Series on Colossians, I The Mystery of Christ, B The Role of Paul, 2 The Commission, Text: 1:28, 2:2-5, Title: Growing Rich

Introduction

There is a lot of preaching nowadays that has been described as “The Prosperity Gospel.” Basically it says that every child of God ought to be rich because God blesses them. The most obvious argument against that is that there are millions of poor Christian brothers in third world countries. The teaching is divisive and we all know that the gap between the rich and the poor has been exploited by socialists and communists. This kind of thinking has even led to another heresy often called liberation theology that has been preached in poor countries encouraging revolution. All this happens because men do not understand what true riches are. True riches is not money and things. It is not material, it is spiritual. In Psalm 119:127 and 128, David declares, Because I love your commands more than gold, more than pure gold...I hate every wrong path. In Proverbs 16:16 Solomon declares, How much better to get wisdom than gold, to choose understanding rather than silver! These are the riches that Paul is teaching and preaching in the gospel as we read in I Corinthians 1:23 and 24, But we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Paul goes on to elaborate in verse 30 that because of God, we, are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. This is the wisdom that Paul imparts and it is true riches. When you go to your local bank you can withdraw money if you have previously deposited it, but God has a bank where you can withdraw wealth endlessly without depositing and the source never runs dry because the wisdom of God is unsearchable, inestimable, incalculable riches. You are in the bank now and whenever you sit under the teaching of the gospel. This passage presents that teaching as timely, treasured, and truthful.

I Timely Teaching

Notice first of all that Paul acknowledges his goal in teaching in verse 28, We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ. The perfection here is that which is imputed by Christ to His people. When all guilt has been imputed to Christ, and all pollution has been cleansed by his Spirit, the church will be perfect. Paul says in Ephesians 5:26 and 27 that Jesus goal is, To make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. Here the Apostle has the identical goal, “to present everyone perfect in Christ.” This is accomplished through the preaching of the Word of God, the preaching of Christ. “We proclaim Him” says Paul. When Paul says he is teaching “with all wisdom.” he is not making an exorbitant claim. Christ is the center of the Bible and the fulfillment of all written. He is the living Word as the Bible is the written Word of God. Augustine said, The New Testament is in the Old concealed and the Old Testament is in the New revealed. Paul’s description of the Bride of Christ in Ephesians 5 reminds us that she is cleansed “by the washing with water through the word.” The gospel is not some dinky little summary in  four points: The gospel is the wisdom of God. The gospel is the story from the Word, and that is what perfects men for heaven when they receive it, and are transformed by it. How could be more timely than to prepare men for the great assize?

II Treasured Teaching

In 2:2 and 3 Paul reminds us of the true riches, My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Odyssey Marine Exploration is in a dispute with Spain over a treasure found in the depths of the ocean worth and estimated 500 million dollars. Since the ship sailed from Peru, that country is also looking to recover something. Hidden treasure is big business. Every locality in this country has its pet legends of immense treasures buried somewhere within its limits. Jesus told a parable about hidden treasure in Matthew 13:44, The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field. Few regard wisdom and knowledge as a treasure and even fewer regard Jesus Christ as a treasure, but Paul is telling us where the true treasure is located. In effect he is giving us a treasure map and that map is the wisdom of God expressed in the Scripture as a whole. It is the mystery of God in Christ. It is the story of sin and redemption. Think of your Bible this way: the Old Testament is the preparation for Christ, the gospels are the revelation of Christ and the epistles are the explanation of Christ. This brings complete understanding, not because we ever fully understand what is being said, but because it is the key, the map, the solution to the mystery. It is the final chapter and the last page where the solution is not hidden, but revealed. Paul says it is hidden in Christ to let us know that the answer is only in Christ. Americans like “whodunits.” We have TV shows, and books and games for our amusement. The treasure hidden in Christ is not for amusement. It is, as Paul says to encourage us and unite us in love with the riches of complete understanding. This is what Paul preached. It was the heart of his message.  He preached that this Jesus is that Christ prophesied and prefigured in the Old Testament. We read in Acts 9:22, Yet Saul grew more and more powerful and baffled the Jews living in Damascus by proving that Jesus is the Christ. That means that Jesus is the treasure and Scripture is the key.

III Truthful Teaching

I have seen churches advertise that they taught the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, or its equivalent the Bible, the whole Bible and nothing but the Bible. It is rarely true. Billy Sunday once said, “So many church members know nothing about the Bible. A preacher will take a text from the Bible, and get as far from it as east is from the west. A young preacher just out of the seminary said, ‘Must I confine myself in my preaching to the Bible?’ Just like a shrimp who would say, ‘Must I confine my roaming to the Atlantic Ocean?’ Imagine a little minnow saying, ‘Must I confine myself to the Atlantic Ocean?’ ‘Must I confine myself to the Bible?’ Just as if his intellect would exhaust it in two or three sermons.” Paul taught the truth and we can see it by comparing his teaching with that of Jesus who is the truth and also comparing it with the teaching of the Old Testament law and prophets. Jesus who is the truth met disciples on on the road to Emmaus, and we read in Luke 24:25–27, He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself. This is what Paul does and he says in our text, verses 4 and 5, I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments. For though I am absent from you in body, I am present with you in spirit and delight to see how orderly you are and how firm your faith in Christ is. Later on in verse 8 he will warn them, See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ. The only protection against being deceived is the truth. Have you noticed that when you get in situations where there is an inspiring, eloquent, persuasive speaker you tend to believe what he says, then, you hear an other equally powerful and plausible argument and suddenly you have reversed your opinion. This is what Paul means by being deceived by fine-sounding arguments. This happens in the world of finance. Buy gold, don’t buy gold, buy stocks, don’t buy stocks, buy mutual funds, don’t buy mutual funds and so on. However there is only one way to truly become rich and it is in Christ. When Paul says he is present in spirit he is not referring to some mystical ghostly apparition. He is simply saying what he said to the Christians at Rome in 12:15, Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. And the Apostle, though he warns of dangers, is rejoicing in the believers at Colosse because he hears in Epaphras’ report how “orderly they are and how firm their faith in Christ is.” These are military terms, “orderly” and “firm” and they describe the determined march of an army in perfect rigid ranks. At present they are doing well and Paul encourages them to continue as they had begun, as we shall see in the next section.