the same King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

Then, in verses 20-22, we see that Christ is the reconciler between God and man. Because Christ is creator, because he is the dwelling place of the fulness of God, he and only he is able to perform the work of atonement for sin. By his blood being shed on Calvary’s cross, peace has been effected with God for the elect. The core of the apostolic message is that Christ, by the offering of himself unto death, accepted
the curse which was due unto us.
Notice that Christ reconciled “all things.” Because of the fall, creation itself was also cursed. The world around us is not a natural world. It is an unnatural world because it is in bondage to decay. (READ Romans 8:20-22.) One day, however, because of Christ’s work on the cross, creation itself will be set at liberty and shall become the new heaven and the new earth.

Conclusion:

We have seen the incomparable person and work of Christ in the passage before us. I would pose a couple of questions to you now that we conclude this study.

1. Are you a modern day Gnostic? In other words, are you seeking salvation by your own efforts? I tell you that failure is sure. You must rely totally and absolutely upon the merits of Christ.

2. Is the essence of your Christianity taken up with gaining a mere intellectual knowledge of theology and the Bible? Do you truly know Christ by experience? Pray that the knowledge of your mind would be
translated into a knowledge of your heart.

Jesus, the very thought of Thee

With sweetness fills my breast;

But sweeter far Thy face to see,

And in Thy presence rest.

Nor voice can sing, nor heart can frame

Nor can the memory find

A sweeter sound than Thy blest name

O Savior of mankind.

May God grant us grace from his Word.

THE MYSTERY OF CHRIST – THE HOPE OF GLORY

Colossians 1:24-29

The Apostle has thus far spoken of his prayers on behalf of the Colossian church and of his thanksgivings for them. He has gone on to show the supremacy of Christ over all other beings, earthly and divine,
by setting forth Christ Jesus as the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation, the agent and object of creation, the sustainer of all things, and the reconciler of all things.

Jesus Christ, he now says today, is the mystery of the ages which has been revealed by the divine choice of God. It is not necessary, nor is it possible, to come to a knowledge of God by worshipping levels of
angelic beings and by progressing through the secret knowledge of the mysteries of the universe. God has made it possible for people to know him by revealing himself through Christ. By knowing God in Christ one
has more than mere intellectual knowledge, he also possesses a hope of glory, for the mystery of Jesus Christ is the true hope of glory.

Let us then examine the passage before us, simply making notes in passing through the text.

V. 24 – “what was suffered for you.” – The Apostle is in prison because of his preaching the gospel to the Gentile world. It is important to remember this because an implied argument is this – If the errors which are being taught to you by the false teachers are really the truth, why are not these men suffering on your behalf?

“I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regards to Christ’s afflictions.” – The are various interpretations of this phrase, two of which are:

1) Catholic view – Any defects or shortcomings in Christ’s atonement can be made up for by the sufferings of believers. However, the tone of the entire Scripture is that Christ’s atonement was full and complete.
Jesus was perfect in his obedience and in his suffering. Nothing more can be added which would make the atonement any more effective. The death and passion of Christ does not need to be supplemented or
repeated. Believers do not need to perform acts of pennance in order to gain the forgiveness of sins. Repetitious prayers have no effect in regards to salvation and forgiveness.

2) Others have held that as part of their salvation, Christ deals out suffering and affliction to his people. The endurance of affliction completes salvation. This view is just as false as the previous one. Afflictions may indeed be a part of the Christian life, and may well be used by the Lord as a means of growth. But such things are foreign in the Scripture in light of its teaching of salvation by free grace alone through faith.

3) However, I prefer to believe that the correct understanding of this verse is as follows – The world, as cruel as it was to Jesus, did not vent all of its sinful anger and hatred upon him when he was on the
earth. The world still persecutes the church today, and whenever the church is persecuted, Christ is also persecuted. You may remember how Saul of Tarsus was on his way to Damascus to persecute the church.
While on the road at noonday, the Lord appeared to him and said, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”

What the world did not do to the head, it does now to the body. As the body suffers, so also the head suffers. The personal sufferings of Christ are over, but the afflictions of the church still continue and
will continue until eternity is ushered in by the return of the Lord of Glory.

V. 25 – Paul was the greatest servant of the church next to Christ himself. His devotion can be illustrated by the fervancy of his sermons, by the number of miles he travelled, by the imprisonments he endured, by the variety of letters he wrote, and by the numerous personal sufferings he encountered.

He took no vacations per se. Wherever he went he was on a mission for Christ. He was a travelling ambassador for the King of heaven. When he beheld the artistic beauty of Greek culture it only served as
illustrative material for a fiery sermon. When chained to a Roman guard he took opportunity to speak of the armor which a Christian has available and the weapons with which to fight a spiritual warfare. The
whole purpose of his life was to bring the gospel to the heathen.

Did the false teachers go to such lengths to get their “good news” told abroad? No! They were sectarian and reserved their teachings for a select few. If God can be approached and communed with, should not everyone know of it? The Apostle preached without regard to race, creed, or ancestry. He preached the whole counsel of God; wrath as well as mercy; justice as well as grace; doom as well as hope.

We need a return today to preaching the whole counsel of God. Far too many have their hobby-horses and pet doctrines which are taught without regard to many other doctrines of Scripture.

V. 26-27 – Why was Paul in prison? Why did he endure such hardships? Because God had commissioned him to preach and make known the “mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations.”

The false teachers come proclaiming their “mysteries” but the Apostle says that the mystery which he proclaims is the mystery of all mysteries. Salvation is possible through one man, the man Jesus Christ.
For centuries this good news had been wrapped up in obscurity, hidden in the clouds of ceremonies, prophecies, laws, and commandments. It had never been fully hidden, but had been seen in shadows.

But now, people everywhere, Jew and Greek, male and female, freeman and slave, can know the glorious tidings of salvation. The prophet Jeremiah had written centuries before, “No longer will a man teach his
neighbor, or a man his brother saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest…” (Jer. 31:34).

V. 27 – “To them God has chosen…” – God was not under any obligation to reveal the mystery of his Son to anyone. Jesus even said that no one could come unto him unless God has first granted permission
to do so. It is an act or pure mercy which decrees that to undeserving sinners, to rebellious wicked traitors, the sovereign God chooses to make known the glorious hope of the gospel in Christ.

Think of it friends! Do you know Christ? If so, do not brag as though you had something to do with it. God chose to reveal the Son to you. Had he not chosen to do so, you would still be lost in darkness no matter how hard you were trying to find God.

The gospel of Christ creates hope, the only true hope. Other teachings offer nothing. In Christ alone is the hope of glory. The full glory of Christians is yet to come. But we have a sure hope in Christ that one blessed day our faces will radiate with the light from the throne of heaven itself; that our hearts will beat with undying and uninterrupted love for God and Christ; that we shall have perfect communion, face to face, with the glorious Savior; that we shall be perfect in mind, soul, and body; that there will be no more pain, no more tears, no more sickness, no more trials, and no more grief. Death will have been swallowed up by life!

Christ within us is the hope of glory. Once we are “in Christ” and he is in us, no man can reverse our justification; no one can pronounce condemnation and hell’s fire upon us. In Christ we have the hope of
glory.

Here is a basis then, not only for our personal living, but also for our evangelism. We can offer lost sinners true hope. When we witness and speak of Christ we do not tell people about the observance of special days saving them; we do not tell them that by abstaining from created creature comforts that we will become holy; we do not tell them of some elaborate ritualistic process which must be memorized before God can be worshipped; we tell them of a Savior who suffered the penalty of sin in order that guilty sinners might receive pardon and mercy. We offer them peace with God simply by repenting of sins and by clinging to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

V. 28-29 – How do we present the gospel? By admonishing and teaching all men about Christ, without consideration of race, sex, social position, or whatever other barrier we might choose to set-up. We tell
them about man’s alienation from his Creator. We define sin as the transgression against the moral precepts of God. We instruct about the need for repentance. We set forth the ready availability of forgiveness in Christ.

We do this “with all wisdom.” That is, we speak to those we meet with a consideration and regard of their intellectual capacity, their present life circumstances, their age and so forth, so that the gospel becomes something understandable and obtainable. We meet people where they are.

All of the Apostle’s energy went into proclaiming the gospel. Can we say the same thing about ourselves? Oh yes, I realize that we all have jobs, duties at home and with family, business obligations, school studies, etc. But is it not only fair to consider just how much of ourselves we are really devoting to the building of the kingdom of God?

Doing the Lord’s work of making known the mystery of the gospel is not a hobby, pastime, or leisure activity. It demands time and effort on our part. One man has said that it is indeed a privilege to exhaust
our strength in the proclamation of the gospel.

But let us bear in mind that we can only labor effectively if the power of God is mightily at work within us. A jet engine engine is a mighty source of power, but without fuel it is useless. So also we are useless if we do not labor under the power of God working by his Spirit within us.

May the Lord grant us grace from his word this day.

CHRISTIAN FREEDOM

Colossians 2:1-23

We have set before us in this passage some teaching by the Apostle concerning Christian freedom, or Christian liberty. There is a great lack of understanding in the church today concerning this subject. What
we need to realize more than anything today is that Christianity and our trust in Christ delivers us from bondage and frees us to be what God truly wants us to be.

As we study these verses we shall see:

I. The basis for our freedom, and

II. What this freedom consists of

I. The basis for our freedom

In verse 10, Paul says that “you have been given fullness in Christ” (NIV). In other words, in Christ we find everything we need in regards to spirituality. This includes, but is not limited to, our justification, our sanctification, and the grace and ability to be doers of the Word. In Christ we find grace and strength to persevere amidst the difficulties of this life. Through Christ we have direct access to God. No longer is the priest of the Old Testament system a necessity. Christ has broken down the barrier wall that separated us
from God. All of the necessary gifts and abilities that are needed to serve God are available to us because of our being “in Christ.”

Notice verse 11 – “In him you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature.” In the Old Testament it was necessary for the males of the covenant household to be subjected to physical circumcision. One thing that physical circumcision symbolized was the removal of something which made us like all the other people on the face of the earth.

However, when a person is saved through belief and faith in Christ, the heart is circumcised. The Holy Spirit cuts through our hard heart of flesh and gives us a new nature. Thus, because of this circumcision
we are now different than others and have been set apart with the rest of God’s covenant people.

Concerning what Paul was writing to the Colossian believers, the commentator, John Eadie, has penned these words:

Through their living union with Christ, they had enjoyed the privilege, and were enjoying the results of a spiritual circumcision. Why then should they suffer the incision of a sharp flint or a glittering knife – in itself, at best, but a sign – when they had already experienced the blessing of a circumcision that drew no blood, and gave no pain – a circumcision ‘not made with hands.’

In the Old Testament act of circumcision, the cutting off of the flesh signified that one was a Jew. In the circumcision of the New Testament, the cutting of the heart is the sign of being a Christian. Has your heart been circumcised by the Spirit of God, my friend?

In verse 13 the Apostle says that we were made alive with Christ. What does this mean? At one time we were spiritually dead, totally depraved in the realm of spiritual good, and lacking any goodness that
would allow us to fellowship with God. Yet, the gift of salvation, graciously bestowed upon us by God, has secured for us eternal life.

Now what Paul is implying is this: any works that we do, any ceremonies or rituals that we perform, have no value whatsoever in securing eternal life for us. Eternal life is already possessed and guaranteed if we have exercised God-given faith in Christ and have put our trust in him as Lord and Savior.

The Apostle also says in this verse that our sins stand forgiven if we are united with Christ. We do not have to harm our bodies in order to pay for our sins. We do not have to practice some strict self-denial of any of the pleasures of life in order to secure forgiveness for our sins. Friends, if you only get one thing out of this study, get this – CHRIST HAS PAID THE SIN DEBT IN FULL FOR HIS PEOPLE!!

Verse 14 says that the written code which was against us has been  cancelled. I believe that he is referring here to the Mosaic Law, that Law which constantly reminded us of our sins and continually made us
offer sacrifices in order to appease the wrath of God. The law showed men and women their ungodliness. It showed us to be nothing but continual transgressors against a holy God. It constantly pointed the death as the ultimate penalty that would be exacted from us. The purpose of the law was not to save us; its purpose was to condemn us.

Keep in mind that the moral law of God is eternal. It has never been cancelled and in fact was in existence before the giving of the ten commandments and their accompanying laws. But, in Christ, the cursing
effects of the law have been done away with. By his death on the cross, Christ absorbed in himself both the curse and penalty of the law.

Since Christ was the fulfillment of the types and shadows represented by the law, it is no longer necessary for us to keep the ceremonies which the law prescribed. You cannot be saved by keeping the law no matter how hard you try!

The basis then for our freedom is what Christ has done for us on the cross.

II. What does this freedom consist of?

As stated previously, our freedom in Christ releases us from following ceremonies or rituals. We are released from following the ways of the world in regards to holiness. The observance of special days and feasts are not binding upon us. The abstinence from certain kinds of food and drink is not mandatory. Certain prohibitions were set forth under the law for special reasons; reasons which pointed in some way to Christ. Now that he has come, these reasons are no longer valid.

Now here is another point that I want to make. Listen carefully – If we are free from the ceremonies and traditions of the Mosaic law which was given by God himself, does it not also follow that we are not obligated to follow the commandments and traditions of mere mortal men? Everytime I turn on the radio and or watch some preacher on television I hear all these things that “thou shalt not.” 99% of these things are nowhere prohibited by the Scriptures.

We are told that dancing is wrong; that playing cards is wrong; that watching television is wrong; that mixed swimming is wrong; that it is wrong for women to wear pants; that it is wrong to go to the movies;
that it is wrong to eat this or wrong to drink that; and a thousand other wrongs that are nowhere specifically mentioned in sacred Scripture.

Friends, listen to me, please. I am by no means advocating a lawless lifestyle. I am not advocating a “just do whatever you like” kind of religion. But what I am advocating is this – let believers function as priests before God! He has given us his Word and his Spirit to lead and guide us. Where the Bible speaks, we are obligated to listen. But where it is silent we must allow one another to stand before God with our own
consciences. We are our brother’s keeper. But! We are not to be our brother’s conscience!

When Christians try to bind other Christians with these non-Scriptural prohibitions, it shows two things. First, that the one doing so has a wrong view of holiness. Second, it shows that the person doing so has a wrong view of sin. SIN LIES IN THE HUMAN HEART, not in a deck of cards. SIN LIES IN THE HUMAN HEART, not in a swimming pool. SIN LIES IN THE HUMAN HEART, not in a bottle of wine. Oh, you say, but doesn’t sin accompany these things? I would answer, in many instances it does. But, take away a person’s cards, and he or she will find some other way to gratify the desires of the flesh.

For some strange reason, I have never heard Romans 14:17 preached on. There, Paul writes, “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy
Spirit.” The Apostle says elsewhere that you can tell a man what he can eat and what he can’t eat, but he will still find some way to gratify the desires of the flesh.

What we need preached today is not more “do not,” but instead, more “do.” Believers need to be taught the whole counsel of God and how to apply it in their lives, so that when they are confronted with something that is questionable in nature, they can apply the Scriptures and make a right decision. A decision based upon Bible principle instead of the opinion of some man.

Conclusion:

Having seen the basis for our freedom and what it consists of, let me give some practical guidelines for using our freedom.

1. Be grounded in the Word. Don’t just get familiar with it, KNOW IT.

2. If something is not specifically prohibited in the Scriptures, as yourself these simple questions:

a. Can I do this with a clear conscience before God? (There is a Scriptural basis for doing this. Read what Paul says in Romans 14:23.)

b. Is it okay for me to do something privately that in itself is not sinful, but perhaps doing it in public would not help the cause of Christ? (Once again there is a Scriptural basis for this. Paul tells us that all things are lawful, but not all things are expedient.)

c. Will I be harming anyone else by doing this, either physically or spiritually?

d. Will I be harming myself by doing this, either physically or spiritually?

e. Will I be causing a brother or sister in Christ to sin against their own conscience by abusing my liberty?

f. Will I be breaking any civil laws by doing this?

g. If I do this, can I truly thank God and praise him for it?

h. Will this thing control me or can I control it? (Think about this one, friend. You are probably familiar with things like tobacco, drugs, and alcohol. These are obvious. But what about things just as bad, such
as overeating or indulging in one’s hobby too much at the expense of one’s family life?)

i. Can I do this in moderation?

If you can answer positively to these questions, you don’t need some mortal man telling you what you can and cannot do!

I would encourage you to spend a great deal of time reading this second chapter of Colossians and also the 14th chapter of Romans. You will find much food for thought and application contained therein.

Consider your freedom in Christ. May God grant us grace from his Word.

RULES FOR HOLY LIVING

Colossians 3:1-17

In our last message, I spoke about the subject of Christian freedom or, Christian liberty. We saw that the believer is free from being burdened in spiritual matters by the commandments and traditions of
men. Now, whenever one speaks on the subject of Christian freedom, some are bound to mistake or confuse liberty with licentiousness. They feel that we are giving people a license to sin now that we are under grace. The Apostle Paul may well have anticipated this confusion on the part of the Colossian church, and so he immediately follows his teaching on liberty with a listing of rules for holy living. The Christian is free in many respects, but is not necessarily free to live as he chooses. His conduct for living must fall within the bounds of all that is holy and God-pleasing.

Believers are to act in accordance with their heavenly privileges and position and realize that sanctification is found because of union with Christ, not by substituting legalistic requirements and other human inventions.

Paul sets forth principles for living in the section from 3:1 to 4:6. We shall consider today the passage 3:1-17. In this passage the Apostle sets forth:

I. The motivational principle for our conduct (vv. 1-4)

II. The negative things we are to put off (vv. 5-11)

III. The positive things we are to put on (vv. 12-14)

IV. The means we are to use in order to promote holy living (vv. 15-17)

I. The motivational principle for our conduct (vv. 1-4)

By virtue of our union with Jesus Christ, we have been elevated above worldly standards of moral virtue and thus we are to view the conduct of our lives from a heavenly point of view. The Apostle says to
“set your hearts on things above.” He probably takes a phrase which the false teachers would use, and “disinfects” it so to speak. He applies to it a true spiritual meaning.

We are now risen with Christ and are under a special obligation to view the conduct of our lives from a heavenly point of view. We are to be motivated to holiness not by comparing ourselves to worldly and
fleshly views of morality, but by looking at ourselves in relationship to the standards and principles of Jesus Christ. When we came unto Christ and were regenerated by his spirit, we died to worldly standards
and were made alive to live by higher standards.

B. B. Warfield has said that Paul’s words here are an “exhortation to us to be in life real citizens of the heavenly kingdom to which we have been transferred; to do the duties and enter into the responsibilities of our new citizenship.”

Therefore, our motivational principle for seeking holiness is that Christ has set higher standards for us than what the world sets. We must aim to meet and conform to his standards, not the standards of the
world. In other words, we are not only to seek heaven, but we are to think heaven. Earthly thoughts will never sustain a heavenly walk. One man has said, “The pilgrim is not to despise the comforts which he may
meet with by the way, but he is not to tarry among them, or leave them with regret.”

II. The negative things we are to put off (vv. 5-11)

The Apostle now states some principles of the flesh that we are to put off: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed.

Paul seems to make an assumption here that it is not necessary to list specific things within these categories for, having lived according to the flesh at one time, we shall surely know what specific things are impure and immoral, and what things excite our lust and greed.

Sexual immorality was rampant in the Graeco-Roman world just as it is today. And, in reality, this type of immorality is actually a form of idolatry. It is a worshipping of the flesh. It is an exaltation of  a created thing in such a way that our minds are captivated by it and brought into bondage of another sort. God has created our bodies to be temples of his Spirit not as things to be lusted after. The gross sexual immorality which we say today is nothing more than a true picture of man’s sinful, rebellious nature against God, taking the good thing which God has made, and perverting it to evil proportions.

He then goes on to list anger, rage, malice, slander, filthy language and lying as things that are to be put off from us. The Christian is to react differently to circumstances than what the world does. When wronged, the flesh desires to enrage itself with uncontrollable fury. The flesh, when wronged, desires to speak lies and evil words about other people. The world’s language is not a heavenly language, but is a language formed by the dictionary found in the gutter.

These are evil practices and must be put to death by the person who has been made alive in Jesus Christ. The believer is being renewed in the image of his Creator and therefore must put off anything which is not keeping in character with the Creator’s nature.

Someone once said that believers are not perfect, but they are forgiven. When we are reborn by the Spirit of God and given spiritual life, we still retain an adamic nature within us that desires to indulge itself in fleshly things. In our stages of early immaturity we may not be consciously aware of things we do that displease God. Or, while we are doing battle with some particular sins, we may be overlooking others. But, as we progress in the course of holiness, we should be gaining more and more knowledge about what God hates and what he loves.

Paul says that the new self is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.

One purpose of our glorification in heaven is that we be restored back to the purity which characterized man when he was first created. Thus, we are to be striving towards that goal now, even though perfection will not be attained until the day of our glorification.

III. The positive things we are to put on (vv. 12-14)

We are to put off the old man just as we put off our dirty clothes. We are to remove the filth which clings to us. In place of the old man we are to put on a different clothing, the clothing of the new spiritual man.

Christians are God’s elect or chosen people. In eternity past he chose us in Christ to be saved and to bring honor and glory unto his name. We have been set apart or consecrated for holiness. Therefore, we are to put on the garments of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. We are to bear with one another and to be forgiving towards one another.

These virtues which the Apostle names all have to do with personal relationships. The church, made up of a variety of people, must live in harmony.

The world is callous for the most part, and has an attitude which says, “I will look out for number one.” Believers on the other hand, are to exhibit compassion for others. We are to exhibit kindness towards one another. Kindness is a grace which is to pervade our entire being and which is to mellow out the part of us that would rather be harsh and callous.

Believers are not to be quick to jump on someone else and argue about rights. The Christian is to be characterized by an attitude which will give up an undoubted right if harmony and peace can be preserved
by doing so. One of God’s greatest qualities is that he is slow to anger. We too must be slow to anger, especially when dealing with the less spiritually mature. We must allow people to have room to grow and
room to make mistakes in the process.

But above all these virtues is one supreme virtue, love. If one does not have love first of all for someone else, it will be extremely difficult to exhibit the other virtues.

— At this point in the study, take a few minutes and read through 1 Corinthians 13

IV. The means we are to use in order to promote holy living (vv. 15-17)

Certain things must be practiced and kept in use if these holy virtues are to be found in us. First, we are to let the peace of Christ rule in our hearts. This peace I believe, refers to a state of heart and mind. It is a state of tranquility in the midst of a storm. It is a peace founded upon a concept of

God’s absolute sovereignty in all matters. This peace which Christ produces in us is to rule our lives as an umpire. When tempted to be ruffled by the winds of adversity, we are to remember the words of Jesus who said, “Let not your heart be troubled, neither let them be dismayed.” If the peace of God rules our lives as individuals, it will manifest itself in a corporate peace within the body, the church.

Second, the word of Christ is to dwell in us richly. The word comes to us by teaching and admonishment, by the work of the Spirit giving us spiritual understanding. When the word of Christ is dwelling in us on a
continual basis, we will be constantly reminded of our heavenly citizenship and of our obligations to exhibit God-like qualities.

A natural result of the word dwelling in us richly will be an outpouring of praise. We have found the truth we are searching for. The answers to the mysteries of spiritual things are found in the Word of God. The knowledge for which we are to seek is found in the Word of God. There is no need to listen to the false teachers who tell us that true spiritual knowledge exists somewhere else. God’s truth is in his word and if this word dwells in us, then we should have an attitude of praise, thanksgiving and worship.

Thirdly, whatever we do is to be done in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. We have spoken previously on the subject of Christian liberty. There are many things not prohibited in

Scripture that the believer is at liberty to participate in. When, therefore, we find ourselves in a situation not knowing whether something is right or proper, we can ask ourselves, “What is the Christ-like thing to do here? Can I do this without compromising my Christian confession and testimony? Can I do this in the name of the Lord Jesus?”

Conclusion

I believe you can see from this passage two very clear things. First, the Christian is not at license to sin, even though he is in many respects free. There are godly virtues to be sought after and definite sins to be put away. Second, if a person is controlled by the Spirit, walking after the Spirit, and indwelt by the Word of God, it is not necessary to provide a comprehensive list of do’s and don’t’s to live by. The

Christian who is seeking to live a holy life only has to ask, “What is the Christ-like thing to do here?”

While we have freedom in Christ, we must also conform ourselves to the image of Christ and put off those things which are not Christ honoring and God glorifying. May the Lord give us grace from his word.

RULES FOR HOME AND BUSINESS

Colossians 3:38-4:1

In order to prevent any misunderstandings about his teachings on Christian liberty in chapter 2, the Apostle Paul turned in chapter 3 to laying down some binding rules for holy living. In the text before us
in today’s study he continues this theme. Since we do not practice slavery today, I believe that the teaching here concerning the master/slave relationship can best be applied to our conduct in business and work.

It is important to emphasize once again that the Apostle does not lay down a long, comprehensive listing of do’s and don’t’s for us who are believers. He merely sets forth some basic principles and assumes that if we are led by the Spirit and are living in the Word, we will be able to take the basic principles and make applications to the various situations and circumstances which may confront us.

Paul’s injunctions to us rest heavily upon his phrase in verse 18, “in the Lord.” Believers must always consider human relationships from the standpoint of our basic relationship with Christ.

We come first of all to teachings concerning wives and husbands. There is great confusion in our society concerning the role of women. The push by organizations such as NOW and others supporting the feminine cause have greatly distorted the Bible’s positive teachings concerning the male/female relationships. In verse 18 Paul says that wives are to submit to their husbands “as is fitting in the Lord.”

The submission of wives to husbands is not based upon a cultural norm of Paul’s day and thus not relevant to us.

Rather, it is based upon God’s order of creation. In creation, woman was made to be man’s “help-mate” or “completer.”

Now we must remember two important points here. First, in the realm of grace (spiritual matters) both female and male are equal in the sight of God (Galatians 3:28). Saved men and women are both joint-heirs
with Christ and share alike in the blessings of the kingdom. However, and this is the second thing to remember, this equality in the realm of spiritual matters does not set aside or nullify God’s order for the
structure of the family.

The wife, then, is to be submissive to her husband. Many men really stress this point but fail to realize that there is also a limit to that submission. The limitation is “as is fitting in the Lord.” In verse 19 Paul tells the husbands, “Love your wives and do not be harsh with them.” When the husband is exercising legitimate authority and is not going against God’s prescribed standards, the wife is to be submissive. The loving, Christ-like submission of the wife to the husband is based upon the husband’s Christ-like love for his wife. (See Ephesians 5:22-23.)

This means that the husband’s love is to be a self-sacrificing love that cares for the needs of his wife. The old commentator, John Trapp, has written:

He saith not, Rule over them, subdue them if they will not submit, but love them, and so win them to your will; make their yoke as easy as may be, for they stand on even ground with you, as yoke-fellows, though
they draw on the left side.

The husband is not to be harsh with the wife. Paul’s words here suggest the idea of petty tyranny. It is very easy for one in authority to abuse that authority and cause the love in a relationship to be replaced by bitterness.

In verse 20 we see that children are to submit to their parents as they are told to obey their parents “in everything.”

Children are to obey their parents because that is what pleases the Lord. The obedience on the part of the children is a recognition of their position within the family. This same principle applies to us who are the children of the heavenly Father. Our total obedience to God is a recognition of our position. Our obedience shows that we recognize and submit to the Lordship of Christ.

Paul turns to the fathers in verse 21. It is quite possible to be a husband and not a father. It is also quite possible for the husband who is loving towards his wife to be harsh with his children. If children are to render unquestioned obedience, then the father must be on guard lest he discourage the child by unreasonable demands, by a rough demeanor, or by humiliating the child before others. Being overly
severe with a child can easily crush his or her spirit.

It is our duty as parents to train and discipline our children. But, we must do so in a Christ-like manner. Much of a child’s attitude about Christ and godly things will be the result of the way in which the child is treated by the parents. Our children must see a Christ-like character radiating from us.

Now, I propose a question – Why are these rules for the home so important? I believe the answer is very simply this – If our Christianity is not working in the home, how can it truly be working anywhere else? For example, in 1 Timothy 3:4-5 we read that an elder must manage or rule his own household well. If a man cannot take care of his own home, how can he properly care for and nurture the flock of God?

Writing about the parent’s example before their children, John Flavel has stated:

You are instrumental causes of all their spiritual misery; and that

(1) by generation,

(2) imitation.

He goes on to say:

If you neglect to instruct them in the way of godliness, will the Devil neglect to instruct them in the way of wickedness? No; if you will not teach them to pray, he will to curse, swear, and lie; if ground be uncultivated, weeds will spring.

Finally, in 3:22-4:1, we see some principles about the master/slave relationship. In Paul’s day it was quite common to have slaves in the home, thus the reason for his including these exhortations here. However, even though in our country slavery is not an accepted practice any longer, these same principles can be applied to our business and work relationships.

I am simply going to list what Paul says:

SLAVES (Employees)

1. Obey in everything.

2. Work diligently at all times.

3. Do your work as unto the Lord since the Lord is really your immediate master.

MASTERS (Employers)

1. Provide what is right and fair.

2. If you ask someone to do a job, make sure that they have the tools and resources to do it.

3. Pay a fair wage.

4. You are to take care of your employees just as God takes care of you.

Conclusion:

Once again we have seen some basic principles. The Apostle has not given a comprehensive list covering such items as the different ways that a wife is to submit to the husband, the different ways that a husband is to express love for his wife, etc. He assumes that after he lays down the principles, our being led by the Spirit and our study of the Word will enable us to apply the guiding principles.

Seek to apply what Paul has taught us. May God grant us grace from his Word.

FINAL EXHORTATIONS

Colossians 4:2-18

We come today to the close of our examination of Paul’s letter to the Colossians. In this epistle we have seen the sincerity of Paul’s prayers on behalf of this church which he has never seen; we have seen the supremacy of Christ set forth; we have seen the Apostle’s labors on behalf of the church; we have seen the explanation of the true mystery – the revelation of God in Christ; we have seen the nature of Christian
liberty; we have seen the true bounds of Christian freedom; and, we have seen some basic principles for holy living by believers in relationship to others, particularly within the home and in business.

Today, the Apostle urges his readers to continue in prayer with thanksgiving, and requests them to remember his work in their prayers. He tells them that a concern to present a credible witness must lead
them to behave wisely and speak graciously to others. In closing, he commends the bearers of the letters, Tychicus and Onesimus, conveys the greetings of his companions, gives directions for an exchange of
letters between Laodicea and Colossae, instructs Archippus to fulfill his ministry, adds his final greeting, and asks them to remember him as he is in prison.

The first exhortation of the Apostle is that the believers should devote themselves to prayer. The idea of being devoted to prayer conveys the picture of diligence and persistence. Prayer is not to merely be a habit or religious ritual performed with rigid punctuality. Prayer is the primary means of communication with God and Christ. One may be habitual in prayer but not sincere in his prayers. Thus, the idea of devotion to prayer is that persistence and diligence proves one’s sincerity.

Since prayer is so vitally necessary, Satan will make every effort to see that a Christian is deflected or hindered from prayer. Thus, the Apostle not only exhorts his readers to be devoted to prayer, but while
they are praying to be watchful and thankful. We are to be watchful in our prayers because the devil attacks using two main strategies. On one hand, he will cause us to be careless and forgetful and not pray, or on
the other hand, he can make our minds dull and cause our thoughts to wander while we are praying. How often have we been praying only to find ourselves suddenly aware that we have drifted from praying to
figuring out our weekly shopping list, or trying to figure out a problem at work?

Thus, watchfulness means a disciplined attention to the ministry of prayer, and it involves a concentration of the whole being as we pray.

In addition to being watchful, we are to be thankful in our prayers. When we are coming to God to petition him with our requests, we must also be willing to give him credit for what he has already done for us.
In addition, thanksgiving creates a spirit of praise within us. Being caught up in praise in our prayers is an excellent way of guarding against dullness or drifting in our prayers. We tend to be excited when we praise someone; our emotions are quickened and our mind is focusing upon how to praise the person we are addressing. Watchfulness and thanksgiving must go hand in hand in our prayers. We have so many
things that are potential distractors to us, that we must ever be on our guard and realize that yesterday’s intense season of prayer is no guarantee that the time of prayer today will be the same.

The Apostle asks that in their prayers, the Christians pray for Paul’s ministry. He requests them to ask that a door be opened for ministry, and that he be given the ability to clearly proclaim the gospel as it should be. The prayers of the saints are vital instruments in God’s providential actions. John Eadie has written concerning the prayers of the saints:

Human entreaty has shut up heaven, and has again opened it. At the voice of a man the sun stood still. Prayer has sweetened the bitter fountain, divided the sea, and stilled its waves. It has disbanded armies, and prevented conflict; it has shortened battle, and given victory to the right. It has conferred temporal abundance, as in the case of Jabez; and given effect to medical appliances, as in the case of Hezekiah. It has quenched the mouths of lions, and opened the gates of the prison-house. As Jesus prayed in the river, the dove alighted on Him; and as he prayed on the hill, he was transfigured. The glory of God was manifested to Moses when he asked it, and the grace of Christ to Paul when he besought it. Not a moment elapsed between the petition of the crucified thief and its glorious answer. Before Daniel concluded his devotion, the celestial messenger stood at his side. The praying church brought down upon itself Pentecostal effusion.

As we pray, we should be constantly asking God to grant a hearing of the gospel by the lost; to give power and ability to his servants who proclaim the gospel, that they might be given wisdom, understanding,
clarity of speech, boldness, and courage. There are men who are timid and afraid to speak the whole counsel of God to their congregations. We must pray that the Spirit would overcome this, and open their mouths to speak forth the redemptive wonders of God in Christ.

Let us strive to devote ourselves to the matter of prayer.

The second exhortation of the Apostle is that believers are to be wise in the way they act towards outsiders. By this, Paul is simply stating that we must always be careful to maintain a credible witness to the unsaved. Believers who are open about their faith in Christ are constantly under the scrutinizing eyes of the lost. People delight in finding a fault or hole in ones character or profession. Since by nature the unsaved man is a rebel against God, he will seek to discredit anyone who professes to be on the side of the Lord. In
particular, there are two ways given here by which a credible testimony is maintained.

First, we are to make the most of every opportunity. We are to redeem our time. Paul’s words here suggest the idea of “intensive buying,” a buying which exhausts all the possibilities available. We see here an exhortation to consistency of life. The believer must seize and pounce upon every opportunity to let his faith in Christ be set before unbelievers.

The devil takes every opportunity to turn people away from the gospel. The believer must take every opportunity to turn them towards the gospel. The devil takes every opportunity to show unbelievers the
disharmony which exists among Christians. The believer must take every opportunity to show the unity and love which exists among believers. The devil takes every opportunity to show the pleasures that can be
found in seeking fleshly and worldly things. The believer must take every opportunity to show the joy and peace that comes only through godliness. The devil takes every opportunity to make people put their
trust in themselves and their good works. The believer must take every opportunity to show people how to place their trust in the sacrificial merits of Jesus Christ. The devil takes every opportunity to show people how self-sufficient they are. The believer must take every opportunity to show people their real need.

When the world is reveling in sin, the believer must be reveling in the Word. When the world is being ministered to by a steady dose of humanism, the believer must be ministered to by the Spirit. When the
world is promoting greed, the believer must promote giving. When the world is promoting hatred, the believer must promote love towards his fellow man. When the world turns a cold heart away from those in need, the believer must turn a softened heart of warmth and charity towards them.

But, not only must there be consistency of life, the believer must also be a credible witness by the way in which he speaks to others. Christians are not only to commend the gospel by their lives but also by their lips. So much damage is done to the cause of Christ by the rudeness of believers when speaking about the gospel. Our speech is to be seasoned with salt. In other words, our speech must make the gospel tasteful, just as salt makes food more tasteful and desirable.

Lightfoot has said, “Not only must your conversation be opportune as regards the time; it must also be appropriate as regards the person.” Wisdom must be exercised when speaking with someone about the gospel. Wisdom is the salt in our speech. Grace in our speech shows a spirit of humility, which will lead to a gracious approach when telling the goodness of Christ to others.

Geoffrey Wilson has well stated, “No effective witness is given to Christ by rattling off a stereotyped testimony, because this completely ignores the fact that each person has his own special needs. It is worth noting that Paul constantly adapted his speech to his audience.”

Conclusion:

Here then we have the closing exhortations of the Apostle. We are to devote ourselves to prayer with watchfulness and thanksgiving, and we are to be careful in the way we live before and speak with the unsaved.

The duty of the believer is to enhance the growth of the kingdom of Christ, not to hinder it. Two of the most effective means of enlarging the kingdom is our prayers and the testimonies of our lives.

I trust that we have learned some practical truths from our study of this letter. It is indeed a short epistle, but it is deep in its richness and in its application.

May God grant us a rich measure of grace from his Word.

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