Devotional # 151. 8/24/15. Colossians 2:1-3.
Intro. Last week we talked about sharing Jesus with others and this week we’re reminded about our growth and maturity and how that affects our ability to have unity with other Christians.
v. 1. What does Paul mean when he says, “what a great conflict I have for you“? Well, the word “conflict” has the same root word as “striving” in the verse just prior to this (1:29). “Both the Colossians and Laodiceans were among those for whom Paul struggled so hard in order to bring them to maturity” (Source 1). And is this something that Paul tries to hide from them or is he worried that they might be offended? No, for two reasons: first, the fact that he’s writing it to them shows he wants them to know, second, he starts off the verse with “I want you to know.” So Paul isn’t scared of offending them (even though, as we’re about to see, Paul never even met some of them) by calling them out on their maturity. I have a Christian friend who I’ve been needing to talk to about how he’s started saying bad words more and more. And there’s another guy I know who always says he’ll come to my church but doesn’t and has excuses. To be honest I get nervous when I feel convicted to talk to people about their maturity or commitment or desire for fellowship. But each of us needs to be willing to be used by God to love another believer back to Him. It’s not about judging someone or relishing the ability to call someone out on what they’re doing wrong. It’s about the desire to see someone grow in the faith so they can do what God intended them to do. As we mature God will give us the discretion on how to approach people. If they don’t respond well to correction then it’s probably not a good idea for you to tell them that’s what you’re trying to do! On the other hand if someone has matured a bit you might be able to skip beating around the bush and “buttering them up” and move right into a loving discussion of where they should be. Also Paul doesn’t just target one church with harsh words but instead explains lovingly that there is another church also struggling with the same thing.
v. 2. Paul addresses the people in Colossae that had never actually met him (“have not seen my face in the flesh“). He will speak to them again in verse 5 when he says “for though I am absent in the flesh, yet I am with you in spirit” which we’ll elaborate more on next week, but we should know it also applies to how we handle this. Sometimes it’s hard to trust a person or feel a connection if you’ve never met them. I imagine it’s a lot like the Romans that Paul wanted to see when he said, “if, by some means, now at last I may find a way in the will of God to come to you. For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift, so that you may be established – that is, that I may be encouraged together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me.” So Paul longed to see the individual people of the church especially because he’d never been there, he hungered to give them a “spiritual gift” and to be “encouraged together“.
Did you notice that back here in Colossians verse 2, he says the same thing again, that he wants their meeting to be “encouraging”? That’s always Paul’s goal – to encourage others in the faith. And Paul is saying, ‘just because you’ve never met me before doesn’t mean you can’t trust me.’ In fact we can trust each other because our spirit is connected to their spirit. And that’s Paul’s point: the unity of Christians. We can’t be “knit together in love” unless we know God’s love for us.
But why was it so important to Paul that these fellow believers become mature in the faith? Because they’re missing out! And so are we if we’re not willing to grow! When we only live a shell of a life we’re meant to have, it saddens God and it should sadden us, especially when we see it happening in others. We could “attain to all riches” but we settle on the sofa of salvation and never actually explore the rest of our palace!
v. 3. I moved into verse 3 here without discussing the “knowledge of the mystery” from verse 2, but that’s because the two verses go together. As we’ve talked about before when a “mystery” is mentioned in the New Testament it is something that wasn’t clear to the people living in Old Testament times but has been revealed in New Testament times. New Testament times are marked by Jesus coming to earth. Here, the “mystery of God” that has been revealed to us in New Testament times is the character of God: His love and desire for unity of all believers. We couldn’t have had “knowledge” of God unless He had revealed it and explained it to us. That’s why it is such an amazing thing to have had Jesus, who was fully God, be able to show us what God is like in Himself but also in His relationship with the Father.
Conclusion. It’s not a surprise that prior to these verses Paul was talking about a “mystery” being revealed (Col. 1:26, Devotional # 150) and he does it again here. In verse 26 Paul was talking about the mystery of how God had given salvation to all people, here he’s talking about the character and goodness of God. One reason this knowledge was given to us was for us to grow and be confident in His salvation and the His desire for us to be in unity with each other. I like how one commentator explains what we’ve read: “Many lack ‘full assurance’ about the character of God and are unconvinced that He is really good and loving. Others lack ‘full assurance’ of their salvation and wonder if their Christian life is for real. Great freedom and confidence comes when we come to this ‘full assurance’” (Source 2). And this “full assurance” (Col. 2:2) is exactly what God has waiting for us if we’ll only allow Him to work growth in us. As we’ve talked about many times, this growth isn’t always easy but it is always worth it.
Source 1: John MacArthur, The John MacArthur Study Bible, p. 1834.
Source 2: David Guzik, http://www.blueletterbible.org/Comm/guzik_david/StudyGuide_Col/Col_2.cfm?a=1109001