Living for the Glory of God ~ Vivir para la Gloria de Dios

A Worthy Aim (Colossians 1:28-29) ~ A Devotion for September 19, 2014

“Him 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

Explanation of the Text: As we close out chapter 1 of Colossians, Paul concludes with insight into his own purposes for which he has been called by God. Quite simply, Paul’s goal is to present everyone mature in Christ. The means by which he fulfills this is by proclaiming Christ through admonishing and teaching fellow believers. As we remember the previous verses, Paul refers the hope of glory, which is Christ. At the center of Paul’s preaching was hope, which he saw as being a person, specifically Jesus Christ, and thus the central message that he proclaims is Jesus Christ.[1] In fact, as one reads the writings of Paul, it is clear that Jesus Christ is the central aspect of Paul’s entire ministry. It is this central aspect that determines every part of the ministry that Paul takes part in and has been called to do. This is seen here as Paul’s central aim, to present the people as mature in Christ, was derived from Christ’s task to present people as mature in Him before God.[2]

If the central aim is to present the people to God as mature in Christ, the means by which Paul does that is through admonishing (warning) and teaching. The task of admonishing is more than just calling out and correcting one’s behavior, but is meant to direct one to a correct course of action.[3] To admonish another is to guide them away from the world’s ways and back to the ways of God. It puts the holiness of God in view in order that one may respond accordingly be brought into a deeper and more right relationship with God. Related to admonishing is the act of teaching. The two go together because in order for one to be admonished and recognize the folly of their own personal ways, they must be taught and instructed in the correct ways, which are the ways of God according to His word.

It’s interesting to note the generality of the statements here. Twice Paul refers to everyone, which is further accentuated by the word ‘all’ in reference to wisdom. Paul determined himself to teach all of the things of God to all of the people of God. He does not preach a message of exclusivity. John Calvin rightly identifies Paul’s recognition that “no one is so eminent in respect of wisdom as to be entitled to exempt himself from tuition. God has placed me in a lofty position as a public herald of this secret, that the whole world, without exception, may learn from me.”[4] Note that the teaching and admonishing must be done in all wisdom. When one acts, they must do so in the full counsel of God’s holiness, in the full counsel of God’s decrees, and in the full counsel of God’s son, whom we know to be wisdom personified (1 Corinthians 1:30).

Chapter 1 closes out with an exclamation of Paul’s dedication to his central aim. The wording here, specifically the use of the word ‘struggling’ is indicative of that of an athlete. It is to say that Paul, like an athlete focused on winning the race. He is an athlete who wakes early each day in order to train for the race ahead. He builds endurance in order to persevere to the finish. He disciplines himself to be diligent for the cause that he runs. He beats his body into submission in order that he may obtain the prize that is set forth. For Paul, this lifestyle is not for simply the selfish goal of obtaining prestige, recognition, or a crown, but is for the sake of presenting the truth of the Gospel in order that people may have a relationship with God through Christ, which will have eternal consequences.

It is interesting to look at this phrase a bit closer though. While at first it seems that Paul is doing this under his own ambition and power, look at what the text says. “For this I toil” referring to the fact that Paul is laboring for the work of God, and this is his aim. However, as you read further, you note that Paul writes “struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.” While yes, Paul is the one laboring, he does so not under his own energy or power, but rather with the power of God that comes from living in His Spirit.

The goal is to proclaim the hope of glory, which is Christ so that the people will be presented mature in Christ. “When all guilt has been imputed to Christ, and all pollution has been cleansed by his Spirit, the church will be perfect…It was Christ to whom this task and honor of the presentation of believer’s is ascribed (Ephesians 5:27).[5]

Examination & Application of the Text: Paul’s motives are placed before us; He seeks the good of others by proclaiming Christ. The call of each of us is to proclaim Christ (Matthew 28:19-20; Acts 1:8). The manner in which we proclaim Christ may look different. For some it may be from a pulpit; for others it may be amongst unbelieving friends over coffee; and even for others it may be through one-on-one teaching and discipling. The calling is the same although the function may look different. Specifically, the proclamation of Christ occurs through the teaching and admonishing of people. While sometimes this is uncomfortable, it does not negate the responsibility that is to be had through it.

May we use teaching and admonishing, season our words with compassion and love (which are demonstrated through teaching and admonishment) in order to build up the current church body. Whether it be to spiritually build up those who are already His, already belonging as part of the body, or adding to the body by drawing unbelievers into the body, we must further the cause of Christ by following Paul’s example. This is also a means of mutual accountability with each other so that we all may grow in Him. Being ‘in Christ’ denotes the closes possible union with Him, which is brought about by the Holy Spirit.[6] To this, we should labor and strive, disciplining ourselves for the work of God.

This is the second aspect that we must take away from Paul here. His example in discipline is something that we should learn from and take part in. We must be disciplined in our walk with Him. There can be no other way. This of course would be only under the power of the Holy Spirit (for more on this, see chapter 3 of The Mortification of Sin by John Owen). Disciplining one’s body requires time and commitment, and sometimes we are not willing to endure patiently in this because of our need for instantaneous results. Therefore, one must first be diligent in the pursuit and not so easily give up. It requires that one continues to maintain a relationship with the God through Christ through Scripture, maintaining accountability and fellowship with other believers. May we lift up Paul as an example for ourselves, disciplining ourselves just as Paul does for the sake of Christ and the glory of God.

As we close out, I end with the following words from J.B. Lightfoot:

“This Christ we, the Apostles and Evangelists, proclaim without distinction and without reserve. We know no restriction either of persons or of topics. We admonish every man and instruct every man. We initiate every man in all the mysteries of wisdom. It is our single aim to present every man fully and perfectly taught in Christ. For this end I train myself in the discipline of self-denial; for this end I commit myself to the arena of suffering and toil, putting forth in the conflict all that energy which He inspires, and which works in me so powerfully.”[7]

[1] Richard R. Melick, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman and Holman Publishers, 1991), 247.

[2] N.T. Wright, Colossians and Philemon, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1986), 96).

[3] Richard R. Melick, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman and Holman Publishers, 1991), 247.

[4] John Calvin and John Pringle, Commentaries on the Epistles of Paul the Apostle to the Philippians, Colossians, and Thessalonians (Bellingham: Logos Bible Software, 2010), 171.

[5] William Hendriksen, Phlippians, Colossians, and Philemon, New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1964), 93.

[6] William Hendriksen, Phlippians, Colossians, and Philemon, New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1964), 93.

[7] Joseph Barber Lightfoot, Saint Paul’s Epistles to the Colossians and to Philemon, Classic Commentaries on the Greek New Testament (New York: Macmillan and Co., 1886), 167.

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