Him We Proclaim

Audio Player

"Him [Christ] we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me."
(Colossians 1.28-29).

That is our verse at Jesmond Parish Church for this year. It comes from Paul's letter to the Colossians (a letter with which Timothy is also associated – see Colossians 1.1). It was written in the 1st Century when there was great confusion in the religious (and social) world of the Roman Province of Asia. For serious false teaching was invading the church. And that also was the case in the 19th Century when, and why, Jesmond Parish Church was founded in 1861 to…

"…form a central point for the maintenance and promulgation of sound scriptural and Evangelical truth in a large and populous town [now a city]."

And, sadly, false teaching is invading too many Western churches in the 21st Century. Nor is that surprising. For the 1st Century Roman Empire was like today in the West in that it was multi-faith. With Greek still being a universal language like English today, religions and ideas could spread. That was particularly true of this Roman Province of Asia. And Colossae, in modern Turkey, was in that Province of Asia. And we know ideas could easily spread there. For during the years of Paul's Ephesian ministry recorded in Acts 19, not only the people of Ephesus, but (Acts 19.10) …

"all the residents of Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks"

But what was this false teaching that had reached Colossae and was invading the church? We can only guess at it from reading this letter and by noting what Paul is positively asserting. It then looks at least to have included denials of Christian basics in terms of the uniqueness and finality of Christ and denials of Christian sexual ethics. Does that sound familiar? It does. For, sadly, such denials are becoming institutionalized in too many 21st Century churches. Hence the importance of this letter for us in 2018 and of these two verses in particular and their context in Colossians 1. For they give us a summary of what Paul thought was absolutely necessary for Christian leaders and, as we shall see, also church members to be doing at such a time and in such a situation. So all I intend now to do this morning is to go through these two verses in a simple way and see what they teach us. So my first heading is:

1. Proclamation and The Content

Look at the first words of verse 28:

"Him [and the context shows that is Jesus Christ – Him] we proclaim…"

So how does Paul go about dealing with false teaching? Answer: first by witnessing to Jesus Christ – his person (who he is) and his work (what he does). For this is how he has been describing Jesus Christ earlier in chapter 1. Look back to verses Colossians 1.13-20. Some think this passage is based on an early creed or early hymn that predated this letter. Be that as it may, their content is quite remarkable. For as you will see, you have here, in this chapter, five amazing assertions about Jesus of Nazareth. And remember not long previously he had walked this earth as a human being before being ignominiously crucified that first Good Friday. Well, first, Paul says that Christ is our great Redeemer, who delivers us from the realm of evil and forgives our sins. Look at verses 13-14:

"He [God] has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins."

This is God's act of deliverance, redemption and forgiveness for those like the Colossians who have (verses 4-5):

"faith in Christ Jesus, and ... love … for all the saints, because of the[ir] hope laid up for [them] in heaven."

Secondly, verse 15, and following, tell us that Jesus is our great Revealer who shows us what God is like:

"He [Christ] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation."

In Jesus, the invisible has become visible. So you want to know what God is like - then look at Jesus! But note, he is the firstborn of all creation not as the first to be created but as "son and heir", for Christ himself was there before the Creation.

Indeed, thirdly, Christ is our great Creator. Yes, that is what we are told. It is a stupendous claim, namely that the pre-incarnate Jesus Christ was the Creator of everything. Look at verse 16:

"For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him."

And, verse 17:

"he is before all things, and in him all things hold together."

Having been present at the formation of all things, he is still present to keep all things, including you and me, in being.

And, fourthly, verse 18, we are told:

"And he is the head of the body, the church."

That is so fundamental and so opposed to our modern individualism. For in a society identified as a body, everyone needs everyone else, just like parts of a human body are all necessary. But do you realize what this means about our relation to Christ today? You probably can understand how, with Christ as our great Head, Christians need Christ. But he needs you and me, too, if you're a believer! He needs you to do his work of witness to him by word, by life and by deed, now he is risen, ascended and reigning. So how we all need to play our part in the church, as parts of the body whose head is Jesus Christ. The work of pastors and teachers, Paul writes to the Ephesians (Ephesians 4.12) is …

"… to equip the saints [the other Christians] for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ"

We must all thank God for the work of ministry going on in this church by so many in our corporate work and witness. But there are always gaps and replacements needed.

So, Christ is one, our redeemer; two, our revealer; three, our creator; four, our head of the body of which we all are various members with different parts to play.

And, fifthly, Christ is "pre-eminent". Look at verses 18-20:

"… He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be pre-eminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross."

So Jesus' Resurrection, his being "the firstborn from the dead", not only proves the truth of all that is claimed for him. It also establishes his pre-eminence. It underlines his uniqueness and finality in terms of his person and work and that as the creator and reconciler of all things, he has no equals and no successors. How that needs to be said in this multi-faith world, as it did in the multi-faith world of the Roman Province of Asia Minor in the 1st Century. And that's why Paul (with Timothy) write, "Him we proclaim". So this chapter teaches us that proclaiming Christ and his glorious person and work is a necessary cure for false teaching. But it is not a sufficient cure, for secondly:

2. Proclamation Practically Needs Two Essentials

For verse 28 goes on to say you need to be …

"warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom,"

… as and when you can. But isn't this something just for Paul and Timothy and people like their friend Epaphras (the probable founder of the church in Colossae) – and so just for church ministers and clergy? No! For in Colossians 3.16 Paul says:

"Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom."

And "admonishing" is the same word in the original as is translated, here in chapter 1, as "warning". So in a church, if it's needed, on the one hand, we are to warn one another of error, and, on the other hand, to teach one another the truth. If someone is going seriously wrong, you shouldn't say, "It's none of my business". You should humbly and lovingly, and as graciously as you can, help them see the folly of what they are doing or saying. When people are seriously going wrong, the loving thing is to warn them. As Proverbs 27.5 says from our Old Testament reading:

"Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy."

And we should all be willing to receive warnings, when necessary, ourselves. And "warnings", if needed, are for "everyone", not just those inside the church. In Colossians the emphasis no doubt is on warning and teaching about false teachers. But for those outside the church, there has to be warning through teaching, not least about the future beyond death and beyond history. People need to know that history will one day end. This period of God's grace for salvation, when there can be repentance and divine forgiveness, will end. That is when Christ returns for judgment and all people from all times will be raised for judgement by Christ. And so we have to warn our friends, relatives, neighbours, children, pupils, patients, clients, whoever - when and as we can - of this truth. For, we have to witness not only to the love of God but also to his wrath, for he respects our freedom to reject him. So we must warn people of the reality of hell - that place of fire and darkness to where the condemned go for eternal punishment. Yes, the language used to describe hell is clearly symbolic. But as the theologian, Jim Packer, writes:

"New Testament teaching about hell, is meant to appal us and fill us with horror, persuading us that though heaven will be better than we could dream, so hell will be worse than we can imagine. These are the issues of eternity that must be realistically faced."

And that teaching is for "everyone". But it is to be with "all wisdom". So, of course, there must also be that positive teaching of John 3.16 that:

"God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life."

Nor does that need rocket science to understand. I wonder who this morning has never yet come to trust, for that eternal life, in Christ - the crucified Saviour, who died for you, bearing your sin, freeing you from its bondage, and transferring you from that dark domain into his glorious light? If that's you, why not, by faith, come to him this morning – to the one who is your great creator and maintains your very existence?

And "all wisdom", here, suggests that all methods have to be employed in warning and teaching - in the pulpit and in groups, and in the 21st Century through electronic means, like Clayton TV. And "all wisdom" means it has to be teaching God's truth for Godly Living, Church Growth and Changing Britain, as our mission statement puts it, and teaching in all those areas, not just some. But why are such warnings and such teaching really so important? Well, that brings us to our third heading:

3. Proclamation and The Reason

It is simple. For the answer is there in the last part of verse 28:

"that we may present everyone mature in Christ."

Paul and Timothy were totally convinced that for God's glory and human flourishing you need mature Christians. There was no other way. And so they, and so we, should also want this. But what does a mature Christian look like? Well, turn over to chapter 3. And I am going to take the liberty of reading to you verses 1-17 which tell you what Paul and Timothy reckoned a mature Christian looked like. So do concentrate on these verses as I read them:

"If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.

Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him."

The reason for Paul's warnings and teaching was that people should grow in their obedience to that teaching. And, therefore, they needed to pray to be able to persevere. So at the beginning of another year, why not have a personal spiritual health check against Colossians 3.1-17? That brings us fourthly to:

4. Proclamation and The Cost

Look at verse 29:

"For this I toil, struggling… "

In 2 Corinthians 6.4-5, Paul gives you details of what that meant for him in practical terms. He refers to "great endurance, … afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labours, sleepless nights, hunger." This side of heaven you are not promised an easy ride as a Christian. Jesus said (Luke 9.23-24):

"If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it."

So if you renounce selfish ambition, as Jesus requires, often you will find you are swimming against the stream of worldly values and ethics as well as having to work hard. And it is a struggle, as many here this morning know only too well, in their place of work or in their family, even. And it certainly is at the moment in the wider Church, where we are just like the Christians in Colossae, often with a lack of teaching and false teaching, and with immorality wanting to be blessed or affirmed. But should we be depressed or pessimistic? No! Realistic? Yes! As wise as serpents but as harmless as doves? Yes! But not pessimistic. And why? Well, that brings us to our last and fifth heading:

5. Proclamation and The Divine Strength

We should be optimistic, and not pessimistic, because we take up our crosses, whatever they may be, but in the last words of verse 29 it is…

"…with all his energy that Christ powerfully works within me."

Another fundamental fact that you must realize is that as you are united with Christ, your great creator and sustainer, by faith, by his Holy Spirit, Christ is in you. That is a mystery – the gospel of the indwelling Christ. But look at verses 27-28 where you read of…

"…the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Him we proclaim…"

As the New Testament scholar Donald Guthrie puts it: "The indwelling of Christ may be inexplicable to the mind, but is a glorious reality to the heart." And so, as you trust Christ and pray for his Holy Spirit to strengthen you, you can face the worst of situations as Paul did and say it is…

"…with all his energy that Christ powerfully works within me."

I must conclude and I do so by praying that we all, in 2018, take seriously that example of Paul (and Timothy) as recorded in Colossians 1.28-29:

"Him [Christ] we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me."

Back to top