Sermon on Colossians 1:21-29
Text: Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. 22 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 — 23 if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move 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.
24 Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church. 25 I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness — 26 the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the Lord’s people. 27 To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.
28 He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ. 29 To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me.
Did you ever hear the story of the giant ship engine that failed? The ship’s owners tried one expert after another, but none of them could figure out how to fix the engine. Finally, they called in an old man, who had been working on ship’s engines his entire life. He came in with a large bag of tools and started to examine the engine. Looking things over, he reached into his bag and pulled out a small hammer. He gently tapped something and the engine lurched to life. A week later, the ship’s owners received a bill for $10,000. They were outraged, since he had hardly done anything. They asked him for an itemized bill. This is what they received: Tapping with the hammer – $2.00; Knowing where to tap – $9,998.00. This man possessed wisdom that the others did not. It was his wisdom that was so valuable. This morning, we are going to talk about a wisdom that has been given to us and how this valuable wisdom affects our lives. The wisdom that we have comes from God and GOD’S WISDOM MAKES A DIFFERENCE. 1. It Makes A Difference In Our Relationship With Him and 2. It Makes A Difference In What We Do With Our Lives.
Remember that in this letter Paul is dealing with false teachers who had come to Colossae. One of the tenets of their false teaching was that they possessed a higher knowledge of God’s Word and will than anyone else did, including Paul. If you wanted to be saved, you had to follow their deeper knowledge. Throughout the letter, Paul shows that the Colossians already had all of the knowledge that they needed. One of the ways that he did this is to point to the effect that it had in their lives.
First of all, Paul points them, and us, to our former state of being. He writes in verse 21, “Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior.” Satan had so manipulated things so that all people were alienated from God. This is how all people are born. They are born outside of God’s kingdom. More than that, it says that we “were enemies in [our] minds. We are born hostile to God. We want nothing to do with him. Everything he wants is what we don’t want. Whatever God doesn’t want us to do is exactly what we want to do. Also, as his enemies, we don’t trust that he wants what is best for us. By nature, we suppress the truth that is revealed in nature and in our consciences. This alienation becomes apparent in evil behavior. We still see evidence of this fact in the sins that we commit every single day. One of the ways that we do this is when other things take the place that God demands in our lives. We put family, recreation, money, and a host of other things as the most important things in our lives. This alienation from God would have lasted for all eternity in hell. It becomes obvious that there certainly was nothing that we could have contributed to a change in this former relationship with God.
There was only one possible source for change and that is spoken of in verse 22, “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.” Our former state was one of hostility and hatred. Now, however, we have been reconciled to God. Reconciliation means that two parties that were at odds with each other have been brought back together. How did this reconciliation take place between us and God? It was, first of all, “by Christ’s physical body.” This reminds us of the fact that Jesus came down from heaven and took on human flesh and blood so that he might live a perfect life for us. Though he was tempted in every way that you and I are, never once did he succumb to that temptation. He lived a perfect life as our Substitute. Paul, then, reminds that we were reconciled to God, “through death.” The sins that you and I have committed needed to be paid for. There was only one who could do this. Jesus offered his perfect life on the altar of the cross. His resurrection from the dead completed the act of our reconciliation with God. The results of his work are that we are now “holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation.” When God looks at us, he does not see the sin that alienated us from him. We are free from any accusation of sin that anyone, including the devil, might throw at us. The wisdom that the Holy Spirit gives to us about what Christ has done for us makes a difference in our relationship with God. We went from being alienated to being a part of his family.
Obviously, we want this relationship to continue. How can this happen? How can we make sure that we stay in this relationship with God? It says in verse 23, “If you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel.” This reminds us just how important our faith is. The Colossians were up against pagan vices on the one hand and, on the other, the teaching of a ‘better way of salvation’ that was proposed by others. You and I face similar obstacles. The world offers so many things that seem to be better than following God’s way. They seem to be more fun. There are, also, many false teachings that are lying around that seem to make so much more sense. However, both of these avenues will only lead us away from the wonderful relationship that we have with God through the work of his Son. That is why our faith is so valuable to us and why we want to do everything we can to grow that faith. This underscores our need to be in God’s Word and to make full use of the sacraments that God has given us. Without this faith, we lose everything. Through the faith in Jesus Christ as our Savior, we enjoy the relationship that we have with God. This wisdom that God has given makes a difference in our relationship with him.
This wisdom also makes a difference in what we do with our lives. It did for the apostle Paul. Paul went from being a persecutor of the faith to one of its greatest proponents. This does not mean that it was always easy from him. Quite the contrary. As a matter of fact, when Paul wrote this letter, he was in prison for telling others about Jesus. Paul writes in verse 24, “Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church.” At first, these words may seem strange to us. How is Paul filling up in his flesh what was still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions? Does Paul think that his suffering, in some way or another, is completing the work of salvation? By no means! Paul is pointing out that he is enduring his share of suffering that Satan and his evil forces direct against the Lord’s people on earth. They cannot touch Christ any longer. He endured suffering at their hands in many different forms, through the hatred that led to his crucifixion. Since their hatred cannot touch Jesus any longer, they lash out against his followers. Paul is taking his turn in bearing the sufferings that Christ’s enemies direct against the Church. Other servants will take their turn, as well.
This is a good reminder that, because we are Christians, we cannot expect that the unbelieving world around us will love us. As a matter of fact, they will hate us. In some times throughout the centuries and around the world, Christians have been physically mistreated and killed for their faith. That happens even today. Just because we may not be facing physical persecution in our country, at this time, it does not mean that we will not suffer for being a Christian. If we speak up for biblical morality, we are called bigoted. If we stand up to people, we may be shunned, even by those in our own families. It could be that, in the future, we lose rights that have been given. You see that this knowledge that God has given affects what we do with our lives. Part of what we do with our lives is to boldly stand up for what God has taught us in his holy Word, in spite of the consequences that we might face.
That, ultimately, is what we are to do with our lives. Paul reminds us in verse 28, “He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ.” God has placed us in the stations that we are in life to proclaim Christ. There are two facets of this proclamation mentioned. First of all, we proclaim by admonishing. We point out the need for our Savior. This might come as we tell others that there is an actual right and wrong. Once they see that, we have the opportunity to tell them that there is one who has paid for all the times that they have done wrong. It also comes as we deal with other Christians. There are times when a brother or sister in the faith gets caught in a sin. God gives us the opportunity to go to that person and share with them what the law says in regard to what they are doing. The reason for this is not that we feel better about ourselves or that we are putting them in their place. We do so in the hope that they will see their sin and turn from it in repentance. Then, we have the wonderful privilege of assuring them that Jesus paid for that sin, as well.
Part of this proclamation is “teaching.” We impart the wisdom that has been given to us about our Savior. Again, this can come in many different forms. God gives us opportunities to tell people that we work with or recreate with or go to school with about what Christ has done for all people. It comes in the form of parents taking time to teach their children about Jesus. It is important that we start that at an early age. We also help to teach when we support the various types of Christian education that are placed in front of us. These occur within our congregation and within our church body. God has given you and me this wisdom, but we are not to keep it to ourselves. God wants us to pass this wisdom on to others.
What is the ultimate goal of this proclamation? It is “we may present everyone fully mature in Christ.” This is the goal of our relationship with Christ. It is the goal of every believer to stand before Christ on the Last Day, covered with the very robe of righteousness that he himself has won for us. Out of love for the souls that God loved so much that he sent his Son to pay for their sins, as well as our own, we want to tell others what God has done for them. This is why we admonish, so that they turn from their sins and turn to the Lord. This is why we teach our children about Jesus, because we want to spend our eternity with them in heaven. The wisdom that God has given us gives us a purpose in life. It affects what we do with our lives. While we must, of necessity, be busy at our various vocations, this is our purpose in life. We are here to share the wisdom that God has given to us.
You can see the importance of this wisdom that God gives in our Gospel Lesson this morning. You might admire Martha for her love for Jesus. She wanted to make sure that he had a good meal set in front of him. She wanted to take care of him. However, she was missing a golden opportunity that was right there in front of her. Jesus was speaking and she was too busy to listen. We admire Mary, who took the opportunity to soak in the wisdom that Jesus was sharing. May we, also, take to heart Jesus’ words when said to Martha, “You are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed — or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” May the Lord give us the heart of Mary to seek out the wisdom that God wants to share with us. This knowledge has made a difference in our relationship with him. It took us from lost sinners to loved children of God. This wisdom also affects what we do with our lives. We want to live for him and share the wisdom that we ourselves have learned. Amen.
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