Sermon from April 28, 2019
By Rev. Chris Kostelansky


Colossians; A Church in Crisis.

Starting today and going for the next several weeks we’re going to take a look at the Apostle Paul’s letter to the
Colossians.
Let me start with a little background

Theologians agree that the letter was written by the Apostle Paul sometime between 60–62 A.D. while he was a
prisoner in Rome.

[] The City of Colos-si was one of three cities, including Hi-er-a-polis and La-o-di-ce-a that lay along the Lycus
river, which watered the lush green pastures of the L-ee-cus Valley, about 125 miles S.E. of Ephesus.

As you started up the Valley, the first city you would come to was La-o-di-ce-a, It was the center of Roman
administration for the entire district, and as a result, was a very wealthy city,

If you crossed the valley to the north side of the river you would come to the city of Hierapolis. This city a famous
resort city, treasured for its many temples and world-famous hot springs. There is a pool there to this day know
as Cleopatra's bath.  

If you continued another 10 miles up the valley you would come to the city of Colossi.
It was a much smaller city, with a total population of 25-30 thousand.

This region had large Jewish population, partly as a result of 2,000 Jewish families having been deported to the
area by Antiochus the Great around 220 b.c. Those Jewish families prospered, and as often is the case, many of
their countrymen heard of their success and came to live in the area as well. By the time Paul is writing his letter
to the Colossian church, the Jewish population in Hierapolis alone is estimated as high as 50,000 people.
Paul had never actually visited Colossi.  But during the three years he spent in Ephesus, from 54 -57 a.d, one of
Paul’s converts was a man named Ep-a-fris, who was from Colossi. Ep-a-phras is responsible for taking the
message of the Gospel back to his home town, where a church soon forms.
Pau was in Prison in Rome in 60-62 ad and it was during that time that Ep-a-phras, had come to visit Paul, and
he told him that a new teaching was making its way into the church and it was causing a crisis.
Which is what prompted Paul to write this letter.
There were really three problems the church was up against, and all three were linked to this new teaching.
Today, the new teaching is generally called “Gnosticism,” from the Gk. meaning “to know” or “having knowledge.”
The Gnostics considered themselves “in the know”— in other words, they claimed to have a superior knowledge
of spiritual things.
Now, Their doctrine was really just a strange blending of Christian beliefs, Jewish legalism, Greek philosophy,
and Eastern mysticism, all kinda balled into one big heresy.
[] Today I just want to give you a summary of the three main problems this new teaching was causing.
[] First.  Gnosticism claimed, to have special knowledge. Described as a fuller knowledge not possessed by
others outside of their group.
I have met several people over the years who talk in what I call spiritual-ease, using words that make them sound
more spiritual, and they claim to have special revelations and personal prophesies.
You can imagine how that might lead to an exclusive, intellectual, philosophical based, belief system, I won’t even
call it faith. As James would later call it, faith without works.

[] The second problem was really one of legalism.
Mostly adopted form the Jews, the Gnostic doctrine called for legalistic practices and strict discipline of the flesh,
also known as asceticism.
One of their main mantras was “Touch not, taste not, handle not!”.
They taught that certain days were holy and certain foods sinful.
So, the Gnostic system had a semblance of spirituality but really didn’t have any true spiritual value.
And the legalism aspect kept all but the most ardent believer from participating in worship.
[] And finally, there was what theologians called the preeminence of Christ.
Simply put, Gnosticism taught that all physical matter was evil, including the body; and since God was Spiritual
perfection, God could not encounter anything physical
If you think about that for a few seconds, it likely brings up a bunch of questions. Like:
If God couldn't encounter physical matter, How, was the world created?
How was Adam created? Or Eve?
The bible says God Created the earth, that He formed Adam out of the clay, and then fashioned Eve with a rib
taken from Adam’s side, it says that he breathed the Spirit of life into his nostrils.
All of that sounds like a very physical creation, doesn’t it?
So to avoid physical interaction, they claimed that God used a complex series of what they called “emanations”
and that the material world was created by 'works' of a lower god (demiurge), trapping the divine spark within the
human body.
The Gnostics said that spirits, angels, and even Jesus were/are “emanations”  or lower gods.
Of course, the problem with that is that since they believe that Christ was one of these “emanations” and
therefore was not truly the Son of God.
All of that is to explain that the Gnostic heresy denies the preeminence of Christ.
In everyday words, preeminence simply means something that surpasses or is superior to everything else.
Here in verse 18 Paul reminds the Colossians,
“And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things
he might have the preeminence.” (Colossians 1:18, KJV 1900)
The NIV translates the Greek as supremacy.
One author asked it this way, “who is number one in the Universe?
So there you have the background, perhaps more than you want to know.
But, the reason I shared all of that with you, is that throughout his letter, Paul comes back to these three main
points time after time.
And they sort of build on one another don’t they.
At this point I would like to read from Colossians 1, page 1831 bpb
And as I read, keep the three main problems in mind.
[] (special knowledge) (legalistic practices) (preeminence of Christ)
Read.. 1:1-8
Paul jumps in with both feet in his opening remarks, with an amazing yet simple reminder of what it really means
to be a Christian. This is Paul’s first attack on the Heresy that was finding its way into the church. Keep in mind,
he is not attacking the church, he is attacking the heresy.

He says, “We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have
heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all the saints—” (Colossians 1:3–4, NIV84)
W.M. Barclay said “Faith in Christ, and Love for the saints are twin pillars of the Christian life.”
These are two sides of the same coin.
As Christians our Love, must be expressed in faith in Christ and love towards one another.
Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 13:2 “If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge,
and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.”
The very thing I have been telling you for weeks now.
Love for God, Love for mankind.
We have to know what we believe, and we have to put what we believe into action.
If we don’t do both, we are guilty of the same two extremes of psudo-Christianity that the church in Colosse
faced.
[] Salvation by works and Salvation by knowledge.
Salvation by works could be compared to the legalism side of things,
Where some people teach that works are the foundation of faith and are even required for salvation.
And even if it is not preached that way from the pulpit, in many church circles, there exists the inference, the
underlying suggestion, that we are saved because of our works.
If I have heard it once I have heard it a hundred times,
Well he says he’s a Christian, but I haven’t seen him do anything to prove it.
The problem with that thinking is that The covenant of Grace is not a set of rules and regulations to be followed.
That doesn’t mean that we ignore the commandments or Christian living. But legalistic observance to the
commandments, didn’t save the Israelites, and they certainly won’t save us.
The bible is absolutely clear that works are the result of Grace, not the means of grace.
[] Romans 3:28
For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.(ESV NT Rev. Int.)
[] Galatians 2:16
nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even
we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law;
since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified.(NASB95)
[] Ephesians 2:8-9
For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result
of works, so that no one may boast.(NASB95)
[] On the opposite end of the spectrum, there are those who claim salvation through Special Knowledge of
Christ, which by nature is form of mysticism, and nothing more is needed.
Again, this is not always preached from the pulpit this way, but we see it in the lives of many believers.
There are lots of people who claim to believe, but don’t bear fruit in keeping with repentance, and instead, have
the mistaken notion that, they don’t have to do anything that reflects their faith.
John the Baptist told the Jews ““Therefore bear fruits in keeping with repentance, and do not begin to say to
yourselves, ‘We have Abraham for our father,’ for I say to you that from these stones God is able to raise up
children to Abraham.” (Luke 3:8, NASB95)
Much like the Jews in John’s day, some people claim to be a follower of Christ, but in reality they have reduced
faith to a mere mental acknowledgement of Christ.
Yet We know that James Chapter 2 says  
[] “Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.” (James 2:17, NASB95)
[] “But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless? ( James 2:20 NASB95)
[] “For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.” (James 2:26, NASB95)
[] So, there are dead works without faith, and dead faith without works.
That was the danger that the Colossian Church faced.
And I believe dead faith and dead works are the same dilemma that the body of Christ in America faces today.
But there is hope!
Verse 5 and 6 of our text says, (open Bible)
“the faith and love that spring from the hope that is stored up for you in heaven and that you have already heard
about in the word of truth, the gospel that has come to you. All over the world this gospel is bearing fruit and
growing, just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and understood God’s grace in all its
truth.” (Colossians 1:5–6, NIV84)
Hope is the heart of the Gospel.

That is why the gospel message is so important.
When you look around at the news, what’s going on in our government, or in the schools, in our community, how
many of you see the hopelessness in our world?
Yeah, me too!
There is only one answer to that hopelessness.
His name is Jesus.
Only the Gospel of Jesus Christ can give true hope!
Stand and sing this song with me…

(After the song)
“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:13,
NIV84)
Pray…