Monday, August 31, 2015

Toxic humility - Colossians 2:18

"Let no one keep defrauding you of your prize by delighting in self-abasement and the worship of the angels, taking his stand on visions he has seen, inflated without cause by his fleshly mind." (Colossians 2:18
Paul is not speaking of someone who can actually defraud you of your prize, but he is using what appears to be a sports metaphor. He seems to be referring to an umpire who can declare someone disqualified from the race and, ultimately, from the prize for not competing according to the rules. The English Standard Version of the Bible translates it this way, "Let no one disqualify you." (Colossians 2:18 ESV) and the God's Word Bible translates it as, "Let no one... tell you that you don't deserve a prize." (Colossians 2:18 God's Word)

In life there will never be any shortage of people wanting to judge us and to point out to us that we are doing it wrong, which usually means we are not doing it their way. Some, in their own delusion, may mean well, but their judgment is a snare that can rob us of all that God has for us. God has come to set us free yet, if we submit to such and to their judgment, we will once again find ourselves in bondage. When it comes to things like food, drink, festivals, observances, and the like, we must never allow other to become our judges for only one is our judge, Jesus Christ. Paul says of those who desire to be judges, "Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls; and he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand." (Romans 14:4) Jesus is our judge, there is no need for another.

As for the rest of the verse, it is unclear to whom Paul is speaking; to the one being defrauded or to the one defrauding. Darby translates this verse as if Paul is speaking to the defrauder, "doing his own will in humility and worship of angels, entering into things which he has not seen." (Colossians 2:18 Darby) while the Message Bible assumes Paul is speaking to the defraudee, "ordering you to bow and scrape, insisting that you join their obsession with angels and that you seek out visions." (Colossians 2:18 The Message) Regardless of which interpretation you choose, the message is the same; there will always be those who choose their own brand of religion and, by it, seek to judge you and compel you to become like them. To them we must not yield lets our religion too become defiled and deluded with mixture.

One of the things Paul specifically warns us about in regard to such men and women who would seek to judge us is a dependence upon self-abasing humility. It seems to me that some religious sects are so dedicated to impressing upon people their lowly and unworthy state that they never allow them to rise above their former selves to experience the newness of life they have in Christ. I have been in churches where, each and every Sunday, the participants are taught to say, "I am not worthy but only say the word and I will be made worthy." Each week they are forced to confess their unworthiness, their disqualifications for the prize, when in reality Christ has already made them worthy! I have also been in some churches where, each week, there is a call for those in attendance to recommit their lives to Jesus or to "get right" with Jesus. Each week they are told they are sinners and that they are not living right and that they need to "come clean" and get right with God. However, Jesus has already cleansed us and bestowed upon us the righteousness of Christ. Such judgement would try to convince us that we are, or have been, disqualified for the prize while the truth is that, we have already been "made... accepted in the Beloved." (Ephesians 1:6 NKJV)

Paul says of true humility that, "you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think." (Romans 12:3) This also means that we ought not to think more lowly of ourselves then we ought. True humility is knowing who we are, accepting who we are, and living who we are. It's not trying to be someone else or trying to project ourselves as someone else. We will never become that new creation in Christ until we realize that we already are that new creation in Christ. Let us stop listening to those who would tell us that we are unworthy, disqualified, or too damaged to receive this new life in Christ. Instead, let us start living this new life that we have already been given; to be the new men and women we have been recreated in Christ to be. Let our freedom, newness, and abundance be the judge of those who would seek to judge us in return.

David Robison

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Shadow religion - Colossians 2:16-17

"Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day —  things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ." (Colossians 2:16-17)
There are some believers who feel it is their purpose in life to examine and judge other believers. Their goal is to test each believer against what they believe is the standard of Christian behavior (which is most often their own standard of behavior) and to pronounce judgment on those who deviate. It is not hard to know these people as they are very willing to make themselves known as they judge you against their version of right and wrong. There are also entire sects of Christianity that have perfected this judgement into an art form. They are more committed to the conformity of others to their religious system then they are of true Christ-likeness. They willing accept adherents regardless of their commitment to holiness while excluding those who do not adopt their religions system yet who consistently shine forth the image and nature of Christ.

In Paul's day, the chief offenders were those of the Jewish religion who constantly sought to restore Christians back to the law of Moses. However, it would no be long until Christians perpetrated the same judgment against other Christians in an attempt to secure conformity. In 190 AD Victor, the Bishop of Rome, sought to excommunicate all the eastern churches because they did not observe Easter on the same day as he did and the western churches. Fortunately, Irenaeus rebuked him, "Irenaeus, though agreeing with him on the disputed point itself, rebuked him very emphatically as a troubler of the peace of the church, and declared himself against a forced uniformity in such unessential matters." (Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, Section 50, Germs of the Papacy) In his defense of the Easter churches, Irenaeus noted that even Polycarp, the disciple of John, honored Easter on their set day. Far be it for the church to excommunicate one as pious as the beloved Polycarp.

Today, many people take to Facebook in a preemptive strike against those who might disagree with their choices saying, "Don't judge me!' But this is not what Paul is saying, There will always be people who will judge us, but we do not have to let their judgment control us. Paul's admonition has less to do with preventing the judgment of others as it does with not receiving the judgment of others. There are some things that simply do no matter in our walk with the Lord, such as, food, drink, festivals, observances, an holy days, even Sundays. Yes, people will always be trying to judge us according to these things, but who cares? We have been set free from these worries so why even listen to those who still try to judge us by them?

To those of the world, these things make since. They have the feel of natural religion. However, they are only the shadow of what is true religion. These people serve the shadow rather than the reality that is casting the shadow. The Greek word translated here as "substance" can also mean "body." What Paul is saying is that, those things they are so concerned about are only shadows. However, the one casting the shadow is Christ. If we serve Christ then we no longer have to worry about the shadows, but if we serve the shadows then we will never come to know Christ. Let us look up to see the body, to see Christ, and not worry about those who would judge us for doing so.

David Robison

Saturday, August 29, 2015

A Victory Procession - Colossians 2:15

"When He had disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him." (Colossians 2:15)
This verse has always been a bit difficult for me to understand and to parse. Partly because I am not fluent in Greek and partly because I am not fluent in the history of the times. Paul speaks of Jesus disarming the rulers and authorities, those same rulers and authorities he previously said that Jesus had become the head and ruler over (Colossians 2:10). However, it is unclear if Jesus disarmed himself of those who claimed power and authority over Him or if He disarmed those of their power and authority. The Bible in Basic English translates this verse assuming the former. "Having made himself free from the rule of authorities and powers, he put them openly to shame, glorying over them in it." (Colossians 2:15 BBE) Either way, it is clear that Jesus was both victorious over them (no longer under their rule and authority) and that they were defeated by Him (no longer retaining their power and authority over Him). Jesus has both defeated and dethroned them.

It is also unclear exactly what Paul was saying was the source of the power that overthrew the rulers and authorizes in defeat. Some translators interpret Paul as saying Jesus and other as saying "it" meaning the Cross. The New International Version of the Bible takes the later interpretation. "And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross." (Colossians 2:15 NIV) However, either way, the cross was just a piece of wood, devoid of any real power and ability. It was the obedience of Jesus to suffer death upon the cross for us and to overcome death by raising from the dead that was the true power behind His victory over all rule and authority and even sin itself. Which ever reading Paul meant, it amounts to the same thing, Jesus death on the cross brought about great victory and defeated His and our enemies in the spiritual realm.

The idea of a public show of one's captives in victory is foreign to us. Yes, we see news footage of wars being fought and won (and lost) but we are not accustom to seeing victory parades that include the procession of those who were conquered. It would be as if, at the end of World War II, we brought all our German captives back to the USA and paraded them in front of our victorious troupes. This was, however, common in the Roman empire of Jesus' day. The Greek word Paul uses for "disarmed" can also be translated as to "strip naked" which was how Roman captives defeated in war were paraded before their troupes for all of Rome to see and disdain. The Message Bible captures this image as it translates this verse. "He stripped all the spiritual tyrants in the universe of their sham authority at the Cross and marched them naked through the streets." (Colossians 2:15 Message)

The Roman Victory march, known as a Triumph, was the highest honor that could be shown a conquering Roman general. In fact, many generals, before going to war, would first make sure that their victory would be honored with a Triumph before agreeing to go forth in war. The Encyclopedia Britannica describes a Triumph procession in the following way. "The magistrates and members of the Senate came first in the processions followed by musicians, the sacrificial animals, the spoils of war, and the captured prisoners in chains. Riding in a chariot festooned with laurel, the victorious general (triumphator) wore the royal purple and gold tunic and toga, holding a laurel branch in his right hand and an ivory sceptre in his left. A slave held a golden crown over the general’s head while repeatedly reminding him in the midst of his glory that he was a mortal man. The general’s soldiers marched last, singing whatever they liked, which included ribaldry and scandal against their commander, probably as a way to avert the evil eye from him. On reaching the Capitoline temple the general presented his laurel, along with thank-offerings, to the image of Jupiter. The prisoners were usually slain, and the ceremony concluded with a feast for the magistrates and Senate." (Encyclopedia Britannica)

This is a picture of the victory that Jesus won over all rulers and authorities as He triumphed over them by His death on the cross and His resurrection from the dead. It was quite a show! It also reminds us of the victory He has conferred upon us. Not a secret victory, but a bold, boastful, and public victory. Why then should we still live like we are defeated? Let us never forget our deliver's Triumph; let us always live in the reality of what He did and the victory that is now ours.

David Robison

Friday, August 28, 2015

Blotting out dogmas - Colossians 2:13-14

"When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross." (Colossians 2:13-14)
Our death is two fold. It is not just that we have sinned but that we are sinners. It is not just that we do sinful things but that sinfulness is within us. The Old Testament provided for forgiveness, for the blood of bulls and goats was sufficient for that, but it could not change the fact that we were sinners. This would require a much greater sacrifice. The writer of Hebrews says, "For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling those who have been defiled sanctify for the cleansing of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?" (Hebrews 9:13-14)

Many people seek forgiveness but Jesus came to provide us so much more. He came not only to forgive us but to also wash away our sins. After Paul was forgiven by Jesus on the way to Damascus, Ananias said to him, "Now why do you delay? Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name." (Acts 22:16) Paul had been forgiven, but now was the time those sins to be washed away and for him to begin his Christian walk. 

It is in baptism that we are united with Jesus in His death, burial, and resurrection and it is in baptism that our old man is crucified, washed away, and replaced with newness of life. Over the years I have meet many Christians who have been forgiven but who still live with their past sins hanging around them like an old dead albatross. They are forgiven but all they can see are their sins and the things they have done. They are unable to receive what is ahead of them because they are constantly reminded of their past. They need to have their sins washed away so they too can being their new Christian walk. They need the waters of baptism; to be crucified, buried, and raised to newness of life.

As part of His efforts at making us free, Jesus removed the one thing that condemned us and that stood between us and our reconciled relationship with God, that being the Law! The Law is contained in a series of decrees, whose Greek word is the same word from which we get our word dogma. The law states what we must and must not do to be found righteous and by which to approach God. If we do these things, then we do well, if not, however, then the sentence is death.

However, Jesus came to remove the dogma of law, not by canceling it, but by performing it. Jesus said, "Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill." (Matthew 5:17) Jesus came to fulfill the law that we might no longer live by its standard. He has now called us to live by a new standard; not one of dogma but of love. We no longer need to be worried about obeying or offending the dogma of the law, we simply need to live by love and the leading of the Holy Spirit. Furthermore, without the law there remains nothing by which to condemn us, We have been given freedom with nothing left to reimprison us but ourselves. The old way of living has been canceled out by the cross and a new way has been inaugurated for us through Jesus' flesh. Let us not fail to find and live that new life.

David Robison

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Circumcision - Colossians 2:11-12

"and in Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ; having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead." (Colossians 2:11-12)
As part of the process of making us complete in Christ, we need to be recreated in Christ; we need to be changed from our former nature into a nature that is made after the image of Christ. Paul refers to this process as circumcision; not physical circumcision but spiritual circumcision.

The practice of circumcision is very ancient and served as a mark of the covenant made between God and Abraham and the children of Israel. "This is My covenant, which you shall keep, between Me and you and your descendants after you: every male among you shall be circumcised." (Genesis 17:10) Circumcision was a physical mark in the flesh in the removal of a piece of flesh often associated with our lusts and passions. However, while it stood as a sign of God's covenant with Israel, God always desired more. God desired a circumcision that was internal not external. Even before the children of Israel ever entered the Promise Land, God commanded them, "So circumcise your heart, and stiffen your neck no longer." (Deuteronomy 10:16) And God promised that if they would obey Him then He would "circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, so that you may live." (Deuteronomy 30:6)

God desires not the circumcision of our flesh but the circumcision of our heart; an inward circumcision that only He can perform within us. Paul writes clearly on this matter when he said, "For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh. But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God." (Romans 2:28-29) This is a circumcision made without hands and in a place that no one can see. However, it's mark is evident to God and to all who truly examine our lives. It is an indelible mark that we are His and that our life has been changed by His hands.

This circumcision, this putting off of the flesh, happens when we are baptized. In baptism we are united with Christ in His death and resurrection; not figuratively but actually. Baptism is not an outward sign of an inward grace, it is an inward grace. In baptism our old man, our body of sin, is put to death and buried in a watery grave so that, as we rise from baptism, we also rise to newness of life. Paul teaches us concerning baptism, "Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin." (Romans 6:4-7)

What makes baptism effective, what allows the performance of the circumcision of our heart, is not our obedience but our faith; faith in the working of God. Obedience appeals to the praise of men while faith appeals to the praise of God. Our faith rests not in ourselves but in the power of God that was sufficient to raise Jesus from the dead. If God can raise Jesus from the dead, surely He can also raise us to newness of life. Jesus came to make us complete and completion lays just ahead of us, but we must first pass through the waters of baptism, being circumcised in our heart, that we might receive and walk in newness of life.

David Robison

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Made complete - Colossians 2:9-10

"For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form, and in Him you have been made complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority." (Colossians 2:9-10)
Paul tells us something very important about the person of Jesus Christ. All of God was in Jesus as He lived and walked among us. In some undefined way and mode, there was a commingling of the human and the divine in Jesus. Jesus certainly had a human body. Even after His resurrection He demonstrated to His disciples that He was very much still human. "While they still could not believe it because of their joy and amazement, He said to them, 'Have you anything here to eat?' They gave Him a piece of a broiled fish; and He took it and ate it before them." (Luke 24:41-43) Yet, while His body was human, what filled Him was divine. All of God abided within the confines of His human flesh. Jesus was not simply a man with a divine message like one of the prophets. Jesus was not a man merely possessed of influenced by the divine such as one of His disciples in  whom abides the Holy Spirit. Jesus was both fully human and fully divine making Him unique among all mankind, As such, being unique, He has now come to have first place in everything; being the head of all rulers and authorities; over all who are first and who have power to exercise over others.

In Jesus, the deity dwells complete and in Him we too are complete. The idea of the Greek word for "complete" means to be crammed full with nothing lacking and no room for any more. In Christ there is no lack, He already possess all we could ever need and want. When we are in Jesus, all our needs are provided by Him; by Him in whom the fullness dwells.

The path to being in Christ, as Paul will explain in the next few verses, is a path for which Jesus has already paid the price for us. It is a path that is initiated by Christ, sustained by Christ, and perfected by Christ. It is a path where Jesus is "the author and perfecter of faith." (Hebrews 12:2) However, it is also a path that we must choose. We may choose to live in want or we may choose to live in abundance. We may choose to live in the world with its wanting philosophies and elementary principals of morality or we may choose to live in the divine with its truth and light. However, to choose to live in Christ will necessitate change in our lives; changes we must be willing to embrace. We cannot continue to live in the world and expect to receive the fullness of Christ and His Kingdom. We are all called to choose and the choice we are asked to make centers around Jesus. Will we choose for Him or choose for ourselves and the world. That is the choice we must make. Once choice leads to life abundant and the other to eternal death. What choice will you choose today?

David Robison

Monday, August 24, 2015

Taken captive - Colossians 2:8

"See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ." (Colossians 2:8)
Just as in Paul's day, today there are many who start out well only to end up as the prisoner of someone else's thoughts, teachings, and ideas. For the first century church, the leading competitors for the hearts and minds of men were the Jews, who sought to restore the believers back to obedience to their traditions and the Law of Moses,. There was also the various Gnostic heresies, who proclaimed a higher knowledge than the Apostles and deeper revelation into the number and realms of the Gods. In my youth, one of the main challenges of new believers was a liberal education that sought to elevate philosophy about religions faith and knowledge. Today, we face new challenges stemming from other forms of spiritualism and new interest in old religions like Mohammedanism (the Muslim religion). All these forces are seeking to take us captive unto themselves and to lead us away from Christ and His teaching. The Greek word used here for "captive" means to be taken as one's spoil or prize. We are the prize that people people and religions are fighting over. However, in this fight, we get to choose who's captive we will be.

It is important to note that what is of concern here are not ideas and teachings, but those peddling those ideas and teachings. Paul warns us not of ideas that might take us captive but of those who would use ideas to take us captive unto themselves. Ideas don't ensnare people, people ensnare people! In this contest, those who seek to lead us astray will use two appeals against us. First is philosophy. The Greek word for "philosophy" is a concatenation of two Greek words. The first is philos which means brotherly love, from which we get Philadelphia being the city of brotherly love. The second word is sophos which means wise or wisdom. Philosophy is the love of wisdom, and certainly there is nothing wrong with that. However, Philosophy can only assent to the extent of our mind while the Gospel descends from God's mind. Philosophy is good but never perfect. We must love wisdom but, better still, we should always defer to the mind of Christ over the mind of philosophy. God's word is true and it teaches what wisdom cannot attain. This is evident in that, "the world through its wisdom did not come to know God." (1 Corinthians 1:21) We need God's wisdom for life, not just our own.

The second appeal that men will make in an attempt to dissuade us from Christ is out right error. There are those who will teach what is false in an attempt to cheat us out of the blessing of a life lived for Christ. How can we defend ourselves against them unless we know and believe the message of Christ. Many believers are deluded because of their lack of knowledge of both the history of God among men and the message He is seeking to communicate to them. When Jesus was tempted by the devil, He fought back with knowledge, "It is written..." (Matthew 4:4) We must know God and His word if we are to remain steadfast in our faith.

In making their appeal, they will draw evidence from two sources: tradition and creation. Tradition and creation are valuable teachers and give us many similes and lessons we can learn. However, we are called to be people born from above and we must learn those lessons above all others. Why learn how to live below while our home awaits us in heaven? Why learn how to be carnal people of the Earth when we have been made new as spiritual people of Heaven? This Earth serves our natural life but our eternal life is in Heaven with God. One day, this Earth and its traditions will pass away and there will be a new Heavens and a new Earth which will be our new home. Then, what good will those things be to us in which we once depended? Life is too short to be trapped in empty and worthless traditions and life is too valuable to leave it to the beggarly teachings of this world and this creation. Let us learn to live by higher truth, a greater teaching, and a more perfect example. Let us not be cheated!

David Robison

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Now walk - Colossians 2:6-7

"Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude." (Colossians 2:6-7)
Christianity is more than a decision. It is more than a conversion that takes place at a single point and time in your life. Being born again is more than something you do and then move on. If all that has happened to you is that you have been saved, then you have yet to even begin your new life in Christ. Christianity is a process that begins at our conversion and continues throughout our entire life (an possibly even into the life to come).

Paul uses both the metaphor of a plant and a building to describe our Christian experience. As plants we are as seeds planted in Christ. He is our beginning and the soil from which we draw our nourishment. As we grow up, our roots extend down and entangle the soil we are planted in. Our lives extend further and further into Christ and He becomes more essential to everything we do, In the end, though we flower for all to see, He has become our all-in-all; the one who sustains us, nourishes us, stabilizes us, and keeps us from being washed away by the rain.

As a building, Christ is both our foundation and our corner stone. He is the foundation upon which we build. Our lives will only be as fruitful as the quality of the foundation we maintain. A tall building cannot be built upon a weak foundation and, if we hope to build a great life, we too need a strong and secure foundation. This foundation is no other than the person of Jesus Christ. However, He is also our corner stone; the stone from which all other stones are judged. The trueness of our life is measured by our relationship to the corner stone. One's life may look straight and true, but when compared with the sure corner stone of Jesus, our departures and deviations become clear. We must not judge ourselves by the world around us but only by the sure life of Christ.

The primary instrument for growing us from seed to plant and from foundation to a high-rise building is instruction. Paul places a high priority on teaching for it is what instructs us how to live and guides us as we grow. However, instruction must be more than mere information, it requires our devotion and obedience to reap its benefits in our lives. If we head Christ's instruction we will grow in assurance of our faith and always abound in thankfulness to God and gratitude towards one another.

So here is Paul's point; seeing you have received Christ, keep walking in Him! Some people wait for life to come to them, others engage it. I have known some who have grown weary in their walk with the Lord and have sat down, waiting for the blessings of the Kingdom to come to them. However, often the blessings are found as we walk along the way. It is written that, "And the ransomed of the Lord will return and come with joyful shouting to Zion, with everlasting joy upon their heads. They will find gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing will flee away." (Isaiah 35:10) The Hebrew word for "find" can also be translated as "over-take." Most often the gladness and joy we seek must be overtaken as we walk along the path. God has joy and other blessings for us if we will just continue to walk until we overtake them along the way. What do you seek in life? Keep walking with Jesus and you will find all the good you seek.

David Robison

Monday, August 17, 2015

Full assurance - Colossians 2:1-4

"For I want you to know how great a struggle I have on your behalf and for those who are at Laodicea, and for all those who have not personally seen my face, that their hearts may be encouraged, having been knit together in love, and attaining to all the wealth that comes from the full assurance of understanding, resulting in a true knowledge of God's mystery, that is, Christ Himself, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. I say this so that no one will delude you with persuasive argument." (Colossians 2:1-4)
Paul speaks of the struggle he has on behalf of those believers that lived beyond his reach. The Greek word for "struggle" means to be lead forth to an assembly, such as a contest or competition. Paul's struggle was not something that came to him but something that the Spirit of God within him drew him to. Paul was drawn into the battle for the lives of believers everywhere. Paul freely entered into the contest for souls; that they would come to know Jesus and remain faithful to Him throughout their lives. This was the daily battle that Paul waged in the Spirit.

Paul's battle on their behalf was for four specific things. First that they would be encouraged. The Greek word for "encouragement" comes from two root words that literally mean to "call near." Paul's heart was that the people would find encouragement as they were drawn near to each other and to the Lord. Just as we cannot survive without the Lord, neither can we survive without the brethren. When we live alone we are left to our own devices and the constant barrage of the enemy. However, when we live together in community we have brotherhood and the encouragement of the saints.

Secondly, Paul seeks that they would find unity in love. Later, Paul will command them, "Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity." (Colossians 3:14) Unity is not found in doctrine or tradition but is the byproduct of love. There are many who have tried to achieve unity by proposing compromise on doctrinal issues. However, without love, no real unity will ever be achieved through these means. We must return to loving each other as Christ has loved us. Only then will we find true unity. Jesus said, "By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another." (John 13:35)

Thirdly, Paul seeks the fullness of life that comes from full assurance of faith. This does not mean that we no longer have doubts, but it does mean that we are fully assured as to who has all the answers. I may doubt my present circumstances and whether or not I am walking in the will of God, but I have full assurance as to the one knows all things and cares for me even when I don't care for myself. This full assurance give me confidence, peace, and boldness as I go throughout my life. A person who lacks such assurance is constantly looking for answers; constantly seeking for what is right in front of them. Much of Paul's teaching ministry was directed at educating mankind's understanding that they too might have full assurance.

Lastly, Paul's desire was that all would grow into a full knowledge of God. The knowledge of God is something we grow in as we walk with God. It is also in the knowledge of God that all knowledge, wisdom, and understanding is opened up to us, for in Him are the answers to all of life's mysteries. Having come to God, there is no one else we must go to to find answers. In Paul's day there were many who were going around saying they knew the way and they alone had special knowledge and understanding. They insisted that you come to them to gain wisdom and knowledge. However, all we need is God. Paul's struggle for encouragement, unity, assurance, and growth was so that we may not be deluded by those seeking to draw us away after themselves. There is no need to be deluded any further. Therefore let us continue to grow closer to God and to live in love with one another.

David Robison.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

I labor - Colossians 1:28-29

"We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ. For this purpose also I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me." (Colossians 1:28-29)
Paul had a three part ministry and each part was executed in step-wise order. First he proclaimed Christ. He preached about who Jesus was, what He came to do, and what His message was towards us. Paul's goal was to reveal the mystery that was Christ so that we could all come to know and all could understand what God had accomplished in and through Jesus Christ. The knowledge and understanding of Jesus is the first step in believing and receiving Jesus; the first step in beginning our new life in Him.

Secondly, Paul admonished all mankind. Admonishment is a warning. Paul was warning his hearers about what awaits them if they should fail to recognize, believe, and receive Jesus. Paul warned them about the rewards and punishments of a life lived for self verses a life lived for God. Paul warned them of the eternal consequences their decision regarding Jesus would bring. After hearing the proclamation of Jesus, we are brought to a point of decision. Will we believe or will we reject Him. One decision leading to life and the other decision to physical and spiritual death.

Thirdly, Paul taught those who had received Christ how to live a life that was holy and worthy of God. The Greek word for "teach" is a prolonged form of a word that means "to learn;" the key here is the idea of "prolonged." This kind of teaching is more than the transfer of knowledge, it is the training of one in the way they should live. It is a learning that requires our obedience and practice in the things it teaches. It is not enough to hear the message of Christ, we must also put it into practice. It is a teaching that can take a lifetime to master.

This was the purpose for which Paul labored; to proclaim, admonish, and teach everyone so that he might be able to present them to Christ having been made perfect and complete. Paul labored for the lives of others. His ministry was not for his own aggrandizement, but for the betterment of others. Paul did not worry about how his work might reflect upon himself but how that work would be reflected in others. His goal was to make others complete and to make them ready for whatever God might desire of them in their lives. Paul also labored for God. Paul understood that his work in others was so that he might present them to God. Paul was not trying to build his own ministry or church (of which he did not have one) but rather to increase the family of  God; to see more sons and daughters brought into God's family. Paul understood that, in the end, all things belong to God, even himself.

Paul worked in partnership with God. God provided the strength and Paul provided the labor. It is foolhardy to labor where God's grace has not provided the strength to sustain us. It is also irresponsible to not labor where God has called us and provided strength and grace for us. However, when we find the intersection of these two: God's strength and our labor, then much will be accomplished for the Kingdom of God. For each of us that might be a different place, bur for all of us there still remains something for us to labor for in the Kingdom of God.

David Robison

Saturday, August 15, 2015

A secret - Colossians 1:26-27

"the mystery which has been hidden from the past ages and generations, but has now been manifested to His saints, to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory." (Colossians 1:26-27)
Though, for millennia, the will and purpose of God has been simply declared through the recorded scriptures, parts of His plan have been hidden from our minds and understanding until the time of their fulfillment has arrived. While revealing the future to Daniel God says, "But you, Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book until the time of the end." (Daniel 12:4 NKJV) The words of Daniel were written down, but their meaning was veiled, hidden until the time of the end, hidden until the time of their revealing. We also see in the revelation to John that there was a book sealed with seven seals; hiding the truth within. "I saw in the right hand of Him who sat on the throne a book written inside and on the back, sealed up with seven seals. And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, 'Who is worthy to open the book and to break its seals?'" (Revelation 5:1-2) John weeps because there is no one found in heaven or on worth who was worthy to open the book and reveal its secrets. Finally, however, someone steps forward, "behold, the Lion that is from the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has overcome so as to open the book and its seven seals." (Revelation 5:5) With the breaking of the seals, new meaning springs forth from what was written inside. Jesus has become the one who is worthy to reveal what had previously been hidden.

For thousands of years, the Gospel hid in plain sight; a secret that would one day be made plain and apparent with His birth, death, and resurrection. Now this secret has been revealed to all His saints and, through them, His secret is now being proclaimed to the world for all to receive and understand. To those who receive and understand this secret, this secret comes to them as great riches.

The Greek word used here for "riches" can also be translated as "wealth." We can view riches from the standpoint of either value or wealth. If I place one million dollars worth of gold on the table then we can say that its value is one million dollars. However, if I take the gold and make it my own then my wealth has increased by one million dollars. The Gospel has great value, but it is only when we receive it and make it ours that it brings wealth to our souls and our lives. Many have heard the Gospel and understood its value but, in their rejection of it, they have remained just as poor as they were before. It's only when we respond to its message and make it our own that we become rich and our lives more abundant.

So what is this great mystery? What is this secret that has been hidden for thousands of years? It builds upon an old message that man can become righteous. However, the unexpected truth, the truth that has now been revealed to us, is that it is not by keeping the law that man can become righteous but rather by receiving Christ into their lives. The hope of righteousness that used to be found in the law is now found when we experience "Christ within us." Furthermore, this great hope is not for only a select few but for all mankind. Regardless of race or nationality, righteousness is now within reach through the person of Jesus Christ.

God's greatest secret, a secret of indescribable wealth, has now been revealed. Its truth and wealth in our lives is found when we receive Christ and believe His truth. Christ in us, the hope of righteousness.

David Robison

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

The unfinished work of Christ - Colossians 1:24-25

"Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I do my share on behalf of His body, which is the church, in filling up what is lacking in Christ's afflictions. Of this church I was made a minister according to the stewardship from God bestowed on me for your benefit, so that I might fully carry out the preaching of the word of God," (Colossians 1:24-25)
Most of us are comfortable speaking about the finished work of Christ. When Jesus hung on the cross, He Himself said, "It is finished!" (John 19:30) However, Paul intimates that there was a part of His work that was not finished on the cross; a part of His work that still remained to be completed; a part of His work that Paul, and others, were called to finish. Though Jesus' life on this earth was short, He accomplished so much in the few brief years of His ministry. He preached the Gospel throughout Judea, He healed the sick and raised the dead, He took twelve men and taught them His message that they might preach it also, and He surrendered His life a ransom for our own. Of all that Jesus did, what more could He have left behind as unfinished work?

Jesus came bringing salvation to all, but there was more the Father wanted to do. He wanted to establish a body of believers, joined together by their common life and love for His Son, a community of those who loved God and loved one another. This church required the leadership of the invisible Holy Spirit rather than a visible Son of God. To this end, Jesus departed that the Spirit might come upon all who believed. However, just as the work of salvation required the suffering of one in the flesh, so the work of the Spirit requires those who are willing to suffer in their flesh to accomplish His work.

The Greek term for "afflictions" come from the root word that means to "crowd." It speaks of the pressing nature of the work to be done and its abundance for those who will accept its call. Jesus' work was done on the cross, but the work of God continues till today. There is work that still needs to be done and God is still looking for those who are willing to do it; those who are willing to give up their own work to accomplish the work of Christ.

Paul understood several things regarding his call that are important for us to learn and understand. First was that he was called by God, not by man. Those who are called by man find it easy to bolt when times get difficult, but those who are called by God find in Him the grace and strength to accomplish their task. Speaking of those who went forth on their own calling, Jesus said, "Every plant which My heavenly Father did not plant shall be uprooted." (Matthew 15:13) It is important to understand our calling and who it is who is calling us. Secondly, Paul understands that he had been called to a specific work. The word "minister" means a table waiter, steward, or errand boy. It speaks of many servants in a large house, each with their own specifically assigned task. Paul understood the importance of doing what he was called to do and not what others were called to do. Thirdly, he understood that he was called to work for others rather than himself. His suffering was not for his own benefit but for the benefit of those whom he served. Sometimes we suffer because of ourselves, sometimes we suffer for the cause of Christ, but sometimes we suffer for others; to benefit them rather than ourselves through our suffering. There are some who view the work of God as to how it will benefit them more so than how it will benefit others. Paul was not such a man.

Today it's our turn; to hear the call of God, to understand what He is calling us to do, and to do it for the benefit of others. In this was, we too, will be filling up what remains of the sufferings of Christ.

David Robison

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Reconciliation - Colossians 1:21-23

"And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds, yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach —  if indeed you continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel that you have heard, which was proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, was made a minister." (Colossians 1:21-23)
Paul has been given a commission by God and he understands the work of that commission. Paul is called to preach the Gospel that it might be "proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, was made a minister." The Greek word for Minister is the same word we get our English word for Deacon and it means a minister, servant, waiter, or errand boy. Paul's job was to facilitate the Gospel by doing whatever the Gospel required for its expansion and growth throughout the world. He was a servant of the Gospel not the Gospel a servant of him. The Gospel, without Paul, was strong, energetic, expanding, and bearing fruit for eternal life. Paul's job was to serve it and to do its errands so that it might continue to bear fruit in all places.

Paul also understands that the Gospel is not just a Gospel of salvation, healing, or even forgiveness. It is also a Gospel of reconciliation back to God. It is not enough to forgive mankind, heal mankind, and provide salvation to mankind, mankind must also be reconciled back to their heavenly Father in love and adoption as sons and daughters of the Kingdom.

Our plight before the Gospel was not just that we had lived the life of a sinner and that we bore the judgment and condemnation of our sins. Rather, our entire being, our soul and our flesh, was hostile towards God and we had fully walked away from our creator and our Father in heaven. Notice that it's not just our evil deeds that separate us from God but also the condition of our inner man. Paul will later say, "you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh." (Colossians 2:13) Here he is not speaking of physical circumcision but the circumcision of our heart. We need more then the forgiveness of our sins, we need to be fundamentally changed on the inside; we need to have our heart circumcised and our thoughts and attitudes changed that our mind may find its way to agree with the will of God rather then persisting in its obstinacy and anger towards Him.

Notice that the goal of Christ is that He might present us before the Father being spotless, without blemish, and having no occasion to be accused by the advisory. Salvation is just the beginning; the journey is sanctification. This sanctification is a process that will take the rest of our lives to accomplish, and maybe even longer. A life that is not changing is a life that is not being sanctified. God is fully committed to our sanctification, but it's up to us to yield to His work in our lives.

This is why Paul warns us that our salvation and sanctification requires our endurance to the end. Jesus said, "the one who endures to the end, he will be saved." (Matthew 24:13) The choice is ours. If we choose, we can opt-out at any time, thus forfeiting the work of salvation in our lives. We can choose to return to our former manner of life, to live once again like the world. However, in doing so, we forfeit the grace and the work of the cross in our lives. Paul encourages us to hold fast, to remain immovable in our trials and afflictions, to not give up the Gospel for the promise of an easy life. The Gospel has come to us with great hope. Not a hope necessarily for tomorrow, but a hope for eternity. Let us not surrender eternity for any false assurances for tomorrow.

David Robison

Friday, August 07, 2015

The fullness - Colossians 1:19-20

"For it was the Father's good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven." (Colossians 1:19-20)
There is some confusion among the translators as to how to translate this verse. Some, as here, translate it as being the Father's good pleasure that allowed the fullness to dwell in Jesus while other translators, such as Darby, translated this verse this way, "for in him all the fulness [of the Godhead] was pleased to dwell," (Colossians 1:19 Darby) This interpretation acknowledging that it was the "fullness" that both pleasured and dwelt in Jesus Christ. Either way, we are brought to the interesting term of the "fullness" and its indwelling in Jesus Christ.

This Greek word, transliterated as the Pleroma, was not of uncommon use by Paul and other apostolic writers. However, in the first few centuries of the church, there were several heresies that were swirling around during that time that all went under the head of Gnosticism. To those of these heresies, the scriptures were a veritable code book full of the identities of many "gods" and many levels of "gods." To them, the "fullness" was yet another God, separate from the Father and the Son. Similarly, when they read in Genesis, "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." (Genesis 1:1) The find the name of another god, "beginning" in whom the creator god (also different from the Father and the Son) performed all his creating. However, while Paul may have used some interesting words, he never wrote in code."For we write nothing else to you than what you read and understand." (2 Corinthians 1:13) Fortunately for us, their error was resolutely refuted and, by the fourth century, this heresy was all but extinct.

What Paul is trying to tell us is that, while Jesus was fully human, he was also fully God. God fully dwelt within Him just as His humanity fully filled Him. This means that, as He suffered as a man he also suffered as God and, as His suffering reconciled us to Him and His humanity, it also reconciled us back to God. Many have tried to explain how this could be and even battles have been waged by those defending their belief against another. However, Paul here presents it simply as a truth with no explanation or defense. We may not be able to understand it but it is nevertheless still true.

Because of sin, mankind and God has been at odds and separated from one another. God is holy and man a sinner and it was his sin that separated him from God. How could mankind be reconciled to God while he stood under the condemnation of the law and under the judgement of death? How could God forgive sin until the righteous requirements of the law had been fulfilled? Sin occurred and the law demanded that its just sentence be executed.

The only solution was for God to come Himself, take our sentence of death upon Himself, and then defeat the law through His resurrection from the dead. Paul put it this was, "because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus." (Romans 3:25-26) Jesus was just and, as such, was able to become the justifier of those who believe in Him through His death on the cross and His resurrection from the dead. It took God to reconcile us back to God and that is just what He did,

David Robison

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

First place - Colossians 1:18

"He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything." (Colossians 1:18)
It is interesting here that Paul chooses to describe Jesus as the head of the church, using a metaphor from the body. Likening the church to a body is not uncommon for Paul for, in many places, he refers to us as being a body. "But now there are many members, but one body." (1 Corinthians 12:20) What is interesting is that, in reference to authority and first place in the body, he assigns the head to Jesus. The head rules over the body with absolute authority and there is no place left for any assistant-heads, under-heads, or little-heads. Jesus is the head; the sole ruler of the body, and the sum of all authority in the body.

It is interesting, however, that from a very early date, the church has largely adopted a contrary authority structure for herself. Instead of seeing herself as a body with one head, she has expressed herself as a government and/or business with layers and layers of authority by which she is to be ruled. We have Pope, Cardinals, and Bishops. We have Pastors, Assistant Pastors, and Ushers. We have Leader, Elders, and Deacons. Each stratifying the authority in the church in to various layers and offices all filled and ruled by men (and in some rare cases by women too).

If the church were really a body and Christ was really its head, then our job would be merely to find and fulfill our place in the body. The hand does not exist with secret ambitions of being the head and the left big toe is not always trying to tell the other toes what to do. Why must we think that we must rule over each other when there is one who rules and who has already been given first place? Can we not be content to take second place? Must we always be first?

It is God's intent and design that Jesus should have first place in the church. He clearly show this intention in that Jesus was the first to be raised from the dead. Because He was the first to raise from the dead, He is to have first place in the church of those who have this hope within them; the hope of the resurrection from the dead.

The question is, does Jesus really have first place in our church? Most of us would immediately respond in the affirmative, but does He really? The best way to gauge this answer is to ask yourself, what are you most proud of regarding you church? Is it the beautiful structure, the rousing worship, the clear and concise teaching of the pastor, the programs for children, the outreach to the lost, the coffee in between services, or even your devotion to orthodoxy? All these things are find and good, but should it not be the presence and reality of Jesus in our midst that make up what we are most proud about of our churches? If someone asks us what makes our church so good, ought our response not be "Jesus!"

Perhaps we need to examine what we have give first place to in our church, or at least first place in our estimation of our church. Then, let us strip away all things that detract from the preeminence that belongs to Jesus, from boasting about ourselves and our works, and from identifying the church with ourselves rather than with Jesus. Let's return Jesus to the head and assign to Him once again the first place. If we do so, then church will never be the same.

David Robison

Monday, August 03, 2015

The firstborn of creation - Colossians 1:15-17

"He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities — all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together." (Colossians 1:15-17)
Jesus is the visible representation of the invisible God. While no one has seen God at any time, Jesus came to show us the Father and to explain God to us. John put it this way, "No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him." (John 1:18) God is not of this creation and His substance is invisible to our eyes. This is why He strictly forbade the Jews from making any statutes, images, or likenesses of Him for none can reveal His reality for He is invisible. "So watch yourselves carefully, since you did not see any form on the day the Lord spoke to you at Horeb from the midst of the fire, so that you do not act corruptly and make a graven image for yourselves in the form of any figure, the likeness of male or female..." (Deuteronomy 4:15-16)

For millennia, mankind has sought for some representation of God that they could place in their minds so that they might behold him. Jesus came as that representation. In Jesus, we see the Father. In Jesus we understand God. The term used here for Image is the Greek word from which we get our English word for Icon. In computers, and icon is a visual representation of a program that sits on our desktop. A visible representation of something invisible. In religion, an Icon is typically a picture used to being specific events or persons to remembrance. Jesus is the icon for God. He reveals God and brings God to remembrance.

Paul says that Jesus is the "firstborn" of creation. This does not mean, however, that Jesus was created or is of this creation. While God is invisible, Jesus shares basic properties of this creation; primarily that He can be seen, heard, and known. Of all we can see, know, and appreciate of this creation, Jesus is the first-most and the foremost of all. He is greater and more worthy of worship, honor, and adoration than anything else we can find in this creation. Of all we may ever have, know, or perceive; Jesus is the greatest of all.

Jesus is the creator of all things which is the very definition of what it means to be God. He who creates all things is the God of all things. However, more interestingly, not only have we been created by Him but we were also created for Him. Jesus created us for His pleasure and His purposes. Our lives are meant to be lived for Him and not ourselves. Only when we live for God can we truly find our purpose in life for we have been created for Him. Those who try and live for themselves will never find the life they were meant to live.

Finally, Paul encourages us that Jesus holds all things together. At times, when our faith is weak, we may feel like we have to "keep it together" or that, some how, it is all up to us. However, we are not the ones who keeps this world spinning but Jesus. At times it is OK to go to sleep knowing that some things are still broken and need fixing. In the morning God will still be there holding everything together and fixing what needs to be fixed. He is responsible for getting us through each day and keeping our life together. Our responsibility is simply to love and obey Him. What a relief that the universe does not need us every moment of the day or that we are need to solve every problem of the world. Let it go! Jesus will take care of it!

David Robison