Category Archives: The Word of God

Firm Foundations – Study 4 – Colossians 1:24-2:8

The word of God, faith and maturity

Topics covered:
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.

Discussion Question

What makes a person mature?

Context

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?

Structure

  • 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.

Now what?

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.

Firm Foundations Introduction – Who are we listening to? Colossians 1:1-2

What is your worldview?

What do you build your hope upon? We all construct an understanding of the world that we live in so that we can work out how to make decisions and make sense of events that play out around us. This is called our worldview. We take in all that we experience and learn and we create a road map that explains everything properly. The way that we think of this world is moulded and shaped over time by our culture, our own story, our life experiences and our education. Our worldview makes sense of the world around us and provides a hope for the future. Our worldview matters and how we create our worldview matters. Incorrect input or misinterpreting the world around us tends to result in a false hope.

What is God’s worldview?

Christianity is based on the knowledge that God Himself has revealed His grand plans with us. We could say that God has shown us His worldview. The Firm Foundations course is about listening to God’s perspective on our lives and moulding our worldview in response to this knowledge. As we’ve already noted, our worldview is shaped by information from our senses and from those who have tried to educate us in the past (eg, parents, teachers, peers and media). If we could add God’s message to our learning, that would be wise, right?

We’ll examine in lesson 4 how we can be confident that God has spoken to us in the bible. We’ll use one book in the bible, Colossians, to listen to God’s perspective of life here on earth. But before we proceed, we need to look at how to listen properly.


The art of listening to the bible

Reading the bible is not magic but it does take some effort. It takes the same amount of effort as it does to listen well to somebody speak. If you have ever read a book with the aim of understanding what it is trying to say, then you are well on your way to being able to read the bible with understanding.

7 Principles to being a good bible reader.

  1. Come to the bible ready to learn something – taught, trained, corrected and perhaps rebuked. Many people come to the bible ready to disagree or rebuke the words they are reading. But if we come to the bible ready to listen, then we ought to come ready to learn something. If the bible is God’s word, then we ought to give the bible our readiness to listen.
  2. Listen to the context and ask, why is this here? When we take the text our of context then we are left with a con! The context means the sentence, the paragraph, the chapter, the book, and the whole bible. It can also include historical context but this is always trumped by the importance of biblical context. Almost all of the bible is able to be understood by taking clues from the bible text itself. Resist the temptation to Google your questions. The context is going to give you better answers.
  3. Take time to see new things. This is known as the observation. One reading of a passage from the bible is never enough. Read and reread several times until you believe that you have understood what it is saying. It’s frustrating when you say something in a conversation and the other person completely takes your sentence out of context. It is the same with the bible. Read like you are truly interested in what the bible is trying to say. It will not be clear straight away but we read the bible with our brains on and listening for understanding.
  4. Questions are very productive. They are and more useful in growing than focusing on only the parts of a passage that you feel you know. Questions come to those who want to know more and wish to hear everything that a passage is saying. So, write down your question. Make a note of it. You may be able to come to an answer quickly or it may take some exploring. Again, the context of the bible will often provide answers to your questions.
  5. Bible reading is excavation work. Do more than skim across the surface of the text. Shallow reading produces shallow disciples – even misguided disciples. You dig deeper into a passage by carefully drawing out the implications of the passage as well as considering how that passage effects the way we read other parts of the bible and vice-versa. How does that sentence change my thinking and how does it affect the rest of the bible?
  6. Formulate a summary of what you’ve uncovered. The bible, in one sense, has a very simple message to mankind. But each passage shines a special light on the truth of God and the importance of life in Christ. Find out what each new text contributes to the bigger message of the bible. For example, the whole bible is about faith in God but every story or lesson from the bible provides are different perspective or example of this faith. So, bring together all that you’ve seen and answer the question, “what does it mean?”
  7. Don’t just listen but do what it says. The bible is given to us so that we may find life in Christ. Jesus put great emphasis on reading the bible in order to find life (John 5:39-40)! If he thought so highly of the scriptures, who are we to neglect such an important life changing gift? Answer the question, “now what?”

So, in this course, we will be using the New Testament book of Colossians to a) learn how to read the bible well and b) to build upon the knowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord and Saviour. Each lesson will look at a new section of that book and then branch off to a specific topic that was raised in that section. To look at the passage we will consider the context that it is written in, we will make observations in the text to make sure we are listening carefully, we will then propose a meaning which sums up everything we have heard, and finally consider what applications we can draw out of our new understanding.


Paul begins his letter to a church in Colossae (Kol-oss-ie) like this:

Colossians 1:1-2

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, 

2 To God’s holy people in Colossae, the faithful brothers and sisters in Christ: 

Grace and peace to you from God our Father.

Background (Context)

Paul was a Jew who was violently opposed to the ‘new’ Christian movement. He (known firstly as Saul) was on his way from Jerusalem to the town of Damascus with permission to extract every Jew who were now worshiping Jesus Christ as Lord and put them in gaol. Before he got there, he saw Jesus Christ appear before him and he was immediately convicted that Jesus is indeed Lord. God changed Saul from a Christian hater to a Christian maker. His life story can be read in the book of Acts from Chapter 7 onward. Timothy was a younger man who Paul (renamed to Paul as he began to spend time in non-Jewish areas) considered a partner in the gospel and a true son in the faith (1 Timothy 1:2). Colossae is located on the north side of the Mediterranean Sea in what is modern day Turkey.

What does it say? (Observation)

The word ‘apostle’ means ‘sent one’. So Paul regards himself to be sent by God’s will on behalf of Jesus. He and Timothy write this together to the people in Colossae who are also brothers and sisters in Christ – aka, Christians in Colossae. They are called ‘God’s holy people’. Holy means separated for God’s purpose. They are being labelled as holy. Paul and Timothy write to fellow Christians in Colossae with words of grace and peace from God.

So what? (Meaning)

Paul writes from the position as a sent one from God to a people who are set apart by God living in Colossae and his greeting begins with grace and peace. They are brothers and sisters in Christ and share the same God whom they are able to call Father.

Now what? (Application)

We may not live in Colossae but this letter is for unnamed believers. We would be wise to listen to what Paul has to say as a spokesperson of Jesus Christ by the will of God.

Revelation 17-19 Growth Group Leaders notes:

Context:

Having looked at the history of the world repeated through different lenses in chapters 4-17, Revelation 17-18 now looks again at the history of the world through the lens of God’s judgement of evil.

Method:

Again we are dealing with a large section of text.  I would focus on 17 and 19.

Read 17:1-6a and determine quickly from verses 5 and 6 that this woman is representative of ‘Babylon’ – or any nation which fails to declare Jesus as King.

Read 17:6b – 14 a bit more slowly.  We are re-introduced to the ‘beast’ aka Satan.  But the ‘Babylon’ woman is merged with this image as it’s rider.  Almost every other additional image gives us the clue that ‘Babylon’ for the time of John, was the ‘Roman Empire’.  More details in exegesis.

Read 17:15-18 a helpful reflective moment.  The devil eats his own.  Nations rise and fall (like Rome does here) – and Satan craves power so much that he eats even those who are aligned with him.  This is part of the judgement of God.

Summarize chapter 18:  The people and nations will mourn the downfall of every ‘Babylon’ – because for many of them, it had fulfilled their desires for growing in wealth and stature.  But verse 4 and 5 remind the Christian to get out of there.  Don’t invest yourself in a kingdom bound for destruction – but rather live for the kingdom that will last.

Read 19:1-4 this should be quick – but see the rejoicing that the evil nation is defeated by God and the vindication of the martyred saints.

Read 19:5-10 This should be quick – but see the joyfulness as the wedding supper of Jesu and his church comes to it’s fulfilment.

Read 19:11-21 We see the end of the Beast and the ‘kings of the earth’ that were introduced in chapter 17.  It is a fight between Jesus (11-16) and the beast and his armies (19-20) and Jesus wins (20-21).

Exegetical points

17:1-6

Babylon was the nation that wiped out Israel in the OT, but the beginnings of Babylon was babel (Gen 11).  Babylon here represents ANY nation who stands in opposition to God – but particularly it represents the superpower of the time.  Nationally, She is rich (vs 4) and she is filth (vs 4-5) and she is guilty of slaying Christians (vs 6) but also of drawing in other nations to her culture (vs 1 many waters = people; vs 2 all the inhabitants of earth intoxicated with her)

17:6b-14

The beast here is Satan (vs 8 from the Abyss – will go to its destruction) and is the power and authority behind ‘Babylon / Rome’ (vs 13)

‘The woman’ which was described as the nation ‘Babylon’ in vs 5 sits on 7 hills (vs 9).  This is a very clear picture of Rome (the city who sits on 7 hills).  Some of the other descriptions then help us flesh that out more: The 7 bigger kings (vs 10) refer to the line of the Caesars:

(Augustus, Tiberius, Gaius, Claudius, Nero – 5 fallen;

Vespasian (69-79AD) – 1 who is;

Titus (79-81AD) – One for a little while;

Domitian (81-96AD) – 8th who will be ‘the beast’

The 10 smaller kings with no kingdom (12) refer to the proconsul governors who each rule for a fixed period of time.

And because all of these rulers and kings belong ultimately to the beast – vs 14 – they wage war against Jesus and his kingdom but will ultimately fail because Jesus is the King of Kings.

17:15-18

And in spite of all this power – the Devil stands powerless against the kingdom of Jesus.  And in his thirst for power – he hates those with whom he has to share it.  And so God’s judgement (vs 17) befalls the prostitute/Babylon, in the form of God allowing the Devil to eat his own.  Babylon / Rome / Any superpower who does not acknowledge Jesus, will be ripped down to ruin.

18:1-3 (cursory)

While the Devil’s lust for power, eating his own, is the vehicle, it is God who declares that this super power’s time is over.

18:4-8

There is a warning of God to his people to come out of ‘Babylon’.  Now, this isn’t a proximity thing – it isn’t a call to physically leave; but it is a call to leave behind the ‘project’ as such.  Don’t get caught up in her sins – and so, don’t get caught up in the judgement (plagues) that will follow.

There is an excellent reflection moment here on not getting caught up in the projects of our society and what it might look like to keep having our eyes on the kingdom, while living in this kingdom which is bound towards destruction.

18:9-24

Here we see the response of everyone who has bought into the earthly ‘project’ of ‘Babylon’ mourning at her loss.  Sea captains and traders mourn at the loss of their wealth.  They mourn at the beauty that is no more.  They will mourn “was there ever a city like this!?” (sidebar: compared to the heavenly Jerusalem coming – this is nothing).  People involved in the project, tend to look back and to remember only the good from the projects that they were involved in.

And yet – verse 20 presents another voice – one of rejoicing.  Because for those who stood with God and who were killed, they are vindicated.  God has judged this human project ‘Babylon’ for the sinful affront to his rule that it is and the destruction it wreaked on his people.

 And 21-24 then present the finality of God’s judgment.  The ‘goods’ that the merchants longed for, will destroyed.  But it is the syntactic change of 23b that shifts to the reasons:  Why?  Because of their ‘marriage’ with the nations in which they led them astray (hear echoes of Jezabel in 2 Kings here) and in which they killed the holy people of God.

19:1-10

And so in direct opposition to the wrongful marriage – we see the wedding of Jesus to his church.  There is rejoicing in 1-2 because he has condemned ‘Babylon’ ‘the adulterous prostitute wife’ permanently.

And in 6-9 we instead see the good marriage – of those to the lamb.  Where instead of adulterous acts, there is righteous acts of the saints.  And there is true blessing to all of those who are invited to participate in this feast and this celebration.

19:11-21

But that still leaves the question of the beast and his minion kings.  Sure Babylon is defeated – but what about the one who stands behind it in this run through of history?  Well, the great battle is set – Christ is described in 11-16: Faithful and true; powerful and full of authority (many crowns); he is clean (dipped in blood), he is the word of God.  His army (14) – is not dressed for battle, but for holy service… because they aren’t needed to fight.  Jesus’ word is the sharp sword; Jesus is the executor of God’s righteous judgement; he has sweet thigh tats declaring him to be King of Kings; Lord of Lords.

Vs 17 – the Angel declares the victory before the battle even starts.

19-21 Is the foolish, frivolous, wasted attempt to overthrow Jesus.  Zero description of battle is given… because none is needed.  Instead there is judgement – judgement which will be focused on in the next chapter.