Cornerstone EPC Sunday morning
Franklin, NC 28734 June 17, 2018
“Causes for Joyful Thanks”
I have been saying, for several weeks, that—despite rich teaching in the opening verses of Colossians—we have not arrived at the heart of the matter. That changes today, for these verses begin an extended, rich instruction on Jesus’ Person and work (to 1:20, at least). Let us hear God’s Word—to our souls’ delight and benefit—as we come the start of the heart of the matter.
(HERE READ THE TEXT)
The twenty-sixth edition of the Nestle-Aland text of the Greek New Testament (known in New Testament scholarship as NA26) treats the last two words of Colossians 1:11, all the way to Colossians 1:20, as a paragraph that consists of one very long sentence. We see, in this paragraph of a very long sentence, both Who Jesus is (1:15-20) and what happens in us because of Him (1:12-14). We see also cause for joy and thanks in these words. May they engender joy in us and elicit thanks from us today.
Before we begin our exposition of today’s text, let’s treat an antecedent question, namely, “Why does this teaching occur at this point in this letter?” Perhaps the Spirit leads Paul to perceive that the Colossians need instruction about the Person and work of Jesus—lest they fall easy prey to heretical teaching—and perhaps the Spirit leads Paul to write about it early in the letter. Or maybe there is no misunderstanding of the nature of Jesus’ Person and work, but perhaps the Spirit leads Paul to write these words by way of friendly reminder and confirmation of their faith in Jesus. In any case, we, who stand two millennia removed from A. D. 60-62, gain blessing from these Spirit-led words—either by way of initial instruction or by way or ongoing reminder and benchmark. Let us now proceed to see what happens in us, through faith in Christ, because of His atoning work.
First, God qualifies us to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. This happens forensically at justification. God, because of Christ, declared us—legally, judicially—not guilty before Him. Therefore, the imputation of Jesus’ righteousness to us, and the imputation of our sin to Him for atonement, qualifies us for our eternal inheritance. Our inheritance, together with our fellow Christians in the light, consists of several things: eternal, abundant life; deliverance from sin (of which we expect to hear more later); full, unsullied fellowship with our triune God; and the blessings both of Heaven, the intermediate state, and of the new heavens and the new earth, the final state. This is a glorious inheritance—of which we enjoy the tiniest portion, the earnest, just now. Again, if the earnest of our inheritance be this wonderful and glorious, how much more must the fullness of it be?
Second, God delivers us from the domain of darkness (literally rescued, Greek hruomai [ruomai]). God, in Christ, by the Spirit’s secret work, rescues us from the authority, or domain (Greek exousia [exousia]), or darkness. Let’s look at this truth from a before-and-after view. Before we trusted Christ, we were under the domain of darkness. We could not fulfill God’s moral law perfectly, and we could not restrain ourselves at times from sinning. In fact, we preferred at times overt darkness to the light of God’s presence (John 3:19). Hence, we lived in mortal danger of eternal punishment in hell, eternally separated from God, as the just penalty for our sin. Now, since trusting Christ, we are in mortal danger no more. The Lord Jesus Christ, inasmuch as we trust upon Him as Savior and Lord, has borne our penalty in our places. We are reconciled to God in Christ. Again, we no longer stand in the mortal danger so vividly depicted earlier.
Third, God transfers us to the Kingdom of his Son. That is, we pass from Satan’s malevolent rule to God’s benevolent rule by passing from death to life (John 5:24, 1 John 3:14). I cannot tell you fully how much the evil one hates our souls. Nor can I tell you fully how much, with utterly sick desire, he seeks to work us woe and to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. On the other hand, I cannot tell you fully how much the Lord loves you with an everlasting love. Nor can I tell you fully how purely and infinitely God desires your highest and best in His Son. Which of these shall prevail?
The Lord, and His purpose—especially His purpose toward you—prevails. Remember that the evil one, though mighty, yet is finite. His malevolence, and his malevolent ability, has limits. God is infinite. Hence, His benevolence is greater than the evil one’s malevolence. More than this, the evil one himself is a degenerate creation of God—and God degenerated him not, but he degenerated himself. God is both eternal and uncreated—and, thus, greater than the evil one. Furthermore, God, in Christ, at the Cross and at Joseph of Arimathea’s borrowed tomb, defeated his ancient foe for all time. Don’t gloss over this glorious transfer too quickly, for it involves transfer from great woe to infinite, inexpressible blessing in Jesus, our Lord.
I find that, at certain times in my walk with Christ, that I do not ponder His fundamental truth sufficiently long or deeply. I wonder if the same must be said for any, or for all, of us. No matter if we be thus afflicted or not, let us ponder deeply what we heard today. We have an inheritance on high, and we enjoy the sweet earnest now. We no longer live under the dominion of sin. We are subjects and sons (and daughters) of the Heavenly King. Let us ponder these, and like fundamental truths, at increasing length and with increasing depth as the days pass.
Moreover, let this deep thought on what we heard today give us quiet confidence with great joy. Let us have this confident joy before God Himself, Who receives us joyfully in His Son and condemns us not. Let us have confident joy before our fellow Christians, for we—of all people on earth—have sure and certain hope. Let our bearing toward one another reflect this. Let us have a thankful, confident joy before our broken world—for our world, though given fleeting happiness in God’s general providence, yet knows nothing of the true joy that it ours in Jesus. Let us live thus before them, and may God by His Spirit draw them to desire what we have—rather, to desire Him Who has us. May this drawing result in eternal salvation for them, as for us, and may it result in their—and our—great rejoicing.