Colossians 1:21-29: Focused On Messiah

The Colossian Community was a good community but they were being challenged by false teaching. It was a mixture of Jewish legalism, Greek philosophy and a false kind of mysticism. Charles Ryrie inform us: “Specifics include dietary and Sabbath observances, circumcision rites, the worship of angels and the practice of asceticism. Combating these errors, Paul and Timothy emphasize the cosmic significance of Messiah as Lord of creation and the Head of the New Covenant Community. The theme is the supremacy and the all-sufficiency of Messiah. Any teaching, practice or intermediary that detracts from the uniqueness and centrality of Messiah is against the Faith.”

To combat the false teachings, Paul and Timothy were focusing the attention of Messiah’s Community in Colossae on Messiah.

Who is Yeshua?

The King of a very great and real and wonderful and eternal kingdom.

The worthy and blessed Son of God.

The image of the invisible God who perfectly reveals God to us.

The Firstborn Over All Creation, preeminent over all created things and the special heir among the sons and daughters of God.

The Creator of all things, for whom all things have been created.

Who is Yeshua? The One Who Is Before All Things, worthy of honor and respect from all who come after Him.

Who is Yeshua? The mighty Sustainer Of All Things, holding together everything that exists.

Who is Yeshua? The Living Leader of all Christians and Messianic Jews everywhere, who gives us life and strength and direction.

Who is Yeshua? The One Who Overcame Death and who enables those of us who know who He is and become loyal to Him to overcome death.

Who is Yeshua? The One In Whom The Fullness Of God Lives, who is to be treated with the greatest respect.

Who is Yeshua? The Reconciler Of All Things who brings peace to all relationships – especially our most important relationship, the Creator-creature relationship. Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now He has reconciled you by Messiah’s physical body through death. What a change! Before they knew Messiah, the Colossians were alienated from God, far from God, opposed to God. They were hostile in mind toward God. Their thinking was at war with the Creator. Their thoughts were not His thoughts. Their values were not His values. Their ways were not His ways.

And it wasn’t just their thoughts. They put their thoughts into practice and were engaged in evil deeds. They routinely did things that were wrong and offended the Righteous God. And, what was true of the Colossians is true of all of humanity, including Jews and Gentiles. We are alienated from God; our minds are hostile to God; our lives are characterized by evil behavior. We are not pleasing to God, not headed toward God, will not live forever with God. But all that changed for the Colossians when God the Father reconciled them Himself! They were no longer alienated from God who is the Source of Life and Blessing. They were in sync with Him, at peace with Him, accepted by Him, welcomed by Him, in a right relationship with Him. Their minds were no longer hostile toward Him. They came around to God’s way of thinking. Their thoughts became conformed to God’s thoughts. Their lives were characterized by good behavior, right living, actions that pleased God.

And how did God bring about these amazing and beneficial changes? How did the Father transform the Colossians? By having more money spent on public education in Colossae? Better politics? Improvements in science and technology?

An improving economy? Big government spending programs? No, none of the things that the world tells us are the answers to our problems. Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now He has reconciled you by Messiah’s physical body through death. There is only one answer to our greatest need – which is to be reconciled to the Creator. And there is only one way to be reconciled to the Creator – and that is by means of the death of the Messiah. It took the incarnation and the perfect life and the atoning death of the Son of God to end our alienation from Source of Life. It took a life and a death – but not just any life and not just any death. It took the sinless life and the atoning death of the One who is greater than all of humanity to atone for all of humanity.

And what did that reconciliation by Messiah’s death make possible? He has reconciled you by Messiah’s physical body through death to present you holy in His sight, without blemish and free from accusation. Amazing! Fantastic! Wonderful! The fallen, ruined sons and daughters of Adam and Eve presented to the infinitely holy God as holy! Holy – not in our sight, not by our standards, which are way too low, but holy in God’s sight, holy by God’s standards, which means that we are truly holy. Pure. Free from the presence of sin, the power, and the total destructiveness of sin! Holy, set apart from sin, set apart from a sinful, dying world; set apart to live with God in unending happiness.

He has reconciled you by Messiah’s physical body through death to present you holy in His sight, without blemish. Apart from Messiah we had plenty of blemishes. We were like spiritual lepers, disfigured from head to toe. But now, because of Messiah, we are without any marks or flaws, free from any defects whatsoever!

He has reconciled you by Messiah’s physical body through death to present you holy in His sight, without blemish and free from accusation. Apart from Messiah there were plenty of accusations to bring against each one of us. We were guilty of many crimes. But because of Messiah, all charges have been dropped. All accusations, any accusations! Every single accusation against us has been dismissed. We are innocent of all charges! We are innocent, free to go, free to live forever!

Reconciled to God! Holy in His sight! With blemish! Free from accusation! We’re talking about moral and spiritual perfection! How can we not feel grateful, thankful, motivated to serve this merciful God? How can we not give our best to this kind and gracious God?

But, notice that there is an “if” – a warning, a caveat, a qualification. We must do something to be presented to God and be holy in His sight, without blemish and free from accusation. If you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the Gospel, the Good News. We must have faith and hope. Faith comes from knowing the hope that the Good News offers. When we understand the Good News, that through the Incarnation, God the Father sent His Son into the world; that Yeshua lived a perfect life, died an atoning death, rose from the dead and ascended to the right hand of the Father; that God has wonderful things in store for us who believe – resurrection, eternal life in the New Jerusalem; exalted status as the sons and daughters of God; an amazing inheritance; when we understand this hope the Good New offers and believe this and transfer our loyalties to the Three-In-One God, we are reconciled to God and reach spiritual and moral perfection – if we have genuine faith and hope, established faith and hope, firm faith and hope, an unmoved faith and hope.

We must have the kind of faith and hope that aren’t moved off their foundation, the kind of faith and hope that don’t waver, don’t capitulate under pressure, that persevere through disapproval, rejection and persecution. We must have the real kind of faith and hope that endure to the end. We must not have the shallow kind of faith and that exist only while times are good; that seek God for present blessings, and when the blessings stop, are abandoned. We must not have the kind of faith and hope that get distracted and supplanted by other things. Only genuine faith and hope created in human beings when they understand and respond to the Good News result in fallen human beings being reconciled to God, attaining moral and spiritual perfection and eternal life – but it must be real faith, genuine hope, established and firm, and unmoved.

The Messianic Community in Collossae had responded to this Good News. This is the Good News that you heard. But, they weren’t the only ones. By this time in the First Century, around 61 AD, the Message about the Message had been spreading everywhere. This is the Good News that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under Heaven. The proclamation of the Good News started in Jerusalem, worked its way through Israel, then among the Samaritans; then the first Gentiles in Israel, and then to Jews and Gentiles in the Roman Empire and beyond.

Proclaiming the Good News to everyone, everywhere; the Good News that alone enables fallen human beings to be reconciled to God, was Paul’s life-purpose. And, it should be our passion and purpose too – as individuals and as a community. Paul was a servant of this Good News. This is the Good News that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under Heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant. The Rabbi from Tarsus lived to serve the Good News. He prepared himself to be a faithful servant of the Good News. He kept himself pure in order not to dishonor the Good News. He studied how to proclaim the Good News. He thought about how best to proclaim the Good News. He prayed about opportunities to proclaim the Good News. He got others involved in proclaiming the Good News.

How about you? Like Paul, are you a servant of the Good News? You live to serve the Good News? If not, why not? You think that serving the Good News is only for special people, like Paul, and those who are paid – like Rabbi Glenn and me?

Paul suffered for proclaiming the Good News, and he suffered for leading communities formed by the Good News. But, that was OK with him; in fact, it was better than OK. Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Messiah’s afflictions, for the sake of His body, which is the Community of Called Out Ones. It’s not that Messiah’s sufferings and death were insufficient to accomplish complete atonement. That’s not what the Rabbi means when he mentions something lacking in Messiah’s afflictions. What the Lord’s Representative means is that just as Messiah suffered to help His people, other leaders of Messiah’s Community, like Paul, will be targeted by an anti-Messiah world. They too, may have to suffer too.

That was a sacrifice Paul was willing to make in order to further the Good News and lead the Lord’s people. In fact, that sacrifice made Him happy, knowing that he was serving the most important group of people on Earth, the called out Jews and Gentiles, the saved ones, the redeemed ones, the eternal ones; and Paul was following the Lord’s example; and that he would be rewarded for all of his sacrifices. Knowing these things made him happen. I rejoice in what I am suffering for you.

It was God who put Paul in that place of servant-leadership of Messiah’s Community. I have become its servant by the commission God gave me. Isn’t it wonderful of God to give us great men like Paul, who are able servants, willing to lead us and suffer for us if necessary?

This Messianic Jewish rabbi was a very special servant of God’s people. He had a profound understanding of the Word of God. I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the Word of God in its fullness. Paul was able to teach the Word of God in its fullness – the Law, the Prophets, the Writings, the teachings of the Messiah – with Messiah as the focus.

One of the things Paul had been teaching the Colossians was what he called a “mystery.” A mystery, the way Paul uses the word, is not something that’s impossible to understand. It’s a truth that was previously not clearly understood and which had recently been revealed. The mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the Lord’s people. To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Messiah in you, the hope of glory! The mystery that had not been clearly understood before; the mystery that had recently been revealed, not to only the Chosen People, but to the Gentiles too, was that Immanuel would not only come, but He would be in us – not only among members of the Chosen People, but also among the Gentiles.

Messiah in you. We are not just redeemed ones; saved ones; not just followers of Messiah, but Messiah is living in us – through His Spirit. We are temples of Messiah, bearers of the Spirit of the Messiah. That means we are very close to Messiah and He is very close to us. That means that God looks at us and sees His Son in us. He sees the Spirit of His Son living in us, transforming us into the image of His Son. Therefore all the love and affection the Father has for the Son, which is immense, the Father now has for us! The honor the Father wants for the Son, the Father now wants for us! Messiah in you, the hope of glory!

It’s possible to be honored by one’s enemies. We are pleased when our friends and peers honor us. How much more pleasure will be ours knowing that it’s the righteous, all-knowing, eternal God who honors us!

Messiah in us is the hope of honor! Not circumcision or Torah-observance in you, the hope of the glory. Not the Jewish roots of Christianity in you, the hope of glory. Not the holidays or the Sabbath in you, or kosher food in you. Not the angels or Mary or the saints or the sacraments in you, the hope of glory – but the Son of God in you – the hope of honor and glory!

He is the One we proclaim. Paul and Timothy proclaimed. Messiah is who they talked about, pointed to, focused their preaching and teaching on – and so should we. He is the One we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom. With all possible wisdom, Paul and Timothy taught people about the Messiah, and warned people about the failure to listen to and act on the truth about Messiah. Where people were lacking knowledge about Messiah, Paul and Timothy supplied that knowledge. Where people were wrong about Messiah, Paul and Timothy warned them to get things right about Messiah. Where people’s lives and values were inconsistent with Messiah, the Lord’s Representative and his disciple warned them to become consistent with Messiah – or suffer the consequences.

What was the goal of Paul and Timothy’s preaching, teaching, warning? He is the One we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom so that we may present everyone fully mature in Messiah. Their goal was to bring men and women into God’s presence as fully mature people. What does a fully mature individual look like? That’s easy! They look just like Messiah! They have the character of Messiah. They act like Messiah. They treat others like Messiah. The have the values and priorities of Messiah! They related to God like Messiah.

Helping people find Messiah, then become like Messiah, was Paul’s passion. And, he worked very hard at it, with the God-given wisdom and abilities and power the Lord gave him. To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Messiah so powerfully works in me. And, so should we! We don’t have the wisdom and abilities that Paul had, but whatever abilities and strength we do have, shouldn’t we use them to bring people the truth about Messiah, teach people about Messiah, help them become mature in Messiah, warn them about the failure to listen to and act on the truth about Messiah?

May God work in us so that we contend with all the energy Messiah gives each one of us, to do that. Amen? Amen.