Each Monday I'll be putting up my sermon notes and audio file for the sermon series from Forest Hills Baptist Church "Christ Over All: A Study from Colossians". This is an edited copy of my sermon notes, not a transcript of the sermon. You can listen to the sermon audio above or directly for at the church's website.
“Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, To the saints and faithful brothers in Christ at Colossae: Grace to you and peace from God our Father. We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel, which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and increasing—as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth, just as you learned it from Epaphras our beloved fellow servant. He is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf and has made known to us your love in the Spirit. And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” (Colossians 1:1–14, ESV)
1. The Gospel Reproduces Us (v. 3–8)
The Story of the Colossian Church Plant
One of Paul’s stops along his missionary journey was Ephesus. As he spent many months preaching throughout the city. One of the persons converted in his ministry there was a man named Epaphras. We don’t know much about him other than the fact that he is instrumental in taking the Gospel to his hometown of Colossae. Paul is writing this letter to a place he’s never been and to a church he did not start. However, he feels a strong connection to this church because it was started by one of his disciples Epaphras. Paul opens up his letter because he’s heard from Epaphras about the great work of God as the Gospel was heard and believed in the city of Colossae.
The Gospel Has Come to Us
The Gospel Came to Colossians
God in his grace allowed the Gospel to come to the city of Colossae through the witness of an ordinary guy named Epaphras. Paul is thanking and praising God for what he has done. Paul and Timothy have heard from Epaphras about what has happened in Colossae and they are overwhelmed with joy. The gospel was spreading, lives were being changed, and the Gospel of truth planted itself in Colossae.
The Privilege of the opportunity to hear and know the Gospel.
The Gospel is the good news of Jesus Christ, what he has done and accomplished through his life and death in purchasing our redemption and forgiving us of our sins. One of the things every one of us should be thankful for is that this Gospel has come to us. We should praise God that we live in a country or a family or a community that gave us opportunity to hear the good news of Jesus Christ. If you are hear today you have heard the Gospel through song and word. You have the privilege of hearing the great truth of God’s good news. There are many across this world who do not have the access to the Scriptures and the Gospel like we do. We are incredibly blessed that this Gospel has arrives to us, that we have it and that we can believe in it. As the Gospel arrived to the Colossians they called out in faith and believed, because of the hope laid up for them in heaven.
The Gospel Bearing Fruit in the Whole World
The Gospel Advances, the good news spreads
As the Gospel goes forth, it is going to bear fruit not only in us, but in all the world. One of the amazing things we see in Colossians is God’s commitment to spread his kingdom through he spread of the Gospel. The story of 1st century Christianity is amazing. In the midst of the hostility of the culture, the Gospel continued to spread. Even though Christianity was incredibly counter cultural, the Gospel went forth in the most unexpected places. God does beyond what we could imagine or think. I’m sure Paul never would have thought that a church would be planted in Colossae through one the converts in Ephesus. Within the first few decades we see the Gospel begins to be spread outside of Jerusalem to the very ends of the earth.
The Gospel is a reproducing Gospel
As the Gospel is proclaimed it reproduces. Like seed scattered into across the dirt, it is going to grow and spring up reproducing plants.
“Their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In them he has set a tent for the sun,” (Psalm 19:4, ESV)
God intends for his truth to spread, and spread it will!
The Gospel Must Be Reproducing in Us and Through Our Church
We exist as Forest Hills Baptist Church to Treasure Christ, Equip Believers, and Send Disciples for the Glory of God. We want to be a Great Commission Church that has disciples making disciples.
At Forest Hills we long to peer into the good news of Jesus Christ. As we saturate our hearts in the Gospel, not only are we transformed, but the Gospel is reproduced through us. As we are transformed by the Gospel the Gospel should be spreading through our lives. As we proclaim Christ, others should be coming to know him through our faithful witness, both in word and deed.
So as Forest Hills sets her attention on Christ and his Gospel, we should also be reproducing. Disciples of Jesus make disciples. You and I should be making disciples, bringing new people into the kingdom.
Discipleship is something we want to be in our DNA as a church. One of the normal questions I hope will be asked around our hallways here is “Who are you discipling?”, “Who are you trying to reach?” or “Where are you going to go and reach others?” We as Christians should always seek to be reproducing ourselves. This is discipleship and this is the calling of the Great Commission.
- How is the Gospel Reproducing itself in your life?
- Who are you discipling?
- Who are you reaching for Jesus?
- Dads and Moms, are you discipling your children? Training your kids in the Gospel?
- Who needs to be reached in your office?
- What neighbor do you need to reach out too with the Gospel of Jesus Christ?
- Where is God calling you to start a Bible Study to reach non-Christian people?
- How are you training and helping your brothers and sisters in this room reach people for Christ?
Evangelism and Discipleship is not just for Professional Christians
You may be thinking, “What me? Who am I to make disciples? I’m not mature enough or I’m not trained enough. I’ll let others do that, I’m not qualified!”, well we will see in just a minute how Jesus has qualified you for this task, but Epaphras here eliminates any excuse you may have. Epaphras was an ordinary guy who had his life transformed by Jesus. Who knows what he was doing in Ephesus. Perhaps he was on a business trip or maybe he was visiting his family. Who knows? But when Epaphras heard the Gospel from Paul, his life was changed. He didn’t go back home to Colossae and wait for professionals to come in and start a church plant. He returned to Colossae probably as the only Christian in his city. If his city was going to be reached, it was going to be through God working through him. As a new Christian, Epaphras decided to become a church planter, reaching the people in his city.
If Epaphras can do it why can’t we do it? Most of you in this room have had more Bible training and have heard more sermons than Epaphras ever did. Yet, we refuse to be obedient to Christ. Though we may claim to be wise and mature in Christ as we go from one Bible study to another, but our life tells us otherwise. Maturity in Christ is not measured by the depth of our knowledge but by our obedience to what we’ve been given.
We live in a city who needs to hear about Jesus and his Gospel. You have friends and neighbors who need to hear about him, who are hurting and who are in eternal danger if you don’t point them to the savior. What are you waiting for? Who is going to reach them if not you? Perhaps God has place in you in the place your in for such a time as this? Perhaps the reason God has you in the job your in, the the neighborhood your in, in the school your in to reach people who are lost and far from God?
Talk about these things with your family, with your friends, with your Sunday School class. Pray for each other in your individual mission fields. Hold each other accountable in sharing the Gospel with others. Partner together to start a Bible study in your work place or at your home.
The Gospel of Jesus Christ is Powerful
I’m convinced that the reason we don’t share the Gospel and reach others as we should is either because we don’t believe in the Gospel (meaning, we don’t actually think people are going to hell without Christ) or we doubt the power of the Gospel (that God can save even the hardest sinners).
We must simply proclaim the Gospel, let loose the lion of God’s word and let the Spirit save. The Gospel increases, gives fruit around the world and among us. C. H. Spurgeon once said, “There is no need for you to defend a lion when he is being attacked. All you need to do is to open the gate and let him out!” We must simply let it loose in our hearts, lives, church, and community. It will be fruitful.
The Gospel Not Only Reproduces Us, it also Grows Us.
2. The Gospel Grows Us (v. 9–11)
One of the greatest indicators of someone who has truly known Christ, is whether they’ve been transformed by Him. As the Gospel works in our life it grows in us. As the seed of God’s word is planted in our initial conversion it should sprout and grow within. Here in v. 9 Paul turns his attention to pray for the Colossians and for their spiritual growth.
A. Fills us with the knowledge of his will (Holiness in Thinking)
One of the first things he prays for them is for holiness in their thinking. He prays that they would be filled with the knowledge of His will. The colossians have heard and understood the grace of God in truth (Col 1:6). Paul’s prayer for them is that they would grow in knowledge. This is a common theme throughout Paul’s prayer for the churches, he wants them to grow in their knowledge of Christ.
One of the great errors many Baptist churches have is an anti-intellectualism. In other words, there is a tendency among some baptist churches to minimize Christian knowledge and just emphasize Christian experience. In fact, some even think that doctrine and theology are not only unhelpful, but even dangerous to your spiritual life.
I’ll never forget being cautioned by some sweet older ladies in my last church to not let seminary ruin me, as if learning doctrine and theology could spoil a young pastor. While it is dangerous to possess a dead, cold orthodoxy or passionless knowledge, being filled with knowledge of Christ should not diminish our spiritual growth but intensify it.
The more I learn, study, and read about God in his word and through other faithful teachers and writers the more my love for him increases. Knowledge of the will of God and seeking understanding is crucial for our spiritual growth.
You may be thinking, “Well, what if I don’t have any desire for knowledge. Reading isn’t really my thing, I struggle enough just to read my Bible let alone a theology book”. The pursuit of the knowledge of God comes a little easier to some, but you must always keep your motive in view. Studying and seeking knowledge and understanding is not always easy. As any good student can tell you the gift of knowledge comes through a lot of hard work. Although I tend to enjoy reading and studying most of the times, there are seasons where its the last thing I want to do. Why do I do it? Because reading and studying and learning are not the end I’m working towards. I’m not just reading just to read or gaining knowledge just to gain knowledge. I study so that I might know God better. God is the goal! He is the purpose of it all, the reason we read, study, and grow in the life of the mind is so we can know and love God better!
If growing in knowledge is difficult for you, make 2015 a year to seek to know God better. Open up his word daily, even just reading a chapter a day. Find a good helpful Christian book that will help you grow in your love of God, our library is filled with them. Listen to good Bible teachers here at the church. Come prepared on Sunday morning with a pen and paper and take notes. Come thirsting not for knowledge itself, but for more of God!
B. Walk worthy (Holiness in lifestyle)
Paul’s prayer is not only that they would be filled up with wisdom and understanding, but as they are filled with the knowledge of God that it would lead them to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord. Their holiness in thinking should lead them to holiness in lifestyle. Christians are to live their life in a way this is pleasing to God, honoring him.
A Christian is a man or woman who is never complacent in sin. Rather they are vicious, attacking and repenting of any sin in their life. They hate their sin and they seek to put it to death. They love holiness, righteousness, and purity. Christians are those who seek to walk and imitate the pattern of Jesus Christ. They are careful about what sort of entertainment they consume. They are careful not to be mean-spirited. They guard their heart from their lustful desires. They seek out any selfishness in their life to destroy it.
A Christian walks in love, with gentleness and kindness always on his or her lips. A Christian lives in humility always the servant of others. A Christian is obedient doing what God has called no matter how difficult and no matter the sacrifice.
Are you walking in a manner worthy of the Lord. Pray and ask God for help. That’s what Paul is praying for this Colossian church. It is my prayer for you too, that you might grow in holiness and grace.
C. Fruitful in Good Works (Holiness in action)
Paul also prays that they would bear fruit in every good work. The Christian life is to be fruitful. Every healthy tree bears good fruit Jesus said. A life transformed by Jesus must bear good fruit. Jesus heals us at our roots within our hearts, which enables us to live a life of fruitfulness pleasing to him.
Are you bearing fruit in your life? Are the fruits of the Spirit a part of who you are? Are you reproducing as we mentioned earlier?
D. Strengthens us for endurance (perseverance)
Paul also prays that they colossians would be strengthened with the power of God for endurance. Paul prays that the Colossians would persevere to the end with patience and all joy. Suffering is coming, persecution is coming, and difficulty is coming. Paul’s knows it, and he prays preemptively that they Colossian church would survive and thrive against any hardship they may face.
- How is the Gospel going to grow you this year in 2015?
- How can this new year be focused on your growth in godliness and Christ-likeness?
The Gospel not only reproduces us, and grows us, it also qualifies us.
3. The Gospel Qualifies Us (v. 12–14)
Qualified for the Inheritance
Paul prays that the church would give thanks for that God the Father has qualified them for the inheritance. What inheritance is this? It is the inheritance of God! All the riches and spiritual blessings of heaven. An inheritance is reserved for sons and for family, and God is going to make a way for us to be qualified for this glorious inheritance.
One of the biggest Marathon’s in our country is the Boston Marathon. It is a big even annual year with thousands of runners who embark on a 26.2 mile journey around the city. However, not anyone can just sign up for the race. There are so many people who want to run this race that you have to qualify. You have to prove yourself at another marathon with a good enough time to even sign up for the race.
When it comes to the spiritual marathon of our lives, we don’t even qualify. In fact we don’t even finish the race. We are sinners. We are condemned. We cannot qualify for the inheritance of God.
Yet, Paul says that God has qualified us. How has God done this? He does it through Jesus Christ! Jesus runs the marathon in your place. He lives a life of perfection, blamelessness, and perfection. God by his grace gifts us with Jeuss’ qualifying work. As the blameless son of God, the inheritance is his. But, through the death of the son Jesus Christ, we are brought into the family of God through his death. At the cross Jesus takes on our shame and punishment to gift us with his qualifying work. Jesus gives us his purity, his righteousness, his good life.
This is the good news of the Gospel that reproduces us, grows us, and yes, even qualifies us! It is the grace of God that we get to receive such grand inheritance. It is through Jesus that we are delivered from the domain of darkness and transferred to the kingdom of the Son! We are brought from death to life, from night to day, from the kingdom of the enemy to the kingdom of God! It is through this Jesus that we have redemption and the forgiveness of sins!
You may feel a complete and total failure. You may feel as if you’ll never be good enough for God. And you know what, you’re right. You are a failure and you will never be good enough for God. But praise be to God that he has qualified us through his son Jesus Christ. Through Jesus though you fail, you receive his success. In your defeat, you receive Christ’s victory. In your poverty, you receive the father’s inheritance. In your destruction, in Christ you are restored. This is the good news of the Gospel, that God takes us unqualified sinners and qualifies us through his son.
For those of us who are in Christ, who have made Jesus our Lord this gives us a great fearlessness. If I’ve already been made qualified through Jesus, what fear do I have? I’m forgiven. I’m made new. I’m a qualifier. I’m a victor. As I seek to grow in Christ, so what if I stumble, my victory is not dependent on me but on God’s son. As I seek to reproduce the Gospel and share it with others, so what if I fail, Christ has already won!
Yet, the most pressing question is this. Have you been made qualified by Jesus? Have you asked Jesus to save you from your sins. Have you received the inheritance of God through repentance and faith in Jesus? God is offering you His life in exchange for yours. Jesus offers qualifications in exchange for your sins. Call out in faith to God’s son today.