Encouraged In Heart— United In Love
Key Verse 2:2
“My purpose 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.”
Paul was a good shepherd for the Colossians even though he did not know them personally. He loved them enough to teach them the word of God so that they might remain rooted in his marvelous grace. It was Epaphras, Paul’s disciple who brought the Gospel message to the Colossians. They had believed it and by believing it they had crossed over from death to life. They were once dead in their sins, destined for eternal condemnation by a Righteous God against whom they had sinned. But now they were born again through faith in Jesus and had become the children of God. It was a mystery how men and women who were dead in their sins and worthy of eternal condemnation, could be changed into men and women whose souls are alive in Christ and destined for eternal life with God. Paul calls it a mystery no longer hidden. It is no longer hidden because God made known to the world his intention to rescue mankind from their sins and dismal destiny by sending Christ Jesus to change their lives. The Bible teaches us that “All [human beings] have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23), meaning that because of their sins, no man or woman is worthy of God and his kingdom and therefore fit only to be condemned. But the Bible also teaches us that: “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (1:27), meaning that we can rise from our deadness in sin to our original intended glory through the saving work of our Lord Jesus. Jesus died on the cross and rose from the dead so that no man or woman remain dead in their sins, but be made into a new creation in Christ Jesus. (2 Cor. 5:17) That is the mystery Paul was so eager to explain to the Colossian church. He wanted them to know that the only hope they have is in Christ Jesus. Jesus alone is the hope of salvation for the human race, and no other.
That is why Paul continues his teaching to the Colossian Christians with the words of verse 28. “We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ.” He teaches them many things in these words. First, He teaches them that since Jesus is the hope of glory, so then Paul was devoted to his calling and mission to proclaiming Christ Jesus, and Only Christ Jesus. The moment in which Paul was converted to the Christian faith, he embraced Jesus as the only hope for a fallen humanity. In the past Paul had proclaimed the Biblical Law and the traditions of his Jewish people. He had been proud to be a Jew, and to proclaim all that the Jewish faith embodied. But deep in his heart he was not convinced he was good enough for God. So he worked all the harder to please God, and failed to please God in many ways. But the moment he met Jesus personally, Paul was convinced that only in Jesus can a person please God and live up to God’s standards. So he began to proclaim Christ Jesus and only Christ Jesus to the world. Wherever he went he proclaimed that Christ Jesus was, is and will always be the only hope of salvation for all people. Wherever he went, he proclaimed that Jesus Christ was supreme above all things in heaven and on earth, and therefore that Christ was sufficient for the salvation and glorification of all people. And since Christ Jesus is Supreme above all things, therefore, all idols— all philosophies— all religions— all commitments are rendered obsolete. So Paul was glad to proclaim Christ Jesus and only Christ Jesus to the world, and now to the Colossian converts as well.
Look at verse 28 again. “We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ.” Paul not only proclaimed Christ Jesus and only Christ Jesus to the world, he also [Second] admonished and [Third] taught in Jesus’ name as well. Paul admonished believers and non-believers. Wherever he went, Paul admonished people. He counseled them in their lives on what to do for the glory of God. He advised them in their daily lives how to live by faith. He warned them to remain rooted and established in the word of God. He was a good shepherd who never failed to admonish the flock of God. And he admonished them in the word of God, for only in he word of God could Paul or anyone find true wisdom for living in God and for God. Paul admonished them. But he also taught them with Godly wisdom. We see how he admonished and taught them from his words to his disciple Timothy. For he tells him: “Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage— with great patience and careful instruction.” (2 Tim. 4:2) Later on in his letter to the Colossian Christians he tells them: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.” (3:16) Indeed Paul was truly a remarkable man, well educated and well versed in all kinds of religious and secular disciplines and philosophies. But from the moment he met Christ Jesus face to face, and Christ began to dwell in his heart, Paul knew that nothing can bless a man or woman more than the words of God. So he taught them the words of Jesus, he taught them the Bible. He believed that the word of God alone can bring wisdom to their hearts, and make them rise above the worldly chaos all around them. We too aught to learn Paul’s level of commitment to the word of God and to the flock of God as well.
Look at verse 28 again. “We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ.” Paul also tells us that he teaches everyone. Not only a select few, or those who look good and willing but to everyone. For the Gospel of Christ Jesus is for everyone. The message of our Lord Jesus— his death and resurrection— is for everyone. The gift of God is for everyone. The Gospel is universal touching the lives of all who believe. Therefore, Paul preached and taught, he admonished and served everyone with the Gospel of Jesus. Although he was writing exclusively to the Colossian Christians, he had in mind the whole world, for the world needs to hear the Gospel of life so that all those whose hearts are moved to repent and believe may receive the gift of God’s salvation. The Gospel is indeed for everyone, and we need to bring it in turn to the world around us. When Paul proclaimed the Gospel to everyone, he proclaimed it— according to his words— with all wisdom. He defines what this wisdom he is talking about is in 1 Cor. 2:6-7 where he tells us: “We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. No, we speak of God’s secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began.” There is worldly wisdom which does nothing to the human soul but bog it down with confusion and fill it up with pride. But God’s wisdom— the Gospel that was made known— brings peace and joy to the suffering heart of all human beings who put aside the world’s wisdom in order to listen to God’s wisdom.
Read verse 28 again. “We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ.” Paul also tells us why he is laboring so hard in proclaiming the Gospel to all people. He tells us that he is doing so in order to present everyone perfect or “mature” in Christ. The human heart is basically immature, immature to know God, immature to understand God, immature to grasp the depth of its own wickedness and sinfulness and its state of eternal condemnation, immature to comprehend the great and full love of God’s love and mercy to its unworthy state. Immaturity is the mark of humanity’s heart and mind and soul. People walk around pretending to be mature and full of understanding when all the time they are walking and living in a stupor, blind to the spiritual world around them— a world they neither see nor hear. What can bring maturity to the human heart and mind and soul? Paul tells us that only Christ and in Christ Jesus can a man or woman ever hope to mature on the inside and be made presentable to God and to his kingdom. All humanity is invited to heaven. But not all humanity will enter or ever enjoy heaven. In fact the human race is really dull to this reality. We need to mature in the inner person enough to see our sinful condition, to repent of our sinful condition, rise to a new life in Christ Jesus, and then to grow in Christ Jesus. People need to become Christians. Christians need to grow into the image of God. And the only way to mature is in and through Christ Jesus and his teaching. Praise God who has given us all that we need to be born again, and to grow in our maturity in Christ. We have the Bible. Yet people, even Christians avoid the Bible as if it were just another chore they have to accomplish in their lives. But the Bible is not just another responsibility. It is our life. The Bible, the words of God, the grace of Jesus are the only thing that is worth devoting our hearts and minds and souls to in this world. When was the last time you read the Bible, memorized the Bible, took advice from the Bible, meditated on the Bible, studied the Bible with all your heart? Think on this. And consider whether you want to mature in your inner person or remain as dull as the world would have you be.
Read verse 29. “To this end I labor, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me,” “To this end I labor”, Paul tells us. For this purpose, I labor and work hard, I struggle and fight the good fight of faith, so that all of you Colossian Christians and Christians of all generations may know the deep mystery which is “Christ in you, the hope of glory”. He is truly a great shepherd, who knew what is worth laboring for. He once used to labor for his own human glory. He once struggled and fought in order to climb the ladder of success. He once labored to crush others who stood in his way. He once struggled to persecute those Christians whom he considered as trash and nothing but wood for the fire. What arrogance! What pride it is for a man to think that he knows the way of life, that all that matters is to be number one, that all that is worthy of his labor is that which promotes only his own interests and makes his life easy and comfortable. What pride Paul had in his heart to think that he was a good man, doing what is right in the sight of God, and worthy of God’s welcome into heaven. What arrogance to consider that he had life figured out just because he was a well learned and well disciplined man. When all the time, he was unable to change his own heart. It is pride to know that we cannot do a thing to change even one bad habit I have and still consider ourselves a man or woman of “goodness”. Human “goodness” is relative, and not the Standard by which God measures a man or a woman’s heart. God measures the heart by the truth— his own truth— his own words. And since Jesus, God measures the heart only by and through Jesus (Romans 2:16). So while Paul used to labor for his own self, now he labors only for Christ and for those who belong to Christ. He no longer labors for himself but for his Lord who died to set him free from the lies of the world and put in his heart a truth worth everything. He labored and struggled for them. How great is a man or woman who labor and struggle not for self interest of self promotion, but to promote Christ and to bless and serve the church of God, the body of believers for whom the Lord died. What are we struggling with these days, check the heart. Are we struggling and laboring only for ourselves and our own families and all the while snug in the faith that we are Christians? That is arrogance. We ought to learn to labor for Christ, and to struggle for his children— for those who cannot struggle for themselves because they are infants still— and we ought to fight the good fight of faith not to remain in our selfishness, but rise to the glory of Christ.
When Paul spoke of his struggle for the church, he did not give credit for himself. On his own he could not labor for anyone for no matter how blessed he is in Christ Jesus, he was still a man who could do nothing without Christ, for Christ himself had taught all of us, that “apart from me you can do nothing” — nothing! (John 15:5) Paul struggled but he gave the credit to God’s grace and power working in him through the Holy Spirit. “To this end I labor, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me,” It was Paul’s great comfort to know that he must labor but that he cannot labor for Christ or for his flock without the power of God working in him. It must have been his prayer then to ask God for help through the Holy Spirit as Jesus had taught his disciples to pray. (Luke 11:13) We too must know that while men and women can do many things in this world with their own passion and strength, at the same time no man or woman can even hope to lift a finger for the glory of God and his work without God’s intervention and help. Therefore, as we are called and commissioned to labor in the mission field, we ought to lean on the Holy Spirit in doing the work given us to do. Jesus promised us these words: “… How much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:13) So let us ask God for his Holy Spirit as we come before him from day to day to do his work and labor in his fields.
Read 2:1-5. “I want you to know how much I am struggling for you and for those at Laodicea, and for all who have not met me personally. My purpose 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, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments. For though I am absent from you in body, I am present with you in spirit and delight to see how orderly you are and how firm your faith in Christ is.”
Paul wanted the Colossian Christians to know how much he was struggling for them and for others who have come to faith in Christ Jesus. What was the heart of his struggle in prayer for them? What did he pray for? He tells us that “his purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love”. With a heart like that of Jesus, Paul struggled in prayer for them. He had two prayer topics here that are well worth examining. He prayed that they may be encouraged in heart. He also prayed that they may be united in love. Of all things, why did Paul chose these two prayer topics for them— to be encouraged in heart— and to be united in love. What is so important about them?
It is so important for Christians to be encouraged in heart. The heart is a place of despair and of sorrow. A place of darkness and of dark and hidden secrets that turn oppress if one is to look into one’s own heart or another’s heart. When we look at our own hearts we can only imagine what is in the heart of others. When we hear about child molesters and murderers, we cringe! But the reality is that we are no better, if not for the grace of God. when Paul spoke to the Corinthians he said: “Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” (1 Corinthians 6:9-11) That is why we need to be encouraged at heart, and we need to encourage the hearts of others. That is why we need to pray for others to be encouraged in heart as well. When men look into their own hearts, they despair and give up, and then given in to all their evil desires, because they see that their condition is hopeless. They do things in secret because they do not believe that anyone or anything can change their sinful hearts. Christians are no different sometimes! When they are overwhelmed with their own sins, when sin overtakes them, when they surrender to the weaknesses of their own bodies, then they too despair. What can encourage their hearts? We ourselves can do nothing to help them. Even if we speak and it soothes their hearts a little, they will soon fall into hopeless despair all over again. The only thing that can encourage their hearts is Jesus Christ and his Gospel. Jesus is the hope of the hopeless, the light in the darkness.
Jesus’ words lift the spirits of men to the high mountains of faith and hope. One of the first things Jesus said in his ministry are these words: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4:18-19) With such heavenly and glorious words, how can we be but encouraged? These are the things that encourage the heart of young men and set them on a course away from the flesh desires to heavenly visions. We all need encouragement. And what better encouragement than to study Bible and see Jesus through his precious words! When a heart is encouraged by Christ, it becomes free from the whims of the world and of its own desires— free from the burdensome anxiety and despair that is quick to overwhelm the heart at every corner in life— free from its own petty concerns and all that clouds the mind from seeing Christ Jesus as Supreme above all things— even above life’s overwhelming troubles and problems. So even if things are not humanly all right by human standards, they are all right in God because that heart sees that God is all in all. When the heart is encouraged, that heart can see things with the eyes of faith— with the hope of God.
Paul also says that his purpose to labor for them is that they may be united in love. It is also important that they be united in love. The world is divided on itself. A kingdom divided upon itself cannot stand. Here is what Jesus once said about a kingdom divided among itself. Once Jesus healed a man and the Pharisees said that he had done so by the hand of Satan. “Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them, ‘Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand. If Satan drives out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then can his kingdom stand? And if I drive out demons by Beelzebub, by whom do your people drive them out? So then, they will be your judges. But if I drive out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.” (Matthew 12:24-28) Jesus said that a kingdom divided cannot stand. Therefore even Satan is not divided against himself. That is why his kingdom is so powerful and had conquered so many hearts. Satan is not divided. But neither is Christ and his kingdom divided. Thus Jesus’ kingdom is not divided either. That is why it stands strong. Even stronger than Satan’s kingdom because Jesus’ kingdom overcomes and overwhelms Satan’s kingdom. Every prayer— every healing— every hope that replaces hopelessness and every joy that replaces a sorrow— is a testimony to the unity of Christ and his kingdom to which we have been called. Christians thus are called to unite.
But that which unites us the most is not the creed nor the confession we have, but the only binding force among us is the love of Christ. The love of Christ is the most powerful binding force in the universe, let alone in the lives of those who have come into the family of God. We are all different. The Colossians were different. They came from different backgrounds. Some of them even thought differently from one another, and behaved differently from one another. What one cherished and thought important the other despised and thought insignificant. They believed the same thing about Christ Jesus and embraced the Gospel as one man. But one man was as different from another in essence as the sun is different from the moon. It does not take a special study to determine this— that men are different. They were different. They were so different that it seemed that they could not possibly even belong to the same church. And different usually gives rise to dissention and factions, to division and hatred and mostly to suspicion. But Christ binds us all because he shed his blood to redeem us and to embrace us into his family. Some Christians have forgotten this! So they stand divided! They are divided on material issues, on decisions, on views and on various points of dispute. But this division harms the church and the cause of Christ. They honor their own hearts above the heart of Christ who yearns for us to be united. But the truth is that Christ wants us united not only in doctrine and in purpose but also united in the love of God. That is the binding force that keeps the church healthy and thriving. It is division and strife and petty hatreds and bitterness of heart that keep children born of the same Spirit apart, and destructive to one another. But as Jesus prayed for the unity of his disciples in love, so also Paul admonished the Colossian Christians to unite in Christ as he prayed and labored to that end. His purpose to wrestle for them in prayer was that they unite in love. Without a conviction that they were a people united in love, they could not agree on anything, and the Spirit of God would not dwell with them and among them.
So why did Paul choose these two things of all the things that he could have labored for them in prayer over? He tells us in the next verses. That they may have the full riches of complete understanding. That they may know the mystery of God— which is Christ. That they may not be deceived by nice sounding arguments. These are things we cannot think on in this lesson. So we will look at them next time. May God bless you to be like Paul, a man who knew that life is nothing more than proclaiming Christ, admonishing and teaching everyone in the wisdom of God, and a church is nothing if its members are not encouraged and encourage in heart, and united in love and serving to unite others in the love of God. Amen.