Sermon Notes: Colossians 1:24-29

Colossians 1:24-29

Vision for the future of our preaching/teaching: Present everyone mature in Christ

One of the mistakes I made early on when dreaming about TRC at Northwood Church under Bob Roberts’ training was if we just taught the Bible robustly with expositional integrity and had a robust theological emphasis then we’d be a missionary juggernaut and usher in the second coming and we’d never have any of the church culture problems I’d witnessed growing up in Rome, GA. 

That was just naive foolishness. Good intentions. But naive. 

Paul nurtured, taught, corrected, and taught again the churches he planted until he died. 

The work of instructing in God’s word and all the implications is never-ending and still hits walls of opposition at just about every turn from within and without.

“We can know the right words and yet never be changed. This is the difference between information and transformation.” – A.W. Tozer

“It is possible to be very orthodox in one’s doctrine and very upright in one’s behavior and still not be godly. Many people are orthodox and upright, but they are not devoted to God; they are devoted to their orthodoxy and their standard of moral conduct.” – (Jerry Bridges, The Practice of Godliness, p. 27.)

Let me be clear: None of us are fully mature in Christ. All of us are on the journey of sanctification. 

The end of that journey is maturity in Christ. But we must be on the journey.

Our aim in preaching/teaching can never be to merely get ministry results or simply modify our behavior or elicit measurable responses from people or attract a crowd. 

Our aim has to be what the Bible says our aim should be, and that is “maturity”. 

What is “maturity” as Paul uses it in Colossians 1:24-29?

The verb in verse 28 is “present”. That means that the end for the ones offering God’s word is to offer something. 

The questions are, who are we offering and to whom are we making that offering? 

The stewardship is from God (v. 25), so we are to present something to God. But what/who?

The answer is “everyone”. We are to strive to present everyone mature in Christ.

The verb “present” is in the subjunctive mood, and the subjunctive mood is the mood of possibility or uncertainty.

This means that it is likely we won’t get everyone to maturity. 

Reason? Not everyone wants to move on to maturity. 

That doesn’t mean folks who don’t mature are not saved. It does mean that everyone’s maturity is not ultimately up to the preacher/teacher. 

It does mean that not everyone will do what is necessary to partner with God in being sanctified to maturity.

It does mean that some will be satisfied with escaping as one passing through the flames as Paul taught in 1 Corinthians 3:15.

However, none of us should be content with not progressing in maturity as Matthew 7:21 should spur us on to pursue Jesus. 

Matthew 7:21 (ESV) 21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.

Our security and our conscious pursuit of Jesus to make sure our calling and election are sure are not mutually exclusive truths. 

The church member has a deep calling to engage with the Holy Spirit in knowing God and themselves (Proverbs 20:27) and growing toward maturity, but each person has to want it and pursue it, and church leaders can’t do that for you. 

The preacher has to labor with the end of maturity in mind, but it’s ultimately not up to church leaders to make sure every disciple does their part. 

Every disciple is responsible to do what God calls for in the work of sanctification.

So, what is maturity as an end? 

The word Paul uses is “teleion” from the root “telos” and it means – end; to reach the end; finished; complete; having reached the purpose.

Maturity for the Christian is reaching the end of becoming all we were created to be as image-bearers of our wise, holy, and perfect Creator, the Lord Jesus. 

Emotional health and maturity

Physical health and maturity 

Spiritual health and maturity

Practical health and maturity

Health and maturity go hand in hand. We can’t be mature in Christ if we are unhealthy as God gave us health to steward, and poor stewardship of that health is disobedience and disobedience does not get me to maturity in Christ. 

Maturity in Christ is a life-long labor of holding onto Jesus and pursuing his kingdom first while being transformed from one degree of glory to another, and we do this against a real counter kingdom that punches back

How long will Christian growth toward maturity take? It will be a life-long pursuit, as already stated, and our last act of obedience and growth will be to die full of the Holy Spirit thus teaching one last lesson in our passing. 

Don’t misunderstand. We are not going to jettison sound theology or the labor of expositionally preaching it as effectively as we can. 

But preaching and sound theology alone are not enough. 

We are going to have to strive toward maturity together through active obedience. 

Matthew 7:24 (ESV) 24 “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock.

Paul addresses as a first priority in Colossians 1:24-19, his labor, and thus our first installment in this series will be to see what church leadership (elders/overseers/ministry directors) must do in this pursuit to get everyone who will go, to maturity. 

After KDSC in January, we will come back to see the necessary labor of life for those who would move on to Maturity. 

The Leadership’s Work

  1. Church leadership is to rejoice in suffering while doing their work in order for the church and those outside of the kingdom of God to witness Jesus’ suffering for them. V. 24

NOTE: TO SOME DEGREE THIS APPLIES TO ALL CHRISTIANS ALL THE TIME. HOWEVER, PAUL DOES SPEAK SPECIFICALLY ABOUT HIS APOSTOLIC MINISTRY. 

  1. Church leaders represent Jesus, and in that role, they suffer sometimes and strive to rejoice in that suffering. 
  2. What is Paul saying here?
  3. A little help from that phase in another place: In Philippians 2:30 Paul uses almost the exact same phrase when talking about Epaphroditus’ suffering in bringing the Philippian’s gift to Paul. Epaphroditus represented the Philippian church’s love for Paul as he suffered to bring that love in person through their support, and his personal suffering filled up what was lacking in their service to Paul. 
    1. In that sense, Epaphroditus’ suffering is on behalf of the whole church in order for their love for Paul to be put on full display. 
  4. We don’t “improve on Jesus’ suffering”. There is nothing lacking in Jesus’ work for us. 
  5. What is missing for those who did not witness it firsthand is the live drama of suffering for the sake of God’s love for sinners. 
    1. What seems to be missing is the in-person presentation of Jesus’ sufferings to the people he died for. Not everyone was able to see Jesus in person. None of us witnessed the sufferings of Jesus in person. 
    2. The afflictions are lacking in that they are not seen and known among the nations or among God’s people who were not present to witness them. 
    3. The sufferings of Jesus are somehow carried by the people of God who minister the gospel when they suffer. And those ministers of the gospel fill up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of the church so that those who did not witness Jesus’ suffering in person, can see his sufferings in his servants who represent him. 
    4. So, those who take on a mantle of leadership take on a role of suffering at times as Jesus’ ambassadors of his love for the nations and his people. 
  6. Let’s be clear. This is NOT a call to unnecessarily take a beating at the hands of people by not exercising wisdom and clear boundaries. 
    1. No one is called to be a victim of people who do wrong and refuse to repent. 
  7. We are called to preach/teach and insist on God’s word and the full measure of his instructions, and when we get a beating for it, we strive to rejoice, heal, forgive, set boundaries (“Alexander the coppersmith did me much harm, watch out for him yourself.” – Paul), and continue on in the work of the Lord. 
    1. And we trust that God will use those sufferings to witness to Jesus’ suffering for his people. 
  1. Church leadership has the responsibility to preach God’s word revealing the truth of Jesus Christ present in his people. V. 25-27
    1. Elders / Overseer’s job is the word and prayer not primarily shepherding because shepherding is a whole-body gift not just for elders/overseers. 
      1. Elders/overseers do shepherd but it’s not their job alone.
      2. Ephesians 4:11-16
        1. Apostle/prophet/evangelist/shepherd/teacher
          1. All these are given to the whole body to help the whole body grow up into Christ. 
    2. Church leadership is to proclaim God’s word in all ministry to make sure God’s people know Jesus dwells in the fellowship and is actively leading and gifting the whole body to live in its gifting from the Lord himself. 
  1. Church leadership is to proclaim Jesus in all his glory and all implications from his Word to everyone with all the energy the Lord gives. V. 28-29
    1. How are we to proclaim Jesus?
      1. Warning everyone with all wisdom.
      2. Teaching everyone with all wisdom.
      3. Toiling – kopiao – to be worn out to the point of fainting. It’s synonym is athleo – to strive or wrestle
        1. Struggling with all the energy God works within us. 
        2. Agonidzomai – this participle modifies “toiling” and it means to strain with every nerve to the place of agony.
          1. The primary task is to toil at keeping Jesus in front of everyone NOT providing spiritual goods and services for consumption. 
  1. What is the goal of this ministry of making the word of God fully known? To present everyone mature who will pursue Jesus together. V. 28
    1. Our aim in everything we do must be maturity. 
    2. “To present” is in the subjunctive mood, as already stated, and that is the mood of possibility. 
      1. This means that not everyone will get to maturity no matter how hard we strive.
      2. It is possible for all in Christ to strive toward fullness in Jesus but not everyone will. 
      3. We are to toil at a work that not everyone will want. 

Application

  1. Be patient, encouraging, and supportive with your leaders as they bear the heaviness of such a work. 
    1. Don’t be a source of suffering but a source of life. 
    2. The world system produces plenty of suffering without it coming from within. 
  2. Join together in pursuing maturity and partner in living out your gifting. 
    1. Your leaders are growing toward maturity and it’s a challenge in our world right now. 
    2. Your leaders are striving to work within their gifting so that the whole body can explore and learn its gifting through life together in the Spirit. 
  3. Lean into your RL group and shepherd one another well.
    1. If you don’t have a group, Jim will help you find one. 
    2. If you are not a member, see us and we’ll share about getting into the next membership class. 
  4. If you are able, be present. If not, watch the live stream and lean into the Scriptures.  
  5. Worship.

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