Filled With Growth
May 02, 2021 | John Nix
Paul has no met the Colossians face to face at this point, but he knows what is coming. He struggles in prayer for this young church and he wants to fulfill the mission God had given him even if it meant suffering for the cause of Christ and his church. As Christians, we are expected to grow and Paul knows that to present everyone mature in Christ that work will have to be done. Toil and struggle are normal for disciples of Jesus Christ. “The epistle is a vaccination against heresy, not an antibiotic for those already afflicted.” –Walter Wink In the late 80’s and early 90’s, scientists constructed a research facility in Arizona called Biosphere 2. Built to study the interaction between life systems in a controlled environment, Biosphere 2’s closed ecological system was even used to explore the possibility for usage in outer space. It was outfitted with representative biomes to let nature run its course: rainforest, ocean, wetlands, savannah, and desert were built in and several people lived inside for an extended time as part of the experiments. A funny thing happened with the trees, though. Researchers found they grew quickly but fell over before they were of reproductive age. The Ents of Middle-Earth, these were not. Why were the Biosphere 2 trees such pushovers? No wind! Wind is necessary for creating strong trees! Work is necessary for strong Christians, so our lives should be Filled With Growth.
Here are some questions that we hope you'll take a few minutes to think through and answer.
- What enabled Paul to persevere and even rejoice in his suffering? Why do we find it difficult to feel the same way?
- What part does God play in the preaching of the gospel, and what part do his servants play? How should this change how you think about evangelism?
- “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” What excites you about this summary of the gospel message and how we benefit from it?
- What is Paul’s advice to the Colossians in verses 6–7? Can you sum it up in your own words? How would you explain to a young Christian how they should go about being rooted and built up in Jesus?
Colossae sat on the main East-West road about one hundred miles east of Ephesus. If you were to visit Colossae today, there is not much to see. At one time, it was a thriving city in a region that included Laodicea, the capital of the municipal district (twelve miles to the west), and Hierapolis, a spa town renowned for its multitude of temples and healing waters that were dedicated to heathen gods (fifteen miles northwest). Still, now all that remains is a large hill with the odd block of masonry jutting out on one side. The city was destroyed by a devastating earthquake that struck the valley in around AD 60.
Colossae was a place where many different religious and philosophical viewpoints thrived and probably mixed together. This diversity helps explain the syncretistic religious movement that affected the Colossian Christians.
The Church at Colossae most likely began during Paul's third missionary journey while he taught in the school of Tyrannus in Ephesus. Luke recorded that all of Asia heard the Word during that time (Acts 19:9–10). Epaphras met Paul in Ephesus, became a disciple, evangelist, and minister, taking the Word to his own people (1:7) and still carrying a burden for them (4:12).
The letter to the Colossians is shockingly, dangerously politically incorrect. To the best of our knowledge, Paul never actually went to Colossae. However, despite having never met the Colossians and languishing in prison, Paul warns of how subversive and dangerous false teaching is to the Church.
Paul sees the world in black and white (with everyone split between the dominion of darkness and the kingdom of light), and towering over all stands Jesus Christ. Whatever Christ has said or achieved is automatically true for every person at every time in every place. There are no exceptions. He is the universal king.
Similar issues may exist in the relationships between Christianity and philosophy, psychology, natural science, and the behavioral sciences. Many want to get on the right side of history and reformulate Christian truth in their image. The worldly temptation confuses beliefs with emotions, suggesting that all that matters is feelings and fulfillment. Still, the Church must be vigilant because many give priority to feelings or reason over revelation. We cannot accept a view of Jesus Christ that is in opposition to the Scriptures, nor can we accept that there is another Christ who is different from the one that the New Testament describes.