What’s a faithful Christian community?

Holy wisdom

Holy wisdom icon (Yaroslavl) / Russian, 17th century

Paul’s epistle to the Colossians is the only one he wrote where he hadn’t founded the church.

The church was rife with heresy, and its leader Epaphras visited Paul in prison to get some guidance. Paul addressed the epistle not to the church at Colossae, but to the saints and faithful there.

Paul’s opening prayer for the Colossian saints, and I’m sure for all Christians anywhere, was that they would “be filled with the knowledge of God’s will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding” (Colossians 1:9).

It’s easy to make decisions on the basis of “what’s in it for me?” or “do I have enough money?” It’s easy for us to collect facts and options and reason the matter out based on our own experience, wisdom and knowledge.

Holy wisdom and knowledge

But God’s wisdom is different. It’s based on his own vastly different experience and knowledge. He does not have the experience sinning and suffering the consequences.

Being filled with the knowledge of God’s will benefits people in a lot of different ways. Paul’s prayer points to one benefit: that we may live lives worthy of the Lord and please him as we grow.

It matters that Paul prays for readers to be filled with the knowledge of God so they can please him as they grow in it.

Have you noticed that everything in this world is either growing or decaying?

As we grow in the knowledge of God and grow in our ability and willingness to make decisions based on that knowledge, we will find ourselves doing more good works without much thought than we ever did deliberately before.

Growing in knowledge, growing in community

Worship serviceThe great thing is that we grow in community.

Certainly we have to do a lot of praying, a lot of meditation on Scripture, and a lot of soul searching on our own, but that can only get us so far.

We go to church, to Sunday school, and to whatever other prayer groups and Bible studies we might be a part of as much to encourage each other as anything else.

No one who has seriously tried living it has ever claimed that the Christian life is easy.

That, in fact, explains why various heresies are always so attractive to so many people.

Heresies don’t make the demands that the gospel makes. Instead, they reduce Jesus to someone more manageable or draw more attention to something else more easily controlled and manipulated.

So Paul prays that the faithful Colossians will draw strength from the power God offers. The followers of false teaching may have picked what looks like an easier way, but they forfeit whatever spiritual power they could have had.

Trouble will come to them, too. What strength will they have to deal with it?

God has already rescued us from evil. Jesus has already won the battle. God has already redeemed us and transferred us to his kingdom.

A community of redeemed citizens and sons

Christ-the-Redeemer

Christ-the-Redeemer

Think about it.

Not everyone who lived in the Roman Empire was a citizen of Rome. Anyone not born into Roman citizenship had to work hard and spend a lot of money to obtain it.

But as soon as anyone is born again in the spirit, he becomes not only a citizen of God’s kingdom, but also an adopted son in God’s family.

By the way, Biblically all Christians, male and female, are sons of God, not daughters, because under both Jewish and Roman law daughters had no inheritance.

Everything evens out, though, because when the Bible refers to the bride of Christ, it also means the whole church, male and female. Therefore, we all have one role that we can relate to naturally and one that’s a stretch.

So through Adam’s sin, all of us were born into Satan’s kingdom, enslaved to sin, and placed under a curse by the law.

That’s the bad news. That’s why Jesus came to die. In that death and resurrection, he redeemed us from the curse, forgave us our sins, and led us in triumph into the kingdom.

God transferred us into the kingdom of Christ, and in a way, that’s just like a Roman triumph. That is, a long procession with the victors in front and the vanquished in the rear.

Except that at some point in God’s triumph, after the vanquished have marched long enough, they blend in with the victors.

In the Old Testament, when the Assyrian Empire conquered a nation, it forced everyone from their homes and transferred them somewhere else.

The Samaritans came from the people the Assyrians forced from their homes to repopulate the kingdom of Israel after all of the Israelites were forced to move.

It was a way of subjugating people and letting them know that Assyria was supreme and everyone else was worms.

God’s transfer works a little differently. He conquered our hearts, vanquished our sin, and forcibly removed us from the kingdom of darkness.

But then he transferred us to his own kingdom and graciously gave us full citizenship. We are now slaves to righteousness instead of slaves to sin. God is revealed as supreme and Satan as a worm.

That’s why it’s worth being faithful and true believers in difficult circumstances, slowly and through great pain becoming filled with the knowledge of God!

(My earlier post Loving disagreement: Paul addresses heresy is based on the first four verses of the same chapter, Colossians 1.)

Photo credits

Holy wisdom icon. Public domain from Wikimedia Commons.
Worship service. Some rights reserved by pikchergirl
Christ the Redeemer. Some rights reserved by Sailor Coruscant


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