Have you ever felt small and insignificant? At times, I feel so small that I’m not worthy of notice. I believed God didn’t care about my broken heart and my unmanageable life. The background of the little church in the little town of Colosse demonstrates that God has no favorites. Colosse was small town that made up part of a tri-state area. It makes me think of Raleigh-Durham and Chapel Hill in North Carolina. Driving through this area, one doesn’t know when one city stops and another begins, but each place is known for a different specialty. Like Raleigh, Laodicea was a center for commercial trade and politics. Hierapolis was a place for health, pleasure, and relaxation. This tri-state area was the cross road, where east and west met for trade, in what is modern day Turkey. Although, Colosse was small, it’s proximity to this created a problem because the church began to blend reasonable sounding arguments with their faith.
Colosse was small, but not insignificant. There are no small people or insignificant churches to God. Paul wrote one of his four prison epistles to the Colossians. From a human point of view this seems even more significant that Paul would take the time to write to them while in prison. We forget, roman prisons do not resemble modern prisons. They were not created for punishment. They were more like a holding cell for the person awaiting trail, therefore, they made no provisions for the prisoner. Any needs of the prisoner would be met by someone on the outside. I read somewhere that they could be called houses of darkness.
Paul writes about the men who minister to him. One was Epaphras, who heard the gospel from Paul, and he was most likely responsible for going back to his hometown of Colosse to tell his family of the good news. Another one was Onesimus, Philemon’s runaway slave. Paul mentors Onesimus. Deeming him more important to the church at Colosse, Paul sends him back with a letter to Philemon. Imagine choosing to take up the yoke of slavery again in order to help one’s fellow brothers and sisters grow in their knowledge of God. That’s what Onesimus does.
“I appeal to you for my son Onesimus, who became my son while I was in chains. Formerly he was useless to you, but now he has become useful both to you and to me. I am sending him– who is my very heart– back to you.” Philemon 10-12
Paul goes on to appeal to Philemon to accept him back as a brother and not a slave and to charge whatever he owed to Paul’s account. We don’t know, if Philemon did this, but we do know that Onesimus returned to tell the Colossians all that Paul had taught him.
The overarching theme of Colossians is the preeminence and supremacy of Christ. This letter encourages us to know that we are complete in Christ, and we don’t need any other philosophy or human tradition to complete our faith. We are all saved out of something. We will see, Paul, warning us not to blend anything from our pagan past with Jesus, and then, in true Pauline style, he ends this letter with a practical “how to” for living out our knowledge of God.
Some of us balk at the word pagan thinking that we’ve always been “christian.” This thinking places us in jeopardy of missing the classic heresies that the church has been fighting since it’s foundation in our mind set. The following is a list of pagan “well reasoned arguments” that we will be rooting out of our lives through our study of Colossians.
- Humanism: man is the measure of all things and the gospel centers on fulfilling man’s destiny. We see this in our churches with many of the platitudes we use. “God will never give you more than you can handle.” “You’re stronger than you think you are.” If you think about it, I know you can come up with more.
- Eastern Mysticism (re named New Age or mysticism or spiritualism)
- having special knowledge or experiences
- with man all things are possible
- awaken the power within you
- automatic writing- a popular devotional was written with this pagan practice. It’s sold in christian book stores.
- spirit guides, personal angels
- Emotionalism- follow your heart, if it feels good, do it.
We are complete in Christ.
- The gospel does not center in philosophy, doctrine, or a religious system, but the person of Jesus Christ.
- We come to faith out of the world’s system.
- Our faith is only as good as the object of faith.
- Pagans worship stones.
- Educated city pagans worship money, possessions, or status
- We worship the person Jesus.
- We know who we believe in. It’s not faith for faith’s sake.
- Saving faith involves the mind, the emotions, and the will. We cannot separate ourselves to believe.
- We invest our whole selves in Jesus.
- Any reconciliation starting with self and without repentance of sins will not bring us closer to God.
Hebrews 12:1-3 says it this way, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”
Meditate/memorize: Colossians 1:9-14
I leave you with this question. What have we synchronized with our faith? Southern culture? American individualism?