Sermon “Saints in Christ Jesus”
1 Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timothy our brother,
2 To the saints and faithful brethren in Christ who are in Colosse:
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
3 We give thanks to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, 4 since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of your love for all the saints; 5 because of the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, of which you heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel, 6 which has come to you, as it has also in all the world, and is bringing forth fruit, as it is also among you since the day you heard and knew the grace of God in truth; 7 as you also learned from Epaphras, our dear fellow servant, who is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf, 8 who also declared to us your love in the Spirit.
9 For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; 10 that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; 11 strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy; 12 giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light. 13 He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, 14 in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.
Introduction: There are many who think that we who believe in Jesus Christ have a religion. They may agree or disagree with us, but they just consider it an oddity. But it is not so. Those who trust in Jesus Christ have been transformed and translated out of the kingdom of darkness, into the kingdom of the Son of the love of the Father. This passages explains what that means, and its implications for us.
The Apostle Paul begins by declaring by what right he speaks to us. He is not speaking on his own—he is an apostle. The word apostle means “one who is sent”, and while there are further Biblical requirements to be called a Biblical apostle, the emphasis here is upon that fact. Saint Paul did not set up himself as a messenger, or bring his own message. As he says, he is “an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God.” He represents Jesus Christ, and speaks for him, not by his own will, but by the will of God. Here, as in so many other places, it is clear that the message that we have in God’s word is not from men, but from God himself.
And even from the beginning, we see that St. Paul does not take credit, as most pastors do, but includes his younger brother in the faith, Timothy, whom he calls his brother.
And when he speaks to the people of the church, he calls them “the saints and faithful brethren in Christ.” Do you think of yourself as a saint? Perhaps you think it’s prideful to speak of yourself as a saint, and perhaps it is, and yet St. Paul calls us saints. The word saint does not mean perfect, but, those who are set apart to God. That’s why we should speak of our sons and daughters as saints. It’s funny, when I ask people, “are your children holy?” I get all sorts of responses, but, almost always, they try to qualify their answer, as if we hope they are saints and holy, but aren’t really sure. And yet, we read in 1 Corinthians 7:14, “otherwise your children would be unclean, but now they are holy.” But we are holy, for Christ has died for us, and risen from the grave for us, and he wants us to understand from the very beginning that we are saints.
But, that we not presume overmuch, he makes it clear that we are not holy in ourselves, as he says, “faithful brethren in Christ.” That is, he is not presuming that just because they are members of a church that they are saints, but he qualifies it by saying that they are those who are trusting in Christ. But, again, he does not lord it over them, but calls them brethren, and since he is speaking Greek, he means “brothers and sisters” by the term brethren, just as “hermanos” in Spanish means brothers and sisters [translator’s note: you can change this to a Vietnamese word, if that works].
But why are we saints? He begins with the primary source, by asking for a blessing, but in doing so, he also declares where the blessing comes from. He says, “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” We read this phrase so often, we are tempted to pass over it too quickly, but it makes clear where grace and peace come from—only from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. We are not saints in ourselves, and no one is, not the prophets, not the apostles, not even Mary the mother of Jesus. For she herself declares, “My soul magnifies the Lord, And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. . . For He who is mighty has done great things for me, And holy is His name.” [St. Luke 1:46, 47, 49] Grace and peace come to us from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
And that is why he gives thanks to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. And that is why he goes to the source of grace and peace, and prays for the people of the church. There are those who think that prayer is only for times when we are in trouble. But the apostle here makes it clear that he is giving thanks for the work that God is continuing to do among the people in the church, and is asking God to continue that good work.
And what is the evidence of that good work? He says in verse 4, “since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of your love for all the saints.” There are two elements here: their faith in Christ Jesus, and their love for all the saints. When our Lord Jesus Christ was asked, “‘which is the great commandment in the law?’ Jesus said to him, ‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” [Matthew 22:35-40 ] St. Paul is just repeating the same thing in other words—we are to love the Lord with all our heart, and love others as we love ourselves.
And then he makes clear one of the things that distinguishes us from those in the world. I have an atheist friend who taught philosophy for many years, and with whom I argued many times about the Christian faith. One day, he said to me, “Steve, you win.” I said, to him, “Carter, are you ready to trust in Christ?” He said, “No, I still don’t believe in God. But, if I’m right, and there is no God, then nothing we do has any meaning, because some day we, and all of humanity, and everything we have thought or done will disappear into dust. But, if you Christians are right, then even if you die, or are wiped out, you go to heaven, and live forever. So, you win.” I suppose he was just kidding in his philosophical way, but that is exactly the point that the Apostle is making here. He says in verse 5, “because of the hope which is laid up for you in heaven.” That is, one of the things that motivates us is that we have a hope that will not disappoint, because God has written our names in his book of life, and nothing can remove us from that book [Rev. 20:12]
But where does this hope come from? Again, are we not being self-centered and proud in speaking of our names being written in the book of life? Verse 5 tells us it is that “which you heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel,” that is, our hope comes from hearing the good news, which he calls the “truth of the Gospel.” And this is not a word which has been preached only to them, but to everyone, as he says in verse 6, “which has come to you, as it has also in all the world.” We are the recipients of the good news, which has now been proclaimed to all the world, and it is through this proclamation of the good news that we have come to faith in Jesus Christ.
But here again, instead of claiming to be the only source of that good news, he goes out of his way to give credit to others, as he says in verse 7, “as you also learned from Epaphras, our dear fellow servant, who is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf.” He recognizes that even though he is an apostle, that there are other faithful ministers of Jesus Christ, and he wants to show his approval of those fellow workers who proclaim the same good news that he is proclaiming. And this same Epaphras has in turn shown himself to be a faithful and loving minister, for he has not only proclaimed the good news to the people of God, but he has also, as it says in verse 8, “declared to us your love in the Spirit.” As a faithful minister of the Gospel, he has taught them to love God, and to love one another.
It’s at this point that some of us are tempted to kick back, and say to ourselves, “Hey, I’m saved. I’m going to heaven. The Lord loves me. I’ve confessed his name. I’ve been baptized and joined the church. So now, all I have to do is wait until I die and go to be with the Lord Jesus, or wait until he comes for me.” But that is not what St. Paul prays for. Instead, we read in verse 9, “For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you.” He understands that we live in constant dependence upon the Lord, and that we need to be in constant prayer, that we might not only be in him, but also grow in him, day after day.
His first request to the Lord for them is that they “may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding.” [verse 9] Some people think that it’s enough to simply learn a few verses from the Bible, and a few prayers, and sing a few songs. But St. Paul’s desire for them, and us, is that we may be filled with the knowledge, that we will know his will in all wisdom, in all spiritual understanding. What he’s talking about is not simply some knowledge, but a full understanding of God’s will for our lives, and growth throughout our lives in wisdom and understanding. Too many people get to a certain age, and then think they don’t need to learn anything else, or that they’re too old to learn much else. And here I’m speaking especially to people like that: God’s will for you is that you continue to increase in wisdom and understanding, that you may be filled with the knowledge of his wisdom.
But the next thing that he asks for is that they “may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him.” If you follow Jesus as Lord, you need to live a life which is worthy of him. I think you know what this means. If you claim to be something, you represent whatever it is. We who claim to follow Jesus as Lord, need to live as true followers of Christ. We can all think of people who claim to be something—a soccer player, a businessman, a good mother or father, and they talk about it a lot, but when you see them in action, there’s nothing there. It reminds me of when the United States invaded Mexico. The Mexican governor of New Mexico went to the Spanish inhabitants of Santa Fe, whose ancestors had lived there for some three hundred years. He swore that he and the Mexican soldiers with him would stand side by side with the people of Santa Fe to defend them against the invaders. So the people of Santa Fe prepared to defend their city, and the night before the invaders attacked, the Mexican governor and his soldiers quietly slipped out of the city. He called himself a “governor” and a “general”, but he was nothing of the kind. There are many who claim to be followers of Jesus Christ, but when the time comes for them to speak of Christ and follow him in their lives, they are missing in action. So that apostle prays that we might be “fully pleasing to him.”
He says much the same thing at the end of the verse, when he says that they might be “fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.” Our actions and words will show we follow Christ, and we will not just follow him, but continue to increase and be fruitful in every good work.
But like a good father, the Lord does not command us to do this work on our own. In verse 11, we read, “strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy.” The Lord is the one who will and does strengthen us, that is, we do not live by our own power, but by the strength of the Lord. And this is not a limited strength, for he says we are strengthened with all might, not according to our abilities, but “according to his glorious power.” We do not struggle in this life with mere human abilities. If we did, we would surely fail. Instead, the Lord gives us his glorious power, and so we are able, in the power of the Lord, to have “all patience and longsuffering with joy”. In a sense, this phrase doesn’t seem to fit the context, because usually when we think of power and strength, we often think of some great feat that impresses people. But the power and strength that we have has been given that we might love God and others, not impress them, but show the love of Christ in adverse conditions. Recently, a dear sister in the Lord went to be with him. She was never famous, or impressive to others, but I can remember how faithfully she taught me the Gospel when I was a little child. I know I was hard to put up with, and a real trial to her patience, but she loved the Lord, and loved me, and showed that love by patiently teaching me, as St. Paul says, “with all patience and longsuffering with joy.”
But that we might not lose hope, he reminds us of what awaits us. In verse 12 he says he is “giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light.” Notice the confusion of time. He is giving thanks for something that is yet to come, our inheritance. And yet, it is so certain, so sure, that before it happens, he gives thanks. He gives thanks that we are those who have now been set apart, who are saints, who have been “qualified to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light.” We have in store for us an inheritance with the saints in light, which cannot be taken from us, a hope that will not disappoint.
He declares to us in verse 13 what has happened to our lives, “He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love.” Once, we were in darkness, walking according to the ignorance of our ways of thinking, our own desires, our own impulses. But he now tells us that we are no longer under the power of darkness. When Christ died on the cross, the Devil was wounded fatally. He is still thrashing around, but in the agony of death, for he and all his angels will be cast into the lake of fire and the second death. [Rev. 20:14] But he has not only delivered us from darkness, but he has “conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love.” That is, not only have we escaped from the power of darkness, but now we enjoy all of the blessings of being in the Kingdom of the Son. Some people want to be democrats (with a small “d”), that is, they want to vote on their destiny, and control it. But we have a king, who rules our lives, and who will care for us. For he is not only our king, but he is the Son of his love. His motivation is to love us, and so we do not need to worry about what may happen to us.
And all of this is proven by his actions, for we read in verse 14, “in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.” We have been bought with a price, the precious blood of Jesus. And, as the apostle says in his letter to the Romans, “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” If Christ died for us, then we are redeemed, we have forgiveness of sins. You all know of my fascination with time, but again, he doesn’t say that we will be redeemed, or that we will have our sins forgiven. He says we have—now—redemption through his blood. He says we have—now—the forgiveness of sins.
I love this passage from the word of God, for it tells us that we are no longer members of the kingdom of darkness, but now, we have life eternal in the kingdom of the Son of his love. We are saints, holy, set apart to God, to serve him, to love him, so show his love to others. And we can do this by the power and work of Jesus Christ, who loved us and gave himself for us. Amen.