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Good morning.!

! Paul’s letter to the Colossians.! !

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Start a new term. Start a new preaching series. Colossians.! Prayed about this term. - Time we got our noses thoroughly into a book of the Bible & as I prayed - this was very clearly the one that I was led to. !

! This morning - two parts. - Intro & then look at the first passage.! !! Introduction to the letter.! !Who wrote it? !

The Apostle Paul, probably later in his ministry. ! He had never visited Colossae, but heard about the new church there from his team member Ephaphrous.!

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Where was Colossae?! Colossae was a small trading town in the Lycus valley in modern day Turkey, (called Asia Minor then) neighboured by Loadicea !

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Interestingly - its never been excavated by archaeologists - so we don’t know much about it.! Just two key facts about it, which are relevant to the letter.!

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Part of the Roman Empire. Romans Expectation of living by them.!

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had a Very strong cultural influence in their colonies.

A significant ex-pat Jewish Community lived there.! earliest days of the first Christians. - Many were Jewish. Still attend the synagogue and also be a part of a Christian homegroup. - This gave them a depth of understanding about God and a history of worshipping him. 
 But also their new found faith in Jesus - created some significant tensions with old traditions.! This is very significant in Colossians - Question - which faith are they actually rooted in?! Also - the pressures they faced from Jews who hadn’t chosen to follow Jesus.!

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Who was the letter to?!

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A housechurch of new believers in Colossae, who had embraced Jesus as Lord having heard the gospel from Epaphrous. ! We don’t know much about them either, except working out from what Paul writes - lots of guesswork about them!!

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Likely that! They were a mixed congregation, some converted Jews & some gentiles. Paul’s intention was for it to be read out loud in their meetings. !

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- Which were far more like a homegroup setting, probably sitting around a meal. - than our church services, sitting in rows with a formal structure.!

! ! Why did Paul write the letter?! !

Understanding why someone is writing - is really significant to being able to hear what they are saying. ! Paul expresses his heart and his passion in this letter. We’ll see over this term lots of reasons he wrote the letter. - But to bring it down to just 2.! Wanted to encourage them & to guide them.!

! ! To encourage them.! ! •

Celebrating their new found faith.!

“We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints (v3– 4)!

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This isn’t a correction - “you’re doing it all wrong’ letter - its an excited - “I’m so pleased to hear good news from you Guys” letter. - From a respected apostle like Paul, that would have hugely encouraged them and built them up.!

! Value of building up.! !

Assuring them of his prayers for them! He expresses to them, that they are valued and that he’s praying for them.! •

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So often in my life, letters or emails or texts have arrived, just when I need them most with encouragements that someone is praying for me. ! Friday - Someone prays for us. - Email with some prophetic revelation she had to encourage our boys. - Big lift. !

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Very often timely.! No idea if this arrived at a key moment for Colossians, no way of knowing that. But there is great benefit from following those nudges of the Holy Spirit to send that text or phonecall. - Or even most valuable of all, handwritten letter. - Just to let someone know you’re praying for them & even what you’re praying.!


In a few weeks time - get to end of Ch.1 - See Paul’s passion for the Colossians and his desire that they grow well and are rooted in Jesus. ! This isn’t a theological essay he’s writing to show off his knowledge. - He’s passionately longing for them to thrive.!

!! To guide them! !

They are new believers, he has years of experience and God-given wisdom and revelation to share with them. - So his aim is to guide them and to help them move forwards in the right direction.!

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To come back to the foundations of their faith!

To be alert to the dangers of other influences!

To deepen their roots into Jesus and his kingdom!

To live according to those roots and nothing else.!

To see how the truths of the gospel apply in practical daily living.!

Come onto this later - First half - about their new found faith, and what they’re putting their roots into. The soil of truth if you like.! The second half is abot what kind of life those roots will produce. He gives the basis for understanding how they should apply and live out their faith thoroughly. Rather than just loads on more rules and top tips!!

! !! Key themes.! !

To get the most out of this letter - it’ll help to see the bigger picture. ! As we go through, some key themes come out, I find knowing what they are, helps me understand the individual verses much better.!

!! Salvation (the gospel)!

Paul doesn’t explain the gospel here as much as the impact it has on the whole of our lives and how we live differently because of it.!

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This is hugely important and I think its one of the really significant reasons the Lord wants us to look at Colossians this term.!

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Paul’s emphasis here - is that responding to the good news about Jesus and coming to know him as God. (Salvation) - Is a complete, huge, radical life change.!

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It changes our identity. (who we believe we are)! It changes the family we are part of.! It changes the way we see the world! It changes the way we interact with the unseen spiritual realm! It changes the way we think!


It changes how we relate to each other.! It changes the way we work, the way we make decisions, the way we spend our time, the values we have.!

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It isn’t a little lifestyle choice.! Being a Christian isn’t just a badge or accessory we carry around.! It isn’t just joining a club of likeminded people, or taking up a hobby.!

! We live differently - because we have come to know Jesus and make him Lord.! !

The more that becomes a reality to us, the more that we’ll be able to learn and receive and make sense of this book.!

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Last week we baptised 9 people. - They plunged into the water and left their old life behind & came up out of it - rising up into a whole new life.!

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Rooted! Throughout the letter, Paul refers back to the foundations of their new found faith and the value of being rooted in Jesus.!

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Same theme really. - The gospel, the reality of the Christian life - means we are re-planted with our roots into a totally different soil. ! There’s a depth to the change and Paul keeps coming back to this, because its the basis he has to help guide them forwards of how to live according to the decision they’ve made.!

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[I chose today as our gospel reading - the parable of the wise and foolish builders. - Because it expresses the heart of what Colossians is about. Building your life on the solid ground of Jesus and his words and instruction - rather than hearing the gospel & then not building your life on it]!

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Jesus is supreme & central! Paul links everything back to Jesus and what he has done for us. Colossians contains the amazing poem about Jesus being ‘The image of the invisible God’. Paul explains that Jesus is the core of everything and he is their new foundation.!

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every era of Christianity, there has been a temptation to take all the easy bits, the personal preference bits of the Christian faith. - The ethical teaching, or the sense of a loving community, or the joy of worship or the comfort of prayer. - And leave out the centrepin, which is Jesus.! 
 That was a real challenge for the Colossians. - The local Jews had so much in common with them, but wanted them to merge their Christian ideas with other religious beliefs and leave out the Jesus bit. - Paul calls the Colossians back to the central Core. - This whole gospel - is about Jesus.!

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Heavenly realms! There is an implicit contrast in Colossians between living according to this world and living according to our identity in God’s unseen kingdom. There is a recognition in the book that there is a heavenly realm, which is unseen but is hugely significant for Christians to be aware of.!

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Wisdom! Paul uses the word ‘wisdom’ 6 times in this short letter. One of his themes is helping the Colossians to find their wisdom in Jesus and not in the philosophy of the world around them. !

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Behaviour is rooted in identity!


Having defined their foundations, Paul’s basis for how we live isn’t according to the external pressures of religion or worldly values, but rather that the way we live should be an outward expression of our new identity. Shaped by our relationship with Jesus, not by pressure from others.!

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For me, this is another big theme to link Colossians together. ! When we grasp this truth - It sets us free & that is a large part of why Paul is writing the letter. To help them to be free to live the life God intended them to live.!

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One of my reflections over the past few years has been - that its external pressures which bring stress, tension and drain us and inhibit us. Christianity is an inside out faith, not an outside in one. !

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We’ll see that Colossians sets us free from a Christianity of ‘shoulds and oughts’ into a reality of living according to the truth of who God made us to be.!

! ! ! So those are some of the key themes we’ll see in the book in the coming weeks. ! ! Let’s dive in and look at the first section. (time)! ! ! Read - Ch.1v1-8! ! Paul’s introduction and Prayer.! !

The letter begins with the customary greeting. Its a normal and formal way of writing to them, its noticeably full of grace, love and affirmation for them. !

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Paul celebrates their Faith & Love which spring from the Hope they have found in the gospel.!

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He celebrates the reality of how living according to the gospel has shaped them.! Faith and Love are really important things. ! 
 Faith - leads to miracles.! Love - leads to transformed lives and is the very core of how God wants his family to live.!

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There’s real celebration here, that the Colossians have the good stuff going on. Their faith is alive, its real and its having a positive impact.!

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“Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel, which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and increasing! ! Colossians 1:5–6 !

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He then traces back to them hearing the gospel. - The good news about Jesus.! He calls it the word of truth. - (packing in the big words!!)!

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Paul is making an obvious, but really important point.!


Its highly possible that Paul was in chains under house arrest when he wrote this. He had certainly seen persecution, he’d been flogged, rejected, imprisoned, hounded out of cities.!

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He’d seen churches rise up and fade away. ! ! ! He’d seen plenty of painful and challenging things through his life.!

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But he’d also seen amazing growth. ! He’d seen many, many people hear the truth about Jesus and respond and accept him as Lord.! He’d seen lives changed, communities established.! He’d seen how the good news of Jesus - is really really powerful to bring hope and joy and restoration.!

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In Romans 1 he writes - I am not ashamed of the gospel, because its the power of God for salvation for everyone who believes.!

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The gospel - this package of good news about Jesus, what he’s done, what he offers us.! Is powerful and its good.!

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Last term’s Alpha courses were another encouraging example of that. - As people heard afresh the truth about Jesus. - The explanation of who he was, what he did.! The understanding of why he died and the wonderful truth we celebrated last week that he rose again. !

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I could see them grasp hold of this powerful truth and come into a new life.! There are times when that takes years - because the truth of the gospel is often very different from the way of understanding the world that we’ve had for a long long time. (We’ll see more of that in the coming weeks) - So for some it takes a while to really grasp hold of this.! For others - There’s a sudden moment or encounter with God - When it clicks & we just know that this is the truth.! We’re all different & its really important that we give each other space to process this huge truth.!

! ! What are the implications of this for us?! ! Growth starts with Celebration.! !

Paul celebrates their salvation and he celebrates what God is doing around the world.! In order to encourage and guide them.! In order to help and motivate them - He doesn’t lay into them and focus on their problems, their weaknesses and their failings. !

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His focus is on celebrating their new life and rejoicing that this truth has become a reality to them.!

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Focus on what God is doing, not on the problems.! I’ve spent a lot of time reading books and background studies on Colossians over the past week to get a background on this letter.!

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A lot of them start by asking ‘What’s the problem Paul is trying to solve?’!


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Its true in some of his letters - he’s writing to challenge, or to redirect. He’s writing to correct or steer them away from error.! In one of his letters (Galatians) he gets passionate and quite confrontational about the mistakes they’re making.!

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So theologians spend a lot of time, trying to work out what the problem is at Colossae that he’s trying to put right. ! What’s the Colossian problem, or the Colossian heresy. What theological problem is Paul writing to debate.!

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Immersing myself in this first chapter & the rest of the book. (& its worth mentioning I memorised the whole of Colossians Chs.1-3 when I was a student, verse by verse 16 years ago and can still remember it - so I have immersed myself in this book!)!

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Paul wasn’t focussing on their problem, their mistakes, their wrong theology.! He’s celebrating their success, their new life, their great choices and the truth they’ve embraced.!

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If you go looking for problems, mistakes, errors, heresies, failings - in churches.! You will always find them. (We’ve got plenty here at St.Chad’s!!)!

! We can spend our energy heresy-hunting or criticising.! !

Paul had a background in doing that. - He was an expert at it. It was his job before he became a Christian and at times it was his calling to protect churches from dangerous errors.!

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But here, with this new fledgling church. - His focus is to encourage.
 To celebrate what God was doing.! To pray for new life and to help those who were taking their first steps in faith.!

! The big picture is this. ! !

God is at work and wherever the gospel is preached - People come to know Jesus and he brings life, hope, faith, love and restoration.! 
 Isaiah’s prophesy was right. ! Of the increase of his government and peace - there will be no end.!

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This is something to dwell on, to celebrate, to make mention of at every opportunity.! I love to hear news from places around the world & locally where the kingdom is growing.! Reports from china - !

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All over the world, God’s kingdom is advancing where the good news of Jesus is shared with people in faith and love!

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Where the gospel is analysed, argued over with pride and points scoring - people get hurt! But where it is preached & lived out in love - Churches grow.!


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