Lesson 24: "Be Not Moved Away from the Hope of the Gospel. . ." (Colossians 1:23)

Colossians 1:21--2:8

This is lesson #24. Thanks for coming.  Near the end of our last lesson we read v.14-20 in Col. ch. one. We have redemption or forgiveness of sins through Christ's blood. Jesus was God, the image of the invisible God (v.15), i.e. God in the flesh (John 1:14). We really didn't have time to cover everything in that section. But we said, Paul was trying to impress upon the Colossians who Jesus was, and we need to have it impressed upon us who Jesus was. (#1) Jesus was God. (#2) He created all things, everything. That includes what you see and what you don't see (v.16). By him all things consist (v.17). It is by him that all things hold together and continue as an orderly layout. (#3) He is before all things (v.17). In a discussion with a group of Jews in Jerusalem once, only a few months before Jesus died on the cross, one day he told those Jews: "be­fore Abraham was, I am" (John 8:58). (#4) In all things, Jesus is preeminent (v.18). That means Jesus is first in rank, none is above him. (f5) He was the firstborn from the dead (v.18). He was the first to be raised from the dead to die no more. (#6) He is the head of the church, sometimes called the body (in the N.T.). He built the church (Matt. 16:18), He purchased the church with his own blood (Acts 20:28). God gave him to be the head over all things to the church (Eph. 1:22). He is the saviour of the body (Eph. 5:23). In other words, the church is saved by and through Jesus and only through Jesus. The church consists of those whose sins are forgiven. Forgiveness of sins is through Jesus' blood (v.14). (#7) All fullness dwells in Christ (v.19). It pleases the Father that in Jesus all fulness should dwell, i.e. everything pertaining to man is fulfilled in Christ. Paul reminded the Colossians, it was through the blood of his cross (v.20) that God has reconciled all to himself. In Rom. 5:1, the apostle Paul said: "being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ..." [then down in Rom. 5:12, Paul continued] "...by one man [Adam] sin entered into the world, and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned." In writing to the Corinthians about the resurrection, Paul said, "For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive." (I Cor. 15:21-22). All will be raised from the dead; but, all will not be saved. Only the church will be saved.
In v.20, Paul began to remind the Colossians they were not always Christians. There was a time when they were enemies of God. James said, "friendship with the world is enmity with God." (Jas. 4:4). Why did Paul want them to think back upon the time when they were lost and undone? He was trying to get them to appreciate the gospel of Christ. He was trying to impress upon them that they must continue in the faith. Let's read v.21 thru v.29, that takes us to the end of the chapter. Please read with me! Don't be a hearer only as James said, read with me. Here we go!

"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 unblamable and unre­provable 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; 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: whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you, to fulfil the word of God; even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from gener­ations, but now is made manifest to his saints: to whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory: whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man per­fect in Christ Jesus: whereunto I also labor, striving according to his working, which worketh in me mightily." That concludes the reading of Colossians ch. one. And, I suppose a thousand things could be said about what we just read.. .books could be written on the subject. The brethren at Colossae, just like all Christians today, were once lost in sin (v.21). That word "alienated" (past tense v.21) means that back then they were foreigners to God...not that God didn't know who they were; but, they did not know God in the spiritual sense. Some translations say "estranged" (here in v.21), i.e. they were indifferent, passive or disinterested in God. Beyond that, they were actually "enemies" in a mental sense, their works and their deeds were wicked; their actions showed a com­plete disregard for God and in many cases they were passively, at least, working against God. Thus, they were foes of God, they opposed God, i.e. adversaries of God. Paul used the word "enemies" (middle of v.21). I mentioned James 4:4 already: "friendship with the world is enmity with God." Either one is a Christian, i.e. a child of God, or they are not. The world is the lost state. Do you remember? There is no in between. Paul was reminding the Colossians they were once (perhaps not many months or many years ago) alien sinners. Nevertheless, they were now Christians. They had obeyed the gospel, i.e. they had heard of Jesus' death, burial and resurrection. They had believed the good news, they repented, confessed Jesus and had been baptized into Christ's death. They were then raised from that watery grave no longer to be foreigners and enemies of Christ. They were added to the body. They were translated out of darkness (v.9) and they had become citizens of Christ's kingdom, added to the church (Acts 2:47). Fellow heirs and partakers of the promise (as Paul said it back in Eph. 3:6). Thus, Paul said: "Yet now hath he reconciled in the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblamable and unreprovable in his sight" (v.21-22). In who's sight? In the sight of the Lord, i.e. God's sight. Their sins were forgiven, they had been redeemed by Christ's blood (v.14). They would CONTINUE to enjoy forgiveness of sins, they would CONTINUE to be "holy and unblamable and unreprovable in his sight" (end of v.22), IF (v.23). Now, "if" what? Please notice that "if" (first word in v.23) is a word of contingency, i.e. a condition. My dictionary says: "IF is a subordinating conjunction introducing a condition." (unquote) Thus, these Colossians would remain "holy and unblamable and unreprovable" in God's sight, IF...IF WHAT? Now, what's the condition? (V.23, look at it close.) "If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not removed away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven..." To "continue in the faith" (v.23) grounded and settled and not removed from the hope of the gospel, means very simply: to remain faithful unto death (Rev. 2:10), i.e. not to back-slide, so-to-speak. Must, I remind you: this contradicts some manmade doctrines today. You know, what I'm talking about, I trust; so, I won't spend time on it. But, remaining faithful is a condition of salvation. If this verse doesn't say that, it doesn't say anything. Read it again. Don't conform to the world, that's the way Paul said it to the Romans (Rom. 12:2). The moment Christians conform to the world, they cease to be "holy and unblamable and unreprovable" in God sight. Do you remember Acts 2:47? "the Lord added to the church daily such as SHOULD BE SAVED." Why did Luke say: "should be?" Well they SHOULD BE...if. If what? If they remain faithful grounded and settled in the word and not removed from the hope of the gospel (Col. 1:23). The body is the church (v.24). Christianity is a taught religion. Paul was made a minister for this purpose (v.25) to preach and warn every man (v.28). He may have been a prisoner in Rome; but, he was doing just that: preaching, warning every man and obeying the great commission even while he was fastened to a chain. You and I are not fastened to a chain. What's our excuse? Paul knew that some Christians at Colossae were not faithful. What would he say to you? What would he say to me? What would he say to our brothers and sisters in Christ today? Are there some Colossian brethren in the congregation where you worship today? Are you a real Christian? Well, lest this get a little embarrassing, let's read some more! We'll read seven verses in ch. 2, are you ready? Beginning in Col. 2:1 and reading down through verse seven. Let's read!

"For I would that ye knew what great conflict I have for you, and for them at Laodicea, and for as many as have not seen my face in the flesh; that their hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the acknowledgment of the mystery of God, and the Father, and of Christ; in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. And this I say, lest any man should beguile you with enticing words. For though I be absent in the flesh, yet am I with you in the spirit, joying and beholding your order, and the steadfastness of your faith in Christ. As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him: rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abound­ing therein with thanksgiving."
As we were saying, Paul was in chains; but, (back in v.l, here) Paul said he was engaged in a great conflict for the Colossians. Now, what was that conflict? I like the way this is said in the Ronald Knox version. He renders this verse: "I would that ye know what anxiety I feel over you." We might say that Paul was worried about the Colossians and the Laodiceans. Back in 1:3, the apostle said he was constantly praying for them, you might remember. I think I mentioned before that Laodicea was another town in the Lycus valley, very near to Colossae. It is evident from this verse and from Col. 4:15, that there was a church, a camp of the saint, at Laodicea also. We learn in that verse that the Laodicean church met in the house of a man named Nymphas whereas the church at Colossae met in the house of Philemon (Philemon 1:2). Then, to the Colossians and the Laodiceans, Paul added "and for as many as have NOT SEEN my face in the flesh" (here in v.1). Paul's worries extend beyond Colossae and even beyond Laodicea. You will remember, we mentioned this verse before. It is usually used to establish that Paul had never been to these towns or visited these churches; but as I told you before, I'm not convinced it proves that point beyond any doubt. Now, let me ask you: why was Paul worried with great inner conflict (v.1)? Well, we said back in the introduction to this book that the Colossians were probably not well grounded in the faith. Like so many today, they had a tendency to mix it all up and they were surrounded by a lot of "isms" stemming from tradition, experimental religion, astrology, and all kinds of pagan cultural philosophies and practices. Paul wrote to give them some real basic Christian guidance to help them sort it all out, we said. Obviously, Paul's concern was with their faithfulness to the gospel and WE still have this concern; we said only a moment ago. It seems their teacher, a man named Epaphras (1:7) was sound in the faith. Paul did not seem to question their first principle teaching at the feet of Epaphras. Paul (here) was simply trying to motivate them to speak where the Bible speaks, be silent where the scriptures are silent, do, act and obey as the Holy Spirit has written concerning faithfulness. And, of course, evangelism is a part of this; thus, a review of first principles was in order, even here. And, you guessed it, Paul does just that in the passages that follow. As we said before, he re-stated the gospel for them and for us as well, it turns out. Paul was concerned (2:4), "lest any man should beguile you with enticing words," i.e. don't be mislead by false teachers. And, I don't have to tell you: some have a pretty slick tongue. They still beguile and delude with enticing words as Paul called it. Human nature hasn't changed much; they're still doing it and today we have over a thousand denominations to prove it. If the Colossians needed to be "rooted and built up in him, and established in the faith..." What about us? We need a little of that "one Lord, one faith, one baptism" teaching also...one church and one Spirit (Eph. 4:4-5).

Now, down in v.8, Paul repeated this thought about false teachers, their slick tongue and their enticing words. Look at it close, this was/is a warning! Paul said: "BEWARE lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the traditions of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ." O.K. beware! What does that mean? That means be alert! There are pitfalls around you ready to engulf you...right now! Don't be ensnared! They're lurking in the dark. There are false teachers out there today (right now) walking the streets trying to see who they can teach their false doctrine to and proselytize to their cause. Their cause is, they need money, they need respect. They want respectability, credibility, esteem, worship. Some do this with all their persuasion {"send me a dollar!} knowing full well their motives are false, vain and empty spiritually. However, the sad part is: many, many of their converts are in the twilight zone of knowledge; sincere (yes!), thinking they are Christians (yes!), deluded by a slick tongue, trying to serve in their own way. Doing much damage to the cause of Christ in pure ignorance. Thus, Paul's warning is always in order; however, v.8 probably means that Paul had recently received some intel­ligence with respect to the false teachers operating in the Colossian area. Whether this was the Judiazing teachers with which Paul had confronted so often before or whether some other source; we have no way of knowing. Paul does not name names; he simply identifies false teaching by the words: "Philosophy... vain deceit, after the traditions of men, after the rudiments of the world..." That's a pretty broad stroke. It even describes the characteristics of many 20th century denominat­ions, you might observe. Look at Paul's word: "spoil(ed)" just a minute. What does it mean to be spoiled? Foods spoil, fruit spoils, rots, or deteriorates. With no refrigeration and the means of food preservation that we know...the people of Colossae were certainly aware of the spoilage process. In spiritual terms it means (very simply) to be destroyed. And please note, it is possible to be destroyed even after obeying the gospel. Re-read 1:4-5! A people who had been translated out of darkness into the kingdom (1:13). A people who were once alienated (v.21); "yet now hath he reconciled." A people who had "received Christ Jesus the Lord..." (2:6). But needed to "walk" in him...be rooted...built up...and stablished in the faith (2:7). Beginning in v.9 of ch. 2, Paul began what I would call a re- statement of the Gospel, "that ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing" (1:10). We'll begin with that in our next lesson. Until then, "BEWARE LEST ANY MAN SPOIL YOU." And, have a good day.

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