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MARTIN CHEMNITZ PRESS

A MIGHTY FORTRESS LUTHERAN CHURCH

Pastor Gregory L. Jackson, Ph.D.

 

 

Sunday, November 14, 1999

 

KJV Colossians 1:9 For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; 10 That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God; 11 Strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness; 12 Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: 13 Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: 14 In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins:

 

Fruitful in Every Good Work

 

Paul wrote a number of letters from Rome. One went to the Ephesians. Another went to the congregation in Colossae, because Epaphras (the founder) asked for some help.

 

KJV Colossians 1:7 As ye also learned of Epaphras our dear fellowservant, who is for you a faithful minister of Christ;

 

The letters were sent through Tychicus.

 

KJV Colossians 4:7 All my state shall Tychicus declare unto you, who is a beloved brother, and a faithful minister and fellowservant in the Lord

 

A third went to a prominent man in Colossae, Philemon, whose slave Onesimus ran away.

 

KJV Colossians 4:9 With Onesimus, a faithful and beloved brother, who is one of you. They shall make known unto you all things which are done here.

 

A fourth letter, now lost, went to Laodicea.

 

KJV Colossians 4:16 And when this epistle is read among you, cause that it be read also in the church of the Laodiceans; and that ye likewise read the epistle from Laodicea.

 

Each letter had a different purpose and style. Paul wrote Colossians to deal with false doctrine which threatened the congregation. This letter was a preventive measure. We only know about the false doctrine by what the letter implies about it.

 

Colossians is a small letter with a big message. Anyone can sit down and read it quickly. While we may think at first, “I don’t know this letter,” we will find many familiar phrases of the Christian faith in the epistle.

 

The doctrine of Creation through Christ is taught clearly.

 

KJV Colossians 1:15 Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: 16 For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: 17 And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.

 

There is a familiar warning against philosophy and vain deceit.

 

KJV Colossians 2:8 Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. 9 For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.

 

The image of nailing the ordinances to the cross is well known. But we also have the portrayal of the Roman Triumph, a march of victory (usually just once in a lifetime) displaying the spoils of war and the captured kings in chains.

 

KJV Colossians 2:14 Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross; 15 And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it.

 

This is a well known warning and encouragement, to focus on heavenly rather than earthly matters.

 

KJV Colossians 3:2 Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.

 

The following is one of the most beautiful portrayals of the ideal Christian life, honoring the efficacy of the Word, encouraging us to teach with psalms and hymns, always glorifying Christ.

 

KJV Colossians 3:16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. 17 And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.

 

Time management experts have nothing on the apostle Paul, who encouraged us to “redeem the time,” that is, to use our 168 hours each week wisely.

 

KJV Colossians 4:5 Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time.

 

The traveling companion of Paul (see the “we” sections of Acts) is mentioned, with his famous title, the beloved physician.

 

KJV Colossians 4:14 Luke, the beloved physician, and Demas, greet you.

 

Professor Lenski describes Colossians as a polemical work, and it is, compared with Ephesians, but Colossians is filled with the comfort and glory of the Gospel. As Paul’s life reached its end, the apostle became more emphatic in his message of the victory of Christ. His impending death reminds me of the men slaughtered in Cuba by Fidel Castro. Many of them shouted “Christ is King” just before being shot. This so rattled the hardened execution squad that many could no longer do the work. Some will say, “Words have no power. Guns have power.” But how powerful is the Word which disarms an execution squad?

(Taken from the book by Valladares, a Cuban poet imprisoned and repeatedly humiliated over the years. The prisoners were forced to work in sewage. Valladares was brought into a room naked, where his mother and future wife were waiting. And so forth. He lived and wrote about his experience, ignored by liberals.)

 

This particular lesson reveals, once again, the wisdom of the Holy Spirit. The danger of the false doctrine invading the area was that the Christians would fall into a Jewish Christianity with a false emphasis upon good works.

 

As Luther said, heresies fall into three main categories, attacking the humanity of Christ, the divinity of Christ, or justification by faith. In this case, we have the familiar problem of someone feeling better based upon holding onto a superior form of Christianity, so it belongs to the “justification by faith” category. This is a common problem today. While people do not admit it when they are asked, their words betray them. They speak of Christianity in terms of where they belong and what they do. This is the essence of the Pharisee who tithes mint and holds himself above those who cannot obey as many rules as he follows or pretends to follow.

 

Therefore, the apostle address the issue of good works as “fruit.” I am amazed that so many Lutherans fail to understand this agricultural concept. The president of one Lutheran seminary wrote about the “luscious fruits of the Spirit,” as if the Word of God was talking about a food group known for sugar. The fruiting of a plant is the process of turning the flower into seed.

 

KJV Matthew 13:8 But other fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit, some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold.

 

BYZ Matthew 13:8 a;lla de. e;pesen evpi. th.n gh/n th.n kalh.n kai. evdi,dou karpo,n o] me.n e`kato,n o] de. e`xh,konta o] de. tria,konta

 

KJV John 12:24 Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.

 

KJV James 5:7 Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain.

 

(Polycarp was an early Christian leader. His name does not translate well, either as Fruity or Seedy.)

 

Before people made their income from bending metal, shipping cream, and routing packets, everyone was tied to the land, so the image of the Word as the seed and the fruit of the Spirit was quite vivid. No one thought of the fruit of the Spirit as oranges and apples, but the implanted Word yielding a crop.

 

As Luther often wrote, sound doctrine does produce good works in abundance, and this is a good thing. George Major, a Luther colleague, taught the error of good works being REQUIRED for salvation. Amsdorf, trying to refute this, went overboard, and said good works were INJURIOUS to salvation. Both positions were rebuked and repudiated by the Formula of Concord. The article on good works in an excellent section to study, because this issue is confused so often.