Meditations in Colossians 2: 2: Encouraged in Heart
Col 2:2,3 My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ,
We wrote in a previous meditation of how Paul’s writings were a blend of pure doctrine and personal comment and, indeed practical application. The pure doctrine ended with verse 22 and then moved into a mix of practical application (v.23) and personal comment. Yet within these latter two aspects of his writing there is a lot to learn.
Speaking of his own ministry in the verses so far, Paul referred to himself as, “an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God”, (v.1) a servant of the Gospel (v.23), a servant of the church (v.25), proclaiming, admonishing and teaching (v.28), one who struggles for the church, and even for those who he has not met (v.29 & 2:1). Now, to justify or explain his reason for writing more fully he declares his overall ‘purpose’ in his ministry, whether to those he has met face to face or to those he has not met but simply heard about (implied). In the verse above we have made bold the three aspects of this purpose together with his end goal. Let’s consider the first of these three aspects.
First his objective is that through his ministry those to whom he writes will be “encouraged in heart”. Before we continue we have to note that these three things are in respect of believers. He has stated plainly before in the letter that his initial goal is to proclaim the Gospel, proclaim Jesus, to bring people to Christ. That was his overall goal but now he is addressing the church at Colosse, believers.
Having said that, it is also worth while considering two approaches to evangelism that I have noted over the years. There have been those in the past who have become notorious through preaching ‘hellfire and damnation’ and of course repentance from sins is a fundamental need in the conversion process and Peter certainly called for repentance in his first Spirit-empowered sermon on the Day of Pentecost, but only AFTER preaching Good News.
Indeed look at the beginning of the Gospels and see what Jesus preached: “Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!” (Mk 1:14,15) The Good News was that the kingdom of God had come and they needed to believe that. In Luke when Jesus is in the synagogue at the beginning of his ministry he reads out the Isaiah mandate: “to preach good news to the poor …. to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.” (Lk 4:18,19) That was Good News! God has come to set you free! Now, believe it!
That is a very different approach to the “repent or you will go to hell”. That latter approach is true but it is the Law, while the biblical approach is pure grace that offers the wonder of God’s love. The latter approach is about fear and the biblical approach is about kingdom and freedom and love. This biblical approach reaches out to lost souls who are searching for God, crying out for help and it brings encouragement that there is hope of deliverance from this present helpless and hopeless life. The hope is that Christ has come to usher in the kingdom of God Remember that Paul said, “the kingdom of God is… a matter of … righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit,” (Rom 14:17) Peace and joy are Good News! Being made righteous in God’s sight is Good News!
Now if that is true of how we share the Gospel, it must be even more true of what we teach within the church. I have recently come back from a Bible Week and I observe that again and again the main meetings and the main ministry are all about releasing believers (as well as bringing people to belief) to realise they are loved by God and freed by His Holy Spirit to live out lives of righteousness, peace and joy. It is a mind thing, a belief thing, that we have to bring to believers so often. Yes, they were fully saved and truly born again but the battles in the world have still left them needing to be healed up in belief and in reality, they need to be “encouraged in heart” to realise what God thinks about them and what is open to them now they are His.
This being “encouraged in heart” is a fundamental need of every one of us. We’ll see how it works out in what Paul goes on to say, so let’s simply leave it here by saying, we need to be reassured about God’s love – because it almost seems too good to be true. We need to be reassured about forgiveness – because the enemy constantly challenges that and says we are still guilty sinners. We need to be reassured about freedom not to sin because we find it difficult to comprehend the reality of the power of the Holy Spirit living within us. We need to be reassured about our eternal destiny because death is a reality we are confronted with and appears a great unknown. Yes, “encouraged in heart” is all about reassurance and this is the first thing Paul seeks to do with all new believers.