John 1:1-18 and Colossians 1:15-3:17, Part 4
by Karl Kemp 2/01/2013 / Bible Studies
We continue with what I said under Col. 1:22 here in Part 4.
Paul wasn't naive. He knew that there were many born-again Christians (including some at Colossae) who, for one reason or another, had never become "holy and blameless and beyond reproach" (or who had fallen from that state), but he also knew that being "holy and blameless and beyond reproach" was God's will for every Christian and that His grace was sufficient through the blood of Christ and by the mighty indwelling Holy Spirit. This is good news, very good news! It is God's will that we be sanctified/transformed and live in an abiding state of holiness! To all the Christians who were not living in the center of God's will, Paul's message was get holy now with top priority (by God's grace in Christ) and then stay holy until the end (by God's grace in Christ).
I'll quote a paragraph from what I said on the meaning of these words in Col. 1:22 in my book, "Holiness and Victory Over Sin" (page 188), "HOLY [Greek "hagios"] and BLAMELESS ["amomos"]. These words are also used together in Eph. 1:4 and 5:27. I believe these words are used in Eph. 1:4 and 5:27 with the sense that Christians are enabled to be (and are required to be) holy and blameless (basically) from the time of conversion - this is the Christian ideal. (See the discussion of Eph. 5:27 under "hagiazo" [the Greek verb that is translated "sanctify/make holy"] earlier in this chapter. Ephesians 1:4 is discussed under Eph. 5:27.) The viewpoint of Col. 1:22, 23 is essentially the same as Eph. 1:4 and 5:27. It is assumed that the readers are holy and blameless; but here in Col. 1:22, 23 the apostle emphasizes the need for his readers to maintain this state (by the grace of God) until the day of judgment. Then they will be presented before Him HOLY and BLAMELESS and BEYOND REPROACH. (Cf., e.g., 2 Cor. 11:2; 1 Thess. 3:13; 5:23; Jude 1: 24.)"
I have learned over the years that most Christians do not think it is possible for Christians to live in a state of holiness, or that God actually calls us to such a walk in the New Testament (most believe, for one thing, that there are quite a few verses in the New Testament that teach that it is impossible for Christians to stop sinning as long as we still live in this world), but to me it is clear that they are wrong. These things are discussed in some detail throughout my book, "Holiness and Victory Over Sin," and in many of my papers. Again, let say that what I am sharing is good news, very good news!
We do not have to continue sinning; we are not supposed to continue sinning. But holiness and victory over sin are far from being automatic, and the warfare against us is intense; we need all the enabling grace that God has made available to us. We still have the all-to-real potential to sin; the old man/the flesh still wants to manifest itself in sin; and the world and the devil and his demons are committed to facilitate our sinning if we leave any room for them whatsoever.
Holiness and victory over sin come by the grace of God in Christ THROUGH FAITH. One major problem is that most Christians do not have faith that it is possible to stop sinning. I am not speculating; they will tell you that they don't believe that it is possible for them to stop sinning. As I mentioned, many (large numbers) do not even believe that the Bible teaches that God has called us to stop sinning, or has provided the grace for us to stop sinning, or expects us to stop sinning.
Something is terribly wrong where Christians are not even trying to stop sinning, and we have a lot of that in our day. The message of the gospel isn't sin, get forgiven, and then go sin some more. I'm not saying that Christians lose their salvation if they commit a sin, but we must be quick to repent; one sin (if it really is sin) is a big deal! My primary goal is to help Christians see that the Bible teaches that God hates sin and He sacrificed His Son for us so that we could, and would, make it a top priority to live in the righteousness and holiness of God and stop sinning. "He Himself bore our sins [with the guilt and the penalties, including the major penalties of spiritual death and the bondage to sin that comes with spiritual death] in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin [stop sinning] and live to righteousness..." (1 Pet. 2:24).
We don't need more condemnation in the body of Christ, but we do need the commitment of faith (faith based on what the New Testament actually teaches) to be set apart (holy) for God and live for Him by His grace, in accordance with His revealed will.
The warfare against holiness in intense, but God is a Mighty God; He is good; and His sanctifying grace is sufficient for those who make it top priority to learn about and then appropriate and cooperate with that grace (which includes all the work of His Spirit) through faith.]] - (23) if indeed you continue in the faith [To continue in the faith (in Christianity) includes continuing in the truth of the gospel (correct doctrine) by faith and continuing in the holy and righteous lifestyle provided and required by the gospel by faith.] firmly established and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel [[I'll quote a few sentences from what I said in my book, "Holiness and Victory Over Sin" (page 189). "The hope of the gospel" speaks of the glory that all true Christians will begin to share at the time of the return of the Lord Jesus Christ. (Cf., e.g., Col. 1:5, 27; 3:4; Rom. 5:2; 8:17-25. Colossians 1:5 says: 'because of THE HOPE laid up for you in heaven, of which you previously heard in the word of truth, THE GOSPEL.') To "continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast" is to "not [be] moved away from the hope of the gospel." Those who do not continue in the faith forfeit "the hope of the gospel." (See my paper "Once Saved, Always Saved?"]] that you have heard [[The apostle knew, as he mentioned in this epistle, that some of the Colossian Christians were being tempted to waver from a state of being "firmly established and steadfast" in the basics of the gospel, but he wrote here from the point of view that the Colossian Christians were "firmly established and steadfast." I'll quote a paragraph from my book, "Holiness and Victory Over Sin" (pages 187, 188) to demonstrate that Paul wrote from that general viewpoint. The Christians at Colossae were no longer "alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds" (Col. 1:21). They had been renewed in mind and were now engaged in righteous deeds. The old man had been buried (Col. 2:11, 12), and they had "laid aside the old self [man] with its evil practices" (Col. 3:9). They had been made alive together with Christ (Col. 2:12, 13), and they had "put on the new (man), which is renewed in knowledge after the image of Him that created him" (Col. 3:10 KJV). Colossians 2:5-7 NKJV says: "For though I am absent in the flesh, yet I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good order and the steadfastness of your faith in Christ. (6) As you have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, (7) rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving." Colossians 4:12 says: "Epaphras, who is one of your number, a bondslave of Jesus Christ, sends you his greetings, always laboring earnestly for you in his prayers, that you may stand perfect and fully assured in all the will of God." As the apostle continues in Col. 1:22, he writes from the viewpoint that the Colossian Christians are already "holy and blameless and beyond reproach," and in Col. 1:23 he writes from the viewpoint that they are "firmly established and steadfast" in the faith. Other statements by the apostle in this epistle show, however, that he was being somewhat generous in saying these things. (Cf., e.g., Col. 1:9-11, 28, 29; 2:1-4, 16-23; 3:1-4; 4:13.) He knew, for one thing, that some false teaching had been accepted by some at Colossae.]], which was proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, was made a minister. (24) Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake [[Paul did not enjoy suffering, but he could rejoice in his sufferings that came with his commission to take the gospel to the world, because he knew that he was doing the will of God (to His glory) and that his ministry was bringing great blessing to a large number of people, especially the Gentiles who were becoming Christians, in that he was the apostle to the Gentiles (cf. Rom. 11:13; Gal. 2:7, 8). He also knew that his faithfulness would be rewarded.]], and in my flesh [The words "in my flesh" here mean in my existence with a physical body in this present world. He accomplished what he did in/by the Spirit, not in/by the flesh.] I do my share on behalf of His body, which is the church, in filling up what is lacking in Christ's afflictions. [[It must be understood that Christ's atoning work stands complete; nothing that the apostle Paul, or anybody else, could do was/is needed to complete that all-important work. But it is also true that Christ had shown Paul that his apostolic ministry, as he took the gospel to the world, which was a necessary part of the outworking of God's plan of salvation, would involve much suffering for Paul (cf., e.g., Acts 9:15, 16; 20:17-24; 21:11-13; 1 Cor. 4:9-13; 2 Cor. 6:4-10; 11:23-27; 2 Tim. 1:8; and 2:9, 10). Also, the "afflictions" that the apostle Paul bore (and not just Paul's) can be called "Christ's afflictions" in that Paul was sent by Christ, in that the hatred of Satan and the world against Paul was a manifestation of their hatred against Christ (cf., e.g., Matt. 10:24, 25; John 15:18-21; 17:14), and in that Christ Himself is afflicted when His people are afflicted (cf. Acts 9:4, 5). The New Testament makes it clear that all true Christians, and not just ministers, will know some suffering through spiritual warfare, persecution, etc. (cf., e.g., Acts 14:22; Rom. 8:17, 18).]] (25) Of this church I was made a minister according to the stewardship from God [cf. Eph. 3:2] bestowed on me for your benefit, so that I might fully carry out the preaching of [["So that I might fully carry out the preaching of [The NASB has the words "preaching of" in italics"] is all one word in the Greek (an aorist infinitive of the verb "pleroo"). The NIV has, "TO PRESENT to you the word of God IN ITS FULLNESS"; the NKJV has, "TO FULFILL the word of God." Romans 15:19 is an important cross-reference; it will help us understand the meaning of the verb here. I'll quote Rom. 15:18-20, "For I will not presume to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me, resulting in the obedience of the Gentiles by word and deed, (19) in the power of signs and wonders in the power of the Spirit; so that from Jerusalem and round about as far as Illyricum I HAVE FULLY PREACHED [These words are a translation of a perfect infinitive of the verb "pleroo." (The NASB has a note in the margin, "Lit. fulfilled." The NKJV also has "I have fully preached" in Rom. 15:19, and the NIV has "I have fully proclaimed."] the gospel of Christ. (20) And thus I aspired to preach the gospel...."
The use of this verb in the context of Rom. 15:18-20 strongly suggests that it means something more than fully preaching/proclaiming the gospel. This verb seems to cover Paul's fulfilling his apostolic ministry as he took the gospel to the world, including his using the apostolic authority and power and the charismatic gifts that came with the stewardship committed to him. I believe "pleroo" is used in the same full sense here in Col. 1:25. We could translate something like, "so that I might fully carry out the ministry of the word of God assigned to me by God."]] the word of God [referring to the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ], (26) that is, the mystery which has been hidden [in God] from the past ages and generations, but has now been manifested to His saints [["Saints" is a translation of the Greek adjective "hagios" (in a plural form). The NASB translates "hagios" as follows in the New Testament: Holy (92 times), holy (62), Holy of Holies (1), holy one (5), holy ones (1), holy place (7), most holy (1), saint (1), saints (59), saints' (1), and sanctuary (2). For Christians to be "saints" (and all Christians are called to be saints) means that they are "holy"; they are "set apart" from sin and Satan for God. To the extent they are not set apart from sin and Satan for God, they are not holy/saints. We need to make it a top priority to become holy in a full sense and then to abide in that state (through God's sufficient grace in Christ by faith).
The apostle uses the word "mystery" in verses 26, 27. He goes on to show what he means by this word here, and there are several other passages that add to our understanding of the meaning of this word (see Rom. 16:25-27; Eph. 1:3-14 [These verses are discussed in my verse-by-verse study on Ephesians chapter 1 on this Christian article site]; 3:1-13; Col. 2:2, 3; and 4:3). Verses 26, 27 show that Christians can and should know and understand this "mystery" because it has been revealed to Christians. It is called a "mystery" because it "was hidden" in God in times past, not because it is hidden now; these things were not revealed in the Old Testament, but it permitted glimpses into the riches of the glory of God's salvation plans for the world that centered in the Lord Jesus Christ.]], (27) to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory [cf. Eph. 1:18; 3:16] of this mystery among the Gentiles [[A major feature of this "mystery" that has now been revealed (especially through the apostle Paul) is that God purposed to fully include Gentiles (all who submit to the gospel in faith) in His salvation plans for true Israel. This fact was, of course, very relevant for the initial recipients of Paul's epistle (letter) to the Colossians, who were (at least for the most part) "Gentiles."]], which is Christ in you [Every true Christian is literally united with the Lord Jesus Christ (and with God the Father through Christ), and He dwells in us through the Holy Spirit (cf., e.g., Rom. 8:9, 10).], the hope of glory. [[Those in whom Christ dwells have "the hope of glory," which means that they have the "hope" of inheriting eternal "glory" when Christ returns at the end of this age. Unlike the way the word "hope" is used in English, the word "hope" here does not mean "I think it may happen." The "hope" (the thing we are hoping for) is still future, but there is no doubt about our being glorified and inheriting eternal glory at the right time (God's time). The only thing required of us is to make sure that we continue to abide in Christ through faith. If we turn our backs on Him and our covenant (not a good idea!), we forfeit eternal glory. (See my paper "Once Saved, Always Saved?, which is on this Christian article site.]] (28) We proclaim Him [Christ], admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete [The KJV; NKJV; and NIV have "perfect" here, instead of "complete." I prefer "perfect," but we must understand what this word means here, and what it does not mean (see below).] in Christ. [[Christ died for all people, and all are called to repent and submit to Him in faith (cf. 1 Tim. 2:4-6; 1 John 2:2). But Paul spent most of his time dealing with those who were open to the gospel (the elect), who submitted to Christ in faith. Paul exhorted and "admonished" all people to repent and submit to Christ in the light of the fact that the day of judgment is at hand (e.g., Acts 17:30, 31), but most of his exhorting and "admonishing" was directed to Christians who needed to repent and begin to fully walk after the Spirit through faith (setting aside fleshiness and worldliness), thereby becoming "holy and blameless and beyond reproach." Many of Paul's epistles are filled with such exhortations and admonishments.
This verse speaks of the same all-important "presentation" before God at the end of this age that was spoken of in verse 22. In that verse Paul spoke of our being presented "holy and blameless and beyond reproach." As we discussed there, Paul wrote from the point of view that his recipients were in that state already (the Christians who were/are not in that state must make it top priority to get in that state and then to abide in that state). In the next verse (verse 23), Paul admonished his readers to continue in that state, so they will be fully ready to stand before God.
The New Testament teaches that Christians are called and enabled to be "relatively perfect." I am not speaking of "absolute perfection." For one thing, we must keep on growing throughout our Christian lives, and we certainly do not arrive at a place where we cannot be tempted or cannot sin as long as we live in this world, far from it. ((I had a footnote: The apostle Paul makes it quite clear in Gal. 5:16-25, for example, that Christians can be tempted and they can sin. The warfare against us by the world, the flesh (the old man), and the devil will continue as long as we live in this present world. (See on Gal. 5:16-25 on pages 195-200 of my book, "Holiness and Victory Over Sin; Full Salvation Through the Atoning Death of the Lord Jesus Christ.")) For Christians to be "relatively perfect" covers the same ground as their abiding in a state of being "holy and blameless and beyond reproach," which was spoken of in Col. 1:22, 23.
For Christians to be relatively perfect they must know the balanced truth of the gospel, and they must walk in that truth and in the Spirit of God on a continuous basis by faith. Many Christians do not adequately know and understand the balanced truth of the gospel, and even if we know it we can still have doubts in our hearts; many Christians have doubts regarding whether they can stop sinning, for example. Christians (born-again Christians) don't have to put forth much effort to be fleshly and worldly; a walk in/after/by the Holy Spirit by faith is far from being automatic.
There are quite a few other verses in the New Testament that use the same Greek adjective (teleios) that was translated "complete/perfect" here, or the Greek verb that was derived from this adjective that is often translated "to make perfect" (teleioo), that will help us understand the meaning of this word here in Col. 1:28 (see Col. 4:12; Matt. 5:48; 1 Cor. 2:6 with 3:1-3; Phil. 3:12, 15; Heb. 10:14; and 11:40). ((I had a footnote: There is an important discussion of this topic (including a discussion of some of these verses) under Phil. 3:12 and 15 in my verse-by-verse study of Philippians chapter 3 on my internet site. On Heb. 10:14; 11:40, see pages 157-159; 166, 167 of my book, "Holiness and Victory Over Sin." All these verses are quite important to understand relative perfection, and holiness and victory over sin. Also see the subsection titled "A Discussion on the Overall Teaching of the Book of Ephesians Regarding How Long It Should Take for Christians to Become Holy/Spiritual (by the Spirit)/Relatively Perfect" in my verse-by-verse study of Ephesians chapter 4 on my internet site.))
The New Testament shows that it is possible for born-again Christians to be less than fully ready to stand before God and still make heaven their home (cf. 1 Cor. 3:14, 15; 2 John 1:8), where they will only suffer the loss of (some) rewards. That scenario would apply to Christians who were faithful to Christ in the basics but who were living to some extent in the flesh, instead of in the Spirit. But the apostle would be quick to point out that we dare not be satisfied with anything less than God's will for our lives (and that does not leave room for any sin, fleshiness, worldliness). When we become Christians we sign a contract (so to speak) to be faithful to God by His grace; to be in the center of His will is the only really secure place to be. All too often in our day prospective converts are not informed that becoming a Christian (according to the terms of God's covenant/contract) includes agreeing to be faithful to God, to be set apart for Him, and to live for Him in His righteousness and holiness by His grace forever.]] (29) For this purpose also I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me." [[It is essential for us to understand the balance between God's part and our part. Our Christian lives and ministries are totally dependent on God's grace, and He must receive all the glory; for one thing, we cannot earn heaven. But it also true that we must appropriate and cooperate with God's grace. God's grace did not "force" Paul to be faithful in his Christian life or his ministry - it "enabled" him to be faithful. So too with us.]]
COLOSSIANS CHAPTER 2.
"For I want you to know how great a struggle [cf. Col. 1:29; 4:12] I have on your behalf and for those who are at Laodicea [cf. Col. 4:13, 15, 16; Rev. 1:11; and 3:14], and for all those who have not personally seen my face [[The apostle Paul had never met the Christians at Colossae, or Laodicea, which was a city near Colossae, but he knew all about their affairs through Epaphras, who was a minister from Colossae (cf. Col. 1:4, 7, 8; 4:13-16). (In Col. 4:13 Paul also mentions Hieropolis, another neighboring city.) We don't know all the details regarding the relationship between Paul and Epaphras; he may have been a convert of Paul; anyway, it is clear that Epaphras was under the apostolic ministry of the apostle to the Gentiles (cf. Col. 1:7).
The apostle Paul was genuinely and deeply concerned for the welfare of the Christians at Colossae (and the neighboring cities, etc.), including his consistent praying for them (cf. Col. 1:9-14). He considered himself responsible for them as the apostle to the Gentiles (cf. Col. 1:24; 2:1, 5; 4:7-9, 16); he considered them to be in the privileged category of those who had been chosen by God (see Col. 3:12).]], (2) that their hearts may be encouraged [As Paul continues he spells out several key things that would enable these Christians to have encouraged hearts (being encouraged probably includes being strengthened here).], having been knit together in love [["and united in love" NIV. The apostle knew (for one thing) that the Christians at Colossae (or anywhere else) could not be knit together/united in love in any adequate sense unless they were united in their understanding of, and submission to, the foundational truths of Christianity. He deals with these foundational truths extensively in this epistle, very much including the rest of this verse and the following verses, knowing that some false views had surfaced at Colossae (cf., e.g., Col. 2:4, 8-23). Paul was fully committed to do everything he could do to make sure that these Christians did not fall short of what God intended for them through salvation in Christ Jesus, including his intercessory prayer, his writing this epistle and sending it to them (and other epistles as required), his sending other ministers to them (cf. Col. 4:7-9), and his going there himself as God would lead.
Christians cannot be united in love in any adequate sense unless they are united in knowing and holding the basic truths of the gospel and unless they are united in living in accordance with the basic truths of the gospel, including living in righteousness and holiness by grace/the Spirit through faith. We do not have to agree on every detail to be united in love, but we must agree on the foundational doctrines of Christianity. True Christianity cannot exist apart from the foundational truths of the gospel - we are saved by faith, faith in Christ, faith in God, faith in the gospel.]], and attaining to all the wealth that comes [or, "riches that come"] from the full assurance [or "certainty"] of understanding [[As I mentioned, Paul knew that some false viewpoints had surfaced at Colossae. He dealt with false viewpoints throughout the rest of chapter 2. Those viewpoints were leading to confusion and strife in the church, and, even more importantly, the truth of the all-important gospel of salvation was being distorted by those viewpoints. The effectiveness of the gospel is diluted by every false viewpoint we accept, and some false viewpoints are so serious that they distort the gospel to such an extent that it no longer is the gospel - it cannot save.
How necessary it is for Christians to attain to all the riches that come from knowing the full, balanced truth of the gospel, from knowing (with full assurance) that what we believe is the full, balanced truth of the gospel, and from knowing that we are fully committed in our hearts to live in agreement with the truth of the gospel (by His sufficient grace through faith).
How could the Christians at Colossae have the full assurance/certainty of understanding regarding the foundational doctrines of Christianity? I can guarantee you that some of the false ideas circulating in the early church sounded quite plausible; some of them were being promoted by competent Christians (sometimes leaders in the church) and by Christians who were very sincere, or even zealous, regarding their faith. (I am not saying that all the false viewpoints circulating at Colossae came from genuine Christians; there were false Christians and false apostles in the early Church too.) What the Christians at Colossae needed to do was to hear God's appointed authority regarding the content of the gospel.
God had appointed Paul the apostle to the Gentiles. He had revealed to Paul, more than to anyone else, the details regarding His salvation plans for the Gentiles. But Paul was not out there starting his own church. There was only one church, the church of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the other apostles (the twelve apostles) were eventually in agreement that Paul was chosen by God to be the apostle to the Gentiles (cf., e.g., Acts 15:1-35; Gal. 2:6-10). This did not mean, of course, that other apostles did not minister to Gentiles too.
I am quite sure (based on what happened elsewhere, at Corinth, for example) that there were "Christians" (some of them undoubtedly born-again Christians) who could have cared less what the apostle Paul said. They considered their viewpoints more valid than Paul's, and they were not about to submit to what he taught. That attitude would lead them to trouble with God, sooner, or later. Anyway, there was no doubting where the Colossian Christians had to go to get God's viewpoint regarding the true, full, balanced foundational doctrines of Christianity.
We will continue this discussion under Col. 2:2 in Part 5 of this paper.
Copyright by Karl Kemp
http://www.karlkempteachingministries.com Karl Kemp worked as an engineer in the space field throughout the 60s. He became a born-again Christian in 1964. He received an MA in Biblical Studies in 1972. He has been a Bible teacher for 45 years. See the website for more info on his books, papers, etc.