Sermon 2011 05 08 AM

08.05.11 AM Sermon                        Christ and the Christian Gospel # 10 The gospel of Christ (Col 1:21-2:5)

The gospel : threatened by troublemakers (Col 2:1-5)

 

Paul writes this epistle / letter to the Christians at Colosse because he has had to remind them of the truth of the gospel. This was because they had departed from the authentic and true gospel of Christ, steered away by troublemakers, false teachers – and it is to these people that Paul turns his attention.

This morning, I want us to consider in this passage Paul’s purpose in writing, his problem to be dealt with and the pleasure that he finds in the Colossians.

 

1. Paul’s Purpose

In these verses of scripture, Paul couples the church at Colosse with the church at Laodicea which was about 10 miles further down the River Lycus. They were two different churches, yet facing the same issue – that of false teaching that is evident in both and being received by both.

False teaching within the life of the church has been and is a great threat to the effectiveness of the church in its mission and takes it toll on the spiritual health and life of a church and individual Christians.

False teaching, today, easily seeps into church life, it pervades, it creeps – it is a subtle and deadly intrusions.

Like a mildew or mould that seems insignificant at first, yet when it gets hold it renders a garment useless.

We all need to be on our guard against false teaching and false teachers.

False teaching comes in many varieties and vehicles.

False teaching can be presented simply as another set of values or opinions to be set equally alongside the truth of the gospel.

It can twist and contort the truth that is already there until it is eventually unrecognisable.

In our pluralistic society, where different religions or faiths or belief systems or ideologies are placed alongside one another we can be led to belief that there is equality for all, equal validity for all beliefs.

That what one person believes is true for them, what another believes is true for them and we can all live happily ever after.

And this attitude can creep into the church until the gospel of Christ is compromised as it is subtly changed from one thing into another, into another, into another.

The Colossians encountered false teaching that didn’t seem false, but false teaching nonetheless.

Teaching which made Christ out to be an insufficient Saviour – a Saviour who needed other things to be added to his saving work on the cross – works, rituals, regulations.

Be aware, that False teaching is harmful to our health.

[Illustration: Cigarette packet – warning about smoking.]

False teaching debilitates Christ’s people, it stunts their growth, it deprives them of peace.

If not dealt with, it spreads like a cancer – out to destroy.

The Apostle Paul stresses in his letter to the Colossians and even more bluntly in his letter to the Galatians the danger of false teaching and the importance of recognising it and dealing with it, and he points out the symptoms we should be on the look out for.

False teaching brings discouragement, it brings disunity, it brings disorientation.
It brings discouragement since it doesn’t provide the nourishment for spiritual vitality.

It brings disunity and division since it is moving away from the original and authentic teaching about Christ and introduces new and distorted understandings.

It brings disorientation or confusion – since people are no longer sure of their beliefs.

In presenting the truth of the gospel of Christ Paul’s purpose was to give the Colossians the antidote to the false teaching poison that they had swallowed or consumed.

Where there was discouragement he wanted to bring encouragement.

“My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart …”

Where there was disunity he states, “My purpose is that they may be … united in love”

Where there is disorientation and confusion Paul wants them to “Have the full riches of complete understanding” and to “Know the mystery of God, namely Christ.”

Christ is the medicine that can cure them – the true gospel the antidote to the false teaching.

 

Paul puts it another way, when he refers to Christ Jesus as the one “in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”

Paul portrays Christ as the mine full of precious gems and metals that his people can mine and gain their wealth from. Yet the Colossians have not even begun to mine / quarry Christ, still less exhaust the riches that are in him.

The writer to the Hebrews laments over Christian immaturity in a similar way (Heb 6:11-14):

“We have much to say … but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn. In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.”

May we be a people who search out the deeper things of Christ – digging in his word, wrestling in prayer, worshipping him in awe, fellowshipping with one another even when it costs.

 

The sad admission is for Christians in our society today have abandoned the truth of the gospel in so many ways and are embracing false wisdom and teaching.

It is sheer foolishness to turn from Christ and instead embrace something simply because it is the latest fad or fashion, or trusting in and repeating the human or worldly centred false teachings that abound.

Christ’s people are to centre themselves on Christ, remaining in him and growing rich as a result.

Are you wealth or possessions poor? Are you time poor? Are you emotionally poor?

The scriptures teach us that if we are in Christ then we are rich in him, we have all we need and more.

When you feel depleted, discouraged, in despair, disheartened, cling to Christ and know his strength, his power, his wisdom, his authority, his comfort, his love, his patience, his kindness, his understanding, his liberty, his goodness, his light and life.

The treasures that are ours are, Paul says, ‘hidden’ in him – in one sense, they are now revealed in these days, as they were hidden from those generations prior to his incarnation – we are a blessed people today.

Yet in another sense they are there for those who will search, who will dig, who will persevere, who will not give up – just as gold or diamonds or oil comes to those who search and sweat, so the treasures found in Christ can be gained by those who deepen in their discipleship, who press onwards – who make the effort.

The truth, the riches, the encouragement, the unity, the security found in Christ makes a real difference to those who will search as for hidden treasure.

But False teaching is for those who want to hear what their ears want to hear, who want to simply pick it up of the surface, who will willy-nilly grab hold of whatever presents itself to them.

The deep riches of Christ are oh so much more precious.

Paul desires the Colossians and Laodiceans to experience their richness and depth in Christ – to understand the gospel more and find that Christ answers their every need.

His purpose is that they might have encouragement in their hearts, unity in their fellowship, understanding in the minds and an assurance in their relationship with Christ.

 

2. Paul’s Problem

But as I have said, Paul points out the problem – that the church may be misled by fine sounding arguments.

Those who speak eloquently or persuasively may not be those who speak truthfully.

False teaching does not have a sign up on it saying, “false teaching” or “don’t touch with a bargepole”, or “wrong way” or “you’ll find no answers worth finding here”.

False teaching is by its very nature attractive, it beckons, it promises, it gives the person what they think they want. We need much discernment in our day where false teaching is an art form.

Satan is out to destroy the church and he is out to destroy your faith, and he will use any means he can.

He is on a mission to ensure that people are led away from Christ Jesus or at least are stopped from growing in him. Know, this - that you are in a spiritual battle and it is serious.

Satan will use different tactics to do this, but one if his best is deception.

He is a deceiver (right from the very beginning) and his agents are deceivers.

False teachers will lie and often time will not realise it, they themselves will be convinced that what they teach is good and true – they themselves have been deceived.

Paul describes false teaching as “fine-sounding arguments” – and this is because – they sound fine!

Satan takes what is true and gives it a twist, tweaks it a little, and before you know it, you’re in error.

He deceives and distorts. Twisting the truth - adding to or taking away from the truth, changing it subtly and bit by bit – so that gradually the believer is led astray from their moorings in Christ alone until they find themselves cut adrift in a dangerous sea of error.

The false teachers at Colosse were seeking to supplement Christ where they perceived him and his gospel to be weak – they regarded Christ is an insufficient Saviour and therefore presented the need to do works and obey rules and regulations to be assured of avoiding the wrath of God and his angels.

Such false teachers needed to be uprooted before the roots went too deep.

We must not compromise the gospel of Christ, rather we must hold fast and true to it.

Any other ‘gospel’ Paul tells the Galatians is no gospel at all – it has no power to save only power to condemn.

Jesus warned his disciples, (Luke 21:8) “Watch out that you are not deceived. For many will come in my name …”

Paul expressed his concern for the Corinthians when he said (2 Corinthians 11:3) “I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ.”

And he warns Timothy about the deception that will be prevalent in these days, (2 Timothy 3) “Mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. “… evil men and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.”

 

May we hear the prayer of Paul for the Philippians : (Philippians 1:9-11) “This is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.”

 

3. Paul’s Pleasure

Paul expresses his delight with the Colossians, seeking to encourage them.

(v5) “Though I am absent from you in body, I am present with you in spirit and delight to see how orderly you are and how firm your faith in Christ is.”

Paul is physically distant, indeed he has never met the Colossian church, yet he asserts that he is spiritually with them.
Oneness in Spirit is so important, to know that you brothers and sisters in Christ are with you even though they are absent from you is a spur to keep on following Christ, particularly in times of trouble or threat.

 

[Some years ago we visited a church in Majorca – they still send us their updates every year and their news.]

 

Where we have opportunity to be physically or spiritually with other believers let us do so.

There are two things that give Paul pleasure about the Colossians.

That they are “Orderly” and “Firm” – Paul uses here, military terms.

Their orderliness is like that of an army when fighting an enemy – lined up.  [Pic – troops]

The firmness of their faith – is their stance against their enemy – their defending their position, not retreating, letting nothing move them.

 

May we have about us an orderliness, a lining up with one another, a unity of spiritual and purpose and vision, and a firmness in our faith, letting nothing move us, giving ourselves fully for Christ and his Kingdom.

Our orderliness comes through deepening in our relationships with one another.

Text Box: The gospel is:
•	Too precious to ignore: believe it
•	Too precious to relinquish: be faithful to it
•	Too precious to hide: proclaim it
•	Too precious to betray: defend it


Getting to know one another better – opening our homes to one another, enquiring about one another as to how they are and how we can minister to one another.

Do good especially to the family of believers

Our firmness of faith comes from deepening in our relationship with God through Christ and by his Spirit – by our study of the scriptures, our devotion to prayer, our becoming free in worship.

 

Questions to Ponder

8th May 2011

 

Read Colossians 2:1-5

1. Paul wanted to bring encouragement, unity, understanding and assurance to the Colossians. How might we encourage one another as church? How can we grow in unity of fellowship? How might we deepen in our understanding of Christ and his Gospel? How secure are you in your faith in Christ when confronted with contrary teachings or beliefs? 

2. Would you recognise false teaching or a false teacher? If so, how? How do we (as a church or as individual believers) safeguard against false teaching? (Read 2 Timothy 3).

3. Read Hebrews 5:11-14, 6:1-2 and 1 Corinthians 3. Where do you put yourself on the Christian maturity scale and why? Where would you put others and why?

4. Spend some time reflecting upon Paul’s prayer in Philippians 1:9-11. Why not use it as a framework for prayer for yourself and for others.

5. In what practical ways might we be ‘present’ with fellow Christians even when ‘absent’ from them?

6. How might we as a church grow in our ‘orderliness’, our keeping in step with one another, our unity of purpose, etc? (v5)

7. How might we gain a firm faith in Christ?

8. Use the following to reflect upon and use as an aid to worship:

The gospel is:

  • Too precious to ignore: believe it
  • Too precious to relinquish: be faithful to it
  • Too precious to hide: proclaim it
  • Too precious to betray: defend it


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