One of the things that Paul asked the Colossians to pray for on his behalf was “that God would open to us a door for the word.”
A door can be an impediment to progress. That’s why most of us lock the door to our houses when we leave home. We don’t want someone to go through our door and have free access to our possessions.
But an open door is another matter. An open door invites one to enter. A door for the gospel represents an opportunity to share the message of salvation with others.
In 1 Corinthians 16:9, Paul says that a great and effective door for the gospel had been opened. When a door opens, Satan will make certain that there are many adversaries who will oppose the gospel.
In Revelation 3:8, the Lord had opened a door for the small, but strong church in Philadelphia. When He opens a door, no one can shut it (verse7), but many times as Christians we are fearful to work through those open doors.
We should use all such opportunities wisely (Colossians 4:5).
As Paul writes his final farewell to the Colossians (verses 7-18), he also sends greetings to the disciples from others who were with him.
Tychicus was a messenger to both Ephesus (Ephesians 6:21-22) and Colosse, who would share information about Paul.
Onesimus will accompany Tychicus to Colosse and will be a prominent character in the book of Philemon.
Many Bible students believe that Archippus was the local preacher for the Colossian church.
Epaphras was a member of the church at Colosse and labored fervently for the church in prayer. It is important for a church to have people pray for them.
Notice, from verse 16, that this letter was to be read not only in Colosse, but to the church at Laodicea, as well. In turn, a letter to Laodicea was to be read to the Colossians. Before the completion of the New Testament, epistles like this one were to be shared with other Christians.
Man is a dual being, one part physical body and the other part, the spirit or soul.
Those two aspects of man are often at odds with each other. This is the eternal struggle of the spirit against the flesh (Galatians 5:16-17; Matthew 26:41).
The “things which are above” are the things of God, as He has revealed them to mankind in His word, the Bible.
The “things on the earth” fall into two distinct categories, both of which we must be constantly aware.
The first category would be sinful things. There are many lists of these ungodly actions and attitudes in the New Testament (verses 5-9). The second area would be those things that are not sinful, in and of themselves, but which can occupy so much of our time that we fail to serve the Lord.
As a Christian grows spiritually, he focuses on “those things which are above” and is not caught up in the world and its temptations.
The Christian, who is walking in the light of God’s truth, develops many qualities, discussed here in verses 12-17, which are commendable both to God and in the sight of all men.
He is tender, kind, humble, patient and forgiving. He also grows in his love for his fellow sojourners and pilgrims.
A disciple will develop and mature to be like his teacher (Luke 6:40).
The best thing about being a faithful Christian is that we will get to live in heaven with the Lord forever. But another benefit of obeying God’s will is that this makes life on the earth better. That is especially true about our relationships in this life. Paul discusses some of these in 3:18-4:1.
He speaks of wives (verse 18), husbands (verse 19), children (verse 20), fathers (verse 21), bondservants (verse 22) and masters (4:1).
God desires that all Christians grow spiritually. We begin as babes in Christ (1 Peter 2:1-2; 2 Corinthians 5:17) and over time, we are to grown to “perfection” (Hebrews 5:12-6:3; Colossians 1:28).
Paul refers to this spiritual completeness or maturity with several phrases – good order, the steadfastness of your faith, rooted and built up in Him, established in the faith, abounding in it with thanksgiving (verses 1-10).
He did not want them to be deceived “with persuasive words” by false teachers, such as the Gnostics or others (verse 4).
The solution to spiritual immaturity and the path to growth is “Christ Jesus the Lord” (verses 6-7). “You are complete in Him” (verse 10). Christ is what we need. And He is all we need. He is our Savior and will supply all of our needs (Philippians 4:19). No one can come to God, except through Jesus Christ (John 14:6).
Verses 11-23 discuss the struggle between human and divine wisdom.
For some reason, human beings have historically had a tendency to want to change what God has revealed to suit themselves.
God has often found it necessary to remind people that they are not allowed to add to or take away from His word (see, for example, Deuteronomy 4:2 and Revelation 22:18-19).
The prophet Jeremiah reminds God’s people of his day in Jeremiah 10:23, “O LORD, I know the way of man is not in himself; It is not in man who walks to direct his own steps.”
The Pharisees were often warned by Christ Himself that they must be content with God’s will and not to exchange it for “the doctrines and commandments of men” (Matthew 15:8-9). To do so would make their worship “vain” or worthless.
They were never condemned for strictly obeying God’s revelation (as many claim today), but for adding their own human regulations and elevating those man-made rules to the status of divine revelation (or even considering their rules and traditions more important than God’s ways).
Let us learn to “speak as the oracles of God,” nothing more, nothing less and nothing else.
Colossians begins with Paul’s typical greeting to churches. He identifies himself, tells who is with him, tells to whom he is writing and then pronounces God’s grace and peace upon his readers.
Verses 3-8 contain a prayer of thanksgiving. Paul was grateful for the disciples of Christ to whom he was sending this inspired letter. Again, this is typical of his epistles. Not in all of his letters, but in most of them, he lets them know that he has been praying for them and why.
Paul was grateful that the gospel was bearing fruit everywhere around the world. He was especially thankful, as he expresses here, that the people of Colosse were being brought to Christ by the preaching of the gospel.
In verses 9-18, Paul deals with the preeminence of Christ. Jesus is the Head of the church (verse 18). This is true for many reasons.
He has all authority in heaven and on earth (Matthew 28:18) and said He would build His church (Matthew 16:18). Christ adds those who are being saved to the church (Acts 2:47) and purchased the church with His own blood (Acts 20:28). The church is His body (Colossians 1:18),
Reconciliation (verses 19-23) is one of the many word pictures of salvation used in the New Testament.
Reconciliation refers to the process of restoring a broken friendship between two people. In the spiritual realm, of course, reconciliation refers to a reuniting between sinful man and a perfect God. Separated from a holy God because of our sins (Isaiah 59:1-2; Romans 3:23), the Lord made it possible for us to be brought back into fellowship with Him. This reconciliation was accomplished through the death of His Son on the cross.
As disciples of Christ, our responsibility is to take the gospel of reconciliation to a lost world (2 Corinthians 5:14-21). The first century Christians took the gospel to the entire known world of their day (Colossians 1:23).
The goal of all spiritual activity should be to develop “Christ in you,” that is, in every Christian (verses 24-29). Let us work toward the goal, then, of helping each member of the Lord’s church to be more like the Master in all things.
Lord willing, on July 1, the New Testament chapter summaries will be back. For the first 12 days of the month of July, look for chapter reviews of Colossians, along with 1 and 2 Thessalonians. We hope they will be helpful and encouraging for you. Hope to see you then.
The Parable of the Unjust Steward, in Luke 16:1-13, is widely regarded as the most difficult of the parables of Christ. But in spite of the challenges in interpreting this parable, there are important principles found here that teach valuable lessons.
The main character in the story is the steward himself. A steward is a manager or overseer of another person’s property. The master is the actual owner. Verse 1 says that the steward was accused by others of dishonesty. In the parable, the owner believed the accusations and fired the steward. Jesus did describe him as “the unjust steward” (verse 8), so apparently the charges were true.
There were two debtors. When the steward realized he was losing his job, he forgave both of a portion of their debt, one by 50% and one by 20%.
The other primary character is the master, called “a certain rich man” (verse 1).
There are several things we are not supposed to learn from this parable.
It is not recommending dishonesty. The master commended the steward for acting shrewdly (or wisely, KJV). But he did not reward him by giving him his job back. The Bible never condones dishonesty.
The parable also does not suggest that we bribe people to get them to do what we want.
And it does not tell us that if we are good managers of our money that this will secure us a home in heaven.
What it does teach us is that being wise (or shrewd) is always more beneficial to us than being dishonest.
The word translated as “shrewdly” (Greek – PHRONIMOS) means prudently, sensibly or practically wise. It is the same word used to describe the man who builds his house on the rock and the five virgins who made the appropriate preparation for the wedding.
And Jesus makes the point that sometimes “the sons of light” can learn some lessons from “the sons of this world” (verse 8). Non-Christians often behave more prudently and sensibly than some disciples of Jesus.
Christ wants us to be faithful in all areas of our lives (verses 10-11). If we are going to be loyal to the Lord, we must be side, faithful and dependable in all things. The Savior does not say it is hard to serve God and mammon (money). He said it “cannot” be done.
As we study Luke 14:1-14, it is important to remember that two groups of people in the New Testament watched Jesus closely. One group was searching for truth and thought that He might be the promised Messiah of Old Testament history. The other group was searching for something to use against Him to justify their decision to reject Him as the Messiah (or Christ).
One group allowed the miracles of Jesus, such as healing the man with dropsy, to convince them that Jesus was truly a man from God. The other group became outraged because He healed the man on the Sabbath.
Today, some people read the New Testament and become convinced that Jesus is the Savior, while others read the same accounts and turn away from Him. 1 Corinthians 2:14-15 describe these two types of hearts as “the natural man” and “he who is spiritual.” It has been said that the same sun that hardens bricks (a hard heart) also melts butter (a soft and tender heart).
When Jesus pointed out the inconsistency of the lawyers and the Pharisees, they had nothing further to say (verses 3-6).
The Savior told this parable in response to those who “chose the best places,” apparently the seats closest to the most powerful and influential people. There have always been, and always will be, those who want to be close to the rich and powerful, not because of true friendship, but because of the advantages those people can offer.
It might be helpful to note that the invitation Jesus accepted to eat with this Pharisee was not for a wedding feast, which would not likely have been held on the Sabbath, but that is the setting for the parable He told.
Christ told His hearers not to sit in the places of prominence, when invited to a formal occasion. He described a situation where someone takes the best seat and then is replaced by the host for “one more honorable than you.” His advice was to take the lowest place and then when the host asks you to move to a higher position, “you will have glory in the presence of those who sit at the table with you.”
Then Jesus gave some specific instructions to his host, one of the rulers of the Pharisees. He told him not to invite people to a meal who could repay him by inviting him in return to their homes. Christ’s encouragement was for people to invite the disadvantaged. He specifies “the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind.”
The Lord is reminding all of us that we need to care for those who have a difficult time in life. Many don’t even have the basic necessities for survival. Helping others is more important than helping ourselves by including only those who can repay us.
The parable of the two debtors takes place in the midst of a social interaction between Christ and a Pharisee named Simon (Luke 7:36-50). Jesus was invited into Simon’s home for a meal. It is noteworthy that the Lord often accepted offers of hospitality from others (like Matthew in Matthew 9:9-13).
While at Simon’s house, a woman from the city came into the gathering (their homes were open and most did not have doors back then) and began to wash the Savior’s feet with her tears, wiped them with her hair and then kissed his feet and anointed them with fragrant oil.
Apparently, this woman was well known in the community as “a sinner,” Simon was surprised that Jesus, a prophet, did not realize the woman’s sinful condition and allowed her to touch Him. Jesus knew Simon’s thoughts and took advantage of the opportunity to teach an important spiritual truth.
The parable deals with two men who owed the same creditor. One owed 500 denarii and the other owed 50. A denarius was an average day’s wage, so one man owed about a year and a half of wages, while the other owed about two months of salary. Both were in his debt for a substantial amount of money.
When they were unable to pay, the creditor simply forgave both men for the full amount. This is, of course, a picture of God forgiving us for our sins because we are unable to work them off our record. No amount of human effort will ever be enough to forgive even one sin.
Jesus asks, “Which of them will love him more?” The Pharisee correctly answers, “I suppose the one whom he forgave more.”
And then, Christ makes the application of the parable by contrasting what the woman had done for Him and what Simon should have done but did not. He speaks of a person whose many sins are forgiven as one who loves much. But one who has few sins is inclined to love little.
Simon didn’t see himself as a sinner. It is always easy to see the sins of others, but it is often much harder to recognize and admit our own sins and weaknesses. A person who is acutely aware of his wickedness is much more appreciative of the Lord’s forgiveness than a self-righteous person who may not even realize how God sees him.
This sinful woman was penitent (that’s why she was crying) and understood that Jesus has the power to cleanse her and make her righteous (verse 48). We must see ourselves as sinners in need of forgiveness in order to truly appreciate God’s free gift of salvation (Romans 6:23).
This parable is recorded in Luke 14:15-34. It follows a parable about humility and the importance of not exalting ourselves (verses 7-13). We will study the humility parable in a later post.
The parable of the great supper was told in response to a man who was dining with Jesus and who heard the Master discuss the need for humility. This man stated, “Blessed is he who shall eat bread in the kingdom of God!”
Jesus tells the story of a man who gave a great feast and invited many people to attend. But most of the people who were invited, rather than to appreciate the great honor of being a guest of this man, began to make excuses for why they would not attend the banquet.
The primary teaching of the parable had to do with the Jews’ rejection of Jesus as Messiah. Although given the first opportunity to obey the Lord under the new covenant, the Bible tells us that “He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him” (John 1:11). The gospel is said to be the power of God for salvation, “to the Jew first” (Romans 1:16).
There is an important application of this parable to all people, however, and not just to disobedient Jews. The Savior has invited everyone to His great banquet. “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).
There is not a person who is cannot be saved by God’s grace. As we often sing, “The gospel is for all.” The death of Jesus on the cross made salvation possible for all men (Hebrews 5:8-9). We would do well to remember that God’s desire to for “all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4). He does not want any soul to perish (2 Peter 3:9).
But, of course, both in the first century and now, many souls continue to rebel against God. When given the opportunity to obey God and be saved, many people refuse to serve Him. They do not appreciate the great supper He has provided for all of the obedient, which is an analogy for heaven itself.
So many make excuses, like the third men illustrated in the parable. The excuses Jesus mentions here are not good solid reasons for disobedience (there are no such things as good reasons to reject God). But one excuse is as good (or as bad) as another.
Some non-Christians make excuses for not obeying the gospel. Some who have been baptized into Christ make excuses for not being faithful to their Lord. Some Christians make excuses for not using their talents and taking advantage of opportunities to serve God in a devoted and committed way.
This parable shows us that excuses are not acceptable to God. Period.
There are only four parables in the gospel of Mark. The sower, the mustard seed and the wicked vinedressers are also contained in the other gospels. The parable of the growing seed is found only in Mark 4:26-29.
Several of Christ’s parables dealt with seeds.
The sower teaches us that there are different kinds of hearts into which the seed of the kingdom can be sown.
The parable of the tares helps us to see that not all that happens is the Lord’s will. Satan has an influence on the affairs of man.
The mustard seed deals with the power of the gospel to influence people to grow and develop and that the church may start small, but it will grow into a powerful spiritual kingdom.
The bottom line of this parable is that we simply do not know how the gospel works. In the time of Christ, they didn’t really know how a seed worked. Centuries later, we have made much progress in the field of agriculture. We understand the benefits of rotating crops, of fertilizing, of producing more crops on less land, of killing weeds, but we have made little or no progress in learning how a seed can grow and produce a crop.
And we don’t really know how the Bible works. It is described as “the power of God to salvation” (Romans 1:16) and we have all seen it produces change and bring about spiritual grown and development in people, but we just don’t understand how it does that. It produces a new creature (2 Corinthians 5:17). It makes a person a better father, mother, husband, wife, citizen, worker, student, etc. Unlike Shakespeare or other great works of literature, it makes people better and prepares them for eternal life.
We are taught to plant and water the seed, but it is still God who must give the increase and make the plant grow (1 Corinthians 3:6-9).
A seed must be put into the ground and, in the same way, we must receive the word into our hearts (James 1:21). By our obedience to this seed of the gospel, we are born again (1 Peter 1:23-25).
So, it is our responsibility in God’s plan to be the ones who plant the seed into the hearts of men and women. We must “preach the word” (2 Timothy 4:2) or teach it one on one to people who are separated from the Lord. And when we do that, God has promised us that the harvest will come.