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Complete in Him

Colossians  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Our identity and source of truth is found in the person of Jesus, not in the philosophy of the World or the spirit of the age.

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Introduction (1-12)

What is our identity as members within the Church? There are many people who have ideas on who we should be. I believe most unbelievers expect perfection from a Christian, perhaps seeking to find a fault in the one who’s life as a believer embodies the morals they know to be good and true, and to which they do not possess. In Church History class, we have recently looked into Ancient Greek Philosophy, and the impact it has had on the church and the response needed by men who defended the faith from heretical views of God’s revelation. All philosophy is an attempt to explain the fundamental questions of life; who are we, where did we come from, and how should we live? I think everyone has thought about those questions at one time in their life, which means everyone is a philosopher to some degree. One of the most dangerous philosophies of our current time, is that of Intersectionality. Intersectionality is defined as “the interconnected nature of social categorizations such as race, class, and gender, as they apply to a given individual or group, regarded as creating overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination or disadvantage.” This means that certain characteristics a person has, contributes to either an unfair advantage or an unfair disadvantage. As a heterosexual white male, I am ranked at the highest possible cultural advantage, whereas a homosexual black female would have a very high amount of cultural disadvantage and discrimination. This theory attempts to locate areas of oppression in society, and by bringing awareness to the problem, we can work together to overcome the oppression. This may seem like an issue that is contained within a liberal university, but it is quickly becoming popular even among conservative evangelical churches. I believe this theory is dangerous as it attempts to marginalize the human essence into categories, and misses the big picture all together. By splitting our members into categories based on the morality of our culture, we are not standing in unity, but rather introducing dangerous division within the church. This morning we are going to look at what the Bible has to say about our identity, who we are and what our purpose in life is.

Knit Together in Love (1-5)

“The purpose of the letter”
Paul is writing to the church at Laodicea, one in which he has never personally visited and preached at. Because of this, the emphasis of the letter is on the fundamental truths of the Christian faith. His aim of writing to them is (verse 2) “that their hearts may be encouraged, having been knit together in love, and attaining to all the wealth that comes from the full assurance of understanding, resulting in a true knowledge of God’s mystery, that is, Christ Himself”. His goal is to first to encourage them, promoting unity in love, and secondly to bring a full assurance of understanding about Christ and His Gospel. Unity is often a theme of Paul’s when writing to a church. The first concern Paul addresses in his first letter to the church at Corinth is an appeal to unity. He understands the danger of divisiveness in the church. He would later liken the gifts of the spirit and those who possess them as arms, legs, feet, etc. of a body, and how each of them perform different tasks, and that they are each very important in their function. A church that is divided is like a body that is not whole. It is encumbered, ineffective and at times in danger of stumbling. Jesus spoke about this in His statement “A house divided against itself cannot stand”. Intersectionality promotes divisiveness by separating people into groups based upon race, gender and sexual orientation. It also inherently promotes opposition against those who are categorized as the “privileged oppressors” (i.e. white, male, heterosexual), regardless if those people engage in racism, sexism or sexual discrimination. Where this kind of divisiveness exists, there can be no “good discipline and stability of your faith in Christ” (verse 5)

The Assurance of Understanding (1-5)

After unity, Paul wishes for the Colossians to “attain all the wealth that comes from the full assurance of understanding, resulting in a true knowledge of God’s mystery, that is, Christ Himself. In whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” As I said before, philosophy is the pursuit of knowledge and understanding about the fundamental questions of life. The problem that most philosophers have, however, is that they start with the assumption that there is no divine revelation. If there is no divine revelation, the source of this knowledge must come within man. Man can observe the natural order of things, and then determine what is right or wrong; this is called naturalistic humanism. This kind of philosophy is diametrically opposed to the Christian worldview. As Christians, our epistemology, or source of truth, comes and must come from divine revelation. We believe that there is a God, who is infinite in being and power and knowledge and holiness. God is the creator of all things, and therefore our search for the answers to these fundamental questions of life must be answered through Him. The wonderful thing is, that God has revealed Himself, and the answers to these questions are found in the person of Jesus, and specifically the written word of his revelation: the Bible. As Christians, we do not need to search outside Christ and His revelation to find what our identity is. We do not need philosophy to try and determine the function of man, and what is right or wrong. In Jesus is hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. He is completely sufficient to answer any question, or to solve any problem we might have. Therefore, the more we understand our Lord Jesus and seek his wisdom, the greater assurance of ourselves we will possess. The idea of the sufficiency of Scripture alone, as our sole rule of faith, has been a debated topic since the beginning of the church. In the early church, the Gnostics and Montanists were trying to undermine the sufficiency of Scripture through “personal revelation”. During the Protestant Reformation, the debate of “Sola Scriptura” or “Scripture Alone” would come as the reformer’s had access to the Bible in the original language as well as translations into their own languages, and discovered the traditions of men in the church that were not founded in Scripture. Is there a God, and if so has he revealed to us His nature and wisdom? If the answer to both questions is “yes”, than we must adhere to that revelation. To do so would be foolish, as Psalm 14 says “The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God’”. There are many who would try to “delude you with persuasive argument” on this topic. Indeed, even many within conservative evangelical churches have jumped over to the other side, perhaps in attempt to become more politically correct.

Walk in Him (6-7)

Verse 6 begins with one of my favorite words in the Bible, the people in my Sunday School class can affirm this; “Therefore”. Any time you see the word “therefore” you will find application to a truth statement that occurs before it. The truth statement it’s referring to is “in whom (Christ) are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge”. “Therefore as you have recieved Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him.” As Christians, we have recieved Christ Jesus the Lord through the Gospel. The Gospel, or good news, is the message: there is a God who created all things; man has sinned against this creator God and is in dire need of a savior; Jesus, the second person of the trinity, became a man and took upon Himself flesh that he could fulfill the Law of God and become a sacrifice on our behalf. We will go into more detail about the Gospel next week when we look into verses 13-15, but that is a good summary of what the Gospel is and what it accomplishes. Through the Gospel, we have been “firmly rooted and built up in Him”. 2nd Corinthians 5 says that we are a new creation in Christ Jesus, so just as we began our new life in Christ, we should continue living our new lives the same way, in Christ. Our whole identity belongs in the person of Jesus Christ. We began by being “firmly rooted” in Him, and we continue by “being built up in Him and established in your faith”. It would be inconsistent and moving in the wrong direction if we leave the path that is laid out before us, to turn away from the true source of all wisdom and knowledge, and to seek out the wisdom of the world for our identity. Intersectionality divides the church, first by race, by saying a person’s ethnicity, or color of skin, is one indicator of an amount of oppression they suffer. I’m not going to deny that racism exists, or that it isn’t a problem. The issue with Intersectionality with race is that it seeks to balance the oppression by “shifting the balance of power” the other way. It doesn’t seek for equal rights for the class of the oppressed, but rather special rights. The Bible offers a unique insight into the issue of race. The reality is that there is no such thing as different races of people. There is only one race, the race of Adam. Paul exclaims this in Acts 17:26 when preaching to the people at Athens when he says “and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of the habitation”. When it comes to gender, God made them male and female, with a purpose. Man and woman complement each other perfectly. Each has their own roles and functions, however one is not superior to the other. As the late preacher Adrian Rogers once said, “God made them different, that He might make them one”. Turn with me to Galatians 3:26. Paul here is writing to the Galatian churches that are having an identity crisis. They have departed from the foundation of the Gospel that they have recieved, and have returned back to following the laws and traditions of Judaism. The text reads, “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise.” Here we see that there is no distinction between either race (Jew/Greek) or class (slave/free man) or gender (male/female). We are all one in Christ Jesus. Do you believe that? Do you believe that every child of God from every walk of life is one in the same as you, that you are both one in Jesus? When we accept this truth, we will no longer have any issues with racism, or class-ism, or sexism. The problem of racism, class-ism, and sexism isn’t one that originates in Christianity, but rather the world. The world is not able to offer a solution to these problems because the world tries to take Jesus out of the equation, when He is, in reality, the only true solution.

The Fullness of Deity (8-9)

Verses 8 and 9 bring us to the specific issue Paul has in mind, that is the philosophy of Gnosticism. The Gnostics were a group who tried to combine the dualistic philosophy of the ancient Greek writer Plato, and that of Christianity. The Gnostics believed that Jesus was an “emanation” of God. A higher being to be sure, but not possessing “full deity” but rather a portion. Paul calls philosophy “empty deception”, “tradition of men”, and “elementary principles of the world”. The best that philosophy can do is either deceive or only scratch the surface of truth. The truth concerning the nature of Jesus is that “in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells”. Not some, or mostly, but ALL. Not only does Jesus contain all wisdom and knowledge, but he possesses full divinity. We are not basing our identity in just a man, created like all others; but rather the God-Man, uncreated, from everlasting to everlasting. Therefore we have an everlasting identity in Him.

Made Complete in Him (10-12)

Not only do we have an everlasting identity in Him, we are made complete in Him. Look again in verse 10, “and in Him you have been made complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority”. The Greek word for complete used here is “Peplayromenoi”, which is in the “perfect tense”. This means we were made complete in the past and that completeness has remained up to the present time and continuing on to the future. In Him we are complete, and that completeness will never end. Here, Paul begins listing ways in which we are complete in Jesus Christ. He is the head over all rule and authority, in Him we are circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, we have been buried with Him in baptism, and we are also raised in with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. It is impossible to remove Jesus from the equation, everything hinges on who He is and what He has done. Have you trusted in Jesus as your Lord and Saviour? Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb? If so, your identity is in the person and work of Jesus, not anything the world can come up with or label you as. There is tremendous freedom when you are hidden in the life of Christ. Jesus said “If the Son sets you free, you are free indeed”.
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