Read Col. 1:1-8. Do you feel a connection with these Christians? In a very real sense, we should. The original recipients of this letter share something with us, even though we are separated by two millennium and many generations. We are Christians, and so were they.
The apostle addresses this letter to “the saints and faithful brethren in Christ”.
- They were saints because they had been sanctified, or separated from the world around them, and called to serve Christ, not themselves. In relationship to the unsaved world, they were saints.
- They were brethren because they were now in the family of God, and shared a common Father, and Lord. In relationship to each other, they were brethren.
- And in their relationship to God, they were “in Christ”.
- As Christians, we are also saints, brethren, and we are “in Christ”.
- But also like us, these Christians were not always this way. As Paul mentions in this letter, there was a time when they were “alienated”(1:25) from God, and “dead” in their trespasses and sins (2:13). Christ had made a difference. So too, with us.
Colossians 2:6 – “As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him,” The letter encourages these Christians to live in accordance with their current position in Christ, as saints, and brethren – As they “have received Christ”
I. How did the Colossians receive Christ? How does one receive Christ today? Have you received Christ? If so, did you receive Him in the same manner as the Colossians? Although this letter does not give us the specific account of their conversion, it does provide some insight into how they received Christ.
II. Heard the Gospel Message: Paul accounts that the gospel of Christ had come to Colossae, even as it had gone into all the world. Col. 1:6-7 – 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..”
A. Paul’s words remind us of the specific commission that Jesus gave to His apostles in Mark 16:15-16 – 15 And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. 16 He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. In Matthew’s account, Jesus commanded them to make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, (Matt 28:19) This same apostolic message (gospel) was preached in Colossae.
B. They had learned from Epaphras, (v. 7) Most believe that Epaphras, who was from Colossae, heard the gospel from Paul during the apostle’s three stay at Ephesus and later came home to preach to his friends and neighbors. He thus became a “minister of the gospel” to them. The word translated “learned” in v.7 is the Greek word for “disciple”. They had been “discipled” by Epaphras.
1. What did he tell them? He told them the good news about Jesus – His miraculous birth, miracles, sacrificial death, and glorious resurrection. He called upon them to believe that Jesus had solved the problem of sin, and was interceding for them at the right hand of God in heaven. Paul commended their faith (1:4), and faith comes by hearing the word of God (Rom. 10:17) Notice some other elements of this message.
- What they heard was the “word of truth” (Col 1:5 – which you heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel,) It was not a perversion of the original message, or the words of men themselves. It was the truth of God. It could be trusted and it was only this teaching that would make true disciples. The creeds and doctrines of men cannot make Christians. Jesus condemned the efforts of the Pharisees saying, “…in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’” (Matt 15:9) Jesus also said it was the truth that would make us free (John 8:32), and that the word of God was truth (John 17:17).
- This gospel message was the seed that was bringing forth fruit. Col 1:6 – 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; Paul’s encouragement was for them to hold to this truthful and original message, as it was the only source of true blessing and growth.
II. Believed: The apostolic message was received in faith. The seed falls on different soil. Not all soil will receive the seed, or believe the word. Without faith it is impossible to please God.
A. But faith as here considered is not just intellectual agreement with the “facts” of the message. It is saving faith, and involves a personal trust in Christ. The gospel calls us to not only believe Jesus (what He says) but to also believe IN Jesus (trust Him through obedience). In fact, the faith of these Colossians is evidenced in their obedience.
III. Repented: At one time these Gentiles at Colossae were aliens to God (Colossians 1:21 – 21 And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled). Paul’s description implies that their past “wicked works” had separated them from God. The fact they this was the way they were “once” implies that they had changed this behavior, or repented of their sins, and were now reconciled to God.
A. Colossians 3:5-7 – 5 Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. 6 Because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience, 7 in which you yourselves once walked when you lived in them. Paul catalogues some of the sins they had once walked in and lived in (“fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry.”) But they had put these things off, and put on the new man who was being renewed in the knowledge of Christ.
IV. Baptized: The Colossians had heard the gospel message, and exhibited their faith in Christ through repenting of their sins. What else was involved in “receiving Christ”? They had been baptized.
A. Colossians 2:11-13 – “11 In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, 12 buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. 13 And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses” What do these passages teach us about baptism and its relationship to salvation?
1. As in circumcision there is a removal of the flesh, so when one becomes a Christian there is a removal of the body of sin. (vs. 11 – putting off the body of the sins of the flesh). This is a circumcision not made with hands, or spiritual circumcision. Paul calls this the circumcision of Christ, or the circumcision that belongs to Christ, and not the O.T. covenant, and accomplished by Him.
2. Paul clearly indicates that this circumcision, or spiritual removal of the body of sin, takes place when one is baptized, or buried with Christ. We are both buried and raised with Christ in baptism. This is similar to Romans 6, where Paul connects the physical burial and resurrection of Christ with our burial and resurrection in the act of baptism. Romans 6:4-6 – 4 Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, 6 knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. This is one of the clearest indicators in scripture that our baptism is point in time when we are forgiven of sins. It is the point of our spiritual resurrection and the occasion of the spiritual removal of the body of sin (spiritual circumcision). The Pulpit Commentary states… “The occasion of this new birth in the Colossians was their baptism” (from The Pulpit Commentary, Electronic Database. Copyright (c) 2001 by Biblesoft)
3. Verses 12-13 helps us understand the true nature of water baptism in the forgiveness of sins.
- The words “having been buried” (NIV) is an aorist participle, indicating that the act of baptism precedes or is at least simultaneous with the spiritual circumcision.
- Baptism is clearly an act of faith. The term “in which” clearly points back to baptism as its subject. Therefore it is in baptism that we are raised with Christ through faith. It is not a contradiction to say (as the Bible does) that we are saved by grace through faith (Eph. 2:10), and baptism saves us (1 Pet. 3:21).
- It is in fact, the blood of Jesus that cleanses us, not the water of baptism. But baptism is the point at which the blood of Jesus is applied to our sins and the body if sin is removed. Before baptism we are dead in our sins, and after we are alive in Christ.
- The work of baptism is not ours, but God’s. Paul says that the faith expressed is “faith in the working of God”. Pulpit Commentary explains that the one who comes to be baptized “declares the faith of his heart in that supreme act of God, which attests and makes sure all that he has bestowed upon us in his Son” (from The Pulpit Commentary, Electronic Database. Copyright (c) 2001 by Biblesoft)
V. “Continue in the Faith”: “Receiving Christ” for the Colossians involved hearing the true message, believing in Christ, repenting of their sins, and being baptized for the remission of their sins. The old man was dead; the new man was alive “in Christ.”
A. In response to their forgiveness, the apostle commanded these Christians to “continue in the faith” Col 1:21-23 – And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled 22 in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight — 23 if indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard, which was preached to every creature under heaven, of which I, Paul, became a minister.
1. The clear message of this epistle is a call to a changed life – a life “worthy of the Lord, and pleasing Him in every way” (1:10).
2. See again Col 2:6-7 – So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, 7 rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. (NIV) We must continue to live in Him.
Conclusion: receiving Christ does not denote saying a “sinner’s prayer” or just intellectually believing in Jesus as many teach today. These passages in Colossians agree with every other verse in the N.T. concerning how a person becomes a Christian.
- You must hear the true message of the Gospel. Look carefully at what the Bible teaches. Do not take someone’s word for it. “Test the spirits”. Only the truth will make you free.
- You must believe both about Jesus (the gospel story) and in Jesus (put your trust in Him for your salvation). Faith demands confession. The Ethiopian confessed Christ in the process of being reconciled to God. “With the mouth confession is made unto salvation”. (Rom. 10:10)
- You must be repent of your sins. The true gospel message indicts every responsible person as a sinner before God. Jesus said unless you repent you will perish (Luke 13:3).
- You must be baptized in water for the forgiveness of sins. It is an essential part of receiving Christ. It is the point of time when your sins are forgiven through the blood of Jesus.
If you have done this you must continue to live in Christ, continuing in the faith?
Have you received Christ as the Colossians did? Can we hel