Saturday, July 15, 2017

Qualified: Greater Power in the Spirit and Prayer, final (?) revision

Short Exposition
9 And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 
  • So, from the moment Paul and Timothy (and likely others) became aware of the faith of those in Colosse, they began to pray unceasingly, asking God to fill them with the knowledge of his will given through Epaphras and the sacred writings they have available to them in a way that only believers can be, since "the natural man receives not the things of the spirit, nor can he understand them, because they are spiritually understood." In other words, only one who has the Holy Spirit living inside them can accept them and perceive the intended meaning of what was said and then rightly act on it.
10 so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.
  • The Colossians believers have everything they need to display the light of Christ through both word AND deed in order to prove their faith in Christ.
11 May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, 
12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.
  • The church in Colosse had been recently taken in by false teaching. Paul prays that, as the church of Colosse confronts the errors being ‘preached,’ that they will endure the process through to completion, joyfully remembering the truth already preached to them, that God enabled them to share in this inheritance, not some work done in and of themselves.
13 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son,
14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
  • Paul reminds the Colossians of the effects of the Gospel (Christ’s death, burial and resurrection to win us forgiveness of sins), that Christ was punished for us, paid the penalty for our sin, and that what separates orthodox Christianity from all others is the forgiveness of sins and that Christ’s work was sufficient to pay entirely for our sins. Once a believer steps out of this life having put on Christ, we are with the Lord. And, that this assurance is for now, not a simple wishful thought. We are assured that ... NOW!

Paul makes two main points here. The first - hold fast to the truth you’ve already been given, being filled with the knowledge of God’s will as you increase in your knowledge of God. This knowledge of God, that you can have full forgiveness of sins once and for all and what that implies (oh so much!), should motivate you to good works “which God prepared in advance that we should walk in them.”
     That said, our works are proof of our love for Jesus, not an attempt to win His love. Remember, Christ foreknew us (the people), not our actions. Most reformed theologians believe the phrase “foreknew” really means “fore-loved.” In the sense that Adam “knew” Eve and they bore a son, God “fore-knew us” and we were born again.
     As our knowledge of God increases, we become more and more aware of God’s will for his church. Typically, you don’t find God’s will for the individual believer. The goal is to build up and edify the Body of Christ. The Colossian church would have been aware of this through, at least, some of Paul’s other letters. Here’s a short list, including, but not limited to:
  • 1 Timothy 2:3-43 This is good, and pleases God our Savior, 4 who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.
  • 1 These. 5:12-18 (and, I would argue, further through this passage). 12 We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you13 and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves.  14And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weakbe patient with them all15 See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone16 Rejoice always17 pray without ceasing18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
  • 1 These. 4:3. 3 For this is the will of God, your sanctification: [AND THEN HE PERSONALLY, PRACTICALLY APPLIES IT] that you abstain from sexual immorality4 that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, 5 not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. 7 For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness.
  • And finally (for now), 1 Timothy 2:1-7. 1 I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— 2 for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. 3 This is good, and pleases God our Savior, 4 who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all people. This has now been witnessed to at the proper time. 7 And for this purpose I was appointed a herald and an apostle—I am telling the truth, I am not lying—and a true and faithful teacher of the Gentiles.
I would encourage you to do a search in your concordance or on some Bible website for Scripture passages on God’s will. John MacArthur authored an excellent little treatment of it called, Found: God’s Will that I highly recommend. 

The second - it takes energy, time, patience and great love to confront error and those who postulate it. This is really one of the many implications of walking in a manner worthy. Endurance and patience are usually only needed when experiencing suffering of some kind. Saddlerock is familiar with that. We have experienced suffering and needed endurance and patience. No one thinks about patience when you’re clearly not in a hurry. However, Paul calls the Colossian church, and by extension - us - to endurance and patience with joy. How contrary to our culture. In context of this passage, the letter is written to a fairly young church (no more than 12 years old) that has been recently infiltrated with false teaching. I hesitate to offer adjectives such as dangerous or destructive, as if there were any other kind of false teaching. “Oh, the false teaching they’ve taken to has really built up the church! or “Of, I know it’s heresy, but did you see how many people are showing up?!” or “But, Paul, we have given more to the poor than ever before!” I think you understand what I’m saying. Paul has written this letter, first, as a confirmation of the gospel presented to them through Epaphras, and, second, as a reminder to not be swayed by a false gospel. This group of people, now a church, have heard the gospel and believed through one of their own, Epaphras, who “happened” to hear Paul preach and was saved. He takes the message of Paul’s gospel back to his city, people are converted, and they start a church. Paul goes to great pains to be as clear as possible in order to combat this false teaching, dangerous or otherwise. And, what does Paul begin with? The sufficiency and beauty of Christ. This particular section outlines Paul and Timothy’s (and others, I’m sure) prayers for them as a young church swayed by a false gospel. Paul uses particular phrases which are to be used to battle false teachers.
     As we confront false teaching and its teachers, we are to do so in a manner remembering we, too, have been forgiven of our sins. As Voddie Baucham has said, the gospel is offensive enough. We don’t need to add to the offensiveness by being rude. We are not to negate our responsibility. As we discipline our children, we sin, if we do it in anger. If we discipline in love, we have hope of winning them to Christ.  I am reminded of this every time my children sin. Man, how many times do I forget I likely acted in similar, if not the same, ways? What does Paul say? And such were some of you (having just named fairly gross sins that humans commit). And, yet, we were washed, we were sanctified, we were justified, and so on. So, once we are reminded of that perspective by the Holy Spirit are we enabled to address false teaching in such a manner.
     Endurance and patience are also, more commonly, needed when striving to know more about God and His Will. It is a physical and spiritual exertion. You may have heard the report that federal agents, when becoming experts at discerning true currency between the counterfeit, study primarily the true currency without much time on the false. Calvinist blogger, Tim Challies of Tronto, Ontario, Canada , was curious to know if John MacArthur’s recounting of that, taken from Reckless Faith, was indeed true. So, he made an appointment with someone at the Bank of Canada for an interview. In short, Dr. MacArthur was, in fact, correct. It takes time and a bit of study.
     Challies explains, "I soon learned that [after some time working through the 5 basic features of true currency] identifying counterfeit currency is not a terribly difficult task. When a person knows what to look for, when he has been trained to examine the bill for particular identifying characteristics, identifying genuine from fraudulent can be done with great accuracy, even on the basis of only a small amount of training. I successfully identified each piece of counterfeit currency. Challies continues, "There is a clear parallel here to spiritual discernment. Just as I am responsible for money I accept and later attempt to spend, in the same way I am responsible for the teachings I accept and later attempt to share with others. Thus it is my responsibility before God to inspect every teaching that comes my way. I should test each teaching that is presented to me, refusing to accept any that go against the plain teaching of Scripture. There are tests the Bible provides which will help us discern truth from error. 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22 exhorts all Christians to “test everything; hold fast to what is good. Abstain from every form of evil.” We are first to test, then abstain, and finally hold fast.
     And, this is where it gets tough. People will do anything to infiltrate the system with false currency. In like fashion, we have hordes of false teachers who will do anything to fill our church with the false. Why? Because the wicked prince of this world, the devil, will do anything to weaken the church from being the true light on the hill it can be.

Now this entire section is a summary of the things Paul and Timothy (and likely others) pray for, unceasingly, the Scriptures say. There is one more thing to consider before we close. That is, that veteran believers rejoice in the faith of new believers and faithfully, unceasingly pray for young believers to be strengthened in knowledge of God, His Will, and to persevere when the walk gets hard. Let’s take a closer look at what Paul and Timothy write:

  • “We also…” - This is kind of like a “therefore.” What is a therefore? Well, go back a few verses and find out what the “therefore” is there for.
  • READ vss. 3-8.
    • The believer’s response to the hearing of the faith of others is to pray continually for them. This prayer is specifically directed at new or young believers, as they are most easily swayed. Though believers of all stripes would benefit from this prayer, this prayer is most helpful to those who are newer in the faith, since those who have been in the faith should already be growing in the faith.
    • Take health and fitness, for example. You all know the person who is very good at doling out advice, though you can clearly see that the individual soliciting said advice is in no place to be giving it. It’s one thing to hear it from someone who is unable to carry it out due to circumstances beyond his/her ability. It’s another to hear, “Well, ya know what you should’ve done?” We would do well to avoid saying things like that, unless we have experience and knowledge to back it up.
  • “Since we heard of it…” declares the urgency of the business at hand. It wasn’t “a few days later,” or “after the party died down,” or “when I felt like it.” It was “from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you.
    •  If we applied our common response to prayer to health, fitness, or, to be more extreme, life or death situations, humanity would not last long. Take this, for example. “And so, from the day my child was born, I have not ceased to provide it nourishment and rest.” What if the story were more like this. “And so, from the day my child was born, I occasionally provided nourishment and rest.” That’s a recipe for disaster. Or, “And, so from the day you signed up for the gym membership at my gym, I waited until you were despondent to the point of quitting our gym before I attempted to make you feel welcome, or provide you with the care and support you needed to carry out your fitness goals.
    • If we love our own bodies this much, should we not much more care for the souls of ourselves AND others? Parents, don’t we feel strongly about the influences in our children’s life, whether it be friends, neighbors, YouTube, or other social media? We, as parents, strive to provide our kids with spiritual direction, safety and a consistently loving home life. This is big in how we view our relationship with our Heavenly Father. He provides us with all the spiritual direction we need, illuminating the Scripture and enabling, or qualifying us, to live this out, all by the power of his Holy Spirit.
  • While we all want to have answers to questions of the personal direction for our lives, I pray with equal and even more fervency that you understand God’s will for your place in the church, that we, like Paul, be a herald of the Gospel, that, despite persecution, people would hear of the Love of God and the Forgiveness of Sins in Christ, and be turned from God’s anger to God’s Love and Joy. Let us make the best use of this gift in the person of Jesus Christ and the work and power of the Holy Spirit by “[continuing] steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. Let us pray for a door to be opened for the Word" wherever we are at, "to declare the mystery of Christ.”
  • As our musicians come up to prepare for the last song, I would like to share, in closing, a 90-second video from my friends at “When We Understand the Text.

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