Intro: Is anyone fighting for you? We often hear that promise from others who want us to follow them or take their side. I am fighting for you, the little man. I will go to battle in your behalf. The terminology of conflict, or battle is employed to portray personal concern, empathy or involvement.
We recognize the call to fight or struggle for another’s good. Parents are constantly involved in fighting for their children. This is not a physical struggle with others (although it might come to that at times), but rather doing those things that provide what is best for them, even in the face of opposition. It means taking their side, and standing with them.
I. “Struggling for You” – The apostle Paul spent the spring of 62 AD in a Roman prison, sometimes called his “first imprisonment”. During that time he wrote letters to the churches of Ephesus, Colossae and to a fellow Christian named Philemon. What does a letter from a prisoner sound like? Especially if he is an innocent prisoner? We might expect Paul to be appealing to others for help. We might expect him to be struggling, or fighting, to secure his release.
A. Paul is certainly struggling and fighting. He references the conflict he is engaged in. But it is not what we would expect.
1. Colossians 2:1– For I want you to know what a great conflict I have for you and those in Laodicea, and for as many as have not seen my face in the flesh, The different translations of this verse give us a sense of his thoughts…
• I want you to know how much I am struggling for you and for those at Laodicea, (NIV)
• I want you to know how hard I work for you (NCV)
• I want you to know how much I have agonized for you (NLT)
B. Paul was fighting and struggling, but it was not for himself. Just a few sentences earlier, the apostle spoke of his striving. Speaking of Christ (hope of glory) he wrote… Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus. To this end I also labor, striving according to His working which works in me mightily. (Col 1:28-29) Paul’s struggle was an agonizing labor of preaching, warning and teaching the mystery, so as to perfect or make complete every person. He was fighting for others, even those Christians he had never met. (working to establish them in the “present truth” 2 Pet. 1:12)
1. Conflict(NKJV) translates agœn, from which we get our English word agony. Paul used the word in both 1:29 and 2:1. Paul had suffered agony over these Christians he had never seen. He wanted them to know this. Not to draw attention to his circumstances, or put the light on himself. But rather to let them know that he was on their side. He was fighting for them in their struggle to be faithful to God. We need to let others know this as well.
C. Paul’s conflict here was not physical, but spiritual. He was working in their behalf through the power God provided. Notice how Lenski summarizes Paul’s statement in 1:29 that he was striving according to His working which He works in me mightily… “God’s working or energy is working and energizing in his person in power. The accomplishment of this apostolic “administration” (v. 25) requires no less; he who gave Paul the task enables him to toil and strain for it in accord with the energy which he himself (God) supplies, which ever energizes and works in Paul’s person with power. Paul is only God’s instrument; he toils and strains, but not with power of his own, the power comes from God. The results are great, but all are due to this communicated power (1 Cor 15:10). In every way this publication of the blessed mystery is God’s work, the glory of it is his alone.”
1. As we can notice from what follows in the text, Paul was striving for these Christians in prayer. He prayed for their success. In that context, Paul specifically mentions that elements of their success that he included in those prayers. Read Colossians 2:1-7 – 2 For I want you to know what a great conflict I have for you and those in Laodicea, and for as many as have not seen my face in the flesh, 2 that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, and attaining to all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the knowledge of the mystery of God, both of the Father and of Christ, 3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. 4 Now this I say lest anyone should deceive you with persuasive words. 5 For though I am absent in the flesh, yet I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good order and the steadfastness of your faith in Christ. 6 As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, 7 rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving.
II. Strong in Heart: “that their hearts may be encouraged” (2:2a) The basic meaning of encouraged (parakaleo) is “to call alongside.” For what purpose? The word has a wide range of meanings. to entreat, appeal to, summon, comfort, exhort, or encourage. Most translations have encouraged here in Col. 2. Encouragement makes the heart stronger.
• Commentator William Barclay cites an example of parakaleo from classical Greek that parallels its usage here. There was a Greek regiment which had lost heart and was utterly dejected. The general sent a leader to speak to them in order to lift their spirits and bring back their courage. He prepared them inwardly for the battle that was ahead. That is what parakaleo means here. It is Paul’s prayer that the Church may be filled with that courage which can cope with any situation. (The Letters to the Philippians, Colossians, and Thessalonians)
A. The word heart generally refers biblically to the inner person, the center of life. It often equates to the mind and the accompanying emotions that flow from our capacity to think. It includes the conscience or will, and the emotional side of man. The Bible counsels to “watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life” (Prov 4:23) A person can be strong physically, yet weak in heart.
1. “For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart. The good man out of his good treasure brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of his evil treasure brings forth what is evil” (Matt 12:34-35). As we noticed last week, the condition of the heart is vitally important. Our hearts need to be pure, but they must also be strong.
2. What makes a heart strong? Eph 3:16 says, “That He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man.” The Spirit strengthens the hearts of those who yield their lives to His control. This strengthening is not physical, but spiritual, by the power of the Holy Spirit. As one submits to the words of God’s Spirit, and lives by them, he experiences strength. Paul could say, “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed”(2 Cor 4:8-9).One endures all that because he is strong in heart.
B. Although the Holy Spirit is the divine strengthener, He also uses human instruments. Jesus told Peter “Once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22:32).
• Acts 15:32 – Now Judas and Silas, themselves being prophets also, exhorted and strengthened the brethren with many words.
1. An important part of Paul’s ministry was strengthening the believers. Acts 14:21-22 – 21 And when they had preached the gospel to that city and made many disciples, they returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch, 22 strengthening the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith, and saying, “We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God.” This strengthening is not mystical or magical. It is the fruit of exposure to the word of God and consistent obedience to God’s will. As we read earlier, Paul prayed that the Ephesian Christians would be strengthened in in the inner person through the Spirit. He went onto say that Christ would dwell in their hearts through faith. Faith comes by hearing the word of God (Rom 10:17).
III. United in Love – “having been knit together in love”, (2:2b)“What the world needs now is love sweet love, / It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of, / What the world needs now is love sweet love, / No, not just for some but for everyone… Fervent love is the necessary balance to a strong mind. Christianity is not mindless enthusiasm, but neither is it lifeless intellectual orthodoxy. Paul eloquently states the centrality of love in 1 Cor 13:1-3:If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I deliver my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.
A. knit together – sumbibazo (soom-bib-ad’-zo); means to unite, or bring or drive together – to unite in association and affection. How are we joined together by love?
1. through the power of God’s love for us… Eph 2:4-7 – But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 1 John 3:1 – Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God!
2. Through the practice of our love for each other… John 13:35 – By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 17:26 – And I have declared to them Your name, and will declare it, that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them.” Our unity does not just consist of doctrinal correctness. The late Francis Schaeffer called the unity of the church “the final apologetic” to the watching world. He went on to write, In John 13 the point was that, if an individual Christian does not show love toward other true Christians, the world has a right to judge that he is not a Christian. Here [in John 17:21] Jesus is stating something else which is much more cutting, much more profound: We cannot expect the world to believe that the Father sent the Son, that Jesus’ claims are true, and that Christianity is true, unless the world sees some reality of the oneness of true Christians. Now that is frightening. Should we not feel some emotion at this point? (The Mark of the Christian, p. 15)
B. Paul calls for this practical unity later in Colossians 3:12-14– 12 Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; 13 bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. 14 But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection.
1. John gives a more practical test of love: “Whoever has the world’s goods, and beholds his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him? Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth” (1 John 3:17-18). So the strengthened heart is a heart that has learned to love.
IV. Rich in Understanding – attaining to all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the knowledge of the mystery of God, both of the Father and of Christ, (Col 2:2-3) Paul desires that the Colossians also experience all the wealth that comes from a full assurance of understanding.
A. The apostle views a full understanding of God’s mystery an invaluable possession (riches). The term “full assurance” is from a Greek term (pleeroforia) which means settled conviction or firm persuasion. What a treasure it is for God’s people to fully persuaded of what God has revealed. “I believe, yes I believe, I cannot doubt, or be deceived…”
1. This settled conviction is based upon the objective revelation of a mystery (that which could not be known apart from revelation, which has now been revealed in the gospel).
2. We cannot know what God desires apart from a study and understanding of the scriptures. Eph 3:3-5 – how that by revelation He made known to me the mystery (as I have briefly written already, 4 by which, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ), 5 which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets:
3. But Jesus is the One in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. He alone is sufficient. Because Christ is sufficient, there is no need for the writings of any cult, philosophy, or psychology to supplement the Bible. He is the source of all true spiritual knowledge.
4. Paul expresses the reason for his concern about knowing Christ in verse 4: I say this in order that no one may delude you with persuasive argument. It is possible to be deceived.
5. But although Paul is concerned, He is rejoicing… Col 2:5 – For though I am absent in the flesh, yet I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good order and the steadfastness of your faith in Christ. Paul once again tells them, I am on your side. I am with you in spirit. He rejoices in their “order” and “steadfastness”. They had not abandoned their ranks or deserted their post.
V. Walking in Christ – As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, 7 rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught (Col 2:6-7)
A. The familiar term walk refers to daily conduct. The phrase “in Him (in Christ) refers to our relationship to Christ through obedience to the gospel message. To “walk in Him” means to maintain a lifestyle that is congruent with my redemption and the revelation of the word (as you have received Him). It means to live as Jesus lived. 1 John 2:6 – 6 He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked.
1. Like a tree with deep roots in rich soil, believers have been firmly rooted in Christ. After becoming a Christian, Christ becomes the source of our spiritual nourishment, growth, and fruit. As we walk in Christ, we are now being built up in Him. How?
a. By studying the “word of His grace, which is able to build you up” (Acts 20:32) Paul says we are to strive to come to “the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ” (Eph 4:13).
b. Being firmly rooted in Christ and growing in Him results in believers being established in their faith. It is God who establishes us or makes us stable in our faith and faithfulness. 1 Peter 5:10 – 10 But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you. Romans 16:25 – 25 Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery kept secret since the world began.
VI. Abounding in Gratitude – abounding in it with thanksgiving.” The last of the four participles in verse 7, perisseuontes (abounding or overflowing), is the only one in the active voice. It is a response to the other three. I am thankful I am rooted in Christ and established in the faith. I am thankful that I have been taught.
A. Do you overflow with gratitude toward God? Could we ever say thank you enough? Believers who are rooted in Christ, being built up in Him, and established in their faith, will overflow with gratitude to God.
1. “Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name” (Heb 13:15). A grateful heart for all God has given us in Christ will further strengthen our grip on the truth and keep us from falling away.
2. Praise completes the circle in which the blessings that flow to us from God return to Him in the form of our praise and adoration. As we walk in Him, we will grow in Him and become established in the faith. As a result, we will give praise to God. God is fighting for us. If God is for us who can be against us?
Conclusion: What does God want for this church?
1. Strong in heart –ready for anything that Satan hurls at us.
2. United in love – together not just through mutual doctrine, but mutual goodwill and concern.
3. Rich in understanding – to be fully convinced and convicted by God’s word, so as to not be led astray.
4. Walking in Christ – living each day by the truth that we are convinced of. – obedient.
5. Abounding in Gratitude – never failing to express through worship our thanksgiving to God.