Colossians 1 1-8
Exalt His Name; Live His Purpose
“God-Centered Church-Part 1”
A. Swinging Pendulum of Christianity
1. Is it Exalt His Name or Live His Purpose?
2. Answer is BOTH, but it seems in our Christianity that churches often sacrifice one for the other.
a. There are churches that so strongly emphasis the preaching and teaching of God’s Word that their church becomes more academic than anything else.
1) Interaction with God becomes nothing more than an intellectual exercise.
2) These churches are indeed training people in the Bible, but my biggest concern is that they are also training them to sit and not do.
b. There are also churches, especially today, that stress authentic community within the body – fellowship, love, service, unity, etc
1) Interaction with God is personal and experiential.
2) Worship tends to be reduced to my personal feelings and the primary goal of community and fellowship tends to be sincerity and authenticity.
3) Concern here is that sometimes we sacrifice the central truths of God, including matters dealing with sin and submission.
B. As we would all probably agree – the church ought to be living in authentic community AND she ought to be centered on Christ and His revealed Word.
1. Hopefully, we would all agree that authentic community is more than simply coffee and cookies mid-Sunday morning.
a. Not less than this, but indeed more than this.
b. When the Bible speaks of authentic community, it refers to more than just socially chewing the fat.
c. Community seems to refer to sharing life with one another.
1) Mutual sharing of one’s life and even possessions with another.
2) Involves having an active desire to know one another’s needs, AND a humble willingness to let your needs be known.
2. Must remember that authentic community cannot and will not be authentic unless it is rooted in the truths, promises, and Person of Jesus Christ.
C. This seems to be the message of Paul’s letter to the church at Colosse.
1. The Colossian believers were truly positive examples of a church living in authentic community, and Paul commends them often for living out their faith with one another.
2. However, Paul is made aware that the church is in danger of heretical teaching that will greatly hinder the work of the gospel of God in their lives.
3. Paul warns them that embracing error will greatly hinder authentic community (the sharing of life together), their example to other believers, and the proclamation of God’s message to the lost.
4. The nature of the error being taught in Colosse, though having to read between the lines, seeks to undermine and contradict the sufficiency of the Person and work of Jesus Christ.
5. So, Paul is calling the Colossian believers back to a Christianity that is totally centered on Jesus Christ, because without the foundation of Jesus Christ, the church will be rendered powerless in accomplishing God’s mission in this world.
D. The message of Colossians is the importance of a God-centered Christianity.
1. Tonight, we are going to look at Colossians 1:1-8.
2. In Paul’s introduction of his letter to Colosse, we will be able to see a God-centered church in action.
3. Three Characteristics of a God-Centered Church.
II. A God-Centered Church considers as primary their renewed status in Christ (1:2)
A. What serves as the foundation of our faith in God and our shared life as an authentic community of believers rests in the fact that we are no longer in Adam; we are now in Christ.
1. In the original, the text actually creates a parallelism - toi'" ejn Kolossai'" aJgivoi" kai; pistoi'" ajdelfoi'" ejn Cristw'/, cavri" uJmi'n kai; eijrhvnh ajpo; qeou' patro;" hJmw'n.
a. “In Colosse…in Christ” seems to play off this idea of residence – “You may reside in Colosse, but you have a greater residence; that of living in Christ.”
b. Paul seems to be reminding the Colossian believers of their spiritual status.
1) Every human being born into this world is born in Adam.
a) Meaning that we are born in sin – we are sinners by birth, by nature, and by choice.
b) In Adam also means that we are spiritually dead in our sin – totally incapable of making amends with God AND totally unwilling to for such amends to take place.
c) Every human being is born into this world as rejecters of God and suppressors of His truth.
2) Yet, God, by way of His unmerited and undeserved mercy, restored relationship with us through the Person and redemptive work of Christ.
3) In Christ, our legal status before God has been forever changed.
2. Being “in Christ” is central to Paul’s understanding of salvation.
a. To be in Christ means to be so incorporated in Him that Christ encompasses our entire lives.
1) They may be Colossians and we may be Americans, but the only thing that matters to God is that we are Christians.
2) This means that Christ becomes the determining factor in every facet of our lives.
b. To be in Christ means that we are exclusively joined to Christ and no others.
c. To be in Christ means that Christ determines the behavior of believers – cannot be “in Christ” and “in the world”.
d. To be in Christ means that we are inseparably joined to Christ – nothing can separate us from the love of God.
e. To be in Christ means we are joined to a new family where the cultural dividing lines that separate and categorize people has been erased.
1. A God-centered church is one that continually rejoices in their renewed status in Christ.
a. We were lost, but now we are found.
b. We were blind, but have been made to see.
2. A God centered church finds their true identity in Christ.
a. It is not wrong to sing with pride Lee Greenwood’s song “I Am Proud to be an American”.
b. It is not wrong to faithfully uphold the US Constitution.
c. But our ultimate identity is not in a nation, a song, a flag, a man-made document.
d. Our identity and that which drives our lives is that we are fundamentally in Christ – for He is the Creator and Ruler of all nations, and He has freed us from the penalty and power of sin.
3. A church that does not find her true identity in Christ will function as nothing more than a social club.
a. They will ascribe to shared beliefs and propositions.
b. But also will most likely lack vision for accomplishing the mission of God in the world.
c. Remember that the Body of Christ is not about individual agendas and personal comfort – this is a sure sign of a Body that has lost connection with the HEAD.
d. The Body of Christ is united and driven by the truth that we have been redeemed by God through Jesus Christ.
e. And our redemption provides the basis and the vision for ministry.
III. A God Centered Church faithfully responds to the gospel (1:3-6)
A. Responding to the life-giving gospel of God becomes an expression of our thanksgiving and worship to God.
1. Notice how Paul talks about the life giving power of the Gospel in the lives of the Colossian believers.
a. Heard of their faith in Jesus Christ – known all the way to Rome.
b. Paul also heard of their active love for others – a sign of their genuine faith in Christ.
c. Notice that Paul states that HOPE is the driving force for their faith and love
1) 1 Corinthians 13 – Paul uses the same triad of faith, hope, and love but states the greatest of these is love.
2) Here in Colossians 1 – HOPE becomes the “greatest of these”.
3) The Colossian believers were facing opponents who challenged their hope and belittled the sufficiency of Christ.
a) Possibly being taught that Jewish believers have a distinct advantage over Gentile believers
b) That the Jews were able to access a deeper spiritual knowledge and understanding.
4) Paul was seeking to revive their faith in the certainty of the gospel’s promises.
d. That is why Paul states that their HOPE is rooted in the promises of God – the gospel!
2. Paul’s view of the gospel is that it is the life-giving power unto salvation and godliness.
a. The true gospel is all about God’s redemptive activity, namely restoring all things back into right relationship with Him – and this involves giving new life to the spiritually dead.
1) The gospel gives hope/certainty in the promises of God.
2) The gospel directs our faith to the sufficiency of Christ and His Word.
3) The gospel compels us to accomplish God’s mission as His unified body
2. Verse 6a serves as the apex or the pinnacle of this discussion, because here Paul proclaims the exciting nature of the gospel.
a. First, the gospel is universal – “all over the world”
1) The true gospel cannot be contained.
a) True gospel crosses geographical boundaries, racial boundaries, socio-economic boundaries, boundaries between genders – no boundary can contain the gospel.
b) Why not? Because the true gospel addresses the need of every individual regardless of ethnicity, gender, economic status, etc.
c) The gospel – the love of God displayed through His redemptive work through Christ – speaks to the universal condition of every human being.
d) Therefore, the God-centered Colossian believers was for Paul a sign of the universal scope of God’s saving purposes and of even greater things to come.
2) Do you think it was helpful for the Colossian believers to catch the universal scope of the gospel? Sure it was!
3) This gospel was not confined to the Jews.
4) Paul assures them that wherever the gospel was taught and embraced – it was not without effect.
b. Second, the gospel is powerful and effective in its nature.
1) Nature of the gospel is that it is bearing fruit and increasing.
a) The gospel is working in the world just as it has been working in you.
b) This ought not to surprise us, because the origin of the gospel is Divine – it is rooted in the redemptive work of Christ – this is the message of God.
2) Bearing Fruit & Increasing
a) Paul is referring to the transforming effect of the gospel in the lives of those who have been divinely prepared to receive His message.
b) Involves a transformation in status as we have seen – spiritually dead have been raised to newness of life.
c) Involves a transformation in character as the believer is conformed by the Holy Spirit in line with the character of Christ.
d) But I also believe Paul is not only referring to fruit born within the believer, but also fruit born through the believer – conversions!
e) Embracing God’s true gospel of His redemptive work will become the basis for ministry in a God-centered church.
f) And because God is the author of the gospel and in charge of the spread of the gospel, and that the nature of gospel is that it is alive and transforming – people will be saved!
3) Romans 1:16 – “I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes; first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.”
4) 1 Thessalonians 2:13 – “And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but as it actually is, the word of God which is at work in you who believe.”
5) Hebrews 4:12 – “For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”
1. A God Centered Church faithfully responds to the gospel
a. Gospel becomes the basis for thanksgiving and worship – our status has been transferred from darkness to light because we are now in Christ.
b. Gospel becomes the basis for authentic community with one another – IN CHRIST
1) No room for gossip in our midst.
2) No room for personal agendas or personal comfort
3) No room for self at all – all about Christ and expressing our love for Him to others.
c. Gospel becomes the basis for our witness as a church
2. ILL: D.L. Moody – “The world has yet to see what God can do with a man fully consecrated to him.”
3. Moody thought to himself, “He did not say a great man, or a skilled man, or a learned man. He simply said a man. And it lies within the man whether or not he will fully devote himself to God. By God’s help, I aim to be that man.”
4. D.L. Moody made it his aim to exalt the name of Christ above all things and in every area of his life.
5. The world has yet to see what God can do through a CHURCH fully consecrated to Him.
6. By God’s help, may we aim to be that church.
IV. In God-Centered Church, everyone becomes a minister of the gospel (1:7-8)
A. God’s mission of embracing and proclaiming the gospel is the mission of the church.
1. Paul did not believe that as an apostle he was the only one qualified to preach the gospel.
a. He was commissioned to preach to the Gentiles, but he could not be everywhere.
b. So Paul was committed to the unity of the missionary effort – training others to go where he could not go himself.
2. Apparently, Epaphras was one who answered the call and preached the gospel in Colosse and established a church.
3. Paul is committed to the unified effort of proclaiming the gospel message.
1. A God-centered church…
a. Considers as primary their renewed status in Christ
b. Faithfully responds to the gospel
c. Sees ministry as a unified effort.
2. Is it possible for a church to NOT be God-centered?
a. I’m afraid so.
b. Especially, here in America, I am afraid that our churches tend to be based on similar belief structures, social, ethnic, and economic status.
c. In so doing, church has become more of a haven of personal comfort and ease rather than a mission that proclaims and reveals new life in Christ.
3. To be a God-centered church begins with the church repenting of our individualism and embracing as an act of worship the mission of God.