A Scripture study from Caring, part two of four.
Part 2: Paul’s mission
In Colossians 1:24-2:5 we read about Paul’s mission in life. He states that He is a minister according to the stewardship of God. The word used for “minister” here is the same term used for “servant” as well (it’s closer to being a servant than a preacher in that sense!). Paul is serving at the instruction of the Lord.
The concept of stewardship isn’t very common in the modern age, but the idea is that someone cares for someone else’s property. They “own” it by all appearances, but it belongs to another who will hold them accountable. This is how completely committed Paul is to his mission: he sees himself as a servant of the Lord who was entrusted with something of incredible value.
- Aside from finances, what other things do we “steward” for the Lord?
- Is there a ministry that you feel God has entrusted to you? How do you care for that ministry?
In 1:28, we see Paul mention the idea of warning and teaching everyone, to present them mature in Christ. Then, in 2:2, he writes how he wants the believers to reach “full assurance” (ESV) of God’s mystery, that is, Christ! Then in 2:4, we see what Paul is really concerned about: that other teachers might lead them away from the faith.
In the next section (2:6-23), we see how Paul takes his stewardship seriously to expound on his warning and to teach the believers deeper truths about Jesus.
A reminder of the truth
In verse 8, Paul warns them about being taken captive by philosophy and empty deceit “according to the elemental spirits of the world.” This is probably not a reference to spirits in the supernatural sense, but to the basic beliefs and worldview of the world around them (see the NASB and NKJV translations for this rendering). Paul’s concern is that worldly thinking and philosophy would lure people aware from the true faith. He uses 2:9-15 to remind the Colossians of the powerful work that Christ had done in their lives.
Then, in 2:16-23, Paul instructs them based on the teaching about Christ he just wrapped up. Because of all that Jesus had done, he tells them not to get roped into religious practices that had nothing to do with their real faith. The points Paul lists out here would have targeted both Greek and Jewish theology that was incompatible with faith in Jesus. Teachers from these belief systems were trying to put more rules and regulations on the Colossians and Paul is writing to stop this error in its tracks.
1. Like for Paul’s audience, one of our key applications should be centered on staying true to the faith. His whole reason for writing was to reiterate the true Gospel and to encourage the believers in Colossae to stick with it. Consider today: what things bolster your faith? How can you develop a closer walk with Jesus?
2. Paul gets into the specifics in chapter 2 about what kinds of beliefs were pulling the believers away from Jesus’ way. His criticisms center on beliefs, rules and religious practices that had nothing to do with Jesus, but that seemed spiritual. The correction being taught here is that Jesus’ way is a way of freedom. We don’t live righteously by following a set of rules, but by the Spirit who helps us follow the pattern left behind for us.
- What kinds of things have lured (or tried to lure) you away from your faith?
- What kept you faithful to God in those times, or how did you make your way back to the truth of the Gospel?
- Within the church, are there unnecessary requirements or rules that we put onto each other?
- How can your church refocus on the essentials of the faith?
- How can your church eliminate cultural expectations that are nothing more than burdens on the faith?
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