November 18, 2001

Christlike Love For The Church

Preacher: Randy Smith Series: Colossians Scripture: Colossians 2:1–5


Christlike Love For The Church

Colossians 2:1-5
Sunday, November 18, 2001
Pastor Randy Smith

We're going to have a brief true/false quiz this morning. Get out your writing utensil. You may use your Bibles, but by all means, please keep your eyes on your own paper.

  1. Spiritual Gifts are come in a package and are to be used only during the holiday season (FALSE)
  2. Spiritual Gifts are given only to the Pastor and go into effect the moment he signs the contract (FALSE)
  3. Only the Pastor and the church secretary have a responsibility to do all the service of the church…because after all, that's why they're paid! (FALSE)
  4. As a Christian who seeks to be obedient to my Lord, I am aware of my spiritual gifts, recognize my calling and am currently serving the Church Body with purpose, joy and hard work through the power of the Spirit all for the glory of God. (TRUE)

By way of review from last week I'd like to pick apart question #4 as these issues have confused so many in the modern evangelical church.

1. (The question began) As a Christian who seeks to be obedient to my Lord…

Though heretics attempt to promote the lordship of Christ as an option, the Bible states that we cannot accept a partial Jesus. Jesus will not allow His nature to be divided. By calling Him our Lord, we recognize Him as our Master. In recognizing Him as our Master, we do what He says (period)! Jesus said it Himself, "And why do you call Me, 'Lord, Lord,' and do not do what I say" (Lk. 6:46)? Every Christian should eagerly and joyfully seek to honor the commands from his or her Lord. Service is one of those commands.

2. Every Christian should understand the balance between human effort and dependence in the Holy Spirit…

In Col. 1:29 Paul said, "And for this purpose also I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me." God's power leads us to service, equips us for service, motivates us for service, strengthens us for service and allows our service to have eternal significance. Service without the Holy Spirit is secular good will without any divine power or purpose. God's power must work in us for His good pleasure. However, according to the beginning of the verse, we are to cooperate with the Spirit with personal effort. The word labor (kopiao) in Col. 1:29 means working to the point of exhaustion. The word striving (agonizomai) originally referred to competing in an athletic event requiring maximum effort. It breathes forth the image of striving after a specific goal or purpose. From this word we derive our English word "agonize." Elsewhere in Colossians alone we see this: "For I want you to know how great a struggle (agon) I have on your behalf" (Col. 2:1). And in 4:12: "Epaphras, who is one of your number, a bondslave of Jesus Christ, sends you his greetings, always laboring earnestly (agonizomai) for you in his prayers." Through a yielding to God and filling with His Spirit, God accomplishes His purposes through us as we cooperate with hard work according to His power.

Number one (our responsibility to serve) and number 2 (serving by the power God provides) hopefully should not have been too difficult to understand. Number three is where most Christians struggle: discerning our specific spiritual gifts, calling and purpose. People so often say to me: "I just don't know my gifts…I don't know where to fit in." Let's begin by taking Paul for example. How did he fit in? According to our study from last week in Colossians 1, Paul's primary spiritual gifts were apostleship, evangelism and teaching. His calling was to present the gospel to the Gentiles scattered amongst the Mediterranean world. His purpose was to present every man complete in Christ.

Discerning Paul's ministry from the text is easy. However, discerning our own personal ministry can often be a different story…but it need not be. God does not intend to leave you in the fog as to the awareness of your spiritual gifts. His goal is for you to discover them and then (as a good steward) put them into practice. But still the primary question looms…how do I know where I am gifted? Allow me to give you some practical suggestions to discern your gifts:

  • Pray for wisdom.

  • Yield to God (Rom. 12:1-2).

  • Study the listings of spiritual gifts in Rom 12; 1 Cor. 12)

  • Evaluate your heart's desires (What do I like to do?)

  • Evaluate your natural abilities (What am I good at?)

  • Experiment with different gifts in a variety of ministries

  • Look for blessings from God (they are spiritual gifts!)

  • Seek confirmation from mature leaders

  • Take a spiritual gift survey (

Once your gift is determined, don't stop there! Seek through prayer where and how you are called to use it. Is it with the "Greeters?" Maybe you are called to work with the children? Possibly you will find your calling in maintaining the building?

Finally, once your gift and calling are determined, use them purposefully for the edification of the Body unto the glory of God. Giftedness-calling-and purpose are so important for each one of you as we are all called to be ministers of Jesus Christ. We saw the example of these three fleshed out in Paul's life, but let's construct a practical example a little closer to home. If you're primarily gifted in "administration," there are tremendous opportunities church wide. After prayer, you may sense a calling to work with the youth ministry. Possibly you will find your purpose in planning activities or keeping student records.

Without further elaboration, I believe this should somewhat clarify the practical aspects of spiritual giftedness. Please see me if you have any further questions. Believe me, the hardest part is simply getting started. But I guarantee that once you do, you will experience great joy and fulfillment in knowing that you are allowing the Living God to work through you to build His eternal kingdom. Can anything possibly compare…can anything be more rewarding? I really believe the greatest motivation to serve is to understand the greatness of the God we serve.

With the time that remains, I'd like to turn the corner and examine the second half of Paul's apologetic in describing the character of his ministry. If Colossians 1:24-29 dealt with the nature of his call, Colossians 2:1-5 deals with his great love for the church. Therefore, I've entitled this message " Christlike love for the church." Allow me to read this morning's text: "For I want you to know how great a struggle I have on your behalf, and for those who are at Laodicea, and for all those who have not personally seen my face, that their hearts may be encouraged, having been knit together in love, and attainingto all the wealth that comes from the full assurance of understanding, resulting in a true knowledge of God's mystery, that is, Christ Himself, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. I say this in order that no one may delude you with persuasive argument. For even though I am absent in body, nevertheless I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good discipline and the stability of your faith in Christ" (Colossians 2:1-5).

A few years ago, the Harry S. Truman Library in Independence, MO, made public 1,300 recently discovered letters that the late President wrote to his wife, Bess, over the course of a half-century. Mr. Truman had a lifelong rule of writing to his wife every day they were apart. He followed this rule whenever he was away on official business or whenever Bess left Washington to visit her beloved Independence. Scholars are examining the letters for any new light they may throw on political and diplomatic history. But from a relational aspect, is it impressive that every day while he was away, the President of the United States took time out from his dealing with the world's most powerful leaders to sit down and write a letter to his wife. What a tremendous love he had for his bride!

It goes without saying that Jesus Christ likewise has an even greater love for His bride, the church. In Ephesians 5:25, husbands are instructed to love their wives, just as Christ also loved the church. Acts 20:28 says… "He purchased (the church) with His own blood." In following his Master, the Apostle Paul likewise had a deep love for the church. After addressing the specifics and severity of his suffering, Paul concludes the account in 2 Cor.11 by remarkably saying, "Apart from suchexternal things, there is the daily pressure upon me of concern for all the churches." And in Col 2:1-5, this morning's text, we see Paul's heart for his church expressed in a most intimate way. It's a love for a particular church in some remote, insignificant town named Colossae, a church the he neither planted nor had yet to visit.

The outline in your bulletin highlights five distinctives which evidence Paul's love for the church:






The objective this morning is to see how our love for the church compares with the example left behind by the Apostle Paul, one that he learned from his and our Lord Jesus Christ.


"For I want you to know how great a struggle I have on your behalf, and for those who are at Laodicea, and for all those who have not personally seen my face" (Col. 2:1).

We have a tendency in American Evangelicalism to love certain people in the church, often marked by our friends and the lovable ones. At best, most evangelicals love "their church" but often show little concern for the universal, worldwide church of Jesus Christ, demonstrated by their minimal effort directed toward world missions. But Paul was not like this. He loved the church! He loved his local church, he loved other churches, and according to Colossians 2:1 he loved a church that he had not even seen personally.

1 John 3:18 says…"Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth." Paul's love for the Colossian church is expressed not simply in words, but also deeds. Deeds that are willing, according to verse 1, to go to the extreme of great personal struggles on behalf of an unfamiliar church.

Interestingly the Greek word for "struggle" is agon. That should sound familiar, it's the noun form of the Greek verb agonizomai mentioned in the previous verse. There the word was translated "striving," here in Col. 2:1 it is translated "struggle" in the noun form. According to Vines Dictionary of Words, "(The noun form was originally derived) from the place where the Greek assembled for the Olympic games, a place where they agonized in wrestling and footraces, where they fought to win." For the sake of the church, Paul had been agonizing, fighting for the Colossians with everything he had.

Naturally, his struggles were a by-product of preaching the gospel to an inclusive, hostile audience. We all know from past studies how his struggles benefited the church. But a logical (and very practical) question at this point would be: how did Paul specifically struggle on behalf of the church, and should we see ourselves with the same struggles if we are seeking to emulate a Christlike love for the church?

The Greek word for "struggle" (as I mentioned) is agon and it occurs only five other times in the NT. Possibly the best way to do answer our previous question is to begin by examining how the word agon is translated elsewhere in the NT. Turn to Philippians 1:29-30: "For to you it has been granted for Christ's sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, experiencing the same conflict (agon) which you saw in me, and now hear to be in me." Look at 1 Thessalonians 2:2: "…but after we had already suffered and been mistreated in Philippi, as you know, we had the boldness in our God to speak to you the gospel of God amid much opposition (agon)." Elsewhere in 1 Timothy we read "Fight (agonizomai) the good fight (agon) of faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called, and you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses" (1 Timothy 6:12). Similarily in 2 Timothy Paul said, "I have fought (agonizomai) the good fight (agon), I have finished the course, I have kept the faith…" (2 Timothy 4:7). Finally, "Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance, and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race (agon) that is set before us…" (Hebrews 12:1).

To summarize thus far: Paul saw the Christian life as a joyous untiring labor for the spread of the gospel and growth of the saints. If we were to examine his fight and struggles and conflict and race and opposition, we would discover in his epistles and in Acts that they were specifically manifested in severe opposition, unceasing prayer, dangerous journeys, concern for the churches and a demanding schedule. All of these were conducted and motivated out of a great love for the church.

I recall 2 Corinthians 1:8 which says, "For we do not want you to be unaware, brethren, of our affliction which came to us in Asia, that we were burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life …". What intense struggle! What intense love for the church! Would you be willing to struggle to that degree for an unknown church of Jesus Christ hundreds of miles away? Paul was!


Not only did he suffer, but Paul also manifested his love for the church by desiring to see them unified. Colossians 2:2 says, "that (the purpose of his struggling) their hearts may be encouraged, having been knit together in love."

Paul's concern regarding the false teaching that was plaguing the church will now become more apparent as we study chapter 2. He knew that unity through encouragement and love were key ingredients to spiritual maturity and thus the defense of error. Initially Paul expresses his desire to see the hearts of the Colossian church encouraged. The word is parakaleo (it means "to call alongside") and is often translated to summon, comfort, exhort, encourage or strengthen. Interestingly, the noun form of the word parakaleo is parakletos, the word that is translated "helper" in reference to the Holy Spirit four times in John 14-16. And just as the Holy Spirit provides comfort, strength and encouragement, Paul desires the hearts of the Colossian church to be encouraged, primarily in the area of being strengthened to resist the trickery and deception of these false teachers.

In addition to their encouragement, Paul goes through great struggles so that the church may be "knit together in love." Paul has previously spoken of the strength that Christians need (2:1) and soon (in vs. 3) he will discuss the need for healthy doctrine to fend off false teaching. But I find it interesting that sandwiched between the two (strength and healthy doctrine) is the need for love to bind them and all things together. In 3:14 of this letter he said, "And beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity." Because apart from love, the church will not only succumb to false teachers, but even worse, they will no longer function as a church. Even Jesus made it clear that love is to be the primary identifying factor of the church "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another" (John 13:34-35).

I was watching the press conference conducted early Friday morning featuring both Dana Curry and Heather Mercer, the two relief workers recently released from Afghanistan. Continually throughout the questions the two young women conveyed an amazing strength to sustain the 100+ days in captivity. How? It seemed to puzzle the press. I thought it was clear. They had a great love for each other and a great love for God. The strength of their love enabled them to persevere and give glory to God when the ordeal had concluded. From where did they get these attributes? This love? According to their comments, they held two prayer meetings a day, sang spiritual songs for an hour at a time and continually read their Bibles

Likewise, Paul's desire in verse 2 is that through the Word, our hearts can be encouraged and united in love as a body of believers. In doing so we can overcome any obstacle the world or the evil one chooses to throw our way. We must be a church that is continually uplifting our own. We must be a church that is inseparably united by deep love for each other. There are no mavericks! We are called to stand united knowing that we have great strength in numbers if love binds the numbers together.


Another key element to overcome error is truth. Light will always overcome the darkness. In order to recognize false teaching, the church must be devoted to sound doctrine. That is why this church had put such a priority on the unadulterated proclamation of the Word. Encouragement and love in and of themselves can be tossed in a variety of directions, but they are insufficient alone. Even the world justifies error and heresy and sin under the guise of encouragement and love. What makes the church different is that our encouragement and our love are grounded by the truth in a way that is edifying for the church and glorifying for our Lord.

Paul said at the end of verse 2: "and attaining to all the wealth that comes from the full assurance of understanding, resulting in a true knowledge of God's mystery, that is, Christ Himself, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge".

The verse is very similar to the concluding verse in chapter 1, beginning at verse 26:

… "that is, the mystery which has been hidden from the past ages and generations; but has now been manifested to His saints, to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory." Again, Paul in these 3_ verses, is turning to the supremacy and sufficiency of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is the revelation of God's mystery as He unites both Jew and Greek in one spiritual body and personally takes up intimate residence in the hearts of His children. We don't have time to examine every detail, but a look at the "big picture" is essential.

Our assurance of salvation, our protection from error, comes from a true understanding of the Person of Jesus Christ, and the fruit that a devoted life to Him brings. What we believe about Christ will make all the difference as to how we live. Therefore the key to victorious spiritual well-being is an increased knowledge of, focus on and dedication to Jesus Christ. How can any believer be led astray or live an unprofitable Christian life if we truly recognize that (vs. 3) "in Christ are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge?" What can possibly compare with that? Where else can we possibly turn?

Paul wants his readers (and God wants us) to realize the wealth of riches in Jesus Christ. In Him are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge that God intends His creatures to know. Hidden from the world, but an unlimited storehouse waiting to be unlocked by the follower of Jesus through faith. Therefore to search for wisdom and knowledge apart from Christ as advocated by the Colossian false teachers and currently by our world, is a useless enterprise. Everything we need to know about God and His purposes are summed up in Christ.

Alexander MacLaren concluded well: "In Christ, as a great storehouse, lie all the riches of spiritual wisdom, the massive ingots of solid gold which when coined into creeds and doctrines are the wealth of the Church. All which we can know concerning God and man, concerning sin and righteousness and duty, concerning another life, is in Him Who is the home and deep mine where truth is stored…The central fact of the universe and the perfect encyclopedia of all moral and spiritual truth is in Christ, the Incarnate Word, the Lamb slain, the ascended King."

"Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways. For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever" (Rom 11:3, 36). May we all concur with the words to a hymn: " You, O Christ, is all I want; more than all in You I find."


So Paul's love for the church enables him to struggle on their behalf, gives him a desire to see them encouraged and united in love and seeks to provide sound doctrine. Now we'll see Paul's great love for the church which aims to protect them from deception. Though he has been somewhat "beating around the bush," finally in verse four Paul for the first time gives the reason for his concerns. "I say this (all of what he has mentioned in Ch. 2) in order that no one may delude you with persuasive argument" (Col. 2:4). Anyone who loves the church eagerly seeks to protect the purity of the church from deception.

In the first century, just like today, religions and philosophies and deceptive attractions run rampant. Advocates of such error would make claims for their beliefs through the use of rhetorical devices and persuasive argument. The seductiveness of their message was so attractive, that there was severe temptation to be deceived into accepting their ways.

Often (as we know) the package can be more appealing than the contents inside.

Paul pleads with his listeners to carefully analyze all that they hear and refuse to be deluded by such seductive charms and captivating arguments. He pleads with them to be critical of the truthfulness of the message and not be carried away by the eloquence and skill of such orators. He pleads with them to overcome error by being strengthened in the truth and knit together in love, in order that they may be firmly rooted and not led away from the purity of the gospel of Jesus Christ

We all know that nothing can surpass the treasures of Jesus Christ. However, deception is real and its deceitfulness can often be subtle. Just as many striped bass right now along the Jersey coast are being led away by the trickery of a carefully devised imposter (we call them lures), Christians are likewise lured away from reality, often without warning, if they are not prepared in advance!

We must diligently follow Paul's advice because deceitful messages are bombarding us. It may be of false religion ("Who am I to say that other world religions are insufficient?"); it may be the attractions of the flesh ("My life would be so much better if I only had a new spouse."), it may be vanities of the world ("I deserve to spoil myself and be most concerned with number one."). Oh, they seem so innocent. Oh, they seem so plausible. Oh, they seem so popular. And before we realize it, we swallowed the lure: hook, line and sinker. Hundreds of these messages are bombarding us daily, promising us greater joy and happiness and peace and prosperity and fame, attempting to draw us away from the true fulfillment of these blessings in Christ. Don't follow them! Keep your eyes fixed on Christ; the Author and Perfector of your faith, realizing that in Him are the riches of God which far surpass the fleeting pleasures of sin. Don't be deceived into settling for anything less! Christ will not allow the gospel to be modified, nor will He tolerate habitual sin in the lives of His children.


Finally, the one who loves the church must have a passionate desire for its members to pursue godliness. Colossians 2:5 says, "For even though I am absent in body, nevertheless I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good discipline and the stability of your faith in Christ."

Paul's love for the church is not only for those he personally knows, nor does it end when he is physically absent. Though Paul may be absent in body, he is continually present in spirit seeking to fulfill his joy by the conduct of the church members in a way similar to John. "I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in the truth" (3 Jn. 4). In understanding the spiritual union and oneness that they shared by being united in Christ's Body, the conduct of the Colossian church had a profound impact on his emotions, hundreds of miles away, locked in a Roman prison. The individual parts of the body affect the whole. Just how it happens with the human body, it happens with the church, the Body of Christ. That's why we can mourn when two sisters are held under Afghan captivity, but rejoice when they are released. That's why we can mourn when our members choose sin over Christ, but rejoice when someone repents and chooses to give Christ first-place.

Specifically, this was Paul's heart. In the great love chapter (1 Cor. 13) he wrote "Love does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth". He loved His Savior and the church so much that he rejoiced to see the Colossian's good discipline and stability of their faith in Christ (verse 5). Their conduct brought him joy! That is a man who understands his bond with fellow believers. That is a man who has a heart after God in finding personal joy in the things in which God delights. That is a man who has his priorities in order. That is a man who clings to good and abhors what is evil. That is a man who truly loves the church and desires to see them grow in godliness.

How about you, beloved? Is it your deepest desire to see other believers here and worldwide live godly obedient lives? Do you promote a godly attitude in prayer for, encouragement of and ministry to the saints? Do you take joy in seeing a fellow believer grow in their walk with the Lord? Do you mourn over a fellow believer's sin? Does it deeply affect you emotionally knowing that both of you are united to one Body and our head, Jesus Christ, is dishonored? Do you really want to see this local church dedicated to righteousness? Are you setting an example and doing all you can to promote such a spirit?

We have much to learn from analyzing Paul's Christlike love for the church. He was prepared to willingly suffer for her sake. He promoted unity through love and encouragement. He provided sound doctrine and stood firm in the truth. He protected them from the deceitfulness of error and sin. He had a passion for personal and corporate godliness in the church. May these qualities also mark our hearts as we seek to honor, love and cherish our Lord Jesus Christ, who purchased the church at the great cost of shedding His own blood. And He too proved His love for the Church by going to any extreme.

other sermons in this series

Mar 24


For The Sake of The Name - Part Three

Preacher: Randy Smith Scripture: Colossians 4:15–18 Series: Colossians

Mar 17


For The Sake of The Name - Part Two

Preacher: Randy Smith Scripture: Colossians 4:10–14 Series: Colossians

Mar 10


For The Sake of The Name - Part One

Preacher: Randy Smith Scripture: Colossians 4:7–9 Series: Colossians