Through the Bible with Les Feldick
LESSON 3 * PART 1 * BOOK 40
Seven-Fold Prayer of Paul for Us
I always like to give a few words of introduction before we start a new book, as we call them. Remember that Colossians is also one of the prison epistles. This is another one of the epistles of Paul that was written while he was in prison in Rome. And it’s in that category of letters that is a jump up, doctrinally, from his introductory letters of Romans, Galatians and the Corinthians. And as soon as we get into these prison epistles of Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians it’s just higher ground. It’s deeper water. And these are elements of the faith that I’m afraid too many people are just glossing over or are not paying any attention to, but it’s paramount if we really want to get into the depths of the Word of God, we have to do a study of these prison epistles.
Ephesians, if you remember, was just almost totally doctrinal. Our position, where are we as a believer in the body of Christ. Well, what does that mean? Well, it’s a position. It’s something that the Old Testament believer knew nothing of. We are in the Body and are connected to Christ, the Head. Even though He’s in glory and we’re still on earth, there’s still that connection. And so Ephesians brings that out. And then Philippians had to bring about the fact that even though and we may be going through trials and temptations and tribulations, we have every reason in the world to rejoice. Rejoice, the apostle Paul says, in spite of our circumstances.
And now Colossians is written primarily to warn the Colossi believers, as well as us today, of things that can so easily make inroads into our belief or faith. Now you might say that you didn’t know that Paul dealt with any false teaching in Colossians. Yes, he does. He deals with two facets. One of them was atheticism. Now most people, I think, probably hear the word and don’t really understand what it means. Atheticism was that teaching that you had to put down all the desires of the flesh. And it all had to do with “you can’t do this” and “you can’t do that” and “you can’t enjoy this” and “you can’t enjoy that”. In fact, I think that some of the early church monks and the monastery type of people would just literally put themselves through misery for that very reason, that they were not to enjoy a single day of life. And hoping thereby to gain favor with God. You’ve probably heard of the hair shirt, where they would just wear that shirt with the hair next to their skin and just be miserable. Well, they thought by so doing they were pleasing God.
And then on the other hand you had these people who were trying to convince the early church believers that there was more to it than what Paul had given them. And that you had to get in and get understanding of the angelic powers and some of these things that we would say today were the New Age movement and so forth. And we’re up against the same things. In fact, I guess I’ll let you read the two verses where that’s brought out the most clearly. It’s over in Colossians chapter 2 and verse 8 and then the other concept is over in verse 16. And so the whole little book of Colossians revolves around these two warnings. And it’s just appropriate today as it was when Paul wrote it. So let’s look at chapter 2 and verse 8. This is just an introduction and then we’ll got back to the first chapter.
“Beware (that’s a word of warning.) lest any man spoil through philosophy and vain deceit, (that where it comes in that “you can’t do this or that” and “you’ve got to put yourself down and keep your appetites under control”) after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, (not God’s word that they’re following, but man-made devices) and not after Christ.”
Now let’s go over to verse 16 and here we have this warning not to get caught up in these things that we do to, again in the flesh, merit favor with God.
“Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of a holyday, or of the new moon, or of the Sabbath days;”
What does that mean? Don’t get hung up on what day of the week you worship. You’d be surprised how many letters and phone calls we get from the television audience that say, “Aren’t we supposed to be keeping the Sabbath?” You see, here is a warning in verse 16. Don’t get hung up on those things. I always answer with one stock answer and that is that we’re not under Law. Law demanded Sabbath worship, seventh day Sabbath. We’re not under anything like that. And so here is the warning. Don’t get hung up on some of these things as to what you eat or drink or a holyday or a new moon or Sabbath days. Now look at verse 18. And this is another warning.
“Let no man beguile you (or deceive you) of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels,…”
Do you see what that says? A voluntary humility is something you force on yourself to literally put yourself down so that somehow God will kind of feel sorry for you, I guess. So don’t be taken in by that.
“…intruding into those things which he hath not seen vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind.”
Now in America in the last few years have you noticed this constant emphasis on angels, especially at Christmas time. Everything you see is angels, angels, angels. Popular television show has something to do with angels. I’ve never seen it but I can just about imagine what it amounts to. And listen, we’re warned that we don’t get involved with things like that. And we’ll be commenting on that more strongly as we come through it verse by verse.
So anyway, this little letter to the Colossians was, along with other things, written to warn us of various types of false teachings. And always remember, I’m afraid too many believers today do not get a concept of what the Apostle Paul was up against when he went out into that Gentile world. And he did not have a great army of advance men. The poor fellow had maybe one or two of his co-workers, Luke or Barnabas, or whoever, would come in to these cities steeped in paganism. And even as you visit some of those ruins of those ancient cities and you see the ruins of these ancient temples. And you see, especially in Athens, the female goddesses, umpteen of them, just standing there in a row up on top of those columns. That’s all they saw. Everywhere you looked it was a constant reminder of their worship of the gods and goddesses of mythology and along with that was gross immorality. And into that environment comes the Apostle Paul with nothing more than the Gospel. And yet the Gospel was so powerful that in the midst of all that idolatry he was able to bring people out of it and put their faith in that finished work of the cross, and it so transformed lives.
Remember that account in the book of Acts that Ephesian silversmiths were losing so much business of making their idols and these new found believers were throwing them away and were no longer buying them. Listen, you know what that tells me? He made such an impact in the city of Ephesus that it affected the business people who were selling idols and so forth. We can’t imagine what that must have been like. And without any support. Now, the same way with Colossi. Colossi was just a little city just a few miles inland from Ephesus and it was evidently a congregation that had been begun by one of Paul’s converts at Ephesus, Epaphras. And then from that one individual a little congregation, again of pagan people, have become believers.
And so as Paul writes this letter, remember he’s never met these people. This is one group he writes to that he didn’t know one of them but by faith. But it was still the result of the man’s ministry in Ephesus a few miles away. So always remember that whenever Paul writes to these believers, they had just recently come out of abject paganism, idolatry, the worship of the gods and goddesses. And then to be able to bring them to the place where they would separate from all that and endure the persecution that was brought on them. I just can’t imagine.
Because here we are in our enlightened America and with all of our Constitutional rights and we can’t get people interested. Isn’t it amazing? And yet, he went into these pagan cities, steeped in their idolatry, and did nothing but preach the Gospel and they came out by the scores. Well, that’s the background of this little letter to Colossi. Inland from Ephesus which is on the western end of present day Turkey and a congregation, as I said, who he had never met personally, but he had heard of them through Epaphras and consequently he writes this little epistle. Starting at verse 1
“Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God,…”
A lot of people, I think, have gotten the idea that Paul was some kind of an egotist. That he just sort of went out on his own. In fact, the Corinthian church kind of accused him of that. And that he’d just sort of gotten this idea that he could start something on his own and he was making inroads into Judaism and all that. No, here he makes so plain that his apostleship was by the will of God. And of course, Timothy is with him. And remember he is writing from prison in Rome.
“…and Timotheus our brother.”
And here I’m always emphasizing to whom is he writing? To the saints. Paul always writes to the believer. Never to the lost world. But he’s writing to the believers and so these are Gentiles like we and so this is why we can read the books of Colossians, Ephesians, and so forth and know this could just as well have been said to the believers in the United States of America in 2000 or whatever year we happen to be in. It could have just as well been. Now reading on in verse 2.
“To the saints and faithful brethren in Christ (see how he positions them?) which are at Colossi: Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 3. We give thanks to God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you.”
You remember one time, I think it was back in the Corinthian letter where he was listing all the pressures and the tribulations he was going through, and how many times he was cold and hungry and on top of all that he had the care of the churches! Well, this was on his mind constantly. These little groups of believers, scattered throughout the Roman Empire. He was praying constantly for them. Now verse 4. And here is proof that he’s never been at Colossi. He’s never seen these people.
“But since we’ve heard of you faith in Christ Jesus and of the love which you have to all the saints,”
Have you ever had someone ask you, “How can I know that I’m really saved?” It’s a good question. I don’t mind a bit if someone calls me and says, “Now Les, you’re always talking about someone being a true believer. How can I know that I am a true believer? And not like multitude of others who are simply church members and sitting in their pew for an hour on Sunday morning and hope that they’re okay. How can I know that I’m a true believer?” You know what my first answer is? “Do you love the Word of God?” And then I follow that right up with the second one. “Do you love being with God’s people?”
In fact I just had a gentleman call last night and ask the same question and I said, “Okay. Do you have a love for the Word of God?” He said, “Yeah, I do for the last couple of years. I just can’t get enough of it.” I said, “Okay, then my next question is, do you enjoy being with God’s people or would you rather be in some night club instead of a Bible study?”He said, “I hear you. I hear you.” Well, that’s just exactly what Paul is saying here. What was the proof of their faith? Their love for fellow believers! See, the world doesn’t love us. The world would much rather have us be out there in some night club or some other place of amusement than to be in a Bible study. You know that. But we’re to be the other way around.We’d much rather be with fellow believers studying the Word than being out there being entertained in some ungodly way. That’s always the mark. And so here again he says that the proof of their faith was the love that they had for the saints or their fellow believers.
Now that doesn’t mean that every believer is perfect. I don’t think we even have to like every believer. There’s a difference between love and like. Isn’t that right? I hope I don’t get my foot in my mouth. But I maintain there is a difference between liking someone and loving them and you don’t necessarily have to do both. You’ve got to love them, but you don’t necessarily have to like someone who rubs you wrong and doesn’t have the same interests that you do. And you just certainly wouldn’t say, “Well I just wish I could spend every day of the week with that individual.” No, you don’t have to like people all that much but we have to love them. And there’s a big difference. Love is that which seeks the other person’s highest good. These people had a love for the fellow saints. Alright let’s read on.
“For the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, whereof you heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel.”
Now I was mulling over the programs as we produce them and it’s now over 500 of them, I believe. And I got to thinking maybe I have not been emphasizing enough that one of the fruits of our salvation is not just the hope of glory, but eternal life. Now think about it for a minute. You probably haven’t heard me emphasize that as much as I should. Listen, when we’re saved we enter into eternal life as over against death. And this is all part of the package. That when we step in by faith and embrace the Gospel, God imbues us with eternal life. That means that we will never die. Now I know that we think of it casually, but I’m going to hit the nail on the head a little harder. Do you know what it means to have eternal life? It never struck me until the other day I was reading an article on how many billions and billions of years the universe is.
And I got to thinking, goodness even if it is that old, and I don’t believe it is, but if it were, do you know that we’re going to live way beyond even that length of time? Do you realize that our life will never end? That’s beyond me and I think it’s beyond you. But see, this is all part of what Paul is talking about. That not only is it just salvation for the here and now, not only is it a fire escape that we’re not going to go to Hell, but that we have eternal life! And life is something that is vibrant. Life is something that is exciting. Life is something that there’s a never a dull moment. You know I’m always afraid that when I get to the place that I haven’t got a quality of life, I want to be gone. I don’t want to lay around as a vegetable. I know we haven’t got any control over that, but if I could have my desire I’d want to go from one day of activity and then be gone. Because that’s what life is all about. But listen when we get into eternity, it will be vibrant. It will be exuberant and it’s going to be forever and ever. You know you hear in Handel’s Messiah the end part that says, ‘forever and ever and ever’. I told Iris the other night when we were listening to it that I wondered if the people who are singing that really know what they’re singing? Forever and ever and ever! That’s eternity. That’s what Paul is talking about. Now verse 6
“Which is come unto you, as it is in all the world; and bringeth forth fruit, as it doth also in you since the day ye heard of it and knew the grace of God in truth.”
Now I’m going to deal with the word “fruit” when we get to verse 10, so I’m going to skip it here in this verse. When we get to verse 10 we’ll see what he’s talking about when he prays that we’re to be fruitful. So now let’s go on to verse 7.
“As you also learned of Epaphras (the gentleman who I feel brought this letter to the Colossians and was probably instrumental in getting that congregation started) our dear fellow servant, who is for you a faithful minister of Christ. 8. Who also declared unto us your (what’s the next word?) love in the Spirit.”
That should be the very epitome of a believer’s life is our love for the Lord, first and foremost. You love the one who died for you and bought you and forgave you. But then that love just literally goes out all the way around us to our family, co-workers, fellow believers. And love is the key, as Paul teaches it throughout his letters. Now verse 9.
“For this cause…”
What cause? Because of the love that he’d heard of these Colossi believers. And don’t you dare forget what were they just a few months or years ago? Pagans! And pagans didn’t know what love was. We’ve got missionary friends down in Bolivia and he was just sharing with me one of the last times they were home, how they were doing a translation for some of those primitive tribes and every once in awhile they get hung up in their translations because those people just don’t have a word for something. And you know what one of them was? Love! They didn’t have any idea what love was. They didn’t even have a word for it in their vocabulary. Now that’s shocking to us. But listen, when you have people who have never been exposed to the love of God and the truth of the Gospel, they don’t understand real love. And these pagans especially had no love. And consequently they could follow all these gods and goddesses and stuff because there was not true understanding of love. Let’s read on.
“For this cause (because he understood that the Colossi believers knew what love was now all about. They loved each other, the Word, loved God and so he says for this cause) we also since the day we heard it, (what do we call that today? Reputation. What was the reputation of these Colossi believers? They were loving, sincere, godly ex-pagans) do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding.”
What do you suppose he was praying for? That it wouldn’t stop! That it would just continue. And this is the reason, I think, the Scripture told us that Christianity literally did turn the Roman Empire upside down and it was because they were so sincere in their love first for one another as well as for the Word and God Himself.