Tag Archives: Bible

Colossians 1:18a; Brief Thoughts

18 And he is the head of the body, the church.

The Church is the collection of people who have united around the common faith that Jesus Christ is Savior and Lord. That is to say, Christianity is based on the truth that Jesus is the one who died for the sins of the world and who rules over all things. Here in the center of his hymn of praise to Jesus, having already asserted Jesus’ primacy in priority and time, Paul proclaims Jesus’ headship over the church.

Jesus is the head of the church. He is the first in priority over all creation, as such, He is the first in priority over the Church. He is before all creation and by Him, all things are created, likewise, the Church has existed because He called it into existence. He is the sustainer of all things and He is the purpose for all things, in the same way, the Church is sustained and derives its purpose from Him. Christ is the chief authority over the Church. It is His Church, He created it, He leads it, He is in charge.

In modern churches, the question of authority is often met with convoluted answers. When the question is asked, “Who is in charge at your church?” the answer usually asserts some sort of pastor, committee, deacon body, or leadership board. Seldom is the answer, “Jesus” or “God’s word.”  Yet, the truth remains – Jesus is the head of the Church. The direction of the Church is not determined by leadership or ecclesiastical polity. The direction of the church is established by Jesus Christ and His word. In general, churches have lost the fundamental understanding of authority. Many modern churches do not know how to answer the question of authority. Paul reminds his readers that Christ is the head of the church. The head of the Church is not a pastor or a deacon body or even an elder board. The head of the Church is Christ.  Though much of the Western Church has forgotten this simple truth, it remains true, nonetheless. Local churches must reeducate the congregations to understand this truth.

Re-education starts with a biblical ecclesiastical structure. In order to re-orient our churches, leadership must model submission to Christ through the word of God. Local churches must determine their leadership structure and function from the Scripture. (If you’re searching 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus are good places to start.) Instructions to the congregation must be unambiguously directed from Scripture. Further, any engagement or discipleship of a believer within the community must be rooted in Scripture. Leaders must submit to Christ, recognizing that they have no authority apart from Him.

The local church and church leaders must also establish the Scripture as the central authority within their congregation. If Christ is the head of the Church, then His word must be placed at the forefront. Every congregation member must understand that they have equal spiritual authority to every other member, including the leaders. While there may be a pragmatic and structural leadership that is in place for the purpose of effective church ministry, the one supreme and primary authority is His word. The elders, deacons, pastors, committees, and directors have no more spiritual authority than any other member. They may have greater responsibility, but they share equal submission to the Word of the Lord.

Finally, the church must prize surrender. People, in general, do not value surrender. We often place a high premium on self-reliance, yet Christ models surrender. Surrender to Christ’s precepts and to the authority of Scripture must be seen as a high value. Surrender to Him as the head must be praised and acknowledged. In exalting surrender, the church will diminish pride and self-righteousness. In doing so, the church will lead the congregation to a fuller understanding of Christ’s headship.

Leaders, model Philippians 2 for your flock. Christ is the head… act like it.

Advertisements

Colossians 1:16; Brief thoughts

16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.

Jesus is God. He is not a created being, nor is He dependent on anything for existence. He is God and by definition, He has life within Himself. All life stems from Christ, for “by Him all things were created” (v.16). It is for this reason that we understand “firstborn” in verse 15 to be referring to primacy and priority rather than temporality. For indeed, Jesus is the creator and it is by Him that all things are made.

The extent of His creation does not simply end with what the eye can see. Rather, Jesus created everything! That which is visible: the trees, land, humanity, and the like; and that which is invisible: the spiritual realms, air, and those things which are intangible. Consider for a moment the breadth of this creation. Jesus has made that which mankind interacts with on a daily basis, both the known and visible parts of creation as well as the unknown and invisible parts. There is no thing in existence, no power that prevails on earth or heaven, and no being that has been that He did not create. Jesus has created all things.

So, Jesus created the dictator. He created the wicked politician. He created the spirits that manifest themselves in depression. He created the spirits that try to rule over humanity in His place. Jesus created these. It is difficult for any compassionate Christian to accept that Jesus created the Hitlers of this world. Yet here it stands in verse 16. Jesus created the thrones and dominions and authorities. There is no distinction of morality in this list. The only distinction made is that some are invisible while others are visible. Yet, this is the power of Jesus Christ in creation. He has created all things. Not only the things that accept His lordship and authority but also those that war against the King of Glory. He is creator over all. In this way, Jesus exemplifies an incredible benevolent love. He creates beings that will in no way accept Him as their creator and then allows them to persist. The fact that Jesus allows wicked politicians to take a breath in this life should astound the most reasonable of people. His love and patience are so great that He has created beings that exist to prove His patience. Romans 9 puts this thought in beautiful perspective when it speaks of men as clay in the potter’s hands, espousing that God has the right to create both righteous and wicked.

Not only does Jesus have the right to create whatever He pleases, He does so with an expressed purpose. All of creation has been drawn into existence “for Him” (v.16). There is a tremendous purpose for creation. It is the purpose of salvation to exalt the name of Jesus. Creation exists to show God’s character and to display His glory. All of creation, both that which is seen and unseen, exists to glorify Jesus.

Humanity, in general, denies this truth. Humanity attempts to place man at the center of creation as first priority (c.f. Romans 1:23). Yet, Jesus is patient. It is the denial of the truth of Jesus’ infinite worth and priority that causes so many of the problems within the western church. When churches focus their activity around the preferences of human agents and not around the exaltation of Christ, then the church becomes ineffective and worthless. It is the role of all creation to glorify Jesus. It is the role of the church to model how to do that.

Colossians 1:13-14; Brief Thoughts

13 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. [1]

The Father has “qualified” believers to be adopted as children of God. He qualified believers by making them worthy. Verses 13-14 explain what it is that God did to make Christians worthy. In one motion, God has moved those who trust in Him from darkness to light in Jesus Christ.

People need rescue. Every individual is guilty of sin against a holy and magnificent King, who has every right to destroy all of humanity. Mankind has rejected God’s authority and determined to find righteousness on their own. In doing so, humanity has embraced the darkness and consciously rejected the Creator. The Bible articulates this reality using terms such as “sons of disobedience,” “children of slavery,” “accursed children,” and “children of the devil”(Ephesians 5:6, Galatians 4:31, 2 Peter 2:14, and 1 John 3:10). God has, first, rescued believers from the “domain of darkness” (v.13).

The “domain of darkness.” Before trusting in Christ all of humanity is under the rule of darkness. Darkness floods the soul of man making it impossible to discern between good and evil. On the rare occasion that a person does achieves some sort of altruistic motives, the darkness that blinds that person will inevitably destroy any positive work that one can muster. People are so blinded that they will not live up to the righteous requirements of a holy and perfect God. Further, this world is dark. Darkness has a level of dictatorship over the world in which humanity walks. This is what Paul means when he asserts that “the days are evil” and that the “natural man does not accept the things of God” (Eph. 5:16 and 1 Cor. 2:14). Darkness has such tyrannical control over the minds of people that there is an overwhelming unwillingness to pursue righteousness. But hope remains, God, the Father has rescued those who trust in Jesus from the control and authority of darkness. The power of darkness to blind the eyes of man has been overcome. The authority of sin in the life of a believer has been defeated because of Jesus. No longer is a believer subject to the dominion of evil. Now a believer is a child of the light and lives with the freedom to reject sin.

The believer’s freedom is secured by their citizenship. While darkness reigned over the unbeliever, the believer now is secure in the kingdom of Jesus. In contrast to the slavery of darkness, the kingdom of Jesus Christ offers freedom. Freedom to reject sin and pursue holiness. While in darkness, humanity is incapable and unwilling to reject sin. The nature of man is so bent towards darkness that righteousness seems utterly absurd. Yet, once transferred to the citizenship of heaven, the believer is empowered to stand against sin and pursue holiness. The worthy Christian life is made possible by the destruction of sins power and the transfer of allegiance.

To be a citizen of Jesus’ kingdom is to live in stark contrast to darkness. “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5). Light exposes people and places on display the truth of character. Darkness hides the truth and allows wickedness to go unchecked. Light declares and embraces the disparity between God’s holiness and man’s unrighteousness. Darkness attempts to deny such disparate conditions. Light reveals both the need of man and the love of God. Darkness deceives unrighteous men into believing that they are righteous and have no need of God’s love. The Kingdom of Jesus Christ is the Kingdom of light.

Jesus serves as the atoning sacrifice for the sins of those who believe. He has redeemed His saints and has forgiven their sins. All who trust in Jesus are forgiven and redeemed. All who trust in Jesus can stand before God and know His love and call Him Father (c.f. John 20:17). Before Christ, humanity views God as an enemy while resting in the false comfort of darkness. After Christ, the darkness is exposed and driven away to reveal the beauty of God’s love for His own and the nature of a believer is changed in view of His holiness.

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Col 1:13–14). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

4 Observations from Piles of Trash

The smell of decay and death that flooded these homes slowly begins to fade. As the rivers have returned to the confinement of their banks and people have begun the marathon labor of restoring their homes, the remains of death line the roads. Putrid heaps of near toxic, mold-covered trash block the view of once beautifully simple homes.

FullSizeRender (2)Like many in my community, I have been working hard to help people remove waste from their home. Tearing out sheetrock, flooring, destroyed treasure, appliances, etc… It has been a grueling process. I had just completed yet another session of spraying someone else’s home with mold remediation when I was overcome by the view of the street. The devastation is so great that you can smell the decay from inside the car. I was paralyzed as the realization struck me: this is not trash on the side of the road, this is lives and history wiped out in a moment. Those carpets and walls are years spent with children and family. Those piles of trash are someone’s hopes buried inside a tomb of river water. As I struggle to understand and process such tremendous devastation I have been struck by a few observations:

  1. The value of life is not in “things.”

These heaps of destroyed dreams offer an image of life that cannot be easily dismissed. We invest our lives and money in material goods, building homes and putting our monetary resources into “things” that can be easily stripped from us in a moment.  It’s important to note, that the value is not actually in the “things.” The value of this life is not something that can be so easily destroyed. These things only have value because they represent experiences, moments, memories, and relationships. Those things cannot be stripped from you. Cling to those intangible realities of life.

  1. Restoration/ Redemption is painful

When tearing someone’s life apart in order to restore, the old must be torn (literally) from the framework of the home, in order to clean and redeem the home. Life is no different. Our lives are flooded with death and decay because of sin. Born into a world of death, we have only one hope. Jesus offers that hope. When we recognize our sin, admit that we have rejected life, and trust in Him to redeem our souls; then He works in our hearts and redeems. There is much work to be done in the life of a redeemed sinner. The old must be torn away. This process is hard and sometimes painful. It is painful because it is removing a part of who you are. Indeed, it is tearing down what you once thought wonderful, in favor of a potential of who you could be. But having a home that is livable is worth it. Redemption is worth it.

  1. You need help.

Many people where I live did not have insurance. More do not have true community. It has been beautiful to watch as the church community in my area has dropped the pretense and labored to serve the community. Churches in my town have lists of homes that are being worked through. As people have called, the church has answered! When disaster hits, we need each other. When the rivers rise and destroy, we need help. Often overlooked, this simple truth is a key tenant of Christianity. The Christian life is best lived in community together. We need brothers and sisters to help us identify what is waste and what is not. We need the help of Christian community to carry out demolition and drag piles of waste to the curb. We need each other.

  1. To be restored, your home will have to be gutted first.

The work of restoration begins when the house has been fully gutted and all the inner workings of the house have been completely exposed. So it is with life. In order for restoration and redemption to take place, transparency is necessary. You must be willing to be laid bare before the world. Our inner life must be completely stripped and the Spirit of God given rule over the reconstruction work of the soul.

Though I weep for those who have lost everything and yet I know there is hope. I know restoration of homes can and will bring life from death. The process is long and hard. Many will suffer depression and despair as their labor and life have been razed to the ground. Yet, as time progresses and the people of God serve and love their neighbors, life will be brought from death. Homes will be restored, memories will remain, and life will begin anew. This is the hope. Life springs up out of death. Redemption from the flood.

Colossians 1:12; Brief Thoughts

12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.

The third refrain describing the worthy Christian life beckons the believer to gratitude. Indeed, one of the greatest hallmarks of the Christian faith is that of a cultivated gratitude for the presence and work of God. So it is with genuine believers that gratitude overflows from the soul into the world around them. In Ephesians 5:4, gratitude is urged as a defining character trait of the Christian’s speech. In Philippians 4:6, Christians are urged to combat anxiousness with gratitude. In 1 Thessalonians 5:18, Paul calls believers to “give thanks in all circumstances.” In 2 Thessalonians, the saints are encouraged to give thanks for salvation.  In 1 Timothy 2:1-2, Paul calls for prayers of thanksgiving to be made for everyone, including pagan Kings. In 1 Timothy 4:1-5, Christians are urged to give thanks for everything they receive.

The spirit of gratitude, cultivated in the life of a believer is absurd. It is a spirit that thanks God for persecution, famine, destruction, as well as freedom, plenty, and life. This Spirit urged among the believers of the first century, no doubt, seemed even more obscene. As Paul urges Christians to express gratitude to God, the Christian religion is experiencing tremendous persecution. Yet, in the face of rejection and death, Christians are to say thanks. Thanks for destruction? Christians are to be grateful for the loss of everything? Truly? Yet, it is the Spirit of God that lives within believers and empowers such obscene gratitude. Though the world collapse and reject everything the Christian holds dear, still, the Christian contradicts such resounding rejection with love and gratitude. The Christian life is a contradiction of worldly values. Believers seek a value that stands in stark contrast with the values of this world and its systems. It is precisely this contradiction that is manifest in the Christian’s gratitude.

Where does such profound contradiction come from? A Christian’s faith results in gratitude for all things because a Christian’s faith is from the God who is over all things. It is “the Father” from whom the ability to respond in gratitude is received. It is also to Him that gratitude is given. He has granted life where there was death and brought light into darkness (c.f. Ephesians 2:1-8). The God of all things, the Maker and Sustainer of all life, has granted Christians an inheritance where there once was none.

Note: He “qualified” believers for this inheritance. The word used here means “to make sufficient” or “to render worthy.”[1] Consider that for a moment. God has made Christians worthy. He has, in His infinite grace, established those who believe in Him as worthy. Those who love Christ need not strive to be worthy. They simply are worthy. They are worthy because the Father has made them worthy. He has changed their condition from sinful, unworthy, and wicked to saintly, worthy, and righteous.

All mankind rejects God. There is no one who is righteous on their own, indeed, all are sons of disobedience (c.f. Romans 1-3 and Ephesians 2). Yet, God, in His kindness, saved those who believe in Him, granting orphans adoption. Forgiving those who deserve death. From this realization, springs gratitude. Mankind is wicked and deserving of death, yet God’s love and favor persist. No person can look upon the face of God, behold His majesty and glory and persist in self-righteous pride. No person can be confronted with the reality of His holiness and still deny His goodness and grace. In the face of such a God, the only acceptable response is gratitude.

Ponder for a moment the truth that He has changed the soul of those who believe. The very nature of the individual who confesses Christ has been displaced and replaced with a new nature that is entirely changed. A nature that has been made worthy of the holiness of God. A nature that has been qualified! Thus, the worthy Christian life is one in which this deep and powerful truth transcends our mundane existence and draws us to our knees in gratitude. This gratitude is present in the light!

The light… everyone can see the Christian. The flaws and weaknesses. The failures and trivial affections. Christians receive an inheritance as children of “light.” There is no hiding in the light. One is entirely exposed in the light. Even so, the stark contrast of the unworthy sinner who has been deemed worthy by God and the holiness of God must draw the Christian to gratitude. For such a change of condition is too great to be observed passively. It demands an exchange of self-righteousness for humble gratitude. Christians cannot stand in pride or pretense. They have been exposed before a holy and righteous King who has deemed them worthy by His own act of benevolence.

[1] Zodhiates, S. (2000). The complete word study dictionary: New Testament (electronic ed.). Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers.

Colossians 1:11; Brief Thoughts

11 Being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy.

The second refrain describing the worthy life of a Christian is verse 11. This second refrain deals with the power that accompanies the knowledge of God’s will. The Christian is uniquely empowered by God, Himself. The power that accompanies the Christian life is not some sort of physical empowerment granting super-human strength or supernatural health. It is the power to endure. The power that the Christian is afforded is the power to withstand every trial. In truth, it is this power to endure that is the greatest power a persecuted Christian could ask for. The ability to see beyond circumstance and delight in suffering, the power to maintain faith in the face of certain death, the strength to press beyond all trial and revel in the goodness of God. This is the power Paul prays for. This is the power he exemplifies in his ministry and explains in Philippians 4.

Note the source of the power: “His glorious might.” It is not by one’s own strength or merit that the power to endure is granted. If it were, the Christian would be no better off than any other person. It is, rather, from the infinite power source of The Creator and Sustainer of all things that the believer draws their power. It is His glorious might that bestows the ability to endure with patience. It is because of His power that Christians are able to endure joyfully.

Consider that for a moment: the God of all things exercises His great might for the sake of His people. He makes available to His own, the infinite might that holds the stars in place. He provides power from His infinite resources with which He sustains all of creation. This God who sustains all things, commands the ocean’s movements, and holds the cosmos in place is certainly able to strengthen and hold in place the believer. What a tremendous power dwells inside the believer!

Paul does not pray for a portion of the power, but for all of it for the purpose of all endurance. Christians are not simply given strength for a moment or a portion. No, this is strength is sufficient for all. All power to face troubles and trials, all strength for the pursuit of holiness, all that is needed to overcome sin and press on. All: total, complete, everything necessary. All that is needed to endure is in the hands of the Father who dispenses that power. Not only does the strength empower endurance but also patience and that with joy.

Joy is a defining mark of Christianity. It is what distinguishes the Christian’s struggle from the struggle of the world without Christ. This joy is deep and abiding. It is profound and overcomes all difficulty. This joy is supernatural and amazing, but it is also subtle and often overlooked. The joy of a Christian is manifest in contentment and quiet peace. The joy of a Christian affords the believer the ability to look at every trial and say with confidence, “I need nothing but Christ!”[1]

Take heart brothers and sisters in Christ. You have been given the power to endure and that power is supported by the strength of the prayers of the saints.  Be bold in the gospel, be fearless in adversity, trust Jesus!

[1] For a more extensive discussion on the subject of Christian joy and happiness, I recommend Randy Alcorn’s book Happiness.

Colossians 1:6-8; Brief Thoughts

5… Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel, 6which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and growing – as it also does among you, since the day you heard of it and understood the grace of God in truth, 7just as you learned it from Epaphras our beloved fellow servant. He is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf 8and has made known o us your love in the Spirit.   

Salvation comes by hearing the gospel (Romans 10:17). The gospel is the truth: that Jesus Christ died for the sins of the world and was resurrected to bring life into dead souls. By His death, Jesus takes the just wrath of God upon Himself and by His resurrection, He extends eternal life to those who believe in Him (c.f. 2 Cor. 5:21). In one glorious moment, the believer is brought from death to life in the simple act of belief. From the dust of humanity, the individual’s desperate soul is pulled from the grave into the spiritual life of God. This life is granted by faith in Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection (Eph. 2:1-8).

The Colossian believers heard the news of the gospel and believed. At some point, Epaphras (v.7) preached the truth to them, and they believed. As Paul elucidates the gospel’s story in the heart of the Colossians, he describes the gospel in active terms. Notice, the words “come… bearing fruit and growing” (v.6). These terms are actions that are accomplished by the gospel. The gospel “has come” upon the Colossians as if the message itself is alive and makes the effort to come and seek out the sheep of God. Indeed, so great is the power of God’s message of salvation that it is alive. It invades the soul, aggressively calling the dead to life. The message of God’s love for His people is so deep and profound that it takes on a personification that boggles the mind of man and can only be understood in active terms.

So great is the power of the gospel message that it bears fruit across the world. The gospel is not only viable where the individual who believes is, but is so great that it extends to the entirety of the earth. It is so powerful that it changes the world in which we live. The Colossians are reminded that the gospel is moving beyond what they can see. It is “bearing fruit and growing” across the earth (v.6). Take heart, dear Christian! God is moving through the gospel even where you cannot see Him.

The Colossian believers “heard and understood the grace of God in truth” (v.6). With the eyes of their heart enlightened to the truth, they have been able to grasp the grace that God grants to believers. They have been transformed in their reception from dead beings who were enslaved to sin into saints who delight in obedience. This gospel comes as truth! It is not speculation or desire that Paul expounds upon in this letter. It is the truth! Each dash of his pen draws forth greater understanding of the transforming power of the gospel.

The Colossian believers heard the news of Jesus from Epaphras, here identified as “fellow servant” (v.7). Epaphras has served as a sounding board for the Colossians and has heralded their love for the Spirit. Further, he has served the apostle as a minister on behalf of the Colossians. So great was the service of Epaphras to Paul that he is recorded as being Paul’s fellow prisoner in Philemon 23 and is cited as struggling in prayer alongside Paul in Colossians 4:12. He has been a faithful brother in the cause of the gospel and clearly speaks with great love for those whom he has taught the gospel. It is a great truth of the Christian faith that brothers and sisters hold each other in high regard and speak of genuine faith with great affection.

Epaphras’ love for his brothers and sisters at Colossae is indicative of the love that a teacher of the gospel has for those they teach. The teaching and receipt of the gospel of Jesus Christ are so transformative that a bond unlike any other is forged in the examination of the subject. When the gospel is taught, the student and the teacher are engaged in a spiritual exercise by which transformation or utter rejection must occur. When the hearer believes in the gospel, a life change occurs and the believer is grafted into a spiritual family that is united in the truth. The tender affection with which Epaphras speaks of his beloved family in the faith is not unique to him. It is the common affection of all believers toward each other. This is the foundational love that unites the church. It is this unique marker that should define Christian community.

O, Christian, seek out teachers who will unite their souls with yours in the gospel ministry. Teachers who will labor over you with the love and affection of Jesus Christ. Seek out community that will intertwine their lives to yours in the filial affection of faith. In this way, you will experience many teachers like Epaphras, and you will delight in the community of faith.