Category Archives: Mission

Commandment #3 – The Lord’s Name

Note to leaders: while the content below helps you build a knowledge of this topic for the study, it will be helpful to work out what bits you go through with your group and which bits you might put aside to use only if it comes up and time permits.

The opening question addresses how we commonly treat this command but the study will point us even deeper.

Opening Question

What is your reaction to hearing the name of Jesus used poorly or the phrase, OMG? Why do you react this way?

Exodus 20:7

“You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.”

In the beginning (5 mins)

How is the theme of God’s name developed prior to the Ten Commandments?

Genesis 2:19-20; 3:20 (Adam was instructed by the LORD to name every animal. What he named them, that is what they were called. Man had authority to assign names to things. This seems trivial but demonstrates the purpose of names – they are not just words but are intrinsically linked to the person or animal that it was assigned to, and they have a meaningful role. The one who names something gives it meaning.)

Genesis 4:26 This use of the LORD’s name was not in vein but in prayer. In fact, the first prayers referred to in the bible. Mankind was divided between those who call on the name of the LORD for help and those who do not. They are, in the context, waiting for the seed of Eve to come and save them from the curse of sin (Gen 3:15).

What people are named and what that means is a key point in most of the accounts in Genesis (eg, Gen 27:36)

Exodus 3:11-15; 6:2-3; 15:2-3; The name is not simply a label but a revelation of His authority and power. It’s not just a word but a relationship. Man has not named God but God has declared his name to us.

“A study of the word *‘NAME’ in the OT reveals how much it means in Hebrew. The name is no mere label, but is significant of the real personality of him to whom it belongs. It may derive from the circumstances of his birth (Gn. 5:29), or reflect his character (Gn. 27:36), and when a person puts his ‘name’ upon a thing or another person the latter comes under his influence and protection.”

(New Bible Dictionary, “Names of God”, IVP)

Some more background: Technically speaking, there is only one name for God given in the Old Testament which is Yehwah – also referred to as Jehovah and translated as LORD in the bible. The word, god, in the bible can be used to refer to the LORD or to mythical god’s – context gives meaning. And the word, lord or Lord, refers to a person of power.

The command to Israel (5 mins)

Compare the NIV translation of Exodus 20:7 with another translation like the ESV. What is God teaching Israel?

take/misuse: make wrongful use of.

vain: describes unreality.

“The command prohibits use of the name for any idle, frivolous, or insincere purpose” (S. R. Driver, Exodus, 196). This would include perjury, pagan incantations, or idle talk. The name is to be treated with reverence and respect because it is the name of the holy God.

(Notes from the NET translation)

The command goes further than this, however, as we see the way Israel misused God’s name and how clearly Jesus represents it.

Israel’s history (10 mins)

Deuteronomy 18:19 gives a positive use of the name of the LORD. Ezekiel 36, however, is very condemning. Read Ezekiel 36:16-32 and talk about what it means to misuse the name of God. 

  • Deuteronomy 18:19 – if a prophet speaks in the name of Yahweh, he is representing God and must be listened to. A prophet takes the LORD’s name carefully.
  • Ezekiel 36:16-32 – Israel was giving Yahweh and bad name. They misrepresented him. But God will re-establish his great name by pouring out his grace once again on Israel. This is a pointer to the gospel.

The Gospel (10 mins)

What difference has Jesus made to our understanding of this command?

  • John 5:43; 10:25 show us that Jesus came, like a prophet, in the name of God, whom he referred to as Father!
  • Matthew 6:9-13 The Lord’s prayer includes our plea for God’s name to be hallowed. As a prayer, it is a request for this to be fulfilled here on earth. Christ’s disciples will carry his name (see John 15:21)
  • John 14:13-14; 16:22-28 Jesus instructs his disciples to pray in his name!
  • Conclusion: Jesus comes in the name of his Father and teaches that when he leaves, his followers will pray in his name and be treated good or bad because of his name.

Christian Living (15 mins)

The name of the LORD was entrusted to Israel and yet they misused it in their disobedience. Yet God continued to bless Israel and the world through sending Jesus, his son and our Lord. The command to misuse the LORD’s name goes beyond swearing and involves representing God and his goodness to the world. We return to a familiar passage which we may think of when praying the first request in the Lord’s prayer…

  • Philippians 2:9-11 (also Ephesians 1:19b-23
  • 2 Corinthians 5:18-20 (see here how we represent the name of Christ on earth as we call people to repent and believe.

So far, the commandments have built upon each other to teach us about gospel and mission: 1) we know that there is only one God and we must not compromise that truth for ourselves or anyone else in the world (Jesus Christ is Lord and Saviour); 2) We must worship God only and do so in Spirit and in truth (Jesus is the way and the truth and the life, nobody comes to the Father except through him; 3) He entrusts his name and reputation to us as we represent God in the world (exalting Jesus’ name above all others). 

How do you represent the name of Jesus? If you say you are a Christian, does the world see it?

Firm Foundations – Study 8 – Colossians 4:2-18

Pray for completing the mission

Topics Covered: What is taking Jesus so long to return?
How do I proclaim Christ?
Glossary: proclamation; wisdom; maturity; assurance; partnership; mission; evangelism.

Discussion Question

What would you do if you found a medicine that would cure all illness in the world?

Context

The book of Colossians began with the description of the gospel coming to Colossae via Epaphras and that when they heard the gospel, they understood the true meaning of God’s grace. We heard from Paul how the gospel is bearing fruit and growing throughout the whole world. Now, at the conclusion of his letter, Paul will ask the church to pray for the gospel to keep moving around the world. The gospel is the powerful work of God, achieved through Christ, to move people from death to life. Only in the Lord are we able to put sin to death and to explore new life of faith. But it is the eternal hope that we have received in the gospel that produces faith and love in the church. And the mission of God is not to stop with us. Just as we received Jesus Christ as Lord, we are to continue to grow up in our faith and we are to do our part to ensure that the message of the gospel moves out to others.

Read Colossians 4:2-18

2 Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. 3 And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. 4 Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. 5 Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. 6 Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. 

7 Tychicus will tell you all the news about me. He is a dear brother, a faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord. 8 I am sending him to you for the express purpose that you may know about our circumstances and that he may encourage your hearts. 9 He is coming with Onesimus, our faithful and dear brother, who is one of you. They will tell you everything that is happening here. 

10 My fellow prisoner Aristarchus sends you his greetings, as does Mark, the cousin of Barnabas. (You have received instructions about him; if he comes to you, welcome him.) 11 Jesus, who is called Justus, also sends greetings. These are the only Jews among my co-workers for the kingdom of God, and they have proved a comfort to me. 12 Epaphras, who is one of you and a servant of Christ Jesus, sends greetings. He is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured. 13 I vouch for him that he is working hard for you and for those at Laodicea and Hierapolis. 14 Our dear friend Luke, the doctor, and Demas send greetings. 15 Give my greetings to the brothers and sisters at Laodicea, and to Nympha and the church in her house. 

16 After this letter has been read to you, see that it is also read in the church of the Laodiceans and that you in turn read the letter from Laodicea. 

17 Tell Archippus: “See to it that you complete the ministry you have received in the Lord.” 

18 I, Paul, write this greeting in my own hand. Remember my chains. Grace be with you.

What did you see?

Structure

  • Mission abroad and at home (2-6)
    • Speaking to God about people (2-4)
    • Speaking to people about God (5-6)
  • Missionaries coming home (7-9)
  • The many workers of the gospel (10-15)
  • Personal notes from the writer of scripture (16-18)

Mission at home and abroad (2-6)

“Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.” It has been said that prayer is faith speaking. That means that prayer is not simply talking to God. It is speaking to God in response to what we know to be true about him. We ought to pray as good reflective listeners. 1) Be devoted to prayer because faith tells us that God has provided access to him and why would we dare treat that invitation with contempt? It is grace that saved us and nothing that we have done. We received Christ by faith as we prayed for forgiveness and to surrender to him – that is how we are to continue – in prayer to him. Note that Genesis 4:26 describes the first moment of prayer in the bible and the content and purpose and almost definition of prayer is that of those who call upon the name of the Lord. The attitude of our prayers include watchfulness and thankfulness. Watchful perhaps that we remain true to the faith and living in the Lord and not straying. Watchful that we pray for present matters and watchful as we see God’s hand at work. Thankful as we see the kingdom grow and His answers to our prayers. Thankful forever that God would save us and qualify us for the kingdom.

“And pray for us, too…” Paul has described his prayers for the church back in chapter one and invites them to pray for him.

“…that God may open a door for our message…” See how the content of our prayers ought to be gospel focussed? We should pray for the government and for those who are sick and for anything that we are anxious about, and we must pray for God’s mission.

“…so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ…” It’s not that Christ is a mystery but that Christ is the mystery revealed (Colossians 1:26, 27; 2:2). Paul knows what he needs to proclaim, that is not the mystery, but he needs doors opened so that he can speak.

“…for which I am in chains.” Paul was apparently in prison. He was arrested a number of times as we read in Acts.  He did not speak of his imprisonment as a disaster but as part and parcel to gospel work in his era and location. Coming to Christ does mean freedom from sin but it does not come with a rosy life. He has been imprisoned for speaking the gospel. But this does not deter him…

“Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should.” Since we know the gospel let’s desire to be able to explain it to others clearly. Paul was dependent on God for the ability and the focus to do just that and not to muddy the gospel with side issues that do not matter and which actually detract from the gospel. Paul desires prayer from a church of Christ to support him in his mission abroad. Verses 2-4 were about speaking to God about people and Verses 5-6 are about speaking to people about God.

“Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders…” Now Paul teaches the church how to be missionaries in their own town. The outsiders are those who do not yet belong to the church. Our approach to outsiders is to be wise which at the very first means being thoughtful and mindful of them – not disinterested!

“…make the most of every opportunity.” The context clearly means to be ready to proclaim Christ when a door opens for it!

“Let your conversation be always full of grace…” Let’s paraphrase: every time you open your mouth to speak with someone, make the content ooze with grace – be patient, kind, loving, truthful, listening, gentle and controlled. Allow others to speak. Allow others to close the conversation if they wish. Offer encouragement to all – no matter what their tone or nature is. We were instructed to put away evil uses of our mouth and here we are told to positively fill our mouths with gracious words. It may mean keeping your mouth closed if you have nothing kind to say!

“…seasoned with salt…” Your conversation is not to be dull and tasteless so that everyone wants to run away as soon as you start speaking. But season your words with attractive stuff. Put simply, be human around people and don’t be preachy or boring. The gospel is exciting news so be ever growing in your knowledge of the faith and ever mindful of those outside the faith that should and ought to hear and respond to the gospel just as you did.

“…so that you may know how to answer everyone.” If you can explain the gospel to someone without Christian jargon, then you know that you have understood it well yourself and are equipping yourself to share it with outsiders. Answering someone presumes that there was a question asked. Now, we need to walk the thin line between waiting to be asked and fishing for questions. This is why being always mindful of outsiders, always talking to God about mission, always looking for open doors and speaking graciously with a splash of salt will attract conversations.

Missionaries coming home (7-9)

“Tychicus…” Mentioned in Acts 20:4. As is clearly stated in Verses 7 and 8, he is being sent to Colossae from Paul’s side to fill them in on all the details of what is happening and for him to encourage them. Church work is relational. Heaven forbid that we ought to join a church and never speak to anyone or form deeper connections. God has called us to be part of his kingdom mission work and to do that together! If you are a Christian, then join the team of God’s mission – or ask yourself where your heart really is.

“Onesimus…” The book of Philemon is worth reading to hear how a criminal can find Christ and be treated as equal in the Lord. This is Onesimus. Once a runaway slave but now a companion with Paul and Tychicus. Like him, we were once living on the run from God, but now, because of hearing and truly understanding God’s grace, we are treated as equals with Christ in his kingdom. We are invited to always be ready to tell others the good news of Jesus Christ.

The many workers of the gospel (10-15)

“…Aristarchus…”Mentioned in Acts 19:29.

“…Mark…” Acts 12:12. A companion with Barnabas (Acts 4:36) and Paul on their early missionary journeys. The good news here is that Paul and Barnabas had a strong disagreement over the worthiness of Mark on their mission (Acts 15:36-41) but clearly, that has been repaired and Mark is on mission with Paul again.

“(You have received instructions about him…)” Not everything that Paul wrote became automatically scripture. See later in Verse 16 for a comment about scripture.

Personal notes from the writer of scripture (16-18)

“After this letter has been read to you, see that it is also read in the church of the Laodiceans…” We have here the clear intentions from Paul that his words be read out in church and not just in the church in Colossae but shared with another church. Paul has some understanding that he is writing words worth sharing with the Christian community. These words will make their way into the bibles as we know them. God did not write the bible by lowering tablets from the sky into some saint’s hands. The bible is written by men as the Holy Spirit carried them along in truth and understanding (2 Peter 1:12-21, esp. 20-21). The apostles were aware that they were contributing to the canon of scripture just as their ancestors the prophets had done. The church received the writings just as they received the gospel. Writings were collated and preserved by the church and the Holy Spirit. Paul was aware that he was writing as an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God.

“…and that you in turn read the letter from Laodicea.” The epistle to Laodicea is not listed in your bible’s contents page. Perhaps it was lost in history. If that is the case, then we know that the bible that we have is the bible that God meant for us to have. He is sovereign over all things. Some say, however, that this letter has come to us but is named Ephesians. I cannot say. Ephesians has an awfully similar shape and purpose to it. It was written by Paul.

“Tell Archippus…complete the ministry…” This is obscure and we cannot know what is going on here for sure. Archuppus is mentioned in Philemon 1:2. But consider this as the theme of Colossians – to complete the mission that God has begun in you. Don’t stifle it or put out the flame but pursue God and the work that he leads you to do, especially in continuing on in the LORD just as you received Him. Put to death the old self and clothe yourself with the new. Set your minds on things above where Christ is seated. The gospel has come to you, now grow up in it and share the good news with others.

“I Paul, write this greeting in my own hand. Remember my chains. Grace be with you.” Paul would have had a scribe write out the letter but his habit and custom was to write his final note in his own hand (see 1 Cor 16:21; Galatians 5:16) probably as a way of authenticating his words and preventing frauds. When you think of what to do after reading this letter, remember Paul’s chains. It may have even been difficult to sign his name given the chains and the handwriting would reveal the struggle! Paul’s signature is a memory hook for continuing in the faith, pressing on, and proclaiming Christ as LORD whether that is welcome news or not!

“Grace be with you.” The letter ends as it began in Chapter 1 Verse 2. Grace be with you. The gift of God that we do not deserve and can never repay. Truly understanding the grace of God is what life is all about. Life comes from Him and so does Salvation. To put our hope in anything else is futile and foolish. May our faith and love for one another grow out of the eternal hope that is in our hearts.

What did we learn?

Just as the gospel has found a home with the Colossians, Paul urges them to get on board with spreading the gospel. He does this by asking for prayers for those who take the gospel abroad and by urging them to speak to their own community about Jesus. Gospel work is teamwork. We are not Loan Rangers and even Paul expresses his thankfulness for his partners who give him great comfort. Paul invites us to complete the mission which Jesus has drawn us into.

Now what?

Topic A: Know your church’s mission. As we are not to do mission alone, the greatest asset we have is partnering with the church that we belong to. How does your church plan to complete the mission? Most churches have a mission statement of some sort but they all need to meet with the Great Commission that Jesus gave to his disciples: to take the gospel to the nations, teaching everyone all that Christ taught us and adopting people into the community who know God as Father Son and Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:18-20). What questions can you ask your church about the plan for growing the kingdom? Do you know the names of the missionaries that your church supports? Do you know how to pray for them?

Topic B: Speaking with grace and salt. This advice is healthy for all humans to follow but even more so if we are hoping and praying to talk to people about Jesus. Being slow to speak and quick to listen is really great advice for anybody. As gospel-sharers, we want to avoid two extremes: bible bashing people and saying nothing about Jesus ever. But if we can listen and speak with love and interest and if we are growing in wisdom and understanding as the Spirit give us (Colossians 1:9) then speaking about the gospel can enter our conversations naturally and interestingly. And when we don’t get it right, that is an excellent time to reflect on what went wrong and grow from the experience!

Topic C: Praying with watchfulness and thankfulness. With watchfulness perhaps means knowing names and events that you would like to bring to God in prayer. Is there a sermon coming up that you could pray for the speaker about? Is there a missionary who has sent a recent update that you can pray about? Thankfulness means remembering the good things that God is doing and has already done through Christ and by His Spirit. Having a list of people to pray for has been very helpful for many Christians. The PrayerMate App has been a helpful modern tool to help our watchfulness and thankfulness in prayer.

Topic D: What is taking Jesus so long to return? Christ’s work during His first coming began a new age of the church – some say the age of the Spirit. It is an era which began at his Resurrection and will continue until He returns again to bring this world to an end. It is good and great to look forward to the new age – when Christ comes and we will see Him face to face and everything that we are hoping for in Christ will be fulfilled. But the age we live in is not a waste of time. We are to use every moment and venture we are involved in to grow the kingdom. Raising a family is to be done like you are raising disciples of Jesus. Doing business at work is to be done as though working for the Lord. Involvement at church is to be like you are involved in completing the mission. We can never know when Christ is to return, but our time right now is not simply about waiting – we are to be completing the mission.

Study 8- Faith speaks to the world – Colossians 4:1-7

Discussion question: At the end of our series, why would you say you have faith in Christ?

Context

Faith in Christ is about a certainty of God’s universal plans. These plans include all who call on the name of the Lord to be saved. The plans, according to the bible, are not simply for those who believe. Every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. In that simple statement, we are reminded that what’s true is true, even if you don’t believe it.

But for all who have believed and received Christ, to them (you) have been given the right to be called children of God. Faith saves. Faith goes all in. Faith is always at work. Faith opens our mouths to speak with God. Finally, but not least importantly, faith is for everyone.

Read Colossians 4:2-6

Observation

Q1. Discuss the attitude toward prayer that Paul has in Verse 2.

He instructs the church to be devoted to prayer: this implies dependence on God and a mindset that prioritises prayer – that prayer really is important.

He instructs them to pray being watchful – alert to the needs around them. If you are not watchful, then you are asleep at the wheel. What follows is Paul’s direction for the mission, and he starts with the need for prayer.

He instructs them to pray with thankfulness: this comes part and parcel with faith. We believe in a Sovereign God who has set us free already. The work of God is not dependent on us and often what we need is an attitude of thankfulness for all that God is doing in the world.

You may want to consider the Great Commission at some point in this study in order to see that Paul is doing exactly what Jesus commands us all to do. Matthew 28:18-20

Q2. Discuss what Paul requests in Verses 3 and 4. How can we apply this request as a church?

As a missionary of Christ, Paul asks for prayer for himself. For the Sovereignty of God to create opportunities (open doors) so that the gospel (the mystery of Christ) can be heard – despite the chains that Paul is wearing. He asks not only to proclaim the message but to do it clearly. He is asking for missionary support through prayer.

We have partners in the gospel through our CMS and BCA missionaries as well as two local missions with MIC and CAHSM. As well as these, we have many ministries that are set up to proclaim the gospel in our area. And it would be great to remember our weekly ministry of the word in our church services. Prayer for clarity from our preachers would be wonderful.

Q3. What advice does Paul have for the church in Verses 5 and 6?

Wisdom toward outsiders: there’s no formula or recipe for interacting with those outside the church but the direction of wisdom.

Make the most of every opportunity: being watchful in prayer and watchful in conversations.

Full of grace: work at filtering out anger, bitterness, envy and quarrelling. Give people grace and space. If Christ will work in somebody, he will do it.

Seasoned with salt: I suggest this means making your conversation attractive, interesting or tasty. A blunt bashing of the bible is rarely helpful.

So that you may know how to answer everybody: like our prayers, our conversations need to be eventful and meaningful – driven toward proclaiming the gospel or leading people to the community who have faith in Christ.

Meaning

The bible directs us to be alert and proactive in mission. There are those who need our prayer and covet our support. A church who is on board for Jesus must be on board for the mission and be thoughtful about it. And we go beyond praying for others. We pay careful attention to our own conversations and interactions with the world. You never know when God will open a door for you to speak to someone with wisdom, grace, salt and light.

Application

Application A) Devote yourself to prayer. We looked at prayer together last week but again we are commissioned to be prayers. Where and when are all a matter of wisdom. But a Christian who does not pray is like a human who does not breath. The content of our prayer must be for the mission. Jesus told his disciples to go and make disciples of all nations. We don’t do this alone. We do that as a local and global church and by the will and power of the Holy Spirit.

Application B) Practice the gospel. Being ready to speak about your faith starts with practice. Telling another Christian what it means to have faith is useful training and encouraging. Do you know how to guide someone into faith? What would you do if asked to explain what a Christian is?

Application C) God in 60 seconds. Showing my age, there is a movie with Nicholas Cage called Gone in 60 Seconds – it is about car stealing. We can adapt this title for personal mission and work out ways we can “steal” conversations and direct them toward God. How can you turn current affair statements toward God? Likewise with pop-culture or anything. Can you take a normal conversation and naturally steer it toward faith in Christ? 

Example,
“Politicians are only in it for themselves.”
“Well, I know one leader who is totally trustworthy”
“Oh yeah? Who?”
“Jesus… have you ever thought seriously about him?”

This example may be a little artificial but the point is to look for open doors and do it proactively.