"We Proclaim Him!"
(First delivered Sunday, January 14, 2001; revised and preached June 8, 2008 at Bethany Bible Church. Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture references are taken from The Holy Bible, New King James Version; copyright 1982, Thomas Nelson, Inc.)
Preached on the morning of our annual Business and Ministry Luncheon
Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus. To this end I also labor, striving according to His working which works in me mightily (Colossians 1:28-29).
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These two verses have grown to be very important to me. I have embraced them as my own personal mission statement for ministry. If I ever wonder what it is that I'm supposed to be doing in my ministry, these two verses serve as my guide.
And it's in that same spirit that I have, over the years, set these two verses before our church family. If we, as a church, were to ask ourselves what we're supposed to be doing, or what the purpose of our church's ministry is to be, I'm convinced that the answer is found in these two verses. Words from them are printed on our church letterhead; and they will be a permanent feature of our church entryway: "We proclaim Him ..." (NASB, updated edition).
I believe this morning is a good time to take a fresh look at these two verses, and recommit ourselves to the vision of ministry they set before us.
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Let's begin with the big picture. These two verses are found in Paul's letter to the Colossians. His main theme in this letter is the sufficiency of Jesus Christ alone to make us complete before a holy God. Paul constantly makes the point, throughout this letter, that if we have Jesus Christ, then we have everything we need.
For example, Paul explains that sinful men and women are reconciled to God through faith in the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross alone. As Paul says, "... it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell" (1:19). And later, he affirmed to the Colossian believers that in Jesus Christ “dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and you are complete in Him, who is the Head of all principality and power" (2:9-10).
All fullness is in Christ. And all men and women who are in Christ are complete in Him. It's from our Lord Jesus Christ, Paul says, that "all the body [that is, the church], nourished and knit together by joints and ligaments, grows with the increase that is from God" (2:19). As members of His body, we have everything we need in Him; because, as Paul says, "Christ is all and in all" (3:11).
Paul had confidence in the complete sufficiency of Jesus Christ for everyone who placed their trust in Him. It was his conviction that, above all else, people needed Jesus; and that, having Jesus, they needed nothing else. For Paul, there was no greater privilege than to introduce people to Christ, and to establish them in a relationship with Him. And so, he was eager to give himself over to the work of proclaiming Jesus Christ to his friends in Colossae. He said,
To fully disclose that great 'mystery', “Christ in you, the hope of glory”—that was what Paul was all about. And so, in verses 28-29, Paul sums it all up in what constitutes his own "mission statement". Speaking of Christ, he says,
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So then; when it comes to Bethany Bible Church—and when it comes to each one of us who serve in it—notice what these two verses give us
First of all, they give us . . .
1. OUR MESSAGE.
Paul said that the great mystery that is now revealed by God to the world is this: "Christ in you, the hope of glory". And so, Paul affirms, "Him we preach."
Praise God that He didn't leave it to us to create a meaningful message to world. God has already given that message to us. Our task is simply to announce it. We "preach" or "proclaim" the good news about a wonderful Person named Jesus Christ.
Now, what do we say about Him? As you know, a lot of religious authorities and a lot of denominations say that they preach Christ. Many proclaim Jesus to be a great moral teacher, or a great religious figure, or a great example of self-sacrifice and care for others. But if, in the end, such 'preachers' fail to proclaim the whole truth of what the holy Scriptures reveal about Jesus, they aren't really preaching Him at all.
So then; what is it that we should preach about Jesus Christ? Paul explained the content of a true proclamation of Christ in verses 15-20 of this chapter;
If we would faithfully preach Christ—whether in our church, or in our individual ministries—then that is the Christ we must preach. To preach Him as anything less is to fail to preach Him as He truly is.
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And what a privilege it is to proclaim such a glorious Person as He truly is! We preach Christ, who alone provides the only way for men and women to be made right with God. As Jesus Himself said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me" (John 14:6). And as Paul said, "For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus" (1 Timothy 2:5). "Nor", as Peter has said, "is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:16). The apostle John shows us how crucial this simple message is when he wrote, "And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life" (1 John 5:11-12).
There are many interesting and helpful things we can proclaim to the world—and you can be sure that the world would be very glad to hear them. But those other things are not the things God has called us to proclaim. Instead, we have something higher and more valuable to declare to this world than anything anyone else in this world can proclaim. We, as His church, have been entrusted by God with the one message that the people of the world need most to hear—the only message by which God has pledged Himself to bless people with eternal life. We proclaim Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!
Let's make sure that whatever else we do in the various ministries of our church, it all points to and supports the proclamation of our God-appointed message: "Him we preach!"
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Now; God not only tells us in this passage what our message is to be, but also how it is that we're to get that message into the hearts and lives of people.
Notice that, second, we see ...
2. OUR METHOD.
"Him we preach," Paul says, "warning every man and teaching every man . . ."
Our method involves two main things. First, Paul mentions "warning" or (or "admonishing", as it is in some translations). This describes our work of exhorting someone, with personal, verbal, and passionate counsel, to trust Christ and follow Him faithfully. It involves putting them in a right frame of heart, through an earnest appeal to the will. Paul used this same word when he told the Ephesian elders, "Therefore watch, and remember that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears" (Acts 20:31).
And the second thing our method involves is "teaching". We are to instruct people, and inform them of the biblical facts about Jesus and what Jesus taught, so that the truth can be fully understood and accurately believed by them.
You can think of "teaching" as an act that instructs the mind, and "warning" or "admonition" as an act that moves the will. And these are both vitally needed. We've all felt the frustration of wanting to do God's will in some particular situation in life, but not knowing what it was God wanted us to do—until He sent someone into our lives to "teach" us. And then, we've also experienced times when we knew exactly what it is that God wants us to do; but we didn't put it into action—until God sent a brother or sister to us to "admonish" us rise up and do it.
Both of the acts of "admonishing" and "teaching" are essential in our work of proclaiming Christ. It isn't enough for people to be informed of the truths of the gospel; they must also be urged to place their trust in those truths and apply them in a practical way to their lives. And likewise, it isn't enough to simply warn people and admonish them to live for Christ; we must also teach and inform them in the truth of who He is and what it means to live for Him. "Teaching" alone would only produce well-informed sinners; and "admonition" by itself would only produce very zealous heretics. Both "admonishing" and "teaching" must be involved in our church's method of proclaiming Christ.
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And notice that we mustn't leave anyone out. Paul says that we're to be warning and teaching “every man". In fact, Paul's use of the phrase "every man" occurs three times in verse 28 alone. He doesn't say to warn and teach "mankind"; as if he were speaking in generalities. Rather, he says to warn "every man" and teach "every man"—suggesting a ministry that was uniquely directed to individuals in a personal way. No single man, and no single woman, and no single child is to be considered beyond the need of the two-fold method of admonition and teaching in helping them to walk with Christ.
Paul's proclamation of Christ was definitely a public one—and he frequently preached Christ to huge crowds. But he never forgot that the proclamation of Christ must, in the final analysis, be brought down to a disciple-making ministry on an individual and personal level. It had to be brought down to the ministry of admonishing and teaching each individual man and each individual woman that God placed in his sphere of influence.
And if we, as a church, are going to fulfill the ministry God has called us to of proclaiming Christ, we too need to bring the proclamation personally to bear in the lives of the individual men, women and children that God has given us.
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So; God has given us a message to proclaim, and a method by which to proclaim it.
This leads us to the next aspect of our church's ministry . . .
3. OUR MANNER.
Paul said that he and his co-laborers proclaimed Christ, admonishing every man and teaching every man “in all wisdom . . ."
Many people think that wisdom is something that is only 'philosophical'—something that only goes on in the head. But the Bible teaches that true wisdom is meant to transforms the heart and the life as well as the head. A good description of the sort of “wisdom” Paul was speaking of can be found back in the ninth verse of chapter one. He told the Colossians that he rejoiced to hear about their faith in Christ and love for all the saints, and then said;
For Paul, true wisdom and spiritual understanding had its basis in a knowledge of God's will. And as such, it should always be put to work in the everyday experience of practical life. Paul goes on to pray that they would be given such wisdom and spiritual understanding,
True wisdom from God is never simply "head-knowledge". It's always practical. It always leads to holy living, because it's based on a knowledge of He tells us in Scripture—God's revealed will for the situations and circumstances we face in daily life. As Paul told the Colossian believers, "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs ..." (4:16; emph. added).
So then; how do we conduct our church's ministry in a manner that is “in all wisdom”? We do so by making sure that we are a biblical church. We must work to get each other into the word of God; and see to it that the word of God is lived out in one another's life. It's the Scriptures alone which, as Paul told Timothy, "are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:15). “All Scripture,” he said, “is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work" (vv. 16-17).
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So, we are to proclaim Jesus Christ, through the methods of admonishing and teaching, according to all the wisdom provided for us in God's word. Now; this is going to take a lot of work! Why are we to do this?
Praise God; these two verses tell us that too! They teach us what is to be . . .
4. OUR MOTIVE.
Paul said that he and his co-laborers did all this, "that we may present every man perfect [or "complete"] in Christ Jesus."
Paul wasn't saying that his ministry involved actually making anyone's salvation "perfect" in Christ—as though people who were "in Christ" were somehow 'imperfectly saved' until Paul and his partners ministered to them and made them 'perfect'. Being made positionally complete in Christ is a work of God that, for the believer, is already a reality; and human effort can neither add to it or subtract from it. We've already seen that “in [Christ] dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and you are complete in Him" (2:9-10).
So then; what exactly did Paul mean by saying that his goal was to present every man "perfect in Christ"? For one thing, Paul sought to show every man or woman who was in Christ that they are already positionally complete precisely because they're in Christ. He wanted them to know, as a matter of certainty, that they now stand completely justified before God, completely forgiven of their sins, and made completely fit and ready for heavenly glory—and all in Christ alone. He wanted them to get this not only into their heads; but to believe this with all their hearts.
I can't stress enough how important this is! At the time that Paul wrote this letter to the Colossian believers—just as is true today—there were many who were creeping into the church, and teaching that a simple faith in Christ alone was not enough. They were advocating the idea that, in order to be a truly fulfilled and complete person in God's eyes, something "more" than a relationship with Christ was needed. And Paul wanted to warned these Christians to be on their guard, lest anyone "cheat" them, or "take them captive" through mere human philosophies (2:8), or put them under bondage to ceremonial rules and regulations (2:16, 20-22), or distract them into chasing after phony religions and visions and speculations (2:18)—all of which stood in contradiction to the truth that they had already been made complete in Christ
But another of Paul's concerns in his ministry was to urge everyone who was in Christ to become "in practice" what they already are "in position". He wanted them to grow increasingly in practical, experiential Christ-likeness—to go on and "live" the life of someone who is truly complete in Christ. He told them, "As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving" (2:6-7).
That was Paul's motive; to present every man “complete” or “perfect” in Christ. And this needs to be our great motive in our church's ministry as well.
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What a thrilling ministry we have as a church. But also, what a great responsibility! We deal with spiritual realities and eternal destinies! This work deserves our greatest efforts and personal sacrifices; and yet, it's one in which we're utterly and completely dependent upon divine resources. Who is sufficient for such things? How do we tap into the power necessary to get such a thing done?
Well; praise God that we're not even left on our own to figure that out! In this passage, we find that God gives us a living example of how weak and frail people such as ourselves are to do this great work. We see, finally . . .
5. OUR MODEL.
That great model is Paul himself. Paul speaks in personal terms, and says, "To this end I also labor, striving according to His working which works in me mightily" (v. 28).
Paul said that it was to "this end" that he labored. He did everything that he did, ultimately, to fulfill his chief calling of proclaiming Christ. And what's more, he said how hard he personally worked to do what he did. He "labored". The word he used means to labor and work to the point of weariness. And he labored with "striving"; which, in the original language, is the word from which we get the English word "agony". It refers to the sort of strenuous, self-denying and concerted effort that someone would put forth in competing in an athletic event.
Now; considering all that Paul suffered and all that he accomplished, it's a pretty intimidating thing to think of looking to him as our example. But please notice the greatest thing his example sets before us—the power he trusted in when doing his work for the Lord. He said that he labored, "striving according to His working which works in me mightily".
You and I may feel like we're far too weak and frail to labor and strive as Paul did. And we'd be right to feel this way. Even as a church—all working together—we could never do the work God calls us to do in our own power. But Paul once said that "we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us" (2 Cor. 4:7). We've been shown, through Paul's own example, that the wonderful marvel of our call to ministry is this: We are all to do our work of proclaiming Christ in the full confidence that the Spirit Christ Himself works mightily in us. And as Paul once testified, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me" (Philippians 4:13).
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Dear brothers and sisters; would you please take the time to memorize these two verses? And more than memorize them; meditate on them and make them your personal mission statement as you minister with and in this church:
Let's make sure Christ is our message. Let's admonishing and teaching each person in our care to trust in Christ fully. Let's faithfully impart to them the wisdom of God's word. Let's labor to present each one complete in Christ. And let's labor at it diligently—not in our own power, but with full trust in the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit. Let's be “steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 15:58).
And may Jesus Christ be glorified as "We proclaim Him".
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