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Since graduating from seminary, God has really been speaking to me about church planting. This has developed into somewhat of an obsession! It’s amazing to see the different places that the Lord brings you to as you walk with him in this life and this is where he is walking with me right now.

Recently, I preached at my home church in WV and while preparing, the Lord opened my eyes to how Paul’s letter to the Colossians relates to church planting.




(Photos: Old Louisville)

So, here’s a few things I learned…

Epaphras (The Colossian Church Planter):

 1] Was Trained and Discipled in Relation to the Apostle Paul – “This continued for two years, so that all the residents of Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks(Acts 19:10).” Epaphras would have been one of those residents who heard the gospel message during Paul’s three year ministry at Ephesus.

2] Was a Faithul-Servant-Minister of Christ – “just as you learned it from Epaphras our beloved fellow servant. He is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf (Colossians 1:7; 4:12). While Epaphras was in Ephesus hearing the word taught and seeing the gospel embodied, the Spirit began to mold him into a faithful servant of the people of God. This was indeed the apostle’s own testimony of this man.

3] Returned to His Hometown/Area to Preach the Gospel – “because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel, which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and growing—as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth, just as you learned it from Epaphras our beloved fellow servant (Colossians 1:5-7).” The gospel that saved Epaphras drove him to concern for his city, Colossae and the surrounding region.  As Paul concluded his letter to the church at Colossae, he said, “Epaphras, who is one of you (Colossians 4:12).” He was a fellow citizen of Colossae now change by the glory of the gospel, which drove him to look homeward.

4] Enlisted a Prayer Posse – “We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints (Colossians 1:3-4; 2:1, 2).” Once the gospel began to bear fruit, Epaphras told the good news to those who shared and lived the gospel with him in Ephesus. In response, they turned towards God in thanksgiving and prayer on behalf of this infant church.    

5] Battled in Prayer for the Church – “Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ Jesus, greets you, always struggling on your behalf in his prayers, that you may stand mature and fully assured in all the will of God(Colossians 4:12).” Epaphras did not expect the church to stand on its own without the help of God, nor was he lazy, thinking that others are praying and that he could relax. He loved this city and the church God planted there and battled the principalities and powers on his knees.

6] Reported Back to Those Who Sent Him – “since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints (Colossians 1:4; 4:12).” After the Lord caused the gospel to take root in Colossae, Epaphras shared this news with Paul.

7] Sought Godly Wisdom in Difficult Times – “and has made known to us your love in the Spirit (Colossians 1:7).” The Colossian Church at the time was experiencing some temptation to drift away from the gospel. So, Epaphras went to see the apostle Paul to ask his advice about how to deal with this situation. This is the letter of Colossians, a response to that situation. Epaphras was with Paul, when they received this letter (Colossians 4:12). 

8] Preached the Gospel Despite Threats of Persecution – “Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, sends greetings to you (Philemon 23).” It seems that sometime during his ministry Epaphras was imprisoned, because of the gospel.

So, this is the gospel, but what does the gospel do?  Well, it changes everything. Colossians 1:6, “which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and growing—as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth.”  The first thing it does is create the church (Colossians 1:6).  Paul here describes the gospel as a plant, which when its seed is planted it bears fruit and grows.  Notice how he says it has been bearing fruit “since the day you heard it.”  This means that the gospel isn’t something that get’s you into the kingdom of God and then you forget about. Since the day the Colossians heard the gospel it had been bearing fruit.

The gospel should be applied to every area of our lives and the gospel should be the main point of every sermon that is preached, not just something tacked on to the end to get sinners saved. Colossians 3:16, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom.”  Paul is talk to the church here as a whole, about the gospel being central.  Without it there is no church. 

Second, the gospel not only reconciles us to God, but to each other. Colossians 3:13, “bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.”  The gospel demands that the church be a forgving community of people, who don’t just do to others as they do to us.  We are to forgive. Are you forgiving each other? Or are there people who you just don’t really love and can’t really forgive.  We are to forgive “as the Lord has forgiven” us!

Third, the gospel is the foundation for marriage. Colossians 3:19, “Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them.”  Husbands how are you doing?  Are you loving your wives?  The gospel tells that Jesus sacrificed his life for his bride the church. The Spirit of God doesn’t give us an option here.  We are to love our wives or not be Christians. Will you love your wife?  Will you as a church make the gospel central to marriage?

Fourth, the gospel opens our eyes to a lost and hurting community and world. Colossians 4:5, “Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time.”  The gospel teaches us that Christ is the greatest missionary of all time, who left the comforts of heaven to indentify himself with the poor anf sinful of this world. How is the community you live in different, because of your church?

So, this gospel is about a moment in time, a man, but it is also about a messageColossians 1:28, “Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ.”  The gospel is about the proclamation of the most important message ever.  Paul said, “Him we proclaim.”  The Apostle, who saw the resurected Christ, said that his preaching and teaching were about proclaiming “Him,” that is the God-man, sin-forgiving, new-life-giving, world-changing, son of God and nothing else! 

This message is to be believed.  Paul in Colossians 1:5 described the gospel as “the word of truth.”  It should be trusted.  Jesus has been crucified for sins, resurected and is sitting at God’s right hand, waiting to return, and he commands all to believe in him.  This is not an option, but Christ demands all people everywhere to believe.  In John 14:1, Jesus said, “Believe in God; believe also in me.”  Jesus said in Mark 1:15 again, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”  Paul thanked God for the Colossians in Colossians 1:3 saying, “We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus.”  You see, faith is essential to salvation.  If you want to be saved from your sin, you must throw all your trust on the only one who can save you, Jesus Christ.  You must believe the good news about Jesus’ life, death, and resurection. 

So, this gospel message should be belived.  However, belief is not the whole coin.  There is another side to conversion, which is repentance.  It means to turn away from something.  This message about Jesus should produce a real change in us, without which there is no salvation.  Again Mark 1:15, Jesus said, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”  I Thessalonians 1:9 provides a good description of repentance, “you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God.”

The other day I was driving down our street and I noticed a car coming in the other direction.  Now, normally that wouldn’t be a problem, but you see our street is one way.  The guy was driving into oncoming traffic.  He was headed for danger.  He needed to repent. 

The gospel message shows us our sin and it shows us a God who is going to judge sin, it shows us there is a way to be forgiven and it calls us to repent to turn from sin and unbelief to Jesus to be forgiven. I have just laid before you the facts of the gospel, that God is your creator, that you have sinned against him, that you will be judged for this sin, but God sent his son at the right time to die on the cross, so that you might be forgiven, and that Jesus has defeated the curse of sin and resurrected from the grave.  Now, God calls on you to repent and turn from your sin and believe in this good news, so that your sin can be forgiven and you can be reconciled to God.  So will you?  Will you come to Jesus right now?  Will you turn from your sin?  God promises to forgive?  He promises to make peace between you and him.  You can put your trust in Jesus right now!

Not only is the gospel, the good news of God, about a moment in time, but it is about a man.  A God-man who came down to earth wrapped in flesh to save us rebels from the wrath of God.  This man is Jesus Christ!  Colossians 1:15 says, “He is the image of the invisible God.”  Jesus came to earth to show us who were lost, blind, and spiritually dead what God was like. 

I work primarlilly with 6-12 year old kids and they have some really good questions about God.  A frequent one is “if God is real why can’t we see him.”  I tell them well, he visited us around 2,000 years ago and his name is Jesus.  People could see him, touch him, talk to him, listen to him, and eat with him.  He is still alive!  Jesus is “the image of the invisible God.” 

Jesus is God-man.  He is fully God, but came to take on human flesh, so that he migt save us.  Colossians 1:19 says, “For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell.”  In Jesus Christ, all of who God is dwelt bodily.  He knows all things, see all things, creates all things, is able to forgive all things, is in everyplace, has existed before all things, and can do all things! Colossians 1:17, “in him all things hold together.”  Jesus is the one sustains the universe and keeps it from flying into choas.  He is the one who keeps you alive today giving “to all mankind life and breath and everything (Acts 17:25).”  He is the Maker and Creator of all!  

Part of my job is distrubuting medications to the guys where I work and last week I went to give some guys their meds and one said, “How does it feel to be the kingpin of Brooklawn?” Then based on previous conversation with these guys, I said, “It’s better to know the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords, Jesus Christ.”  The another kid said, “Why are you always talking about Jesus?”  So, I responded, “Because he is the most amazing person in the entire universe!” 

This Jesus, this God-man came to save sinners.  “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners of whom I am the worst (I Timothy 1:15).” He came to deviver us from hell, sin, ourselves, and Satan.  He did this by his death on a wooden cross and his resurection from the dead.  You see, death was necessary for sin from the beginning, because God said if you chose to rebel, then you would surely die.  The word of God tells us that the wages of sin is death. All die and all will face judgment and hell apart from Jesus.  So, Jesus comes as the only one who is able to take our sin upon himself and die our death, so that we might not face the ultimate death, hell. 

Colossians 1:19, 20, “ For in him (Jesus) all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.”  At the right time and on the right man, the God-man, Jesus Christ, God placed all of our sin on the cross and poured out all of his hatred for sin.  The God who hates evil in this moment, punished his son instead of us, so he might “reconcile” us to himself.  God did this so that in bruising and piercing his own son he would be, “making peace by the blood of his cross.”             

Colossians 2:13-15, “And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.”  The Romans, when they would crucify a man, would drive nails through his hands and feet and nail a “record of debt,” above the criminal’s head, indicating why they were being punished.  The Spirit of God in this text tell us that we all have a record of debt we owe to God that we cannot pay.  This debt stands against us testifying to our breaking the laws of God and it will follow us to judgment, unless.

Jesus took this “record of debt” and nailed it to the cross.  He set it aside.  He cancelled it.  It’s gone.  To all who are in Christ there is no more guilt, no more shame, no more accusations that can damn us by Satan.  It’s been forgiven!  Jesus paid it all!  This is good news!  Jesus has died for my sins that I could not wash away, for my shame that plagaued me, for my burdern which was to heavy for me to carry and he nailed the whole load to the cross.  He cancelled all my debt and rose again, defeating death, hell, and the armies of Satan that stand against me.  God, “disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.”