A Minister of the Gospel

Colossians 1:23b-24. and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister;

Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for His body’s sake, which is the church:

I neglected yesterday to comment on Paul’s words that the gospel had been preached “to every creature which is under heaven.” I did some searching because I wasn’t sure of the exact meaning. What I found is that there are many differing opinions and interpretations of that statement. The one that makes the most sense to me comes from Barne’s Notes on the Bible:

The gospel in the time of Paul seems to have been so extensively preached, that it might be said that it was proclaimed to everybody. All known countries appear to have been visited; and so zealous and laborious had been the heralds of salvation, that it might be said that the message had been proclaimed to all the world.

Barne’s Notes on the Bible

In our own time, we can say that the gospel has been taken around the world, to every known corner. Maybe not every individual alive has personally been confronted with Jesus Christ, but the opportunity to hear the gospel is virtually everywhere, as it was in Paul’s day due to the preaching of the Apostles to every known area of the world at that time.

God blesses the preaching and teaching of His Word. To use a personal example, I am just a no-name housewife. I love the Lord, and I want to teach. This blog has been one way in which I can teach. According to the information I gather from my statistics page, this blog has been read in places I’ve never heard of, by people I will never meet. Perhaps some of those readers will share what they have read with someone else, who may then pass it along. Also, the ubiquity of the internet has spread the gospel all around the world by writers both known and unknown. God has said that His Word will not return without a harvest. It is true today, and it was true in Paul’s day.

Paul, in verse 24, goes on to say that he rejoices in his suffering for the sake of the saints in Colosse. He was writing from a Roman jail, which was not exactly a luxury suite. He was glad to be so incarcerated for the sake of the gospel, and those to whom he preached.

He goes on to mention afflictions. That word, afflictions, is never used of the suffering of Christ on the cross. Rather, it relates to His struggles during His ministry, which are not yet complete as His Word is spread through the ministry and afflictions of those appointed to carry the gospel to others. Paul’s afflictions in no way increased his salvation, but he considered that they were simply a result of his desire to preach and teach, and to minister to the believers in Colosse and elsewhere. His affliction were always for the sake of others, and not for his own holiness or sanctification.

Asceticism was a problem in the church in Paul’s day. People who followed Asceticism practiced self-affliction in the hope of being worthy of salvation. They starved, went without sleep, endured the cold with no fires or clothing to protect themselves. Ascetics focus on themselves; their own holiness, spiritual growth, and perfection. Paul’s suffering was for the sake of the gospel, and for the believers who needed his encouragement and teaching. He suffered for the church, for the Body of Christ, and felt privileged to do so.

Grounded and Settled

Colossians 1:22-23.

In the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in His sight:

If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister;

I decided to include yesterday’s verse with today’s, to get the continuity of what Paul was saying. We are to be holy, unblameable, and unreproveable in His sight; and we will be all those things IF we stay grounded and settled in our faith, and not led away from the hope that lies in the gospel.

Is it possible for someone who has sincerely accepted Christ as Savior to be mislead by false teachers, and wrong interpretations of scripture? Yes, indeed! In my observation, this can happen easily and quickly after a person is born again if someone approaches him with a highly emotional interpretation, leading the newly-saved person into depending on his feelings for assurance of salvation. One of those emotions can be fear. “If you don’t speak in tongues, you don’t have the Holy Spirit. You need to be filled by the Holy Spirit and speak in tongues/do healing/have mystical visions” or whatever in order to be truly saved. Or, you must follow the Jewish Old Testament laws for sacrifice and observation of the Sabbath combined with belief in Jesus in order to be truly saved. The new Christian, hearing these things, becomes fearful that he wasn’t really born again. He becomes confused, not trusting only in the gospel of Christ, and turns to doing works that will seal his salvation.

Being grounded and settled in the faith requires one to read and study God’s Word; to be unwavering in seeking God’s wisdom as he studies; to find someone who can disciple him in truth; and to find a church that will help him grow in strength, truth, and understanding.

When I was ten, we moved from the plains of southern Minnesota to the wonderful world of western Oregon. We lived in Portland for five years. We were only an hour or two away from the Pacific coast, and I had never seen an ocean before. The first time we made the journey to the coast, I was SO excited! And it met every expectation, and way beyond those expectations. I remember the thrill of watching, from a cliff high above it all, as the boisterous waves crashed against a huge rock, washing over it time after time. The noise was all-encompassing as the water pulled back, leaving the rock exposed, and then built up again, faster and faster, until it crashed into the rock again, battering it over the top and on every side. And after each attack, the rock stood firm and unmoved, calm and safe against the power of all that water.

Jesus Christ is that Rock. He stands firm against everything Satan can throw at believers, trying to dislodge their faith and keep them fearful. Shelter in the Rock, and the power of the mightiest ocean cannot undermine or dislodge your faith.

Alienated and Enemies in your Mind

Colossians 1:21-22.

And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath He reconciled

In the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in His sight:

Who once were alienated: The ancient Greek word translated alienated (apellotriomenous) is literally “transferred to another owner.” This is profound. That which was created by God, for Himself, is transferred to another owner by his own alienation to a lie, and by his enmity toward God. This is a mighty truth, and one to which we need to pay attention. Satan woos us through our minds. He presents logical-sounding arguments about why we just really don’t need to worry about eternal damnation because, after all, look how rotten some other person is! “I’m not so bad compared to So and So.”

The truth is, if there had never been another person alive on earth but YOU (or me!), Jesus would still have had to die. Heaven is not something we gain by our own virtue, but through the virtue of Jesus. Period.

Through the suffering and death of Jesus, and His resurrection, God has provided the final acceptable atonement for our sin and thereby reconciled us, redeemed us from Satan’s ownership. When we accept that gift of salvation, we can stand before God, holy, without blame or reproof; we stand only with amazement and humility that He would allow His Son to bear the shame, the stain, the guilt of MY sin.

Wholly God, Wholly Man

Colossians 1:19-20.

For it pleased the Father that in Him should all fulness dwell;

And, having made peace through the blood of His cross, by Him to reconcile all things unto Himself; by Him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven.

The Father was satisfied that in Jesus Christ all the fullness of God, Himself, would dwell.
The word fullness is translated from the Greek pleroma, and was really just another way to say that Jesus is truly God. I have always been taught that Jesus was wholly God, and wholly man, which is why He alone could be the ultimate sacrifice for sin. Sinless, His blood was not touched with corruption; human, He could die. Wholly God, He could defeat death; wholly man, He could give Himself to atone for all sin.

Dwell in this passage denotes a permanent condition, not a temporary one. Jesus didn’t become God for a short time. He never wasn’t God. Before time, and for all eternity, Jesus Christ is God.

 “Thus the phrase in Him should all the fullness dwell gathers into a grand climax the previous statements – image of God, first-born of all creation, Creator, the eternally preexistent, the Head of the Church, the victor over death, first in all things. On this summit we pause, looking like John, from Christ in His fullness of deity to the exhibition of that divine fullness in redemption consummated in heaven.”

Vincent, Blue Letter Bible

I think it is important here that we understand that, yes, it was the shedding of blood that reconciles man to God, when man accepts the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ as his only route to heaven.

Jesus’ actual blood was not a magic potion that absolves us of sin. If that were so, anyone who had been spattered with His blood at any point on that awful day would instantly be free from the results of sin. If it were so, someone would surely, by now, have figured out a way to “perpetuate” His blood and sell it for the “salvation” of anyone who could afford to buy it.

The blood of the cross speaks to us of the real, physical death of Jesus Christ in our place, on our behalf, before God. That literal death in our place, and the literal judgment He bore on our behalf, is what saves us.

Guzik, Blue Letter Bible

He is Before All Things

Colossians 1:17-18,

And He is before all things, and by Him all things consist.

And He is the head of the body, the church: Who is the beginning, the Firstborn from the dead; that in all things He might have the preeminence.

That He existed before anything or anyone else existed is something our finite human minds have a hard time grasping. We’d like to think that there was. . .just. . .nothing. . .before WE came into being, but that is as far from the truth as it is possible to be. God never didn’t exist. Do I truly understand that? No. I’m limited to human intelligence. But I can say it with confidence because GOD says it, and therefore it is so. God said it. That settles it, whether or not I believe it.

Firstborn: The ancient Greek word prototokos can describe either priority in time or supremacy in rank.  Jesus was both first in time and first in rank. The same word is used of Jesus in Colossians 1:18Romans 8:29Hebrews 1:6, and Revelation 1:5. He was not less than God: He IS God, and without Him nothing would exist at all.

He holds all creation together: The entire creation of God, the universe in its infinity all the way down to the smallest insect and the atoms and their infinity, all are Christ-centered. Without Him, it would all fall apart.

Head of the body, the church: Christ is the source of the church, just as, for instance, the mighty Mississippi River has its source in tiny Lake Itasca. He is the beginning of all things.

Firstborn from the dead: Jesus was certainly not the first One to die. He wasn’t even the first to be raised from the dead. But the difference is that He is the first and only One to die and rise from death never to die again; also, He was raised by His own will and His own power, whereas others, like Lazarus, were raised not of their own volition but by the power of Jesus Christ.

He is, in all things, to have preeminence.

Why does Paul make such a point of emphasizing His preeminence? It is because, when false teaching arises, one of the first things denied by the false teacher is His preeminence. The false teacher wants preeminence. The only way he can get it is to reduce Jesus Christ to man’s level, while the false teacher raises himself to a higher plain of knowledge than that of anyone else.

The Supremacy of Christ

Colossians 1: 15-16

Who is the image of the invisible God, the Firstborn of every creature:

For by Him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by Him, and for Him:

Verse 15 refers back to verse 14, stating that the One through Whom we have redemption and forgiveness of sin is the visible image of the Father; He is the Firstborn of all else. He existed before the heavens and the earth were formed. Those who were privileged to look on His face during His years on earth were seeing the visible form of the invisible God!

Not only is He the Firstborn; all else that exists was created through Him and for Him.

The major teaching, then, in these two verses, is that Jesus Christ and the Father are One. They are the same.

Jesus accepted so much abuse, yet remained silent–until His accusers blasphemed the Father. When that happened, He defended the Father and silenced His abusers. He would not be silent when the Father was denied.

Everything, that which is visible to us, that which is invisible; thrones and kingdoms, rulers and invisible powers–all have been created through Him and for Him.

All things includes you and me. We were created by Him, for Himself. That fact alone gives us so much value, much more than we can garner through the fame of mankind, because in the end, every knee shall bow, and every tongue confess, that He is Lord! (Phil. 2:10-11). Every ruler, small or great; every tyrant, every benevolent king–every knee shall bow at the Name of Jesus!

He is preeminent, before all and over all.

Throughout the ages, Satan has fought at every possible level to destroy His Name, turning the hearts of mankind to stone; making good evil, and evil good, in his effort to gain supremacy over Jesus Christ. The irony, of course, is that Satan knows his own doom. Still, he battles on to gain the souls of those who will deny Jesus Christ, turn away from God, and worship that which is created more than they worship the Creator.

Believer, is Christ preeminent in your life? Preeminent, sovereign, all-powerful, all-consuming, having the most important place in your heart, your mind, and every fiber of your being?

Redemption Through His Blood

Colossians 1:13-14.

Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of His dear Son:

In Whom we have redemption through His blood, even the forgiveness of sins:

What is “the power of darkness”? It is the domain of Satan, full of deceit, hatred, and anger against God. Jesus spoke of it in  Luke 22:53, describing the darkness surrounding His arrest and passion. “Darkness” was the evil forces marshaled against Him for decisive combat in the spiritual realm. But Jesus conquered the darkness through the shedding of His blood, through which we have forgiveness of sin when we ask Him. That deliverance is spoken of in this passage as rescue by a sovereign power. There is no darkness where Jesus Christ abides.

Being translated into the kingdom of Jesus Christ carries the idea that we were adopted into the kingdom when we accepted His death and resurrection as payment for our sin. We did not earn it; it came to us through the natural process of adoption, which gives us equal standing with Jesus Christ to all that He possesses (Rom. 8:17).

Thank about that. No, really–THINK about that! “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us (Titus 3:5).

Redemption: Release by a legal ransom. Once a ransom is paid, the debt is redeemed and the prisoner is set free. Our debt was paid by the shed blood of Jesus Christ. So, all mankind is redeemed, right? No.

Let’s say a person is sent to prison for life, because he murdered several people. Someone offers to serve his sentence for him, thereby redeeming him from prison. But–the prisoner refuses the offer, preferring to pay his own debt. “He’s nuts!” we might say. “He could go free! He should accept the offer!”

That’s the same situation as when a person who rejects Jesus’ sacrifice in his behalf says, “No, I’m just not feeling it. I’ll work it out when I’m ready.” What is missing, with the murderer and the one who rejects Christ, is an understanding of the depth and consequences of sin.

The word for forgiveness in this passage is from the Greek aphesis, which indicates a sending away. Thus, the blood of Jesus sends our sin and its consequences away from us.

I’m sure you are aware, if you’ve been with me for any length of time, that there’s always a song playing in my mind as I write. Here is today’s:

Patience… with Joyfulness

Colossians 1:11-12.

Strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness;

Giving thanks unto the Father, Which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light:

The previous verse ends with the words increasing in the knowledge of God. It is the increased knowledge of God that will strengthen us according to His unlimited power. It is increasing in the knowledge of God that allows us the strength to be patient, to have endurance; and to walk through whatever He places in front of us with a joyful spirit.

If you read straight through this epistle, which I strongly recommend that you do, you will see how often Paul speaks of the importance of knowledge and wisdom. As we journey through each chapter, we will see that Paul addresses the heresy springing up in the church in Colosse from the perspective of knowing God, and through that knowing, to have the wisdom to recognize and turn away from false teaching. When we truly know God, and are students of His Word, we WILL recognize false teaching. And the knowledge of God will strengthen us to stand against such teaching, in spite of threats and accusations of having a spirit of division. It is always interesting to me how often those who teach something that is unbiblical quickly turn to passages on unity and, especially, to obeying those in authority. We are not meant to be blind leaders of the blind. We are meant to be students of the Word, able to rightly divide, or understand and explain, His truth.

While we are learning to know God, we will also develop a spirit of thanksgiving to Him because He has made us able to take part in the inheritance of all those who have gone before us who live in the light of His love, power, and the joy of knowing Him through His Word.

I want to end, today, with a quote from Charles Haddon Spurgeon:

‘Fruitful in every good work.’ Here is room and range enough – in ‘every good work.’ Have you the ability to preach the gospel? Preach it! Does a little child need comforting? Comfort it! Can you stand up and vindicate a glorious truth before thousands? Do it! Does a poor saint need a bit of dinner from your table? Send it to her. Let works of obedience, testimony, zeal, charity, piety, and philanthropy all be found in your life. Do not select big things as your specialty , but glorify the Lord also in the littles – ‘ fruitful in every good work.’ ”

Spurgeon, Blue Letter bible

Sunday Morning Coffee: Humor

A few days ago, I was stripping my bed to wash the sheets. My habit is to get the sheets loose, then put any other laundry in the middle, and bundle it all up like Santa’s bag of presents. All went well until I twisted the corners together and hoisted it up over my shoulder.

Well, I TRIED to hoist it. Couldn’t get it off the bed. Totally confused, I decided to open it back up. Aha. I have a weighted blanket that weighs at leas 25 pounds. Forgot to take it off the bed. I’m old, dearie, and ever so weak and fragile. Slinging 25+ pounds over my shoulder was not a great idea 🙂

Another morning last week, I was getting my breakfast. I use a French press for my coffee. First I grind the beans that my grandson roasts for me, then dump the grounds into my press, pour boiling water over the grounds, put the cover on and let it brew.

Only this time I poured the whole beans into the press, then stood there for several seconds trying to figure out what to do next. I did figure it out, but I sure felt silly.

Years ago, I was getting ready for work, putting on my makeup. Grabbed my tube of under-eye bag concealer and swiped it on–only it was lipstick. Bright red. Sigh.

I actually did go to work one morning with a blue shoe on one foot and a grey one on the other. Didn’t notice it until my first client pointed it out to me. We both had a good laugh.

One time, when I was teaching, I was looking for something in my top desk drawer. I was standing, and had bent over to reach to the back of the drawer. Must have bumped the drawer, because it slammed shut–on my dangly necklace. Hoo boy. And I couldn’t get the drawer to open, had to ask for help. My students were enjoying my predicament.

Then there was the time I walked into my class room, dumped my bag, took off my coat, getting ready to go to staff meeting. I jumped about a mile when a deep voice coming from somewhere above me said, “Good morning, Mrs. Kreger!” This kid had climbed up to the top of the bookshelves, stretched out on his side, and waited for me to come into my room. Honestly, he scared me out of ten years’ growth. Laughing all the way.

I could continue, but that’s enough for now. I don’t always intend to be funny, but things just kind of happen to me, and it seems I have a reputation that I’m not sure I want 🙂

Aren’t you thankful for a sense of humor? Thankful that you can laugh at yourself just as quickly as you laugh at someone else? I’m thankful for laughter. It’s good for the soul and the body. I look forward to the day I hear God laughing! There will be great joy in heaven. I believe we will have endless reason to enjoy laughter.

Learn to be thankful for the small things in life. You’ll be a happier person.