sugar grove Campus
  • Aurora Campus
  • El Camino Campus
  • Indian Creek Campus
  • Naperville Campus
  • Online Campus
  • Plano Campus
  • Sugar Grove Campus
search
Go

Sermons

← back to list

Nov 30, 2014

Simply the Best | Part 1

Passage: Colossians 1:1-2

Preacher: Tim Badal

Series: Preeminent

Detail:

This week we begin a new series on the Book of Colossians entitled, “Preeminent.”  An aged man named Paul wrote this four-chapter book more than 2,000 years ago.  This apostle writes to a small, yet growing church.  In spite of the age of this book, there are no cobwebs to push away as it is still applicable to our lives today.  Colossians was written through the Holy Spirit of God.  Because of the Spirit’s involvement, this letter affects us in the same way it affected the church of Colossae, who first received this letter.  Therefore this letter is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training us for righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16).  Colossians is in the Bible so that Christians might be equipped for every good work that God has called us to do (2 Timothy 3:17).

Paul’s salutation in Colossians 1:1-2 says:

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother,
To the saints and faithful brothers in Christ at Colossae:
Grace to you and peace from God our Father.

By nature, human beings are competitive.  The day immediately after Thanksgiving has become a full-contact activity.  People stand in line contemplating the best way to outwit others and get through doors to get special items.  Our conversations are full of comparing athletes’ statistics and the value of our favorite teams.  This type of competition seeps into family life as well.  Who traveled the farthest for Thanksgiving?  Who made the best pumpkin pie?  Whose turkey was the best?  Which family member told the best stories? There is also a competition happening in your heart.  Where does Jesus Christ stand in your life? 

Colossians proclaims that Jesus Christ is supreme in the universe.  Paul writes with one goal in mind: to remind us that Jesus is the Magnificent One, the Marvelous One, the only-begotten Son of God full of grace and truth (John 1:14), fully human and fully divine, the only Supplier and Sustainer of all things.  In Colossians 1:18, Paul calls Christ, “The Preeminent One.”  The word “preeminent” is not a word that we use very often.  Few people know what the proper definition is.  It is a heavy word.  However, it is an important, powerful word.  It means that Jesus Christ surpasses all others.  Being “The Preeminent One” means that Jesus is the:

  • Greatest One
  • Leading One
  • Foremost One
  • Best One
  • Finest One
  • Chief One
  • Outstanding One
  • Excellent One
  • Distinguished One
  • Prominent One
  • Eminent One
  • Important One
  • Top One
  • Famous One
  • Renowned One
  • Celebrated One
  • Illustrious One
  • Supreme One
  • Marquee One

As a follower of Jesus Christ, you need to affirm that He is preeminent.  You must worship Jesus Christ as simply, “The Best.”  He is it.  He is the greatest thing that the world has ever known and will ever know.  In our study, we will look at how Jesus’ preeminence impacts our world, our worship and our daily walks. 

In order to understand Jesus’ preeminence, we need to back up and examine four important aspects of the people to whom Colossians was written. 


1.  The City of Colossae

To whom was Colossians written?  Colossians was written to the people in the city of Colossae. 

Location

Where is Colossae?  It was an ancient city that no longer exists.  It was a historical site.  Both secular and Christian archaeologists agree that Colossae was a city in modern day Turkey.  About 100 miles inland from Ephesus lay the city of Colossae.  Hierapolis and Laodicea were its neighboring cities.  All three of these cities were in a valley alongside the Lycus River.  Colossae was a small town, especially compared with Hierapolis and Laodicea.  It lay 20 miles from either Laodicea or Hierapolis.  Colossae lay on two trade routes between Hierapolis and Laodicea.  These trade routes went out from the seaport of Ephesus and on to India and the Far East.  All kinds of people were constantly traveling through Colossae. 

Where is Colossae today?  In 61 AD, Colossae was at the epicenter of a massive earthquake that leveled the city.  Nothing was left.  Paul wrote this letter about five years before this earthquake happened.  Paul wrote to a group of people who would not be alive for much longer.  Historians believe that most people living in Colossae died during the earthquake that destroyed the city.  The ground swallowed the city whole.  This serves as a reminder to us that we don’t know what a day may bring.  You may be living in the last five years of your life.  Every moment is important.  When Paul says, “…making the best use of the time” (Colossians 4:5), take it to heart because you do not know what tomorrow might bring. 

Lifestyle

Like most inhabitants of Asia Minor during this time, commerce and religion were central in the Colossians’ lives.  Colossae was a quiet place to live.  However, because of the trade traffic, all types of foreign religions and customs and nationalities influenced life in Colossae.  It was an eclectic mix of East and West, Jew and Gentile, living in relative peace. 


2.  The Church that called Colossae Home

Historical information abounds concerning the church in Colossae through the book of Colossians.  It is the longest, most detailed account of the people of Colossae that remains.  There are truths that we need to know about these people.  The Colossians were:

Led by dedicated pastors

In Colossians 1:1 and 1:7-8, we are introduced to three men: the Apostle Paul, Timothy and Epaphras.  Epaphras was a “…beloved fellow servant. He is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf  and has made known to us your love in the Spirit” (Colossians 1:7-8). 

Paul, before his salvation, was a persecutor of the people of God.  He was Saul of Tarsus.  In Acts 9:1-19, Paul was on his way to persecute the church in Damascus when he met Jesus face to face.  In a moment, he was changed from the great persecutor of Christians to the great Apostle of the Christians who preached the truth of Jesus Christ.  Don’t just glance over the introductions to biblical epistles.  “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God…”  When you go to work tomorrow and encounter that person who has no hope of being saved, remember the Apostle Paul.  He was a persecutor of the people of God.  In a split second, he bowed the knee to Jesus Christ.  Paul is a reminder that no one is too far from the grace of God.  No one is so sinful that they cannot become a follower of Jesus Christ.  By His will, God saves all who bow the knee to Him.  If He saved you, then He can save other sinners as well. 

Paul wrote this letter with the help of Timothy.  There is debate on whether or not Paul is the writer of Colossians.  Some idioms and figures of speech seem out of place because they don’t quite fit Paul’s style.  However, Paul may have suffered from debilitating eyesight.  Because of that illness, scribes would have helped him write the letters that he sent to the churches.  Colossians 4:18 says, “I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. Remember my chains. Grace be with you.”   Paul used his own handwriting at this point in the letter.  This means that Paul dictated and someone else transcribed the rest of letter.  This person may have been Timothy.  Paul met Timothy on one of his missionary journeys.  Timothy had a Jewish mother and a Greek father.  He would later become the pastor of the church at Ephesus and receive letters from his friend and mentor, Paul. 

Why would Paul write a letter to people he had never met?  How could he be a dedicated pastor to people he had never visited?  Why had he never visited?  Colossians 4:18 tells us that he is in chains.  In Colossians 4:3, we learn that Paul is in prison for declaring the gospel.  At this point, Paul cannot visit Colossae because he is imprisoned in Rome.  Instead of worrying about his own wellbeing, Paul only mentions his imprisonment twice.  His focus is on the people of God.  When you think that God has abandoned you, don’t focus on your own circumstances, but always focus on other people and the work of Christ.  Paul never makes his imprisonment an issue.  He focuses on the needs of the people that he is serving.  He is dedicated. 

How does he connect with the church at Colossae?  Acts 19:1-7 may give insight into this question:

1And it happened that while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul passed through the inland country and came to Ephesus. There he found some disciples. 2 And he said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” And they said, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” 3 And he said, “Into what then were you baptized?” They said, “Into John's baptism.” 4 And Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, Jesus.” 5 On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 6 And when Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking in tongues and prophesying. 7 There were about twelve men in all. And he entered the synagogue and for three months spoke boldly, reasoning and persuading them about the kingdom of God. But when some became stubborn and continued in unbelief, speaking evil of the Way before the congregation, he withdrew from them and took the disciples with him, reasoning daily in the hall of Tyrannus. 10 This continued for two years, so that all the residents of Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks.

These twelve men were commissioned to go throughout Asia Minor spreading the gospel (Acts 19:10).  This began in Ephesus, but spread throughout the entire area.  One of those twelve men may have been Epaphras, who then went on to Colossae.  The proclamation of the gospel sparked a movement and a church began.  Because of the teaching ministry of a couple years, all of Asia Minor heard the good news of Jesus Christ.   How much has this church done for our local community in the last two years?  These men lived during a time when travel was arduous and there was no written Word of God.  Yet, we don’t even reach out to our next-door neighbors in order to invite them to church. 

Epaphras was a faithful minister.  He served as a teacher in the church in Colossae.  This letter was written because Epaphras ran into difficulties in the church.  He reached out to Paul in Rome, asking for wisdom and guidance.  Epaphras prayed for his people, always contending for their faith.

Who were the Colossians?

A diverse group of people

This church was diverse.  Colossians 3:11 says they had groups of Barbarians and Scythians among them.  These people filled the church.  Amidst different skin colors, social and economic backgrounds, customs and preferences, all of these diverse people became one under the banner of Christ Jesus.  All churches ought to look like this.  The things the world wars and riots over are nothing under the banner of Jesus Christ.  We should all be one.  How do we do this? 

Colossians 3:11, “Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.”  The letter of Philemon was written to Philemon who was a slave owner in the city of Colossae.  Paul met Philemon’s runaway slave, Onesimus, in Rome.  Paul commended Onesimus to his owner, not as a slave, but as an equal (Philemon 16).  How would this affect the church?  The master lifts up his hands to Jesus, recognizing that he is a slave for Christ.  Next to him is his newly freed slave who no longer has any master, but Christ Himself.  Paul says that we are all one under Christ. 

How does this happen?  The church in Colossae had to be a place of love.  Colossians 3:14, “And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.”  The only way that people of different skin colors, or the rich or poor, will ever become unified is if Christ’s love resonates through them.  When you have issues with people in the church, remember the diversity of the Colossians.  They were incredibly different, but they had all experienced the love and forgiveness of Christ.  They recognized that they must love and forgive one another.  If our brothers and sisters in St. Louis recognized that we are all one in Christ, there would be no rioting.  There wouldn’t be any racial tension.  They would recognize that we are nothing and Christ is everything.

In a difficult, but necessary, position

In Colossians 1:1, these people are, “…the saints and faithful brothers in Christ at Colossae…”  In four words, Paul sums up what our position is with Christ and the world: 

  1. He addresses our spiritual standing: we are in Christ
  2. He talks about our physical location: at Colossae

These two descriptions encapsulate our dual citizenship.  Christians reside in two places.  To diminish one in favor of the other is detrimental to our walk with Christ and our engagement with the world. 

What does it mean to be “in Christ”?

  1. All who are in Christ are subject to all that Christ is.  If you are in Christ, then your worship of Christ isn’t merely a Sunday morning activity.  It is all of who you are.  Your greatest desire will be to gather with others who are in Christ and worship together, proclaiming His Name, hearing the preaching of His Word, giving your tithes and offerings back to Him.  Your first, your last, your everything is Jesus Christ alone if you are in Him. 
  2. It is an exclusive relationship with Christ.  You cannot be “in Christ” and also be “in something else.”  Your primary goal cannot be money, jobs or pleasures while you claim the Name of Christ.  To be in Christ means that everything else is secondary.  Jesus Christ alone is first in your life.  Nothing supersedes your relationship with Christ. 
  3. Your life will be different.  You cannot be controlled by other things.  If you find yourself addicted to anything else besides Jesus Christ, something is wrong.  If there is something that controls you more than Christ—the bottle, a pill, activities, pleasures, pursuits—then you are in those things and not in Him.
  4. You are connected to a diverse group of people who believe the same gospel and you must show love and affection toward those people. 

It is easy to be “in Christ” when you are surrounded by other Christians.  What happens when you are surrounded by those who hate the name of Jesus and are indifferent to the things of Christ?  When this happens, you need to be present in your communities.  You cannot be so heavenly minded that you never engage the world.  You cannot get wrapped up and lost in the Christian bubble.  At some point you need to move out of the sphere of the sacred and engage in the secular.  God has divinely placed you in your community.  You live in your neighborhood by the will and plan of God.  There is a reason why you are there.  There is a reason why you have the job that you have.  There is a reason why you go to your particular school.  In His will, God has placed you there for a purpose. 

What is the purpose?  What should you remember before you go out into the world?

  1. As you live among unbelievers, remember that you were once like them.  When you engage culture, it is easy to elevate yourself and regard others as senseless, sinful and stupid.  Paul reminds the church that they are part of the larger city of Colossae.  Colossians 1:21-22, “And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him.”   Don’t look down on people out in the world, thinking that the sin of others will make you unholy.  You were once in that same situation before someone came and shared the gospel with you.  Aren’t you glad that people came to you when you were in your sin, when you lived in debauchery?  Aren’t you glad that someone was willing to leave his or her Christian community and meet you where you were before you came to Christ?
  2. You must put on the things of Christ before you go out into the world.  Colossians 3:12-13 says, “Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.”  Do you want to know if you are in Christ?  Ask yourself, “What type of life do people see in me?  Do they roll their eyes when they hear my name?  Or, do they say, ‘Wow.  There’s something different about her.  She is humble and compassionate.  I wronged her the other day and she forgave me.  She didn’t need to, but she did.  There’s something different about her.’”  Do you hide yourself from the world? 
  3. You need to declare that you are in Christ.  Have confidence to say, “Let me tell you about what Jesus is doing in my life.”  Paul says this in Colossians 4:5-6, “Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.”  Be ready.  Use the opportunities presented to you.  Don’t shrink back, but make the most of the time before you because the days are evil (Ephesians 5:16).  Be the best Christian you can be.  Proclaim to the world, “I am in Christ.”  Let the world see what it means to be in Christ through your lifestyle.  How engaged are you in the world?  My wife and I realized that all of our friendships were with people in the church so we restructured our social calendar in order to have our neighbors over and be engaged in our community.  It is difficult to engage with non-believers.  It may mean declining invitations to fellowship with friends at church.  Fellowship with believers is important.  However, you have been placed in your community for a purpose.  You must engage your neighbors. 

Balancing being in Christ and being in your community is difficult.  Therefore, Paul tells the church at Colossae to be holy.  He calls the Colossians, “…the saints and faithful brothers…”  Connect “saints” (literally “holy ones”) and “faithful brothers” to being “in Christ at Colossae.”  How should you be in Christ?  Be the holy ones.  You want to be in Christ?  Pursue holiness.  Ask God to change your heart and make you more like His Son.  To be faithful means to be faithfully engaged in the world where Christ has put you. 


3.  The Crisis that Christianity Was Facing

Why was Paul writing this letter?  There were many issues that had come up.  Epaphras was involved in this church.  The church was growing numerically and in their knowledge of Jesus Christ.  So what issues came up?  This letter was written to a world where:

People challenged the supremacy of Christ

This was the first crisis: Jesus was no longer number one.  Though we are 2,000 years removed from this church, the same things happen today.  In this pluralistic and tolerant society, Jesus has been given a place on the altar of other gods.  No one objects to Jesus as long as He is considered the same as Buddha, Allah, Krishna, Muhammad or any other New Age spiritual guide.  He gets placed alongside the others and has been devalued. 

Colossians unapologetically proclaims that Jesus Christ is, always has been and always will be preeminent.  There is no equal.  There is no competitor.  Jesus is above all and in all.  The word “all” is found in Colossians thirty different times describing Jesus.  If you struggle with Jesus being first in your life, or if you think it’s intolerant to place Him above all other gods, you will struggle with the book of Colossians.  Colossians proclaims that Jesus is The Way, The Truth and The Life.   Jesus reigns supreme. 

Christians had little confidence in their faith

In this pluralistic setting, Christians at Colossae saw themselves as one sect among many.  All around them people talked about a brand new spirituality.  The church was tempted into thinking that something was lacking in their midst.  The gospel became old, worn out and dusty.  They no longer saw its power in their lives.  They felt like they were losing the battle.  Paul reminded the Colossians that the battle had already been won through the cross of Jesus Christ.  Paul told the church to stop moping; they already had victory.   “He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4). 

We are more than conquerors in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:37).  Therefore we must have confidence in our faith and grow in it.  In Colossians 2:6-7, Paul proclaims to the church, “Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.”  We are on the Victor’s side.  We have an inheritance that is waiting for us in glory (1 Peter 1:4).  You don’t need anything new and glitzy.  The gospel that saved the Colossians is the same gospel that saves you today. 

Christians preferred closed-off living

In Colossians 2:18, we are introduced to a group of people who believed that the way you get close to God is by separating yourself from the world.  This group believed that everything in the world was evil and that the best way to avoid evil was to avoid the world.  We do the same thing today.  We separate ourselves from the world and don’t have any involvement with the world.  We don’t have any friends in the world.  We try to make sure that everything we do has a “Christian” label on it.  If you believe that this is true, you nullify the common grace of God working in this world.  This is not how we should live our lives.  This type of thinking leads to segmented and compartmentalized lives.  A person who must do everything in a “Christian” way will still accept medicine from an unbelieving doctor. 

Don’t try to find ways to put Christian labels on secular things.  Merely understand that people have corrupted things, but those things are not inherently bad.  Things in this world are amoral tools.  It is the person who is moral or immoral.  People misuse and abuse things that are given by God.  Don’t fall into the same trap as the Colossians.  Test the spirits.  Colossians 3:15, 17 says, “And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful…and whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”  Not everything you do will have a Christian label, but it all must be done to the glory of God.  If you are in Christ, you must engage with the world.

Christians separated their beliefs from their conduct

In the first century, Gnosticism was a prevalent philosophy in the church.  Gnosticism is alive and well in Evangelical Christianity today.  It taught that there was a dividing line between things of the flesh and things of the spirit.  A person had a secular life and a spiritual life.  A person could live any way they wanted because the flesh was evil; nothing done in the physical flesh mattered.  All that mattered was the spiritual life: singing praises in church, etc.   People still live like this today.  Jesus is just fire insurance.  People taste and experience and affirm the truth of God’s Word, but deny it through their lives during the week.  However, there is no distinction between the sacred and the secular.  Jesus is in all and above all. 

Where sin damages, grace rebuilds.  Where sin brings chaos, grace restores order.  Where sin brings death and despair, grace brings hope and life.  You don’t need to separate your fleshly life from your spiritual life.  They are one and the same.  You are the temple of Christ and the Holy Spirit.  Right beliefs will always lead to right behavior.

People were duped by counterfeit spirituality

Colossae was plagued by a new spirituality.  These practices involved:

  • Celebrating special days
  • A heavy focus on celestial events
  • Worshipping angels
  • Elevating peoples’ dreams and visions
  • Believing that certain ways of eating produced greater holiness in the eater

Among Christians there are great evils being done with the gospel of Jesus Christ.  One of the most well known devotionals is a book called, Jesus Calling.  The writer of this book gets her inspiration for the devotions from a verbal, up-close, daily encounter with the heavenly realms, angels and God Himself.  Christians read this book without evaluating its truthfulness.  Not all spiritual things are of God. 

One of the high priestesses of modern spirituality is Oprah Winfrey.  She has concocted all kinds of teachers from Eckhart Tolle to Deepak Chopra to Rob Bell.  She brings them all together and says that the way to find God today is by finding the god behind every religion.  There is counterfeit spirituality at work in our world.  Be careful what you listen to and be careful what you read.  We are called to be like the Bereans (Acts 17:11).


4.  Correspondence Written to Correct the Error

There is a lot of error in Christianity and in our churches today.  The answer is the book of Colossians.  The answer to our hopelessness and desire for spirituality and all of our failings in our faith is Jesus Christ.   He is the Preeminent One.  As we study this book we will see three areas over which Christ is preeminent:

  1. The world.  When you turn on the news and the world is falling into chaos, remember that Jesus Christ is preeminent.
  2. Our worship.  It matters what you say about Jesus.  It matters how you worship Jesus.  It matters what you consider holy and right.  If Christ is preeminent in your worship then He will be your focus and you will want to get worship right.  If you don’t, you lead people into error. 
  3. Our walk.  Your life has to change.  Christ must be preeminent in your relationships with people, in the workplace, in leisure time, in school, in the neighborhood, in your fellowship with believers, in your relationship with unbelievers.  Christ must be preeminent.  Colossians 3:17, “Whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” 

Jesus is supreme.  Live like it.  Worship like it.  Show the world that Jesus is preeminent in all that you say and do. 

 

Village Bible Church  |  847 North State Route 47, Sugar Grove, IL 60554  |  (630) 466-7198  |  www.villagebible.org/sugar-grove/resources/sermons

All Scriptures quoted directly from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted. 

Note: This transcription has been provided by Sermon Transcribers (www.sermontranscribers.net).