JohnSWilson3 Blog

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field.”

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field.” Matthew 13:44.

“But seek his kingdom…Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom…For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also…What is the kingdom of God like? What shall I compare it to? It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his garden. It grew and became a tree, and the birds perched in its branches.” Luke 12:31a,32,34, 13:18-19.

“God…was pleased to reveal his Son in me…Christ lives in me…I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you…Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” Galatians 1:15-16, 2:20, 4:19, 5:25.

“…God, who tests our hearts…the Word of God, which is indeed at work in you who believe…May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you. May he strengthen your hearts…” 1 Thessalonians 2:4,13, 3:12,13.

“…that by his power he may bring to fruition your every desire for goodness and your every deed prompted by faith.” 2 Thessalonians 1:11.

“…God has been making it grow…God…makes things grow…the Holy Spirit, who is in you…But God has put the body together…you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it…follow the way of love.” 1 Corinthians 3:6-7, 6:19, 12:24,27, 14:1.

“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.” 2 Corinthians 4:7.

“…he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus…it is God who works in you to will and act in order to fulfill his good purpose…the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord…” Phlippians 1:6, 2:13, 3:8.

“…if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you…his Spirit who lives in you.” Romans 8:10-11.

“…that you may know him better…that you may know…the riches of his glorious inheritance in his people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe…God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ…he might show the incomparable riches of his grace…the boundless riches of Christ…I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith…” Ephesians 1:17-19, 2:4,5,7, 3:8,16-17.

“…God has chosen to make known…the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory…in Christ you have been brought to fullness…Christ, who is your life” Colossians 1:27, 2:10, 3:4.

” ‘Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.’…See to it that you do not refuse him who speaks…we have a clear conscience…” Hebrews 3:15, 12:25, 13:18.

“God’s work…is by faith. The goal…is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith…take hold of the life that is truly life.” 1 Timothy 1:4,5, 6:19.

Verses from Today’s New International Version.

“…that he may encourage your hearts.”
July 29, 2010, 2:22 pm
Filed under: N Letter to the Colossians

Paul in his letters generally listed those who worked with him in church planting and gave some final thoughts to his fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. In this final section of his letter to the Colossians Paul does the same. It is evident that Paul surrounded himself with those who have the same heart. His church planting assistants, who themselves were church planters, trained by Paul, had lived in organic church life, had moved forward in the Lord with His church, and now have been burdened by the Lord to help others live by Christ’s life and to grow forward in Christ with other believers in His body.

Tychicus, the one who takes this letter to Colosse, along with the letters to Philemon and the Ephesian church, is one of His church planting assistants. “He is a dear brother, a faithful servant and fellow slave in the Lord.” He is to let them know of “our circumstances” and to “encourage your hearts.” Tychicus was not going to become “pastor” of the church and preach a weekly service, it is because of those things that cause a church to drift from it’s pure devotion to Christ! He was providing them a letter by Paul to remind them of their glorious Lord Jesus Christ, and who they were in Christ as a result, and to remind them of what living by the life of Christ looks like when they gather together from house to house and within their households. Epaphras, when going to any church gathering, would go for mutual encouragement, like Paul described in the first chapter to his letter to the Roman church. We do not need someone to take charge of the church when it begins to drift from the Lord, it takes the glorious message of Jesus Christ to penetrate the heart and allow Jesus Christ to be head of His church!

Tychicus is also “coming with Onesimus, our faithful and dear brother, who is one of you. They will tell you everything that is happening here.” It is possible that the church that meets in Colosse also meets in Philemon’s home with his household. If that is the case then everyone in the household will know Onesimus, the run away slave. But how important to hear Paul describe him as “our faithful and dear brother.” Paul had earlier in the letter reminded them about what living by the life of Christ looks like together as they gathered in their households. How the church moved forward in the Lord would be dependent upon how they accept Onesimus, now that he is a brother in Christ.

Paul lists a number of the church planters that were trained by and work with Paul, each of them giving their “greetings” to the church. The ones he lists first are “the only Jews among my fellow workers for the kingdom of God, and they have proved a comfort to me.” Paul needed them because of Christ in them who comforts us! Paul is possibly thinking of his second letter to the church in Corinth, and all the trouble they had in moving forward in Christ. Paul perhaps is in distress over hearing what has been occurring in Colosse because of the issues he faced with helping the Corinthian church live by the Spirit, but perhaps more so because he is sensing that the prophetic word that he spoke to the Ephesian elder Christians is already coming to past, even after just a few years. It is perhaps for this reason Paul feels God is no longer leading him to go to Spain as he originally thought but must look to going back to encourage the churches that he had formally planted once he is released from the Roman prison.

Paul again mentions his church planting assistant “Epaphras, who is one of you” who had planted the church in Colosse along with Archippus, whom Epaphras left in Colosse so he could go to Rome to find Paul. Epaphras and Archippus had given their lives in sharing Christ with his own people in this area, helping them to gather together and to live by the Holy Spirit. Perhaps Epaphras’ own household was part of the church in Colosse or was the son of Philemon whose household the church gathered in during the week. Given these personal circumstances, and because of the drifting away from Christ as head of the church that had been occurring, Epaphras was under much distress. How hurt he must have been to share this news with Paul and to seek Paul’s advice on what he could do in this crisis to help the church move forward.

Paul says that “Epaphras, who is one of you and a slave of Christ Jesus, sends greetings. He is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured. I vouch for him that he is working hard for you and for those at Laodicea and Hierapolis.” Epaphras’ prayer must have been similar to Paul’s in the opening of this letter to the Colossians, “since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father…” Perhaps Epaphras, having met Onesimus and knows that Onesimus is going back to his “owner,” his earthly “master,” who is also in Christ, Philemon, perhaps Epaphras is additionally distressed and concerned for the reconciliation that must also happen if the church is to move forward in Christ, instead of like the other human traditions that have come into the church and as a result “lost connection with the Head.”

Only the Lord Jesus Christ can change a heart, how we must pray for one another that we would see ourselves as Christ sees us, how we need to again reread the letters of the New Testament in their entirety in our gatherings, perhaps each taking turns to read part of the letter together and let Christ speak to us afresh about living by His life! Is it any wonder Paul says “after this letter has been read to you, see that it is also read in the church of the Laodiceans and that you in turn read the letter from Laodicea.” How we so often pick and choose a “verse” without understanding the full meaning because of it being pulled out of the context and reason for the letter. Let us hear the Christ speak to us personally and to the church through one another.

Paul concludes his letter with a final word of encouragement to Archippus who was left behind by Epaphras to continue to help the church live by Christ’s life. Archippus was perhaps trained by Paul in church planting, and knows that the issues that have surfaced are just the beginning of further pain and distress for the church planter. Paul had suffered much in these past 20 years or so to plant churches that were rooted and founded on the life of Jesus Christ. The enemy knows he is losing ground and is not about to give up his turf without a fight. So Paul tells Archippus “see to it that you complete the work you have received in the Lord.” Don’t give up!

How easy it is to give up on people when we see them drifting from Christ. I have heard the saying: why help someone who doesn’t want our help? How distressing this can be! But we are “members of one body” we cannot give up on each other! Brothers and sisters we must have a solid faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, who lives in us and whose life we are! His sacrificial love must reign! Only when He is our Lord personally and when we gather with Him as our Head, focused on Him, knowing Christ and Him crucified will He strengthen our faith and His fruit, His life will be made manifest for His glory! It is by faith in Christ that we “stand firm!” Just as Paul told the Roman Christians: “Since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.”

Paul reminds the church to “remember my chains.” Why? To encourage the brothers and sisters “to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly.” It is all about Jesus Christ and His glory! It is about manifesting His grace, we “are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus,” “he rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” We will stand firm in Christ Jesus our Lord when we see how we are complete in Him, when we live by His life with our brothers and sisters. We must be fully assured of who He is in us and what He has done for us, all the will of God! Yes, God’s “grace be with you.” Let us see God’s grace! Amen!

“…God may open a door for (the word)…”
July 28, 2010, 2:09 pm
Filed under: N Letter to the Colossians

I come to the conclusion of Colossians and have been thinking about this whole section. This section pretty much sums up the reason for church living by Christ’s life. To manifest Jesus Christ not just to one another, but to all creation!

As we live by Jesus life in face to face community with other brothers and sisters in Christ in our households and as we meet each other during the day, He changes us! We are “being built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.” As we “live a life worthy of the Lord” pleasing “him in every way” we will bear “fruit in every good work,” we will grow “in the knowledge of God” because of having “been strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that we may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father.” This is the result of living by the life of Christ in community in an organic way! Our households will manifest Christ as we gather together from house to house living by the Spirit. Our places of work will manifest Christ as we live by His life. In 1st Century Colosse, if not all cities in that day and age, many worked as part of households, so those in Christ in a household manifested Christ to other neighboring households during the day! In today’s day and age, especially in those of technologically advanced cultures where work is miles away from the household, how important it is to find other brothers and sisters in Christ who work in the same working environment to enable the life of Christ to manifest Himself through their working relationships.

Christ’s life is manifested towards the world when we are “wise in the way you act toward outsiders,” making “the most of every opportunity” and letting “your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” Remember living by Christ’s life looks like this: “Therefore as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” This is not preaching, this is not evangelizing, this is not handing out tracks, this is about living by the Holy Spirit. “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men…It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” Let us have that perspective!

I am so thankful that in my own conversations at the place I work at I have found other teachers as well as students who either know Christ or are on that journey to knowing Christ so that we can share Christ together as we go about the work that we do, encouraging each other and praying for one another. It brings a new perspective, a sense of accountability to some degree, that some of the persons I am working with or some of those whom I teach know Christ and are looking for Christ in me. My senses become more tuned to listening to what Christ is saying in the midst and to follow His directions in my working environment. Living by Christ’s life in this way sometimes seems that we live a life in continuous prayer.

Jesus Christ is looking for a home in every neighborhood, every working place, in every city, in every country. To NOT live by Jesus’ life and to manifest that life of love to others is a denial of God’s grace and truth that has been given to you and I. Only when we fail to keep Jesus Christ as head of His church in our gatherings usurping His life then the entire body of Christ will always be struggling to understand Christ in them, they will look like the world they will live by the flesh. They will unknowingly live in denial. Denial that we “died with Christ to the basic principles of this world” and denial that He is our life. No wonder Paul had to give a warning to the Corinthian church: “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus in is you – unless of course, you fail the test?” How important is prayer for one another! “We have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding.” Let us pray that for each other!

The rest of this concluding section of Paul’s letter to the church in Colosse describes the importance of church planters in the life of the church. I do not mean what we have now in the modern church where self titled “apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastors and teachers” have replaced function with position and missionaries are underlings to these positioned people in institutional churches. Church planters, servants of Christ and His body, who have lived in organic church life, from how I read the Scripture are the only ones called out to proclaim Christ in the forming of communities of believers, helping build a foundation of Christ with the church, leaving them and from time to time returning to encourage the brothers and sisters to move forward in the Lord. They did not stay, get hired by the church, and set up a weekly “preaching service” or “healing service” or “prophetic service” or “singing service” which replaced the daily meeting together with Christ as head, we have replaced Christ with a thing. But sadly that is what happened in church history. “Finding Organic Church” by Frank Viola provides an excellent resource to better understanding this more authentic biblical way of planting churches.

As we truly live by Christ’s life in an organic way together with other brothers and sisters in Christ, perhaps God may be calling you to either be a “Priscilla and Aquila” to help prepare the way for a church in your home for a church planter or to go out with other brothers and sisters and plant churches that live by Christ’s life in an organic way. Prayer is important. Even Paul asked the church in Colosse to pray for him. “Praying together also concerning us in order that God may open to us a door of the word (logos), to speak the mystery of Christ.” We should pray for each other that Christ would manifest His life through us by speaking His words of grace and truth, clearly and without confusion. Together we should pray for others who like Paul, church planters of organic churches, that they to should manifest Christ’s life so that others may hear the good news and understand “God’s grace in all its truth” receiving Christ Jesus as Lord so that He might root Himself in another group of followers, His body, so that more may see “the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”

“Continue in prayer…”
July 27, 2010, 3:39 pm
Filed under: N Letter to the Colossians

Towards the end of Paul’s letter to the organic church in Colosse he tells the believers “In prayer continue, watching in it with thanksgiving, praying together…” (literal translation) (1). My first impression as I read these words is to find a practice or form of praying instead of looking at what it says in principle. How often we focus on how to pray versus allowing the Spirit to lead us in the praying as He desires. So often when we gather together, whether in an institutional church setting or simple church setting in a home we tend to focus on what to pray about, instead of allowing the Spirit to organically enable each of us to pray as He leads. How often we talk about who needs prayed for and after a lengthy time of discussion of multiple needs one person is called on to pray for them all. I don’t think that’s what Paul means here about continuing in prayer and being watchful in it with thanksgiving. The former is programmed prayer and selfish and not led by the Spirit of God. Organic prayer rises from the depths of knowing Jesus Christ in each of us by His Spirit, to manifest Jesus Christ’s life through His body.

These few words about praying is after Paul has described ways that the life of Jesus is manifested in the church as it gathers and in the households where the church meets together. “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Praying is a manifestation of the lordship of Jesus Christ in us and is directed by Him just like all spiritual life in His body. Prayer, our relationship with Jesus Christ, is learned in community with the brothers and sisters. It is not at a specific time or directed by any person in our gathering, it is directed by the Holy Spirit through the gathering towards Christ and His purpose and also has relevance towards our life in Christ when we are not gathered together.

J. B. Lightfoot describes “continue” or “devoted” to prayer as “clinging closely to” or “remaining constant” in prayer and that “watching in it” refers to having “the heart…awake” (2). This gives me a sense of closeness to Jesus Christ. How much does Christ dwell in me? How much do I really know Him? Jesus had much to say about praying in many of His parables, much of it dispersed throughout the gospels. Perhaps this also gives a sense that prayer is not something that we program but is meant to be a part of our new nature, our life with Him, as He is our life! I can imagine that while Paul is in prison he has been reading some of the gospel account that Luke has been writing to his friend. In Luke’s account he mentions numerous accounts of a relationship with Christ of praying. Of course Mark is also with Paul at this time and probably has a copy of Mark’s gospel account, and perhaps has a copy of Matthew’s gospel account as well, having visited the Jerusalem church earlier. Here are just a few examples just from some of the sayings of Jesus in the gospel according to Luke (look for yourself what Matthew and Mark also says):

“For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks…(the one) who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice.”
For “the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word (logos), retain it, and persevering produce a crop.”
“Therefore consider carefully how you listen. Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him.”
“My mother and brothers are those who hear God’s word (logos) and put it into practice.”
“No one knows who the Son is except the Father, and no one knows the Father is except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”
After watching Jesus “praying in a certain place….one of his disciples said to him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.’ ”
After His brief teaching on prayer Jesus tells the disciples” “So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.”
“He who does not gather with me, scatters.”
“Blessed rather are those who hear the word (logos) of God and obey it.”
“I tell you, whoever acknowledges me before men, the Son of Man will also acknowledge him before the angels of God.”
“Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”
“In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.”
“Whoever tries to keep his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it.”
He told a parable to His disciples “to show that they should always pray and not give up.”
“For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
“I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”
“My house will be a house of prayer…”
“But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”
“Pray that you will not fall into temptation.”

Prayer comes from Him, it is based on listening carefully to His speaking to us, He teaches us to pray. Prayer is in response to His speaking to us inwardly, the praying from His Spirit through His body, or in our circumstances. The gifts of the Spirit are another means by which we see and listen to what He is trying to say to us and we respond in kind. We learn more of Christ as we respond to Him. Praying then is also “watching in it,” listening and discerning what the Spirit of God is saying and following His directions. Praying then becomes continuous and organic, occurring throughout the time of our gathering together instead of at a specific time. It is spiritual wisdom not earthly. It is towards Him not us. How easy we can be tempted to not listen to the Spirit and listen to our needs and wants and express our flesh instead of His life.

Praying is another aspect of what Paul described as being a part of the church’s gathering: “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since (you are) members of one body” and “Let the word (logos) of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.” And brothers and sisters, when we have heard from Him, in us, in His people, and we respond to His directions, what peace we have, what wonderful gratitude do we have towards God that He would live in us and speak through us and be a part of our lives! Praying is not an event, not programmed, it is directed by the Spirit of Christ throughout our time together!

Remember what Paul wrote decades before he wrote this letter to the Colossians in his first letter to the church of the Thessalonians: “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. Do not put out the Spirit’s fire; do not treat prophecies with contempt. Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil. May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through…” A good word about life in Christ, praying, within the body of Christ. Our time together is about displaying the life of Christ towards Him through one another.

Paul’s initial prayer for the Colossians comes to mind: “For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding.” When Christ is the head of His body, and we allow Him to direct us as we gather praying will be organic, it will be produced by His Spirit in us as we listen to Him and we follow what He says by faith. What grace that God has given us that He would speak in and through us towards one another! God has made us “alive with Christ”! When I hear Him speak to me and through His people how thankful to God I become!

(1) Alfred Marshall, The Interlinear KJV-NIV Parallel New Testament in Greek and English, 1975, The Zondervan Corporation, 593.
(2) Lightfoot, J.B., “St. Paul’s Epistles to the Colossians and Philemon: J.B. Lightfoot’s Commentary on the Epistles of St. Paul, Third Printing, Hendrickson Publishers, 1995, 231.

Believing Wives and Husbands, Unbelieving Wives and Husbands

In the third chapter of Colossians Paul briefly remarks about how a wife and husband live Jesus’ life towards one another. This life in Christ is learned and displayed through the church as they meet in each others homes. In his first letter to the church in Corinth, in Chapter 7, Paul gave a lot of information about how wives and husbands live by the Spirit in oneness together, believers who were married to unbelievers, those who are not married, and a short discussion on slaves. An excellent source of what living by the life of Christ looks like as He manifests Himself to one another in our relationships. When Jesus Christ is our Lord, then He becomes our everything, our all as we learn Him as we live by His life. That has major implications in the basic relationships between a man and woman including working relationships.

I felt like I needed to continue this learning of Christ in relationships. While Paul gives a brief idea of what Christ’s life looks like between a wife and husband in Colossians, Paul has had much to say about how that relationship looks like in his letter to the Corinthians. Remember that Corinth was like Colosse in that they were both Greco-Roman cities, except that Corinth was very large and very active, having a large diverse ethnic population with a huge slave population due to the mercantile business that made up most of Corinth’s business. As such it was a place seething with idolatry and evil. The mix and divisiveness of wives, husbands, children, slaves, and masters in the households of Corinth must have been even more prominent in Corinth. As they met from house to house lives were changed and the miraculous work of Christ was seen often being worked in each others households, to the point that the miraculous was often expected and looked for more so than Christ Himself. The work of Christ became more important than Christ Himself, a form of idolatry to the Christians. This extremism in the church in Corinth because they met in the households eventually affected the marriage relationship and they even asked Paul if “it was good for a man not to marry”? This church did not have Christ as head of their gatherings and as a result they were divisive over many things. Apparently not only were they jealous over who was in charge of their gatherings but they were also pitting married couples against those who were not married, somehow thinking that single life was more important than married life and vice versa. How sad! The purpose of our gatherings are not about us, but about knowing nothing “except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” We are members of one body, if you are single or married it does not matter, there is no single or married distinctions in the body of Christ, “but Christ is all, and is in all.” We are all brothers and sisters in Christ and are called to function equally as we meet together.

As the church gathered together in each others homes, some who attended may not know Christ. It could also be that some who gathered and were part of “the family of believers” came without their husband or wife because their husband or wife were not a follower of Jesus Christ. Obviously this would bring a new dynamic in the couples relationship if they were married to an unbeliever. A dynamic allowed by the Lord so He might display His grace and truth. By living a shared life together with the body of Christ they learned Christ, learning to live by His Spirit. This would profoundly affect their marriage relationship! For those who are married, Paul reminds the Corinthians that when a person received Jesus Christ as Lord, their marriage partner must also confess Jesus as Lord to be in Christ. But some may be unwilling to accept the Lord. We have to remember, especially if it were the wife who was the believer, her husband literally owned her as property. To be a believing wife and be married to an unbelieving husband she was now placed in a volatile situation, a situation where her faith is greatly tested in living out the life of Christ. So Paul gives this word of advice that Jesus had not mentioned from the gospel accounts, but has every weight coming from Jesus Christ in Paul: “If any brother has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to live with him, he must not divorce her. And if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce him.” This would enable Christ’s life to be manifested through the believing husband or wife to their unbelieving partner. Perhaps the church might gather together in these households, especially for the believing husband and the good news of Jesus Christ and His life, being manifested by the church, could come to those in their household by believing the message and receiving Christ Jesus as Lord!

“But if the unbeliever leaves, let him do so. A believing man or woman is not bound in such circumstances; God has called us to live in peace. How do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or, how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife? Nevertheless, each one should retain the place in life that the Lord assigned to him and to which God has called him.” If there is a situation where the unbelieving partner is abusive and harmful I think this would be something the believing husband or wife should consider. While God hates divorce, this reference is specifically related to believing marriage partners because it does not show the beautiful picture of Christ and His Bride. Although in this world, no matter if they are believers or not, the consequences that occur because of divorce can be devastating, another reason for God hating divorce, the consequences tend to be very hurtful for all involved. Christ cannot divorce Himself from His Bride, they are one in each other. But if someone is unbelieving they are not a part of Christ and therefore do not belong to each other in God’s eyes.

The church should be involved in helping and loving these couples, living by Christ’s life, clothing themselves “with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” bearing “with each other” by looking after those who have been hurt in society. For a believing wife to divorce herself from her unbelieving husband and his household would be to either force her to go back and return to her parents home or to live with another household where the church gathered. If not she would find herself on the streets or as a slave in perhaps greater distress than when she were married to an unbeliever. How important it is for the church, the body of Christ to meet from house to house, to live by Christ’s life towards one another, to care for one another, to display His grace and truth to everyone in the homes that they gather in!

For those who are single believers, and if you marry, how important it is to marry those who “belong to the Lord.” Look to the “family of believers” and be alive with Christ and let His peace and life direct you in all matters! Let Him so dwell in you that however He leads you follow!

“And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Part 3
July 21, 2010, 2:01 pm
Filed under: N Letter to the Colossians, O Letter to Philemon

Paul has been describing how we manifest Jesus’ life to others in this last section of Chapter 3 of Colossians. Paul describes it as “whatever (we) do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Doing something “in the name of the Lord Jesus” doesn’t mean we do something because it’s just the right thing to do, but because it is the fruit of our life in the Lord. We must be careful not to put the cart before the horse. How we live is a demonstration of His life in us. By faith we “put to death” the old man, the flesh, by accepting we “died with Christ” to the things of this world and are completely forgiven of all sins by His cross; and by faith we “put on the new self,” the New Man, by accepting that we are “alive with Christ,” that He is our life. We do so by learning Christ together in community. As we learn Christ together from house to house and in the walk of life together with our Lord He will display Himself, His glory through us:

“Wives, voluntarily cooperate with your husbands as is fitting to the Lord. Husbands, sacrificially love your wives and do not be harsh with them. Children, listen to your parents in everything for this is well pleasing in the Lord. Father, do not provoke your children or they will become disheartened.” See notes for translation (1).

Paul’s intent was not so much as to change society by giving an alternate set of rules, but to enlarge Jesus Christ in His people so that change comes from an inward relationship with Jesus Christ. How often we try to make outward changes to either family life or working relationships, or society in general, without love. How often we enslave ourselves to some other human tradition. We have forgotten that our homes are the most important area of any society. Change the home, change society, change the world. But Jesus did not just die to change the world, He died and rose again to bring into existence His Church, a new creation, to reveal Himself through the body of Christ, “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” So while I say that changing the home can change society and the world this is an effect not the purpose of Christ.

Paul now takes some time to write to the Christians in Colosse about slaves and masters. Evidently he has Onesimus in mind as he writes these words. Onesimus will be traveling with Tychicus to take this letter to the church in Colosse. Onesimus was a slave of Philemon of Colosse in whose household Onesimus was a former slave but had run away. Paul somehow came into contact with Onesimus and he received Christ Jesus as Lord. Here we have another instant of how important the church gathering in households can have a tremendous affect not just on a household but on society in general.

Men were masters or lords of their homes, especially in the case of slaves and free persons who worked for the family. Because they lived in a pre-industrial society most work was done by the home. Masters could treat their slaves however they wanted. They were property to be bought and sold and slaves or free persons were not specific to any one ethnic group. A master of a household, whether a man, husband, or widowed female if they knew Jesus Christ as Lord now had a tremendous life to be shared within their household! Most lived with their slaves and free persons which meant a daily interaction with them as well as when the church gathered at their home, sometimes almost daily! How this institution of slavery became at odds with Jesus Christ’s life of freedom and grace as the church gathered under Christ’s headship! How Christ came in mightily to a home when Jesus Christ became Lord and head of the household! Providing for others, showing “compassion, humility, gentleness and patience. Bearing with each other and (forgiving) whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity” struck the death knell of slavery for those who lived by Jesus life!

Slaves or free persons who believed in the Lord Jesus were now free in Christ! Free from sin, free from the flesh. Alive in Christ and members of one body! Today we would say these would be workers in a business, since during and after the industrial age slavery was no longer needed, not to say a horrendous human tradition that was begun and perpetuated by human evil and exploitation. If we work for someone, no matter if they know Jesus or not, if we are living by the Spirit then we will listen to, or obey our “earthly masters” or managers “in everything.” Jesus again said He came to serve not to be served. So we follow the instructions of our managers and do the work we have been assigned and “not only when their eye is on you and to win their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for his wrong, and there is no favoritism.” The slaves and free persons were to see their masters/managers, if they knew Jesus, as being alive with Christ. They were to see themselves as fully able to function within the body of Christ as they gathered in the households that they served. In Christ there is no “slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.” A slave will see his master/manager as in Christ. A master/manager will see his slave as in Christ. There are no more distinctions of slave or free but as members of one body and function freely together. How crazy to take a glimpse of a gathering in Colosse in the 1st century with slaves and masters together in the same room freely functioning by the life of the Spirit! The slave giving “a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or interpretation…for the strengthening of the church,” which includes his master!

Slaves, servants, workers as they live by Jesus’ life who is their life, will show His grace and truth to their masters/managers who do not know the Lord. These masters/managers will see Jesus on display and they will come face to face with the reality of the life of Christ and they to will have to make a decision, to confess Jesus as Lord and become a part of His body or reject Him.

Paul finally then says: “Masters (lords), provide your slaves with what is right and fair, because you know that you also have a Master (or Lord) in heaven.” If the master of a household was a follower of Jesus Christ then as they live by His life, how they relate to their slaves were to be counter to what the world says. They are not to be sexually immoral, impure, or evil towards their slaves, being angry towards them, showing “rage, malice, slander” or speaking “filthy language” to them, which “belongs to your earthly nature,” the flesh, because they have “died with Christ to the basic principles of this world” and are now “alive with Christ.” When living by His life a manager will demonstrate Jesus’ life, His righteousness, His fairness, His grace, His mercy.

Paul had these thoughts in mind as he was finishing this letter to the church and in a moment to write his personal letter his “dear friend and fellow worker” Philemon who was master of the household where the church met and had previously owned Onesimus, now a brother in Christ. Would Philemon and Onesimus live by Jesus’ life, seeing each other as dead to their sins and alive with Christ, able to forgive one another, letting “the peace of Christ rule in their hearts, since (they were) members of one body”? May we let the Lord Jesus live deeply within us and through us to one another in the body of Christ and manifest His life in ways we could never imagine!

(1) Jon Zens uses Thayer’s Greek Lexicon to use the non-military use of the word “subject” which is “a voluntary attitude of giving in, cooperating, assuming responsibility, and carrying a burden.” Jon Zens, “What’s With Paul And Women? Unlocking the Cultural Background to 1 Timothy 2,”Nebraska: Ekklesia Press, 2010, 118. Husbands ‘agape’ your wives, is “Christian love” and is selfless or sacrificial from W.E. Vine, Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, 1985, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 381-382. “Obey” means to “listen” with intent of following the instructions from Vine, 438. Other parts of verses 18-21 are from Alfred Marshall, The Interlinear KJV-NIV Parallel New Testament in Greek and English, 1975, The Zondervan Corporation, 593.

“And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Part 2
July 20, 2010, 9:43 pm
Filed under: N Letter to the Colossians

This second part of this section at the end of Chapter 3 of Paul’s letter to the Colossians is Paul’s first reference to specific members of the Greco-Roman society household listed together. In his other letters, Paul never really addressed households before, except on occasion and only in particular instances. I take that Paul probably wrote Colossians and Philemon before he wrote Ephesians, although having written all three during his Roman imprisonment I’m sure Colossians was fresh on his mind as he wrote Ephesians.

As mentioned in Part 1 God used the gathering of the church in households to bring His life into a mix of diverse ethnicity and lifestyles. Jesus’ life lived out together in face-to-face community in wives, husbands, children, fathers, slaves, and masters, putting to death the old man and putting on the life of Christ, resulting in a life of grace, love, forgiveness and peace in this mix blew away any pretense that this was something earthly or natural. It was wholly “other” and supernatural, by the Spirit of God!

Interestingly, Paul’s focus in Chapter 3 verse 18 to Chapter 4 verse 1 is generally on the man. The man was the one in control of his home according to societal rules. God must break this societal law, this “human tradition,” in order for Jesus Christ to be the head of His church instead of someone else. How totally against society, how totally counter-culture is it to have no human being “in charge” of a meeting! The church as it met in the households transformed men and women and children and enabled His life to become manifested, His light in a place of utter darkness! How we need His light in our households today! How we need the church to rethink having someone else as leader of the church instead of Jesus Christ. How we need the church to rethink having “church” in a “church building” instead of gathering in homes where the greatest life changing agent, the Holy Spirit, could bring His life to bear on culture and society.

“Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them…Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged…Masters, provide your slaves with what is right and fair, because you know that you also have a Master in heaven.” A husband, father, master (or manager in today’s sense) who have received Christ Jesus as Lord is to live by Jesus’ life. (In this part 2, I will only cover the husband and father role, not the manager). They have learned to live by His life in authentic relational community organically together with the church in his home or an others home. Jesus said that we are to love others as He loved us, who “became obedient to death – even death on a cross!” That’s the kind of love husbands show to their wives when they are living by Jesus’ life. We love because He first loved us. To cause your wife to become bitter because of being harsh to them, even though society says it’s okay, is forgetting that your flesh died with Christ, your life is no longer yours it is Christ’s. He is your life! Husbands, you do not own your wife, she is not your property, no matter what culture or society tells you! You belong to one another. Your wife, if she knows Jesus Christ, is now your fellow sister in the Lord who now belongs to Jesus Christ, and is in Christ! Even if your wife doesn’t know Jesus Christ, you are to manifest Jesus’ life, His grace and love to her so that she might see Jesus in you! God has never called a man to dominate a woman or vice versa, she is an equal heir to the throne of grace and fellow member of Christ and fully equal in functioning in the body of Christ, their are no human distinctions in the church!

This applies also to how father’s relate to their children. And if you are a mother or a single mom I think this would still apply to you as well. But for father’s in the time of the first century it most especially applied due to the harsh treatment they gave to their children, specifically to the boys. A father could use infanticide on a child if he so desired, or to make them a slave of a household if they did not want them. Father’s are called to live by Jesus’ life and encourage their children, not to provoke them and cause them to become discouraged or disheartened, to lose hope! Parents are called to manifest Jesus’ life to their children so that their children might received Christ Jesus as Lord! If their child knows the Lord Jesus, they are also a fellow member of Christ, who is one with His body! They are also a sister or brother in the Lord, no matter the physical age. We do not provoke a follower of Jesus to cause them to become discouraged, so to a child, for by so doing we provoke the Lord and grieve Him. May it never be so!

Wives in like manner were to sacrificially love their husbands as well, no matter if the husband knew Jesus Christ as Lord or not. They are called to voluntarily cooperate or support their husband, not in the sense of servitude but in service. It is what Christ calls each of us to do in His body, we are called to voluntarily by His life, not under force, to cooperate with Him, side by side. Christ came to serve not to be served. He came to give His life for us, we do so to one another. The church has been called to sacrifice itself for one another. The wife loves her husband, because Jesus loves her and He is love. The Bride loves Her Bridegroom because He first loved her, and gave Himself for her. Wives and husbands are called to mutually love one another, to sacrifice themselves for one another as would any brother or sister in Christ. This is manifesting Jesus’ life!

Children who know Jesus Christ as Lord, when living by Jesus’ life will listen to their parents and follow their instructions. They listen to their parents like the church together listens to the directions of their Lord and follow His instructions. It pleases the Lord for His children to listen to Him and follow what He says. Children who know the Lord are also members of the body of Christ and can function equally, by the same Spirit of God, within the gathering of the church. They too can learn Christ together in the gathering of the church! Perhaps the church, wives and husbands included, could also learn “humility” as they see Christ lived through the children. Are we not called to come to Him as little children? Perhaps as our children watch and listen to their parents as they live by the Spirit, loving their Lord, in the gathering of the church in our homes they might also learn Christ?

Wives, husbands, children, fathers, men, and women each have a role to play in the family, whether that family has two parents or one or if that couple has no children. Each are called to function so as to benefit the whole. Each person has gifts and talents meant for the functioning of the family. Each must function freely by Christ towards one another in love so that those gifts and talents can be manifested. If we know Jesus Christ we live by His Spirit in love, not by “human tradition” or the “basic principles of this world.”

How easy it is, when church life is removed from gathering in the household, to look at our homes as separate entities from the body of Christ, something earthly, and bring back into the family “again a yoke of slavery,” a life that squelches the Spirit of Christ. The church is called the body of Christ, but it is also called “the family of believers,” this is learned as we live life together in each others homes. Family is the closest of natural bonds in this world, a closeness that is meant in it’s ideal sense to be lived together in mutual commitment towards one another in love and respect, and who help one another. The same is true for the body of Christ, the family of believers. The family of believers can also bring back into it’s life “a yoke of slavery” that squelches the life of Christ from it’s gatherings, because of following human tradition and the basic principles of this world instead of Jesus Christ who is the head of the church. “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.”