The word of God, faith and maturity
The life of faith
What is the bible and how can we trust it?
The point of Growth Groups (discipleship and maturity)
Glossary: maturity; false teaching; bible; preaching and teaching.
What makes a person mature?
The church in Colossae had received the message of the grace of God and, because they had truly understood God’s grace, they are responding to it with love and faith spurred on by their new hope found in Christ. Paul is so thankful to hear of the work that God is doing in them and reminded the readers about how central Christ is to all things. He is the reason for life itself! He is the cornerstone of any church of the real God. He is now the only focus of Paul’s life.
Outside of Christ, we were alienated from God. But in Christ, we are reconciled to God. It took Jesus’ physical body to make this real. This gospel is not just for some, but it is the only gospel for the whole world because it is give to us from God himself. Jesus is the universal Christ.
Read Colossians 1:24-2:8
24 Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church. 25 I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness—26 the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the Lord’s people. 27 To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.
28 He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ. 29 To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me.
2 I want you to know how hard I am contending for you and for those at Laodicea, and for all who have not met me personally. 2 My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, 3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. 4 I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments. 5 For though I am absent from you in body, I am present with you in spirit and delight to see how disciplined you are and how firm your faith in Christ is.
6 So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, 7 rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.
8 See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.
What did you see?
- God’s mystery is now revealed (24-27)
- So, we train one another in Christ (1:28-2:3)
- How to grow up in the faith (2:4-8)
God’s mystery is now revealed (24-27)
“Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you…” The Christian faith looks at suffering and does not teach us to avoid it or rush too quickly to remove it, but to see why it is there. Paul equates the suffering he is undergoing as a necessity for proclaiming the gospel in the world.
“…I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions…” The New Testament is clear that it is the cross of Christ that redeems and makes the unrighteous believer truly righteous before God (Colossians 1:20-22; 2:14). So, Paul does not mean that Christ’s death is not enough for salvation. He means that the gospel must now get proclaimed and spread across this earth – it must not be kept secret but made known to all. We live in this same age as Paul, where the gospel is taught to all nations.
“…for the sake of his body, which is the church.” Another way of saying that the gospel must be spread. The church is born out of the gospel being preached. The cross of Christ has made the guilty righteous, now the message of the cross must be preached in order for the church to be born and built up.
“…I have become its servant…to present…the word of God in its fullness.” Paul sees himself as someone called by God to finish the story of Christ in this world. The bible has been written for generations by prophets who were lead by the Holy Spirit to speak and write down what they saw and heard. Now, in the same tradition as the prophets, Paul is proclaiming and presenting the completed work of God in Christ. God has commissioned Paul as one author of His story.
“…the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages…is now disclosed…” The mystery is the missing piece of the puzzle which is Christ crucified. 1 Peter 1:10-12, “Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of the Messiah and the glories that would follow…” Christ is the missing piece of the puzzle. The mystery is not a mystery anymore. See 2 Corinthians 1:20; Ephesians 1:9-10.
“…disclosed to the Lord’s people.” The Lord’s people are those who he had chosen. In the Old Testament, it was promised through the line of Abraham but in the New Testament, we see that there is only a remnant of believers who are called the true Israel – not by birth but by faith in Christ. See Romans 4. 1 Peter 2 describes all the church of God through Christ as the people of God. He has revealed his word to his church. And the Lord’s people teach the nations (Gentiles).
“…the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” The message of the gospel is both a spoken word and an outworking of faith in the church. The church will be known for their hope in Christ and their understanding of the future blessed by God. Heaven is our hope which transforms the people of God because we don’t strive for success at the expense of others but we live by faith in Christ.
So at the end of this section, let’s note that God has been speaking in this world for generations but now, the final piece of the puzzle has been revealed and it is Christ, the promised Messiah, and we live in the age where Christ is proclaimed! Special reference to the word of God.
So, we train one another in Christ (1:28-2:3)
“He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone…” The ‘he’ is Jesus Christ. We do not preach and teach doctrine or religion, or good works, but we preach and teach about a person. Christianity is about Jesus Christ. Proclaiming is like standing up and declaring something as true and necessary. Admonishing is similar to proclaiming but comes with a sense of urgency – like this is not just opinion but truth that you need. Teaching is easy to understand but we don’t just tell people what to think, we train and instruct and show the reasons for and give people the clues that point to Jesus.
“…with all wisdom…” This is something about the method. We choose times and places and tone and the appropriate illustration and so on.
“…so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ.” This is the aim. Not everyone will get there because many will reject the truth and turn from it. But we teach and admonish so that people will mature in Christ. This means that people will not remain shallow in their faith. There is a personal growth expected in Christianity. A Christian ought to be older in the faith as time goes on – not simply because of age but because of instruction and understanding. Hearing the gospel and believing it is only the beginning of faith. Ephesians 2:8-10 states that we are saved by grace but this is so that we will become what God has intended us to be. Every adult in this world was once upon a time a child. But they were never meant to remain as a child. The nature of life is to grow up. This is the same in the faith. When we move from death to life in Christ, we also mature and grow up in this faith.
“To this end…” Paul wants people to hear the gospel and grow up in the gospel and this is his mission. His work is not passive and accidental, but he is intent on how he gets the news of Jesus out and training people up.
“My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love…complete understanding…know the mystery of God, namely, Christ…” Paul said in 1 Corinthians 1 that he resolved to know nothing except Jesus Christ crucified. This is such essential knowledge to Paul and he knows that this is the great mystery that God wants all of his people to fall in love with and own for themselves. No church member is simply a passenger. We are all urged to know Christ with complete understanding.
“…all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” Sounds like a plot to a sci-fi adventure movie – a trek to discover the treasures of all wisdom and knowledge. But God has it for us. We don’t need more than Christ. We don’t need something other than Christ. The richest treasure of knowledge that God can offer us is found in Christ.
At the end of this section, let’s notice that all of Paul’s efforts are poured into making Christ known, carefully, thoughtfully, persuasively and universally.
How to grow up in the faith (2:4-8)
“…so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments.” Paul is concerned that, in his absence, other people may persuade and admonish the church with something other than Christ. 10-steps to better living. The real secret to happiness. The missing gift of God. Things like these distract us from celebrating in unity the good news that God has saved us in Christ.
“…delight to see how disciplined you are…” Despite Paul’s warnings of being mislead, he seems pleased to hear about the discipline of their faith. Notice that faith takes discipline – namely to hear the proclaiming, admonishing and teachings about Christ.
“…how firm your faith in Christ is.” Note that faith is not a substance or a spell but a commitment to the knowledge and trust in something or someone. A weak faith is something like a hesitation to trust Christ. A firm faith is where someone stands on the rock of Christ with both feet without needing a second option.
“…just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him…” You know how to mature in Christ? Keep calling him Lord and saviour without hesitation in all things. Grow up in the faith in the same way that you received Christ. You heard about him and was drawn to the fact that in him is life and there is no life without him. He is Lord. He is our boss, chief, master, leader, sovereign king! Keep treating him this way!
“…rooted and built up in him…” We don’t put Jesus on a shelf and look to him occasionally. He is the foundation for our lives. Our firm foundation is to be in Him. He is the cornerstone. You don’t lay down a slab and then build your house a metre away from that! Find your hope in Christ and then continue to grow in that understanding and knowledge.
“…strengthened in faith…” Faith is like a muscle. When it is not exercised, it gets weak and cannot support us. But when we apply the knowledge of Christ, the hope of the gospel to all of life, then our faith is strengthened. But Christ is still the object of that faith.
“…as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.” Faith in Christ is like most things we learn. We were once taught how to ride a bike. We enjoy riding the bike just as we were taught and respond with joy and thankfulness that someone showed us. The difference is that Christ, unlike the bike, has gifted us with truth, life and eternity with God. This is why we came to Christ to begin with! So continue just as you received Christ as Lord.
“See to it…” Just as we are actively engaged in growing up in Christ, be actively aware of the dangers of being blindsided by some other smooth talking gospel. Grace plus anything is no longer grace. Christ plus something is no longer Christ alone. Multiple truths is not longer the truth.
“…depends on human tradition…” Paul is probably thinking of circumcision or some other Jewish tradition. Religion is not a dirty word but it has such a power to overshadow Christ like access to Christ is only through certain rituals or days or ways of living.
“…and the elemental spiritual forces of this world…” This phrase appears again in verse 20 and is expanded on there to indicate things that you get told in this world which seems to make sense but has no eternal impact. Why the NIV places the word ‘spiritual’ here is a mystery. The phrase is simply, ‘the basic principles of this world’. The way to spot something that is empty and deceptive is to study the faith in Christ and be aware of what is leading us away from that!
“…rather than on Christ.” This is where Paul wants to land us. Start, continue and find everything in Christ. Remember that nothing exists without him. He is not an afterthought in this world. He is the reason for life. We need him for salvation but we also just need him.
What did we learn?
God has always been pointing people to Christ – even before the first Christmas! But there is no mystery among men any more. Jesus is the international Christ. There is no other philosophy or greater knowledge than knowing Christ. He is our salvation and he is our King and God’s word has always been working toward revealing him to us. We receive Christ as the foundation of our faith and we continue firmly established in him. The best way to spot counterfeit truths is to grow up and study the only truth that matters.
Topic A: The Bible: what it is and what it isn’t. It is eye-opening to realise that the whole bible is really about Jesus. Especially when you consider that the bulk of the bible was written hundreds of years before he came in the flesh. Some treat the bible like a book of quotes that you can just jump into anywhere for some personal inspiration. This is incorrect. Some use the bible like it is a library of loosely related stories all tied together by the theme of God. But this is both untrue and leaves the bible open to include any inspirational stories about God. But the bible is the unfolding story of God’s salvation to the earth through Christ. A course like “God’s Big Picture Plus+” or “Introduction to the Bible” (study 1 in the Preliminary Theological Certificate course) will help you gain a clearer vision of how God has used the prophets of the Old Testament to speak and write for our benefit. The bible speaks of itself as given to us by God himself. And the contents of the bible prove itself to be true and trustworthy. It is given to the people of God and is embraced by them because it speaks of the gospel of Christ.
Topic B: How to be trained in Christ? As a church, we have a number of strategies to see people grow up in the faith. Firstly, our weekly church services always present a part of the bible read and taught in light of the gospel of Christ. Secondly, our mid-week Growth Groups are offered to help train one another up in reading the bible well while being encouraged in Christian community. Thirdly, we encourage people to read the bible for themselves. There is no mystery to reading the bible well, but we have found that there are many distractions and ways that people can fail to listen well to what the bible is saying. So, courses on how to read the bible such as God’s Big Picture, Firm Foundations, regular Growth Groups or The Daily Bible Project are all attempts at helping people to grow in their Christian maturity.
Topic C: How to spot a counterfeit gospel. It is said that the best training to spot counterfeit money is not to study the many counterfeits but to study the authentic currency. We learn to know Christ. Not just know of him but learn to know Him and the Father who sent Him (John 17:3). Think of Christianity like walking a path. You started on the path, presumably, because you saw the sign that said, “this way to know life, to know truth and to have peace with God” and so you liked what the sign said and you followed that way. This path begins and continues in the knowledge of Jesus Christ as Lord. To leave the path is to leave Christ and go down some other journey. The other path may promise great things too, but you cannot have two journeys. Jesus Christ is revealed to us in the bible. Get to know your bible, and you will grow in your knowledge of Christ.