Colossians 2_1-23 The Defence of the Gospel
The defence of the Gospel
The battle for the truth
Lord’s Day 21 January 2006, Evening Worship, 6.30pm
Call to worship
Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker; for He is our God and we are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care. Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts (Psalm 95:6-8)
Doxology Hymn no 331: “Majesty” (repeat)
Grace to you from God our Father and Jesus Christ our Lord.
Hymn: “Come let us worship” (MP 96)
Prayer of Adoration and thanksgiving and confession of sins
Hymn No 24: “Sing to God new songs”
Prayer for others
Offering and Dedication
Hymn no 564: “Make me a captive Lord”
Scripture Reading Colossians 2:1-23
Sermon “The Defence of the Gospel
– the battle for the truth”
My dear brothers and sisters in the Lord Jesus Christ, once again I have the privilege to proclaim God’s Word to you. The theme of our sermon tonight is “The Defence of the Gospel – the battle for the truth.”
; The battle
I use the word battle here to in some way reflect the words of the Apostle Paul in Col 1:29 and 2:1.
To this end I labor, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me. I want you to know how much I am struggling for you and for those at Laodicea, and for all who have not met me personally. (Colossians 1:29-2:1)
Wherever the Word of God is preached the enemy of the Word will try to destroy the work. We have to understand that there is a constant battle for our minds and hearts. The fact that the apostle repeats the fact that his is struggling for the church imprints on us this very important fact. ; Not only is the enemy at work to try to dishearten those who preach the Gospel; he is also at work in the heart of those who hear the Gospel. This struggle can be physically, but in most cases it starts out as a struggle for ideas in the minds of those who preach and hear the Gospel.
In Corinth, the church where Paul’s ministry really became a struggle, sometimes physical, but more often than not, a battle of ideas and philosophies, Paul suffered a lot of hardship and heartache.
When Epaphras, the evangelist working with Paul, then went to Colossae to preach the Gospel and people came to faith in the Lord, Paul understood the struggle in which they found themselves all of a sudden. ; They needed encouragement, and that’s why he then wrote to them, and those in Laodicea, this letter. He assured them of his prayers for them, and of the fact that they are not alone in this battle. This encouragement in the Lord would knit them together as believers of Jesus Christ, who love one another, care for one another as brothers and sister of the same body of believers so that they could resist the onslaught of philosophies that could easily rob them of their faith in the Lord.
The situation today is nothing different. The battle is still on; the Devil is still prowling around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. The tactics are still the same; it comes with good sounding arguments and acceptable theories to take our minds captive to not think God’s taught after Him, but man’s thought after him.
; The tragic aspect of this battle for the minds and souls is the fact that many Christians are not even aware of it. They are not spiritually prepared nor ready or even equipped for the battle. In many cases they have become part of the battle, but they are only casualties listed on the roll call of the enemy.
There is a lot of truth in the saying that battles are lost when good men do nothing.
Paul’s ministry and struggle for the people living in Colossae and Laodicea was to prepare them, and to equip them for this battle. Christ’s desire for his church is to be battle prepared and ready to destroy the enemy. A church doing nothing is a losing church; it is a church who is risking its lamp stand in the place around the throne of God. I am afraid, we need to be very concerned as a church!
; The necessity for the full understanding of the Gospel
When Paul phrases his sentence in verses 2&3, he uses very important words:
My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. (Colossians 2:2-3)
The understanding and the mystery, the wisdom and the knowledge are terms also referring to a certain group of people, the Gnostics, prevalent in the time of the letter in Colossae and Laodicea. The philosophy of these people stressed the idea that without knowledge there is no salvation. It was a mystical idea of union of the person with knowledge as the vehicle through which one would be saved. This knowledge elevated you from the mundane into the spiritual where knowledge is worshipped rather than what is taught.
When Paul then uses terms like wisdom and mystery he states it very clearly that it is ; about Jesus Christ. It is not about a mystic idea, it is about Christ who physically (1:22) died in a historical point in time, who rose again three days after his crucifixion to be our Mediator between God and man.
To know Christ and his fullness and to have an understanding of who He is, is to be armed and equipped to the battle of the mind. To know Christ is not ; only to have a date of your conversion, how important that may be (it is lamenting how the message of Christ is watered down and limited to the personal experience of Him as the personal Saviour of individuals.) Knowledge of Christ is to really understand all which is said in Chapter 1 about Him. Let’s repeat a few things from this morning’s sermon.
Listen: the Gospel is about Jesus Christ – full stop! Jesus Christ is the Gospel. He is our hope (1:5); He warrants the truth of the Gospel (1:6); He qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light (1:12); He rescued us from the dominion of darkness by conveying us into the kingdom of light (1:13); He redeemed us, and He forgave us our sins (1:14).
That’s not all this chapter says about Christ: He is the image of the invisible God (1:15); by Him all things were created and all things belong to Him (1:16); He is supreme over all rulers and powers (1:16); all things hold together in Him (1:17); He is the Head of his Church (1:18); all the fullness of God dwell in Him (1:19); we are reconciled to God through Jesus Christ (1:21-22).
When we understand this doctrine about who Jesus Christ, the Son of God, really is, we begin to be ready for the battle. The fine-sounding arguments of the enemy can be defeated, now not with ideas or feelings or experiences, but with the teachings of the Scripture about Person of Christ. ; It calls for a pure doctrinal understanding of the Bible.
Verse 6-7 is almost like a summary of the successful Christian life in the midst of this ongoing battle for the mind and the soul. It is like the general who points to the basic principles to be effective as an army to win the battle:
So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in Him, rooted and built up in Him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. (Colossians 2:6-7)
; The effect of a poor understanding of the Gospel
Verse 8 spells out the devastation of a poor understanding of the Gospel. It spells out the result of a church where people are in no position to defend the Gospel. Let’s read:
; See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ. (Colossians 2:8)
The language of this verse is very openly that of a struggle or battle. This side is the truth, the other side is false gospel. One is about Christ, the other is about the devil. One is about light, the other is about darkness. On one side the forces of the Gospel are gathered; on the other side the forces of darkness. The fight is between two kingdoms: the Kingdom of the Son of God’s love, the Crown Prince of the living God, against the kingdom of darkness, rules by the destroyer of souls.
Those gathered under the banner of Jesus Christ look at the cross where He defeated the powers of darkness. His victory there is their victory. Under his banner they march forth. He is the head of every power and authority. When they were baptised, they were baptised in Him; there they received all that belongs to Him. Spiritually they rose with Christ from the dead by the power of God. They believe Him who raised Christ from the dead. Their sins are forgiven because Christ cancelled the written code, with its regulations that was against them and stood opposed to them. Christ took it away as He nailed it to the cross. There, on the cruel cross of Calvary, Christ dealt with the enemy once and for all. There He disarmed the powers and authorities and made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.
On the other side are gathered the enemy of the cross. They know they are disarmed, they know they have been made a public spectacle, yet they try again. Their only hope would be that some of the opposing army would not really understand the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Their hope to have an impact in the battle is that some calling themselves Christians will not understand that in Christ they have the fullness of the Full Gospel. Maybe they can be ; enticed into believing another gospel. So, their strategy of offence is to come with deceptive philosophies, which depends on human tradition, and the basic principles of the world, rather than on Christ.
If they succeed they will not only rob the church of Christ of its teaching, they will take it captive. The idea is that of taking as prisoners of war away those who lost in the battle. Another translation says “to take as booty”.
Some of the teachings of the enemy
This can also be called legalism. In the time of the letter to Colossae there were Jewish Christians who preached both salvation in the Lord Jesus Christ, as well as a strict code of ceremonial conduct. They insisted on keeping the ceremonial eating and drinking, religious festivals, New Moon celebrations or ceremonial Sabbaths. These things of course were shadows of the coming of Christ. Those who still clung to these things made the cross of Christ redundant. This is a deadly sin as it actually means a depreciation of Christ. It is to say to Christ, “Your atonement is not enough, we need more and we will make up for it.” Of this Paul writes to the Galatians:
If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned! (Galatians 1:9)
; Man-made traditions
Others added to the Gospel man-made traditions. It has an element of asceticism in it. This is listed in verse 21-22:
“Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”? These are all destined to perish with use, because they are based on human commands and teachings. (Colossians 2:21-22)
This is not new for our day. There is a lot of tradition added to the Gospel, and in some cases it is the abandoning of the tradition that condemns one to eternal hell, and not necessarily one’s unbelief in the Christ.
Paul says: “Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.” (Colossians 2:23)
The Gnostics accepted the Greek idea of a radical dualism between God (spirit) and the world (matter). According to their world view, the created order was evil, inferior, and opposed to the good.
The Gnostics also taught that every human being is composed of body, soul, and spirit. Since the body and the soul are part of people’s earthly existence, they are evil. Enclosed in the soul, however, is the spirit, the only divine part of this triad. This “spirit” is asleep and ignorant; it needs to be awakened and liberated by knowledge. The mediator here is not saving faith in Christ, but knowledge.
Some Gnostics sought to separate themselves from all evil matter in order to ; avoid contamination. For other Gnostics, ethical life took the form of absolute freedom. For them knowledge meant freedom to participate in all sorts of activities. Many reasoned that since they had received divine knowledge and were truly informed as to their divine nature, it did not matter how they lived.
This of course, is not new for our day. The teachings of New Age and the mystical teachings from the East are running rampantly in our society. Never was there an interest in these teaching in the past, like it is now in our day. Mystic faiths and beliefs are extremely popular. The whole idea of meditation, the sanctuary of the undisturbed environment, the value of eating healthy and the strive for longevity, the airy-fairy stuff of spiritualism, where there are no absolutes for the truth, where post-modernistic toleration is elevated above all reason as an expression of true faith are the things that have an enormous influence on the thinking of people.
To us comes the admonishing from the Word of God: Defend the Gospel, defend its truth, defend the good news about Christ and his Headship over all creation and the Church. Your are engaged in a battle for the truth. See you it that you are not taken captive by the enemy. Amen.
Hymn no 459: “There’s a royal banner given”
The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace. (Numbers 6:24-26)