In our city we long for perfection. Perfection in our looks, leadership and lives. Perfection is an attractive and simple ideal – but it is also deadly. The apostle Paul asks the church in Colossae not to be deceived by the promise of perfection we achieve but to aim for maturity instead. History has shown that people who claim we can provide perfect answers to the problems of our world are dangerous because they are deceived about what is true. Paul asks us to be people who are becoming mature and discerning because we recognise the grace, the gift that has been given to our imperfect lives in Christ Jesus. [Audio | Notes]
Paul probably wrote his letter to the small church in Colossae around 60AD from a Roman prison. The church there was being troubled by people who were offering perfection now, claiming that if the Colossian Christians adopt various methods, rites, disciplines or insight into mystery they could be fulfilled now. They were saying that Jesus is a great start but we need to go beyond him to find more and experience more and know more.
In our day the something more could be the meditation method or pilgrimage that leads us to the adoration of Saints. The Baptism of the Spirit that marks us as a true Christian. The sign of tongues, the Sabbath regulations, the pursuit of perfect holiness, the sacramental life that opens the mystery of mature Christian experience… and so on. The point is: the moment we believe and act like there is something we can do to add to the work or significance of Jesus – we have crossed a line.
Of course, anything that offers to bring us the fulness of heaven now, anything that claims to solve the fundamental problems of humanity now will always be appealing because we are painfully aware of the gap between what we are and what we could be or should be – but, Paul says, it is a sell. It is spin. It is deadly. The promises of perfections in this world will always carry its followers into hypocrisy, delusion and, if they are occasionally honest, despair. It will carry us into a self-salvation project away from Jesus – which to Paul’s mind is madness for all things are his (1:15-20).
To counter these false promises Paul tells the Colossians they need to mature, to not be taken captive by deceitful and empty philosophies no matter how appealing they are, no matter what blessings they offer. The truth is that all the glories of this creation and the new creation are owned by Jesus Christ and he keeps them waiting for us in the future (1:5, 27, 2:3). If we are in him, if he is ours (1:27) are task now is to grow into maturity in him but not move beyond him. To go deeper but never beyond Jesus because there is nothing beyond him.
Christian Maturity is marked by the power of God to endure in pursuing good with patience and joy (1:9-12) while we wait for our inheritance. We cannot solve the problems of the world – but we grow in walking towards them for Christ is in us now and he is our deposit of much better things.
Australia needs mature people, the church needs mature believers. We will pray as Paul did that we will grow in wisdom and understanding, the practical daily knowledge of God and his word that forms maturity in us.
For further thought
Write down what God gives the church in this passage and what Paul prays the response of the church to those gifts will be.
Q: What do you find unexpected in these gifts and responses?
Q: How can we grow in the way Paul describes in his prayer for the church?
Q: What does it mean that Jesus is the image of the invisible God but also the first born of creation (15 see also 17 & 18)?
Q: How does this description of Jesus explain the power of his death (20-22)?
Q: How can Jesus’ death reconcile: Our reality and our ideals? Natural and supernatural?
Q: What traditions, courses ideas do we do to seek spiritual satisfaction in that ask us to go beyond Jesus?
Colossians 1:1-23 God is in Christ (talk outline)
– We always thank God when we pray for you (1-7)
– because of faith and love springing from hope
– We have not stopped praying for you (9-13)
– to live a worthy life
– Because the Son is the image of the invisible God (15-17)
– And he is the head of the church (18-20)
– All the fulness of God is in him
– This is the gospel that you heard (21-23)