Today’s selected passage continues in the New Testament epistle which the apostle Paul wrote to the saints which were at Colossae. More specifically, today’s reading is found in verses twenty-one through twenty-nine of the first chapter. With this particular set of verses found within the first chapter of the epistle which Paul wrote to the saints which were at Colossae we find the chapter drawing to a close. When the first chapter of this particular epistle opens it does so with the apostle Paul greeting these saints together with Timothy who was both his son in the faith, as well a fellow-soldier and fellow-laborer in the ministry of the kingdom. The apostle opens up this epistle with a greeting and salutation similar to that which he used in each of his other epistles before beginning the message he wanted to deliver unto these saints. When you move beyond the greeting of this epistle you will find the apostle Paul transitioning to a statement and declaration of prayer and giving thanks for and on behalf of these dearly beloved saints. The apostle Paul emphatically declares and proclaims his desire for these saints—not only to give thanks for them, but also to pray for them. What marks this as truly unique is when you consider the fact that directly on the heels of this the apostle Paul writes and speaks of a certain report he was hearing concerning and regarding this church. As you read the words which the apostle Paul writes to these saints you will find that he mentions his hearing of the faith they have in the Lord Jesus, as well as their love for the saints of God. In other words, these saints were not merely concerned with the vertical relationship they had with Jesus who is the head of the church, but also the horizontal relationship which existed with and among men. These saints which were at Colossae truly lived in the reality that the first and greatest commandment was to love the Lord their God with all of their heart, with all their soul, and with all their strength. What’s more, is that these saints undoubtedly also lived in the reality of the second commandment which is just like the first—the commandment to love their neighbors as themselves.
What I absolutely love about this particular epistle is that not once, but twice within the first chapter the apostle Paul emphatically declares and proclaims unto them how he gave thanks unto God the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ and continually made mention of them in his prayers. What I so love about the words which the apostle Paul writes concerning prayer is that he first mentions it I direct connection with the report he heard of their relationship with the Lord, as well as their relationship with man. If you read the epistles which the apostle Paul wrote to the churches you will find that this wasn’t the first instance when the apostle Paul wrote of a report he heard concerning the saints of God. If you read the epistle which the apostle Paul wrote to the Ephesian saints you will find that he too heard a report concerning them—a similar report in fact to what he heard concerning the Colossians. This is actually quite a remarkable concept when you consider it, for it suggests that men and women do in fact talk about the church—not only those who are the saints of God, but also those who aren’t yet followers of Jesus Christ and servants of the Most High God. Now, while I do not believe for one minute that we do what we do in an attempt to please please men, I do strongly believe that what we do here in the earth is directly reported by those around us. Whether we would like to believe and accept it or not there are countless eyes which are set and perhaps even fastened upon the church. There are those among and those around us who are watching us as the saints of God and how we act and interact within the world. It is absolutely imperative that we recognize and understand that while we have not been called to please man, it has been declared that by our fruits we shall be known. What’s more, is that Jesus Himself declares that we shall be known by the love we have one for another. If we are being honest with ourselves and with the Lord we must accept and even admit the reality that we are and will always be known by the love we have—not only for the Lord, but also for those all around us in our communities, in our neighborhoods, in our towns, in our villages, in our cities, and the like.
When I read the words which the apostle Paul wrote to the saints which were at Colossae I find it absolutely fascinating and remarkable that he opens up this epistle with a statement and declaration of prayer and intercession for and on behalf of this church. What’s more, is that when writing to these saints the apostle Paul didn’t merely mention himself as having prayed for and interceded on behalf of these saints, but rather, he included Timothy in his statement and declaration of prayer. The apostle Paul on two separate occasions within the Iraq chapter of this epistle uses the word “we” when speaking of the prayer for the saints, this suggesting that he was not alone in his prayer for and on behalf of these saints. I absolutely love the words which the apostle Paul writes and uses in this passage of scripture, for the apostle Paul brings his audience face to face with the reality that both he and Timothy partnered together in the ministry of prayer and intercession on behalf of these saints. One of the realities I so love about the epistles which the apostle Paul wrote is that not only was he alone in his ministry for and on behalf of the saints and the churches, but the apostle Paul had fellow laborers and joint workers who all worked and partnered together to carry about the work and ministry of the kingdom of God. What’s more, is that while it was true the apostle Paul declared when writing to Timothy that he had fought the good fight of faith, he did not fight that fight alone. If you read each of the epistles which the apostle Paul wrote to the churches you will find specific mentions of those who were fellow soldiers with him in his life. In other words—although the apostle Paul would fight the good fight of faith, he would not fight that fight alone and would have those who would fight alongside him. What’s more, is that when you continue reading the writings of the apostle Paul you will find him writing concerning fellow prisoners and partners in chains, which directly speaks of those who weren’t ashamed of the Gosoel concerning Jesus Christ and would join with Paul in chains and bonds. I can’t help but be reminded of Silas who we read in the sixteenth chapter of the book of Acts who was together with Paul in a cell within the city of Philippi.
The more I read the epistles which the apostle Paul wrote unto the churches, and even the epistles the apostle Paul wrote to men such as Timothy and Titus, the more I am gripped with and gripped by the reality that the apostle Paul was never alone—regardless of whether he was fighting the good fight of faith, running the race which was set before him, cast in prison bound with chains and fetters, or even serving the Lord freely among men in the streets, in the synagogues, and the like. Speaking of this reality, we must be willing to ask ourselves whether or not we can only serve the Lord in freedom when comfort, convenience and security seem to be the norm within our lives. Are we able to serve the Lord when we find ourselves cast into prison bound with chains and shackles and fetters, or do we cave and buckle under the pressure? If there is one thing I have learned when and while reading the words which the apostle Paul wrote to the churches, it’s that he didn’t merely speak of fellow soldiers together with him in the good fight of faith, but he also wrote and spoke about fellow prisoners and partners together in chains and bonds. Even more than this, the apostle Paul writes about those who were fellow laborers and those who were partners together with him in the work of the ministry of the kingdom of God and of His Christ within the earth. Even more than this, there is something else that isn’t readily seen or mentioned within his writings, but rather is implied and suggested in the epistles which were written to the Ephesian saints, the Philippian saints, as well as the Colossians saints. What we read within these epistles are powerful statements—not only of the passionate prayer and intercession of the apostle Paul himself for and on behalf of the churches, but also of the partnership which existed between the apostle Paul and those who would stand together with and beside him in prayer and intercession for the churches. This latter ministry is perhaps the single greatest partnership and ministry which is found to be present among the churches—not only during Paul’s day, but also during ours.
When I read the words which the apostle Paul wrote to the various churches which were in Asia I am struck with the tremendous reality that he not only spoke about those who were fellow-labourers together with him in the ministry, but he also spoke about those who were fellow-soldiers, and those who were fellow-prisoners together with him. In fact, consider if you will the words which the apostle Paul wrote in the sixteenth and final chapter of the New Testament epistle which he wrote unto the saints which were at Rome: “I commend unto you Phoebe our sister, which is a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea: that ye receive her in the LORd, as becometh saints, and that ye assist her in whatsoever business she hath. Need of you: for she hath been a succourer of many, and of myself also. Free Priscilla and Aquila my helpers in Christ Jesus: who have for my life laid down their own necks: unto whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles. Likewise greet the church that is in their house. Salute my well-beloved Epaenetus, who is the first fruits of Achaia unto Christ. Greet Mary, who bestowed much labour on us. Salute Andronicus and JUnia, my kinsmen, and my fellow-prisoners, who are of note among the apostles, who were also in Christ before me. Greet Amplias my beloved in the Lord. Salute Urbane, our helper in Christ, and Stachys my beloved. Salute Apelles approved in Christ. Salute them which are of Aristobulus’ household. Salute Herodion my kinsman. Greet them that be of the household of Narcissus, which are in the Lorde. Salute Typhena and Tryophosa, who labour in the Lord. Salute the beloved PErsis, which laboured much in the Lord. Salute Rufus chosen in the Lord, and his. Mother and mind. Salute Asyncritus, Phlegon, Herman, Patrobas, Hermès, and the brethren which are with them. Salute Philologus, and Julia, Nereus, and his sister, and Olympas, and all the saints which are with them. Salute one another with an holy kiss. The churches of Christ salute you” (Romans 16:1-16).
I am convinced when reading the words which the apostle Paul wrote unto the churches that it is one thing to be fellow-labourers in the ministry concerning Jesus Christ, but it is something else altogether different to be fellow-prisoners together with the saints of God. It is easy to labour and to engage oneself in the work of the ministry of the kingdom, however, it is is something altogether different to engage ourselves in terms of chains, bonds, shackles, prisons, and the like. It is easy to engage ourselves in co-labouring and partnering together in the ministry of the kingdom of God, but it is something else altogether different to be fellow-soldiers together in the good fight of faith which we are constantly engaged in. In all reality, I am not so much as concerned with those who say they can stand by my side in ministry only, and yet are completely unwilling to stand by my side in the fight, or aren’t willing to stand beside me should chains, bonds, shackles, and prisons be my lot in life. I would dare say that it is a small thing to engage ourselves in the work of the ministry of the kingdom within the earth, and it is relatively easy to actively engage ourselves in partnership in the ministry while it is comfortable and convenient, however, it is something else altogether different to engage ourselves in afflictions, in trials, in troubles, in suffering, and the like. I can’t help but be reminded of the words which the apostle Paul wrote in the eleventh chapter of the second epistle which he wrote unto the saints which were at Corinth. Beginning with the thirteenth verse of the chapter the apostle Paul writes concerning false apostles, which are in fact deceitful workers, which transform themselves into the apostles of Christ. As the chapter progresses, however, you will find the apostle Paul transitioning to a place where he seems to suggest that true ministry is not marked by comfort and convenience, but in that which identifies and associates with Christ alone. What the apostle Paul seems to write about is that ministry isn’t always this glamorous and luxurious reality which men and women enjoy and experienced within their lives, but rather is something that will thrust us directly into the midst of afflictions, trials, troubles, suffering and the like. Consider if you will the words which the apostle Paul wrote beginning with the thirteenth verse of the eleventh chapter:
“For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works. I say again, Let no man think me a fool; if otherwise, yet as a fool receive me, that I may boast myself a little That which I speak, I speak it not after the Lord, but as it were foolishly, in this confidence of boasting. Seeing that many glory after the flesh, I will glory also. For ye suffer fools gladly, seeing ye yourselves are wise. For ye suffer, if a man bring you into bondage, if a man devour you, if a man take of you, if a man exalt himself, if a man smite you on the face. I speak as concerning reproach, as though we had been weak. Howbeit where I soever any is bold, (I speak foolishly,) I am bold also. Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labour more abundant, in strips above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeying often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and painfulness, in watching often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches” (2 Corinthians 11:13-28).
It is quite clear from the words which the apostle Paul writes in this passage of Scripture that ministry and the work of the kingdom of God was not something that was without struggle, and was without conflict and adversity. There are many who would seek to believe the lie and the deception that ministry is something that is comfortable and convenient, and that ministry can never and will never have trials, afflictions, troubles, suffering and the like. The words which the apostle Paul writes in this particular passage seem to suggest the strong and powerful reality that the work of the ministry of the kingdom of Jesus Christ within the earth carried with it tremendous opposition, affliction, trials, troubles and suffering. What I find to be so captivating when reading the words which the apostle Paul wrote in his letters and epistles to the churches is that he seemed to suggest that he was never alone—whether he be ministering among the churches, whether he be bound in chains and shackles in prison, whether he be engaged in the good fight of faith, and even whether he was engaged in the ministry of prayer and intercession. It is one thing for an individual to stand beside us when we are actively engaged in the work of the ministry of the kingdom of God in the earth, but it is something else entirely for an individual to stand beside us in the thick of the fight—when we are surrounded by enemies, and when the battle and conflict seems to be the most severe. It is one thing for individuals to stand beside us and labour together in the work of the ministry of the kingdom, but it is something else altogether to stand beside something when they are bound with chains, when they are bound with shackles, and when they are confined to a dark and cold prison cell. In all reality, I am convinced that there is a great need among the church today for the saints of God to completely and totally stand beside us in the fight, stand beside us in intercession, and even stand beside us should we face and encounter prison. We dare not believe the lie that ministry is the only reality which we need those who are willing to stand beside us here in this life. There is a great need for those who are willing to stand by our side and walk with us in the midst of the conflicts, the struggles, and the afflictions we face.
I am finding myself being incredibly challenged when reading the words which the apostle Paul wrote to be such a man who is willing to stand beside others as they engage themselves in the conflict, in the struggle and in the fight. I am finding myself being incredibly challenged—not only to desire others who are willing to stand beside me in the fight, but also be willing to stand beside others in the fight which they themselves face and experience. Did you know that it is possible that we can expect others to stand beside us when we find ourselves engaged in the fight, and when we find ourselves engaged in the conflict, and yet we are completely and utterly unwilling to stand beside them when they find themselves engaged in conflict and struggle. It is incredibly easy to expect others to stand by our side should lashes and stripes, should chains and shackles, and should prisons be our lot here on the earth, but it is something else entirely for us to be willing to stand by their side. As I sit here this morning I am confronted with the tremendous reality that I cannot, I should not, I dare not, I must not expect from others that which I am not willing to offer myself. How on earth can I expect someone to stand alongside me and engage the enemy and adversary that is before me if I am unwilling to stand beside others when they find themselves staring down the enemy and adversary. I absolutely love how the apostle Paul begins and opens up this epistle with the inclusion of Timothy in the greeting, for it suggests the tremendous relationship and bond that existed between Timothy and the apostle Paul himself. I find myself incredibly challenged by these words, and the tremendous need for partnership—not only partnership in the work of the ministry, but also partnership in the fight, partnership in the race, partnership in intercession, and partnership in chains, in bonds, in stripes and afflictions. Perhaps one of the greatest questions that must be asked among the churches we find ourselves a part of is whether or not we are truly partners together in the work of the ministry, or whether we are and can be partners in chains, partners in prayer, and partners in the struggle and fight. PARTNERS IN CHAINS! PARTNERS IN PRAYER! PARTNERS IN CONFLICT! PARTNERS IN INTERCESSION! PARTNERS IN INTERCESSION! It’s worth noting that in the eleventh chapter of the second epistle which the apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthian saints he went on to ask: “Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is offended, and I burn not?” Furthermore, the apostle Paul went on to declare that if he must needs glory, he would glory of the things which concern his infirmities. Please don’t miss or lose sight of the significance of these words which were written by the apostle Paul, for with them the apostle Paul directly links and connects himself to the saints of God. I am convinced that if we are going to say we are partners together with our fellow saints, we must be willing to be partners together with them in stripes, partners together with them in conflict, partners together with them in prayer, partners together with them in prison, and partners together with them in the fight.
As you continue reading the first chapter of the epistle which the apostle Paul wrote to the saints which were at Colossae you will find that he writes concerning the inheritance they have from the Father in Jesus Christ, and then immediately transitions to the reality of Christ and his being the image of the Father which is in heaven. In all reality, that which the apostle Paul sought to do was to bring these saints to the place where they fixed their eyes upon Christ and became absolutely captivated by His appearance. It was true that the apostle Paul spoke of Christ in direct connection to the inheritance that comes from the Father, and the redemption we have by and through His blood, but it is also true that the apostle Paul sought to bring his audience to the place where they began to look upon and fix their eyes upon Jesus Christ. I absolutely love this reality, for perhaps one of the single greatest needs within my own life is to be utterly and completely captivated by the beauty and glory of Jesus Christ. I can’t help but be reminded of the disciples Peter, James and John who were taken up into a high mountain together with Jesus. While atop that mountain these three disciples experienced something they had absolutely no intention or experiencing, nor were they even expecting it. If you begin reading with and from the first verse of the seventeenth chapter of the. New Testament gospel of Matthew you will find the account of Jesus together with these three disciples atop a high mountain. Consider if you will the words which Matthew wrote and recorded concerning this particular instance and event within the lives of these disciples:
“And after six days Jesus taketh Peter, James and John his brother, and bringeth them up into an high mountain part, and was transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light. And, behold, there appeared unto them Moses and Elias talking with Him. Then answered Peter, and said unto Jesus, Lord it is good for us to be here: if thou wilt, let us make here three tabernacles; one for thee, one for Moses, and one for Elias. While He yet spake, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased; hear ye Him. And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their face, and were sore afraid. And Jesus came and touched them, and said, Arise, and be not afraid. And when they had lifted up their eyes, they saw no man, save Jesus only. And as they came down from the mountain, Jesus charged them, saying, Tell the vision to no man, until the Son of man be risen again from the dead” (Matthew 17:1-9).
What I so love about this particular event and occurrence within the lives of these three disciples is that it would be an event which they would remember for the rest of their lives. This particular event would be one event and one experience which the themselves would lay hold of, and one they would remember even after Jesus had died on the cross, been raised from the dead, and ascended to the right hand of His Father which was in heaven. In fact, this is suggested in the text, for as they were coming down the mountain together with Jesus, He instructed them to tell no man the vision until after He had been raised from the dead. Consider the fact that these three disciples had just experienced Jesus Christ being transfigured before their very eyes, and the fact that they beheld Jesus in a measure of glory which He had with the Father before taking on the form of human flesh, and having to keep that reality within their hearts and spirits until after the resurrection. TRANSFIGURATION CAN ONLY BE SPOKEN OF AFTER RESURRECTION! It’s actually quite interesting that prior to Jesus being resurrected from the grave and raised from death to life He was first transfigured before the watching eyes of Peter, James and John. Before He would taste and experience the death of the cross, and before He would experience the resurrection of the dead, He would first be transfigured before the disciples atop the mountain where they would experience a measure and glimpse of the glory He had with the Father. The reason I mention this is because I am convinced that what we need more than anything within our lives is a radical encounter with the divine glory of Christ. The apostle Paul wrote to the saints of Colossae concerning Jesus Christ being the image of the invisible God, and that if we wish to see the Father we must first look at Christ. Even Jesus Himself declared that if we see Him we see the Father, which means that we are to actively look upon and behold Him. Perhaps the question that must be asked right now is whether or not you are actively beholding Jesus the Christ. Are you actively spending your time looking upon Him—“looking full in His wonderful face” in order that the things around you will grow strangely dim.
I am convinced that the encounter the disciples had atop the mountain was one that dramatically altered and radically transformed their lives, for once you behold Jesus Christ in His glory—even if it’s just a measure of the glory He had with the Father from the beginning—it is enough to make the things of this world seem less appealing and less attractive. Once we have been given the privilege and opportunity to behold the glory of Christ, and to actually see the Father we should for all intents and purposes be ruined to the things of this world. The question we must ask ourselves is whether or not we are ruined to the things of this world, and if we aren’t ruined to the things of the world, have we truly seen and caught a glimpse of the living Christ who was dead and is now alive forevermore? It is absolutely necessary and imperative that we recognize and acknowledge the tremendous need that we need to actively look upon and behold the face of Christ. What’s more, is that the more we look upon Jesus the clearer and the more visible He actually becomes in our eyes. In all reality, I would dare say that we don’t look at, and we don’t look upon Jesus Christ enough within our lives, and we have great need to spend our days constantly observing and gazing upon Him. Much like we would gather outside to behold a solar eclipse, or much like we would gather outside to look upon a lunar eclipse, or much like we would set out to look upon the seven wonders of the world, we must make it our life’s desire and ambition to behold Christ above anything and everything else in our lives. If we are not spending our time and days looking at beholding Christ, the question must be asked what we are spending our time and days looking at and beholding. Are you willing to so look at and so look upon Christ that the things of this world which are all around you grow strangely dim in the light of the fulness of His glory and grace?