THE MATURITY OF THE BELIEVERS
When God selected a method or a strategic plan to utilize in propagating His message to the world, He chose preaching (1 Co. 1:21). In every age of Bible history preaching was a key element in getting God’s message to men. Noah was a “preacher of righteousness” (2 Pe. 2:5) in the Patriarchal Dispensation. John the Baptist lived and died during the Mosaic Dispensation and his preaching blazed the way for our Lord (Mat. 3:1-2, 11-12). God had only one Son and He was a preacher (Mat. 4:17).
Paul exalted Jesus in the Colossian letter. He presented Jesus as unique and unsurpassed. The theme of the letter is JESUS. “Christ is all and in all” (Col. 3:11). Jesus has the preeminence over all (Col. 1:18 NASV). As the late Wendell Winkler stated, “With Christ, it is first place of no place” (WW). He is preeminent in the creative process (Col. 1:16; John 1:1-3; Heb. 1:1-2). He is preeminent in the church (Col. 1:18; Eph. 1:22-23). He is preeminent in the redemptive process (Col. 1:13-14). He is preeminent over the grave (Col. 1:18). The day Jesus arose from the dead is the day that death died.
Hence, it just seems logical that Paul would select Jesus as the theme of his preaching. “Whom we proclaim, admonishing every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ” (Col. 1:28). “Him we preach” NKJV “We proclaim him” NASV “Whom we proclaim” KJV “Whom we proclaim” ASV There is no room in the preaching of a faithful gospel preacher for any other message (Acts 8:4-5, 12; 5:42; 1 Co. 2:2; 2 Co. 4:5).
Men and women have a right to hear the gospel at least once before they die. Preach Christ, not philosophy, science, theory, a feel-good doctrine or a hobby, Preach Christ!
The late Frank L. Cox visited the campus of Alabama Christian College (Faulkner University) in the late 60’s to lecture and meet with young ministerial students. The preacher students asked a number of questions to which Bro. Cox gave one answer to each question. He said to the querist, “Just preach the word son.”
Preaching Christ was the heart of Paul’s preaching (1 Co. 2:2). It was the message of Philip in Acts chapter eight. When the church was scattered by persecution, one of those who left Jerusalem was Philip. He went to Samaria and preached Christ (Acts 8:4-5,12).
The message Paul preached was Christ crucified (1 Co. 2:2). He preached Christ as the only Savior (Acts 4:12). The Christ Paul presented to man was a sufficient Savior (Heb. 7:25). He is mighty to save “to the uttermost”.
Paul’s message was not limited. Three times in one passage he uses the phrase “every man” (Col. 1:28). Vincent, in commenting on this phrase, states: “Thrice repeated, in order to emphasize the universality of the Gospel against the intellectual exclusiveness encouraged by false teachers.” (Vincent Vol 3 480)
The blessed, glorious Gospel is for all (Rom. 1:16). When Paul repeated those for whom his preaching was intended, he used the Greek term ‘anthropos’ from which we get mankind inclusive of men and women.
The apostle saw the need to develop men and women, who behaved and obeyed the gospel, into mature Christians. The maturation process of these Christians involved two aspects of the apostle’s preaching. It involved “admonishing”. This “included in admonishing is the idea of warning people and pointing out the consequences of immorality, unspiritual living, and following erroneous teaching. It includes both a positive and a negative approach to teaching because Christians must do what is right as well as eliminate from their lives what is wrong. While the emphasis must be on righteous living, the importance of avoiding evil must not be overlooked.” (TFT 170)
Paul was both positive and negative in his preaching Christ (2 Ti. 4:1-2). Even our Lord knew when to admonish (Mat. 5:34; 6:2-3,5,16,19,25,31). The basis of the apostle’s preaching was upon the wisdom of God. “Paul presented God’s wisdom (1 Co. 1:24, 30; 2:7) instead of the wisdom of the world (1 Co. 2:13). He did not seek to persuade through appealing speech techniques or human wisdom; he simply presented God’s message (1 Co. 2:1-5). (TFT 171)
There was an objective or goal in Paul’s preaching: “to present every man complete in Christ” (Col. 1:28). The preacher’s work is two-fold. First, to persuade men to enter Jesus and secondly, to develop the baptized believer toward completeness or maturity (Heb. 5:12-6:1; Mat. 28:19-20; Eph. 4:11-16). It is a huge disservice to teach and baptize a believer and not teach “all things” (Mat. 28:19-20) that are involved in living the Christian life. The word “perfect” (teleios) means “signifies having reached its end, finished, complete, perfect, full-grown, a full age” (Vine 174).
We should seek perfection or completeness “(1) in teaching or doctrine (Heb. 6:1); (2) in faith (Jas. 2:22); (3) in hope (1 Pe. 1:13); (4) in love (1 Jn. 4:18); (5) in understanding (1 Co. 14:20)” (Pulpit Com Vo. 20 40). “Perfect” is elsewhere translated “mature”, “complete” (Mat. 19:21). Vincent suggests that “perfect” (telios) means to be “fully iniated” (Vincent Word Studies Vol. III 481).
Paul is not suggesting that we can reach a state of sinlessness (1 Jn. 1:8-10). He is saying we can reach a stage of greater maturity than when we first obeyed the gospel (Heb. 5:12-16; 1 Co. 3:1-3). Here he presents a contrast of the complete and the incomplete. The mature and the immature. The strong and the weak.
MacArthur correctly states, “The goal of the ministry is the maturity of the saints” (Eph. 4:11-13) (J Mcol. 80). To be mature is to be like our Lord. We have not yet reached the top rung in the ladder of Christian maturity (Phi. 3:12). The day is coming when this will be realized (1 Jn. 3:2). Feeding on God’s word helps to nourish us and aid in our spiritual growth process (1 Pe. 2:2; Mat. 4:4).
If Christ-likeness is essential to our growth and spiritual development, then it is equally as important to be a “partaker of the divine nature” (2 Pe. 1:2-4). There are five powerful words Paul uses about his ministry (v. 26): Purpose = His purpose was to convert people and bring them to maturity in Christ. Labor = (kopiao) means to work to the point of exhaustion (POSB 374). Striving = (agonizomenos) This suggests agonizing effort. Mightily = Paul was empowered, as were the other apostles, to perform miracles (2 Co. 12:12). Power = (energia) Paul’s power was from Christ. This was not physical power but spiritual power (Eph. 3:16).
The late J.W. Shepherd helps put all Paul said into a clear perspective: “A small dynamo can retain its energy if continually replenished. Christians themselves are spiritual dynamos, but they must be in constant union with Christ the source of life and energy. The constant inflow of power from Christ enabled Paul to be a continuous supply of energy for others.” (JWS 272)
May the Lord bless you and keep you!
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