Sermon 2011 04 10 AM

10.04.11AM Sermon            Christ and the Christian Gospel # 8 - The gospel of Christ (Col 1:21-2:5)

The gospel : experienced by the Colossians (Col 1:21-23)

“Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because ofyour evil behaviour. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation - if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant.”

Ted Jeffries of Porthallow in Cornwall boasted that he owned the most southerly vineyard in Britain, and that he bottled a fine table wine. But between 1991 and 1994 due to the poor weather, there were no grape harvests in Cornwall. So, when a wine inspector found a bottle of wine labelled “1992 Vintage” he was suspicious. How could this be since there was no harvest? His investigations revealed that in order to save his business, Mr Jeffries had used a home wine-making kit and brewed up some cheap plonk which he then passed off as the read thing. The magistrates fined him £6000 for his deceit. He defence though was interesting, for he said that “No one had complained. They were happy with the wine they had bought, so what was the problem?”

 

Paul had learned of a similar problem in Colosse.

Instead of holding to the genuine and vintage gospel, the Colossian Christians were beginning to adopt and enjoy a cheap substitute which was being passed off as the read thing.

Unfortunately, many of the Colossians couldn’t tell the different between this cheap gospel and the real thing.

In Col 2:4 Paul mentions the ‘deceivers’ explicitly for the first time.

Later in the chapter he is going to expose their deception.

But first he wants to remind the Colossians of the vintage gospel.

He wants to jog their memory of the taste of the real thing so that they can more readily recognise the false.

 

The Gospel : experienced by the Colossians (v21-23)

 

It is impossible to separate the person of Christ (who he is) from the work of Christ (what he has done).

So when Paul came to the climax of his hymn that we have been considering over the past weeks, he focuses upon what this marvellous Christ was doing in reconciling all things once more to God.

What was true on a cosmic scale was also true on a personal level.

So Paul turns the Colossians attention to what God is doing in their own lives.

 

1. What they were (v21)

He begins by reminding them of their state before they became Christians - They were alienated from God.

They may have been created by god and lived in God’s world, but they did so as strangers to him.

They enjoyed none of the benefits of friendship, intimacy and ease with God which had been his original purpose of creation.

If they knew him at all, it was from a distance, which meant that the image that they had of this God would have been distorted or blurred, if not thoroughly wrong.

So, what was the cause of this alienation?

Paul points out that doing, thinking and being are all involved - The way that they behaved affected the way that they thought and the way that they thought put them in a position of hostility toward God.

They were enemies in their minds because of their evil behaviour.

Paul spells it out more clearly to the Romans :

(Rom 1:21-25) “Although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles. Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator …”

In his letter to the Romans Paul seems to make warped thinking the cause and evil behaviour the effect, but with the Colossians it appears the other way round.

In effect, human beings are integrated beings, with thinking and behaviour informing and influencing each other. It is difficult, perhaps impossible to sort out which comes first. Bad thinking leads to evil behaviour, but bad behaviour also leads to futile thinking.

Paul needs to remind the Colossians of what they were before he could then remind them of what they are.

2. What they are (v22)

You see, Paul poses the problem we have – we are alienated from God.

But he then shared with us the answer. There is good news for our predicament.

God can be known, our thinking can be sorted and our behaviour transformed.

The broken relationship with God can be healed.

So Paul speaks first about (1.) The fact of our reconciliation.

John Stott comments that of all the metaphors of salvation in the New Testament, reconciliation is “the most popular … because it is the most personal.”

Feeling need for reconciliation is something that we all can have the experience of – when relationships break down, we are left knowing that there is a need for a resolution, a solution, even if we don’t know how.

God addresses the great need that we human beings have – a reconciled relationship with him.

And he does it, as we shall see Paul refer to, through the Cross of Christ.

You see, God knows that it is impossible for us to sort it out the broken relationship by ourselves.

The initiative lies with Him - God is the offended party who, in his grace, takes steps to remove the obstacle of sin which his creatures have placed there to block him out. But now he has reconciled you.

Paul makes it clear that something has changed, something has happened, something has been done.

Things are no longer what they were. That was then and this is now. The tense of the verb ‘reconciled’ is an aorist tense meaning something that has been done and completed, finished.

Paul speaks about the unarguable fact of the reconciliation - now he has reconciled you.

 

Secondly, Paul speaks about (2.) The means of reconciliation

The means by which God brought about this reconciliation was through Christ’s physical body through death.

God gives his one and only Son over to death for us.

Christ Jesus becomes the sacrificial means of your and my reconciliation.

This was the way, the only way, this is the only way in which we may find reconciliation with God.

Christ Jesus dies as an atonement for our sins - That we and God may be ‘at-one’ again.

God chose to respond to the enormity of the offence and the seriousness of the estrangement by the giving of an enormous gift, by the payment of the greatest cost – one that would cost him all that he held dear.

God shows us that the offence was too serious to be ignored or treated us unimportant – it needed a radical, unthinkable response – and God makes the first move.

The Price was Paid for the debt that we owed. The ransom was handed over for our freedom.

A Substitute was made, the great exchange. Reconciliation costs.

 

And Paul wants to make it clear that Christ Jesus was a physical man, with a physical body, and he physically died a painful death – his body was definitely dead, there was no life in it.

Perhaps some in Colosse were questioning Christ’s physicality or the reality of his death.

Today it is taught by some that Christ escaped from the cross at the last moment, that his death was an illusion, that he fainted on the cross and revived in the tomb, that his body was substituted by a spirit.

There are many contrary teachings to the truth of scripture, to throw people off track and to keep them from salvation.

But an illusory death could only bring about an illusory salvation.

His real physical death was needed and this is what was freely given at an imaginably great cost.

 

Paul mentions thirdly (3.) The Purpose of our Reconciliation.

It is to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation.

Although salvation is assured – we are reconciled – it is not yet complete.

We have not yet been made perfect, we are not yet what we will one day fully be in Christ.

Paul wants his readers to understand that we are not reconciled in order to go on living as we used to.

Our restored relationship with God is no mere legal transaction that leaves us unaltered.

We are now in a restored relationship with God and that relationship is to go from strength to strength, it is to be nurtured, deepened, grown.

We will now want to please our God in every way and this will take time and effort.

We are to be presented holy in God’s sight, without blemish or accusation.

Here Paul alludes to two sacrifices going on.

There is the sacrifice of Christ, the sacrifice of atonement which is the perfect sacrifice, reconciling us to God, the lamb of God without sin or blemish dying for us – becoming our sin, bearing our sin.

And there is also our becoming a living sacrifice – to live our lives sacrificially.

 

3. What they need (v23)

So, how can the Colossians and how can we progress in our sacrificial living for Christ?

Well, Paul makes it clear that we are to continue in the faith that we have received, to persevere in the gospel that we have learned.

It is possible that the Colossians were being taught a different way to be holy and to ensure that they were right with God – perhaps a twelve step course for holy living.

But Paul makes clear that Christ Jesus is a Sufficient Saviour  - that there is nothing that we can add to what he has already done, and all we need to do is live out by faith what he has already achieved for us.

We have already been given (2:10) fullness in him. He and his gospel are completely adequate.

We must resist the temptation of looking elsewhere and must keep coming back to the one true gospel of Christ.

Irenaeus, one of the early church fathers, directed his followers “not to invent new doctrine.”

The original, vintage gospel was good enough for the early church and is good enough for us today.

We, of course, need to constantly come to renewed understanding of old doctrine and a renewed application of the old truth in our own day.

In a world of change, in a world which is restless and which is always looking for the latest idea or fad or fashion, we must be careful not abandon and tweak the truth of gospel to change it from what it is to suit ourselves or the world around us – to water down Jesus, or compromise his message.

The way that we present the gospel may indeed be different, like a change of gift-wrap, but the same present is contained within.

The danger in discovering that which is new (or worse, merely inventing something which is novel) is that we come us with something that is simply not true.

That was situation in Colosse – they chased exciting novelties.

Rather Paul urges them to continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel.

The little town of Colosse suffered some devastating earthquakes in AD 60/61 and knew what it was to have the ground shaken beneath their feet.

But when it came to their faith, they were not to live in the earthquake zone, but upon the sure and steady rock Christ and his only true gospel – the gospel of Christ and Him crucified.

They were to put down roots into him, establish strong foundations and be earthquake proof.

 

So, may we be those who remember what we were without Christ, who know who we are and what we have in Christ and who live for him knowing him better and making him better known.

 

Questions to ponder

10th April 2011.

Read Colossians 1:21-23

1. How does wrong thinking lead to bad behaviour and vice-versa? What evidence is there of this in our world today?

2. Christ’s physical death brings about God-Human Reconciliation – How? (see also Rom 5:10, 2 Cor 5:18,20, Eph 2:16).

3. How do we know that Jesus had a physical body and physically died – that it wasn’t all an illusion?

4. Is there reconciliation in your life/relationships that needs to happen?

5. Consider the following metaphors/images of salvation in the N.T. Which do you most readily associate with and why? Which do you find it hardest to understand, and why?

  • Slavery-Redemption (Mark 10:45; 1 Peter 1:18-19.)
  • Condemnation-Justification (Rom 3:19-24).
  • Alienation-Reconciliation (2 Cor 5:18-21, Col 1:21-22)
  • Wrath-Propitiation/Expiation (Rom 3:25-26)
  • Defilement-Cleansing (1 John 1:5-9)
  • Lost-Found (Luke 15)
  • Love (1 John 4:7-11, Gal 5:13, John 3:16).

Why not take time to reflect upon what Christ has done for you through the Cross?

6. In what ways are you (or can we be) a “living sacrifice” or “living sacrificially”?

7. How do we ensure that we do not depart from the true (vintage/original) gospel and embrace a cheap substitute?

8. “This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven.” How and when did you hear the gospel and respond to it? How are those around you ‘hearing’ the gospel proclaimed?


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