As I mentioned before, in Colossians 1:24-29, the apostle Paul talks about his own ministry.
In verse 24 he talks he says “I am completing what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church.” I have commented on that verse here: Sufferings for Christ’s Sake. Now he goes on to talk about his ministry in terms of servanthood.
I have sometimes encountered resistance to the idea of the “Servant Leader.” A colleague in the ministry, many years ago, was contemptuous of the idea. If you are the leader, you are in charge — that was his point of view. If you were a servant you served at the wishes of those were in authority. To him, it was a matter of who gave orders, and who served. Yet, in the New Testament, both Jesus and the apostle Paul take a very different view. Jesus said: “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. It will not be so among you; but whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave; just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:25-28 NRSV). It seems strange to me that my old colleague in ministry could not wrap his head around this principle from the teaching of Jesus. But, it is clear that the apostle Paul also subscribed to this view. To him, true leadership was also a form of servanthood. (more…)
I find passages like this some of the most interesting parts of Paul’s letters. Here we see his motives in ministry. Here we see what kept him going. Paul is often very open about his discouragements and failures, as well as his successes. In that regard, I have always found 2 Corinthians interesting as well. Here we get to see the apostle’s motivations, his discouragements, his goals.
In the verses before, he has dealt with more theological issues — though these are issues which have very serious bearing on their lives. He writes to correct misconceptions which have become prevalent in the Colossian church. He believes that ideas influence behavior — and that is why is is so often concerned to correct mistaken theological ideas. (more…)
Certainly it is that — or it should be.
But, that is not all it is. It is also a perspective that embraces all of life. Christianity is a belief about what life is all about. It is not just about what is within us — it is about what is all around us. It is a faith in the God who is the Creator of all that is. The God to whom we pray is not just our God. Our God is the God of all people — and all things.
Notice the following verses: Colossians 1:16,17: (more…)
“For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do: by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and to deal with sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, so that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” (Romans 8:3-4 NRSV.)
These are remarkable words. Lying behind them are the frustrations of the apostle Paul’s religious life. His religion had once been a religion of Law. He had sincerely sought to please God through his own righteous efforts. But, the whole effort had ended in frustration and failure. Thus, he writes: “For we know that the law is spiritual; but I am of the flesh, sold into slavery under sin. I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree that the law is good. But in fact it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do.” (Romans 7:14-19 NRSV.)
The way of religious discipline had failed him. The way of strictness did not bring freedom & hope – it brought a life of contradiction. The way of religious attainments was not satisfying. (more…)
A List of Scriptures that Teach or Imply that Christian Salvation can be Lost.
WARNING: This is a very long list of Scripture passages, along with some comments from myself and a few historic Bible commentators. Don’t expect to read this straight through in one sitting. (The imagery of salvation being “lost” is also a bit problematic. The idea here is not “lost” in the sense of inadvertently misplaced, but “lost” in the sense of forfeited.) Obviously, these Scriptures are a beginning point for the discussion of these issues. My point is how pervasive this theme really is. Quotes are given from historic commentators with differing perspectives — some Arminian, some more Calvinistic — again, the point is the pervasiveness of this theme.
The Bible warns us time and time again about the danger of falling away from the faith. The following list of Scriptures is by no means complete or exhaustive. Much of the the New Testament can be quoted against the “once-saved-always-saved” doctrine. (more…)
Yesterday I introduced this prayer from the apostle Paul and gave some some personal reflections. There was a time when I don’t think I could have talked about the ongoing stages of the Christian journey without reference to the power of the Holy Spirit. And, that would be the way I would still speak of it today. But, in Colossians Paul uses terminology that is more focused on Christ than on the Holy Spirit.
So, as I was saying, this section of the letter displays another common feature in Paul’s letters to the churches.
He generally assures the Churches to whom he writes that he is praying for them. Churches should know that their pastors and leaders are praying for them. (more…)
Prayer is at the foundation of all church renewal. We are regularly encouraged to pray. “Pray in the Spirit at all times in every prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert and always persevere in supplication for all the saints.” (Ephesians 6:18 NRSV). We are given the examples of Jesus and Paul, who made prayer and intercession priorities in their lives and ministries. Before we need new ideas and quick fix solutions, we need prayer.
Prayer is at the heart of Christian ministry and at the heart of the life of the Church. This part of the letter is very important, and it’s going to take me a while to fully discuss this.
I need to begin by pointing out something about this prayer that seems odd at first. So, first some brief introductory remarks, and then some personal reflections. (more…)
In the simple, stock opening with which this letter begins, we already gain insight into Paul’s sense of calling and vocation. We see his conception of who he is, and what he knows his task in life to be.
As he turns to the next part of his greeting — again nothing unusual here at all — he expresses his view of who the Colossian Christians are.
τοῖς ἐν Κολοσσαῖς ἁγίοις καὶ πιστοῖς ἀδελφοῖς ἐν Χριστῷ, χάρις ὑμῖν καὶ εἰρήνη ἀπὸ θεοῦ πατρὸς ἡμῶν.
“…to the saints and faithful brethren in Christ who are at Colossae: Grace to you and peace from God our Father.” (NASB).
They are: “saints (who are) in Colossae” and “faithful brothers in Christ.” (more…)
The apostle Paul’s letter to the Colossians begins in a routine and standard manner. The opening greeting and salutation mirrors what we find in his other letters, especially Philippians and Ephesians. Nevertheless, even this brief, “stock” greeting is worth consideration. It is loaded with meaning, actually. These words tell us about a lot about Paul, and a lot about his wishes for the church.
These verses are our first glimpse, in this letter, of the author and his message. (more…)
When I began my Christian life as a young man, I set myself to reading the Scriptures. No one taught me how to begin. No one gave me any advice. I don’t know whether that is good or bad, since I probably would not have taken anyone’s advice anyway.
But, there were many parts of the Bible that surprised me. There were many parts that bored and confused me. And, there were many parts that fascinated and spoke to me.
I was enthralled, for example, by the prophecies of Ezekiel. When I got to the Song of Solomon, I was surprised to find a book erotic love poetry (odd-sounding though it was) in the Bible. The voice of Jesus in the Gospels called me again and again to re-examine my life.