DEVOTIONALS ON COLOSSIANS
THE HEART OF A LEADER/BELIEVER
Gordon E. Johnson
Rio Grande Bible Institute
We have been moved by the fervent Prayer of Paul for his friends whom he had never seen (1:9-14), then his presentation of the Incomparable Christ (1:15-23) and finally the Ultimate Indwelling of Christ, "Christ in you, the hope of glory" (1:24-29).
Without a break in thought, Colossians 2:1-7 introduces us to what was on Paul's heart, a real conflict, a spiritual battle, "For I want you to know how great a conflict [contest] I have for you, and those in Laodicea, and for as many as have not seen my face in the flesh (v.1) He mentions those in Laodicea (Rev. 3:14) and Hierapolis (4:13), several of the churches on the circuit to which Paul's students had ministered. The word "conflict or struggle" is rooted in our word "to agonize."
Notice the title: The Heart of a Servant/Leader. Paul is not writing from a position of assumed apostolic authority, but rather he takes his place alongside any believer who cares for another fellow believer. Would to God we had more servant leaders and believers that would follow his selfless example!
Paul knew that false doctrine, Gnosticism -- a current Greek intellectualism -- foreign to the Message of the Cross, was making inroads into the area churches. He faces squarely the challenge of false doctrine. Gnosticism equated salvation with an elite knowledge and denied both the deity and humanity of Jesus; hence Paul's earlier prayer and description of the Incomparable Christ were to counter act this popular cultural error. He must re-establish the simple ground rules for faith and heartfelt trust in Jesus.
To confront this heresy, Paul desires "that their hearts may be encouraged [braced for], having been knit together in love, and attaining to all riches of the full assurance of the understanding, to the knowledge of the mystery of God, both of the Father and of Christ" (v.2). The word for "encourage" is the very root of the name ascribed to the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete (John 14:16), the advocate who comes alongside to strengthen and defend.
To be knit together or to coalesce with love as the very bond of strength, this was to the end that they might know the true or full personal knowledge ["epignosis" – a special word involving experiential knowledge] of Christ, the mystery of God (v.2). Notice the absolute fullness of truth that is theirs in Christ.
In affirming this truth of their union with Christ, he is answering the false teaching that knowledge, secret and selective, was the essence of this heresy. Paul affirms that it is the mystery of Christ, being God himself -- not mysterious or difficult to grasp – that is now fully available to all as revealed in Christ. These are truths hidden from others but are ours to grasp and believe. "In whom [Christ] are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge" and ours for the taking in simple faith (v.3).
In brief, Paul is saying the truth is not in the Greek Mystery Religions that were infiltrating the churches, but rather in the now revealed "mystery" of God in Christ "For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily and you are complete in Him who is the head of all principality and power" (v.9). Christ is the answer and he dwells in us. We don't need outside knowledge but rather inner strengthening. He will proceed to tell us "how" in the passage.
Paul is convinced that the Colossians for whom he agonizes in prayer will stand firm in the faith received from Epaphras, their pastor (1:7); to stand firm is a military term of keeping rank against an enemy assault (2:5). For Paul the victory has been already won at the Cross. He will detail that more fully in 2:9-3:17.
But for now, his counsel is reassuring." As you have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord -- a unique expression --, so walk in Him" (v.6). This means more than how the message was first heard but rather how they have now entered into the fuller meaning of that vital union. Christ himself in all his fullness was received in simple faith and their position is grounded in the validity of that message. Nothing more is needed and anything more to be added is "anathema".
Here is the simplicity of the message of our death with Christ to sin and resurrection life that issues from simple believing (Romans 6:1-6). As we received him, so we walk in him -- a present progressive command.
This solid once and for all "rooting" [as a tree] is followed by the progressive building that issues in gratitude. "Having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in the faith, just as you were instructed and overflowing in it with gratitude" (v.7).
Paul enjoins the battle against false doctrine with the Incomparable Christ who dwells in us. We need only to walk in Him by faith. God give us such servant leaders and believers!
Truths to Take to Heart
Paul faces squarely the errors of the day by revealing the marvel of God's grace in the believer:
How did you receive Christ ……………………………. ?
What did you contribute to your salvation …………………………..?
How much depended on your doing …………………………..?
Now in Christ how should you walk ……………………………….?
What must you do differently …………………..?.
Is Christ ever insufficient for your daily walk of faith ………….?
So walk in Him rooted, built up and established in your faith. The simplicity of faith is available to all of us in Christ.