Title: A Pastor’s Struggle
Text: Colossians 1.24-2.5
CPT: Paul rejoices to see the Colossians (and the Laodiceans) walking with the spiritual maturity that comes through knowledge and understanding of this wonderful mystery, which is Christ in you, the Hope of Glory.
CPS: A Pastor’s struggle is faced with joy when he knows his people are walking in the full assurance of faith and spiritual maturity that comes through wisdom and knowledge.
Introduction: Canadian Pastor James Coates was jailed in March for violating Canada’s 15% capacity rule. His crime as the leader was that he refused to turn anyone away, allowing his congregation to exceed the mandated 15% capacity of their worship facilities.
This past year, John MacArthur faced difficult and tested threats from the leadership of California for pretty much the same thing. I think with Dr. MacArthur’s situation, he just continued to show up and when people noticed on video that he was preaching from his pulpit, they just started coming and sitting in the worship center. Pretty soon, the worship center was filled – which of course violated the state’s mandate for social distancing. All sorts of threats were issued, but I don’t think any were really carried out.
I believe we’re on the cusp of religious persecution against churches and Christians in general. I believe it has already started and will only grow as the moral revolution ramps up pressure to conform.
Robert Hoogland’s daughter was 11 years old when she told someone at school that she identified as a boy. Over the course of a few years, the rights of her parents were taken away and the government stepped in to help her transition to a boy.
The father protested, declaring the surgery, the hormone therapy and other treatments would hurt her physically and damage her. He refused to give consent. But the court took away his rights and declared that his consent wasn’t needed. Instead, they pursued their agenda by using the girl as an example for their own political purposes. Furthermore, Robert and his wife were ordered in court to affirm their daughter’s gender identity. And, added to that, if they refused to do so, they would be guilty of ‘family violence’. This included using the proper pronouns.
As I understand it, immediately after the court’s decision, Robert agreed to an interview with the Federalist (a conservative new source). In the interview, he used the pronouns ‘she’ and ‘her’ to reference his daughter. He also called her his daughter, and not his son. The judge was furious. Local authorities were ordered to arrest Robert immediately if he referred to his daughter with feminine pronouns. He was soon thereafter arrested and incarcerated for family violence. From what I understand, he has been denied bail and remanded to prison until his court hearing scheduled for Monday, April 12th. He’s been incarcerated for about a month now.
Paul understood this. As he writes this letter, he is in prison for preaching the gospel. Turn to 4.3; 3 At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison—
As we open this section of the letter, we’re reminded that Paul’s ministry – preaching the Word of God – has put him in prison. Rd 1.24; 24 Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church… Now, your first thought might be questioning just what Paul means. First, let us just take note that Paul is suffering. We know he is in prison, but his suffering seems to go beyond simple incarceration. He appears to be suffering bodily harm. You see that with his phrase, ‘in my flesh’ and ‘afflictions’.
Instead of noting his situation, most folks run to the theological dilemma of his statement, “I am filling up what is lacking for the sake of his body,” Many begin to wonder: did Christ’s suffering not fulfill it’s purpose. What was lacking in his sacrifice? The answer: nothing.
I’m convinced that Paul was a genius. His writings contain incredible, indepth structure. Two items I notice here.
- Look at 1.22f; Paul points out two facts about the body of Christ. 1st, in these verses Paul is referring to Christ’s physical body (cf.: 1.20 – His blood);
- Our passage is referring to the church, who is the body of Christ. rd 1.24c; for the sake of his body, that is, the church…
Paul’s suffering isn’t enhancing what was lacking in Christ’s sacrifice for sins. The suffering, death, burial and resurrection of our Lord is perfectly sufficient and effective in atoning for our sins – indeed, for the sins of the whole world. That’s Paul’s point in 1.19-22; Sufficiency and Efficacy. Paul’s suffering in these verses is in reference to the suffering the church has been called to endure. Evidently, Paul was enduring more than his fair share. And you see what he says about this suffering? He rejoices! If you somehow missed it, he’ll repeat it down in 2.5 (top & tail).
While I’m on the topic of his genius, I’d like to point out something special in his literary structure: another chiasm. I mentioned this form of teaching two weeks ago. Look at the chiastic structure Paul employees in these two paragraphs:
a) Rejoice (1.24)
b) in my flesh (body) – (1.24)
c) mystery: Christ (1.27)
d) spiritual maturity (1.28)
e) struggle (1.29; 2.1)
d) spiritual maturity (2.2)
c) mystery: Christ (2.2)
b) in my flesh (body); (2.5)
a) Rejoice (2.5)
You see here, the top and the tail, there is this rejoicing that takes place Inspite of his suffering. So here is my opening statement: Paul rejoices… and he rejoices in his struggle. But why? Well, in this short couple of paragraphs, Paul helps us identify three reasons for his joy: His Ministry, His message, and the change he sees in those who believe that message. So let’s begin with the first reason.
Paul rejoices in the struggle because of… (24; 29-2.1; 5).
I. The Ministry – called, equipped (v25)
exp.: he identifies his calling at the beginning of v 25; rd v 25a; of which I became a minister; this word ‘minister’ is the Gk word for which we get our word ‘deacon’; Acts 6 and the dilemma of the Greek Widows being overlooked in the daily distribution of food; they selected deacons – same word here; but it then says, “Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty. 4 But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry (to the deaconing) of the word.” This word deacon simply means someone who serves. Paul is saying that he is a servant.
ill.: it bothers me that this word deacon has come to mean something so negative. It doesn’t really take much; you can have 9 great deacons in a church who are good, godly men, but let one bad deacon have too much power and man, you’ve got a mess on your hands. But since I’m on this subject, let me just say that deacons have a bad rap for a couple of reasons: 1) men were selected to serve who weren’t qualified and 2) the deacons didn’t serve (wait tables), but rather ruled – and that isn’t their function.
Church, when the time comes to select men and women to serve at Tarpley, make sure you pick servants and make sure their responsibility is service. That would be Biblical. So, Paul says he became a ‘servant’ (minister); 2nd…
rd v 25b; according to the stewardship; This word (stewardship) is a word that describes Joseph when he was a house manager for Potipher; So he’s a servant and a house manager, serving the people of God. This is another great word for deacon or servant – a steward, a house manager;
ill.: instead of a definition, let me show you a picture; image key ring;
Now look at this 3rd section of 1.25; rd 1.25c; to make the word of God fully known; he’s a servant & a steward to the church and 3rd, he’s a preacher and a teacher;
t.s.: which brings us to our 2nd reason for his joy: 1) His Ministry and 2) his…
II. The Message – the mystery revealed (v25c-6f)
exp.: and just what is his message? The Mystery; rd 1.25c-26; Within the Word of God is this mystery; we spoke some of it last week at Easter – God has come in the flesh and made his dwelling among us – God with us; His coming as Messiah can be truly labeled as a Mystery; the full details hidden in the past; rd 1.27; Christ in you, the Hope of Glory!
app.: it is an amazing thought that Christ would come to dwell in us; it is mysterious, but truly wonderful. This mystery is Christ – Him we proclaim! It reads in 1.28;
t.s.: So, we’ve seen Paul’s joy in the struggle because of His Ministry, His Message,
III. The Maturity it brings to peoples lives
exp.: rd 1.28c-2.2; Paul’s toil, his struggle is for them; that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love (their relationships), to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding (maturity) and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ. rd 2.3-5; we see this in two respects:
- Salvation to the lost (v28)
- Maturity to the faithful (1.29-2.3)
- Helping them to avoid following false teachers and teaching (2.4)
ill.: When I was younger, I found it odd that the Gospel, preached and proclaimed, accomplished these two tasks – salvation to the lost and spiritual maturity to the believers. The first one I got – that one makes sense, but that 2nd one stumped me. Now, decades later, I see that the Gospel proclaimed and possessed brings about spiritual maturity. It’s something I’ve experienced and witnessed in countless Christians.
Can I add that I can also see how a lack of the Gospel has left many an older believer spiritually immature? This can be heartbreaking – to see someone who aged with decades of life, but is still a baby, a toddler when it comes to the faith. What a waste of a life – never attaining to the maturity Paul describes here.
Conclusion: Oh, but for those who do grow – what a blessing! He says, I rejoice to see your good order and the firmness of your faith in Christ.
Why? Because there are those out there who wish to delude you with plausible arguments. They wish to lead you astray. This false teaching has already infiltrated the church of God. We have denominations who’ve embraced the LGBTQ movement – not just to admit them into church membership, but to select them into leadership!
As subtle as it was, these leaders have seduced the church! The next movement is afoot! For those who will not conform willingly, they will be forced to conform or face persecution. We’re already seeing it!
Recently, former vice-president, Joe Biden nominated Dr. Rachel Levine to be Assistant Health Secretary. Dr. Levine is a man who thinks he is a woman. He ‘transitioned’ from male to female in 2011. He now goes by the name of Rachel Levine. A couple of concerns cross my mind as I’m sharing this information with you.
- With someone like this in our leadership – how long will it take before what has happened in Canada begins happening in the US?
- I understand that my statement above violates all sorts of politically correct protocol. I’m supposed to refer to Dr. Levine as a woman and use female pronouns. My problem is that, although I understand the delusion, I’m just not willing to enter into the delusion myself. That’s why I say he is a man who thinks of himself (that’s the delusional part) as a woman.
I’m not trying to offend anyone. I’m really not. I’m just saying that it is a reality before us as Christians – reality, that’s the word I think the liberal portion of our society is ignoring – the reality is before us that the values we hold to as Christians, the values we get from this book, the very Word of God, inspired, inerrant, and infallible, … the values, and mores, and ethics, and standards we hold to from the Word of God are under attack. So, let me encourage to stand boldly against those who would lead us astray! That is why it rejoices my heart to see you grow in the faith.
So, what do we do when persecution comes? Aaron Armstrong and Brian Dembowczyk offer four responses:
Pray for deliverance.
Pray for endurance. (physical)
Pray for Faithfulness. (spiritual)
Pray for those who persecute you.