Meditations in Colossians: 45. Paul’s Aim for the Church
Col 1:28 We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ.
Perhaps there is nothing so dispiriting as church without an aim, a church that just exists and performs week by week where nothing changes and everyone is complacently happy and content with the status quo. It is a lifeless church. Perhaps it comes from an overstated view of the sovereignty of God – we don’t need to do everything because God is sovereign and He will do what He wants. Well yes He is, but it makes pointless all of the encouragements and exhortations in the New Testament which basically say, “You do….” In other words we have a part of play. But simply fulfilling commands also becomes lifeless orthodoxy. Our activities and the changes that take place in our individual lives and the life of our churches should come from the vision that we have put before us in the New Testament.
In the previous meditation we considered Christ, the mystery revealed of God’s will planned from before the foundation of the world. So when Paul now says, “We proclaim him,” we see he is referring to Christ, but the verse clearly does not merely mean revealing Christ for who he is, but it clearly goes on to speak of the effect of Christ’s work in respect of our lives. We see he describes how he goes about this: “admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom.” It is by correcting and challenging (admonishing) and by bringing instruction and guidance (teaching) with the insight God gives (wisdom). I have, sadly, been on rare occasion in a church where all you hear on a Sunday morning are mere platitudes and platitudes do nothing to admonish or teach, and leaders use platitudes simply because they have either never seen the goal they should be aiming for, or they have but have backed away and opted for the easy life – for it is easier not to challenge or provoke people and risk their negative responses. It is easier not to teach and risk people reacting negatively, but the truth is that that IS our calling, to mature people – as much as they will allow us to be involved in their lives.
Paul was clear on his goal: “so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ.” Now those who wish for the comfy approach say, “Well, yes, that obviously refers to the work of bringing people to Christ, for when we do that they are, as we saw earlier, perfect in God’s sight – “holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation.” (v.22) And that is exactly true, that is the first step of ministry. Of that there should be no doubt and that is exactly what the apostle Paul did, but remember what he said earlier, why he prayed for the Colossians: “that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God.” That is an ongoing work and when Paul, as he often did, stayed weeks or months with a new church, and when he wrote to churches he had never been to, he admonished and taught them and sought to enable them to grow in their new faith.
Do you remember Jesus’ teaching: “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Mt 5:48) ‘Perfect’ there means complete or whole. There is a sense that when we come to Christ and we receive his presence in the form of his Holy Spirit, we have everything we will ever need “in Him”. However we know from daily experience that this new life is a learning process and although we have taken the biggest step it has simply opened the way for us to enter a lifetime of learning and developing and growing and maturing, so when Jesus said, “Be perfect” he was speaking in a long-term goal way – work at it, receive from my Father all He has for you so that you will change and grow and develop.
Do you also remember Paul’s teaching about the Ephesians 4 ministries? What is their goal? “to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” (Eph 4:12,13) Now does this happen straight away or is it working towards a long-term goal? Both! It happens straight away in as far as we each have His Holy Spirit within us with all the resources needed to do the will of God but there is a difference between a) having the resources, b) knowing you have the resources, and c) using those resources. Part of the teaching package is enabling people to come to a place where they realise who they are and what God has given them – (b) above. But part of the teaching package is then encouraging them into taking hold of and using those resources – (c) above.
Again, do you remember Jesus’ final words in Matthew’s Gospel, part of the so-called Great Commission: “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” (Mt 28:19,20) The first half is about bringing people to Christ and the second part is about maturing them in him. The teaching there is (c) above, using the resources God has given us to DO the things Jesus taught us to do. So again we will suggest, Paul is not content to bring people to Christ; the whole tone of all we have read in this chapter is about his desire for these Colossians to grow and be seen to be perfect in who they are and that, as we said, is a long-term ongoing goal that should be before every Christian leader in their desire for their people. May it be so.