Colossians


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.

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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?

In Colossians 1:5, Paul descirbes the “word of truth” as “the gospel,” which a young convert of his, Epaphras brought back to his hometown, Colossae. What is the gospel? Well, its doesn’t mean gospel music.  I don’t think black gospel or the Gaither band were around back then. “Gospel” means simply good news.  But what is the gospel?  What is the good news that this disciple of the Apostle Paul brought back to Colossae?   

The gospel is about a moment in time.  The gospel is about a moment in time without which time and life make no sense.  I remember before I was a Christian one night, hanging out with some friends and partying, and looking up at the sky filled with stars and saying, “There must be a reason for all of this.” 

The gospel is about a moment in time which takes us all the way back to the beginning of time, when God created all things out of nothing.  We can even see this in the book of Colossians.  Colossians 1:15, 16, “He (Jesus) is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.  For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.”  These two verses tell us about where we come from and about our purpose here on this earth.  These verses tell us that God created “all things” that includes you, through Jesus Christ.  And that you were created “for him,” that is you were created in God’s image to reflect the glory and goodness of God in the creation, you were created to be in a close relationship with God, you were created to know him, you were created to love him, and you were created to obey him. 

The word of truth tells us that God created the first humans for his glory.  And When he created them, Genesis tell us,  God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good (Genesis 1:31).”  There was no sin, no shame, pain, hurt, disease, war, rape, murder, jealousy, materialism, polution, earthquakes, tornadoes, or any such thing. 

A couple of weeks ago in Louisville, KY, we had some flash floods and there were cars floating and river was running though my street.  It was lovely.  One of my friends who I work with was walking out to his car to go to work with his little girl during this storm and she fell on her knees and shouted, “God deliver us from the devil!”  As cute and as funny as that is, there is some truth in it.  There is something gone wrong with this world and there’s something wrong with us.  Five minutes of the evening news will convince you of that. 

Genesis tells us it all went wrong, when the first humans decided not to listen to God, to be gods to themselves, and to rebel against God.  This is when Romans 5:12 says, “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned.”  Through the sin of the first humans, Adam and Eve, sin has spread to all who follow.  We are all sinners!  We are all rebels.  I am, you are, and so is everyone else.  What’s the problem with this world I am, we are. 

Colossians 1:21, “And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds.”  We all come into this world alienated from God; we are seperated from him, because of our sins.  Psalm 5:4, 5 says, “For you are not a God who delights in wickedness; evil may not dwell with you.  The boastful shall not stand before your eyes; you hate all evildoers.”  Apart from Christ we are hostile to God and to the things of God.  We don’t like the idea of a God who created us and demands absolute authority over our lives.  We don’t want a God who hates “all evildoers.”  We would rather live independent of him and not be bothered by his holy demands.  The last phrase in Colossians 1:21 tells us why, “doing evil deeds.”  We’re hostile in our minds towards God, because we want to practice evil deeds and sin and be left alone. 

Colossians 3:5, “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.”  The word of God tells us sin is shown in our lives by all these things, like sexual immorality, that is any type of sex outside of the marriage between one man and one woman, whether it be looking at someone of the oppisite sex and having sex with them in your mind, masturbation, pornography, premarital sex, beastiality, homosexuality or whatever.  Sin is revealed in us by coveting the things that others have, wanting what others have, and lusting over  the things of this world.  Paul calls all this stuff “idolatry.”  So, when we sin, we set our ownselves up as God and look to sex or money or family or husband or girlfriend or religion to satisfy our hearts rather than God.  We look to ourselves for provision rather than God.   

Colossians 3:8, 9, “But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth.  Do not lie to one another.”  God would also remind us that we show ourselves to be rebels by nature by our anger, slander, filthy mouths, and lying and many other ways.  And because of these offences before the Living God of the Universe Colossians 3:6, says, “account of these the wrath of God is coming.”  Because of sin, God’s anger is being kindled against it.  He will judge sin; he must judge sin.  He is a good God and a holy God.  He cannot let sin and rebellion that has been done primarily against him be left unpunished. 

But there is a gospel!  There is hope!  There is good news!  This gospel is about a moment in time.  The word of Christ describes it like this in Mark 1:15, “Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”  When Jesus came into this world the time was ripe, God’s plan to rescue sinners was coming to pass and Jesus says, “the time is fulfilled.”  Paul describes this moment in time, in Galatians 4:4, by saying, “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman.”