A Christ-Exalting Letter in Retrospect
The Letter to the Colossians
These past two years have provided the wonderful opportunity to look at one of my favorite books of the Bible, the letter of Colossians. From the very get-go, and consistent with the letter itself, my purpose was twofold: 1) for our church to “heighten” our view of Christ in light of His Supremacy above all things, and 2) for our church to recognize that Christ, Supreme over all things, is Sufficient for all matters of personal and communal growth.
Man's Sin Problem
The chief problem of man is his desire for “self-exaltation.” The ultimate reason for all sin is the unquenchable quest of each person to “make much of himself” rather than much of God. The reason why the Colossians were struggling with such things as Legalism (2:16-17), Mysticism (2:18-19), or Asceticism (2:20-23), was ultimately because of their deficient view of Christ. They needed to be “rooted,” “established” in Christ (2:6-7). They needed to “see” Christ, “in whom are hidden all of the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (2:3). They needed to “set their minds on things above” where Christ resides (3:2). In short, they needed to be Christ-Exalting in their perspective. They needed to take their eyes off of themselves and “earthly” things, and instead have their thoughts “elevated’ to see Christ in His infinite glory and incomparable nature. Christ is Supreme, not sinful men.
But Christ’s Supremacy is not some “vague” or “abstract” concept that has no implications or application to the Christian life. A true and growing knowledge of Christ’s infinite glory, then, leads to our conviction as Christians that He is Sufficient for all things. That, as Col 2:10 puts it, “in Him you have been made complete.” That Christ “is to have first place in everything” (1:18) in our personal lives, if He IS first in creation and in the church.
Christ is Sufficient in our pursuit of mortifying sin in the power of the Spirit (3:5-11), and active pursuit of putting on Christlikeness (3:12-17). This is both a personal and communal reality, as 3:12-17 indicate. We don’t grow in isolation from the church, but in community with one another. Christ is Sufficient for how we live out our Christianity in our homes (3:18-4:1). Christ is Sufficient in our prayer lives, for through Him we have access to God, and are able to pray with thanksgiving and evangelistically (4:2-6). Christ is Sufficient, as He works in and through His people, all very different, but transformed by the power of the Gospel, and used by His Spirit for the building up of His people (4:7-18).
Paul closes out his letter to the Colossians with the following words, “Grace be with you.” In one sense, this whole letter is about God’s grace. For, if God is not gracious toward His people, we would have no blessing, no hope, no forgiveness, no future glory. But He has been gracious. He has been gracious to save us. He continues to empower us to live by grace. And, by His grace, He will lead us safely home. As Paul writes to his beloved Colossian brethren, so I say to Calvary Bible Church, “Grace be with you.”