Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Sermon: Colossians 1:24-2:5 Him We Proclaim

How would you summarise the work of a gospel minister? What is the essential message each one of us has to share, because we’re all full time gospel workers?

In our Epistle reading today, we find one such summary, as Paul writes to the Christians in Colossae. You would be hard pressed to find a shorter summary - look at verse 28: ‘Him we proclaim.’ What is it that Paul has been doing, devoting his life to? Him we proclaim. As we see those three words in their context, we’ll see why this is the essential summary of all gospel work.

First up, him. Paul writes about a mystery, and I don’t know about you, but I naturally think of Miss Marple or Inspector Morse, a murder mystery. There’ll be a gruesome killing, and suddenly the hunt is on, meeting a variety of candidates, all possible suspects, all with hidden agendas and grudges. But you know, when you start reading or watching, that everything will be worked out by the last page of the book, or just in time for the 10 o’clock news.

The mystery Paul has in mind isn’t exactly like those - it’s more of an open secret. He writes about making ‘the word of God fully known.’ This was the task he had been given, he is a steward, given a deposit, to be passed on. It’s in making the word of God fully known that he speaks of mystery - ‘the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints.’ God’s plan from all ages has now been revealed, it’s an open secret, but what is it? What is the mystery now being revealed?

‘Christ in you, the hope of glory.’ The Colossians Christians weren’t Jewish believers; they were Gentiles. They were far from God, aliens to the promises, without God and without hope. But when Epaphras (who was from there) heard the good news and believed, he went back home to share the gospel with them. These Colossian Gentiles also believed, and so they are now in the company of God’s people, but also, Christ is in them.

This was always God’s plan, for the Gentiles to share in the promises through Christ - just think of the promise to Abraham that in his seed all families of the earth would be blessed. We see glimpses of it in the Old Testament, where Ruth, a Moabite becomes the great-granny of David, or in the Gospel reading today, where the Centurion has more faith than Israel.

We too, have come to share in the blessings of Christ through faith in him. But learning about Jesus and coming to know him isn’t just for when we’re coming to faith, as if we can forget him once we become a Christian. You see, Paul is still committed to ‘Him we proclaim’ even when relating to these believers. He proclaims Christ as he shares the gospel, but also as he warns and teaches everyone with all wisdom.

Why is this? Why have we been (and will continue to be) committed to proclaiming Christ? ‘That we may present everyone mature in Christ.’ When we’re saved, we’re just babies in Christ - we have a long way still to go. Even after being Christians for a long time - perhaps even longer than I have been born! Still there are areas for each of us to grow; to become more like Jesus; to become more mature in Christ. It’s a long term project; the Further Education Colleges will be presenting their prospectus soon, lots of evening classes to get us involved in lifelong learning - it’s precisely the same in the Christian life - lifelong learning, becoming mature in Christ.

Now that might put you off. That might discourage you. How will I possibly keep going? Paul continues proclaiming, teaching, maturing ‘For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.’ God equips and strengthens us for his work. It’s not all down to me and what I can do. God is helping us.

Colossians is an odd letter - in most of his letters, Paul is writing to people he knows, in places he has visited. He has never been to Colossae; has never met most of the people who will hear his letter read. Yet that doesn’t stop him from struggling for them in prayer; praying that they wull be encouraged, knit together in love, and to fully appreciate the wisdom and knowledge of Jesus Christ.

These past few weeks have been a odd time for us. Almost everyone we see, we’re saying goodbye to. The time is getting very short, the removals van is waiting, poised for Monday morning. We’ll not be around here much longer. But be assured that we will still be struggling for you in prayer, from the wild west.

Are we going on towards maturity? Are we helping others towards maturity? Paul proclaimed Christ, because in him we have all we need for salvation, life, contentment, wisdom and knowledge. My prayer is that Christ will be proclaimed here, and that you will indeed grow to maturity; will you pray for me, that I too will continue to proclaim Christ, and him only, and all for the praise of God the Father who is high over all. Amen.

This sermon was preached in St Elizabeth's Church, Dundonald at the Midweek Communion service on Wednesday 3rd August 2011.

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