Everything Paul has written since his opening words of thanks has been focused on the godly conduct of the Colossians. He has thanked God for their faith and love, and he has prayed for spiritual wisdom for them so they can live a life worthy of the Lord, whilst patiently enduring trials. The purpose of his “hymn to Christ” is that they may remain established in Him. He now concludes with a wonderful summary of the essence of Christian ministry: the what, the why and the how.
The what of ministry? As verse 28 says, “[Jesus] is the one we proclaim”. Our message to the world is not “Make Poverty History,” nor “Become a Better You”. Our only message to the world is: “Christ in you, the hope of glory”. And thus we warn and teach. We warn people because our, and their, lives must change from wilful rebellion to godly submission. And we teach one another because our ways of thinking must move from being self-centred to God-centred.
Why? So we can be spiritually mature. Paul has already said that the purpose of Christ’s death was to present us holy in God’s sight, without blemish (Colossians 1:22). If I am going to be without blemish then I need to have my blemishes removed. If you have ever had blemishes removed from your skin, then you will know it is painful. But a little pain is worth it to look beautiful. That is exactly what Paul is doing. I do not want to hear sermons that just make me feel good about myself, I need preachers to turn the searchlight of God’s Word on my pride, my foolish words, and my selfish desires. God’s Word and Spirit have to burn them off to make me to become pleasing in His sight.
How does Paul—and every other teacher—achieve this goal? Through hard work. Paul writes that he labours agonisingly with God’s strength by which he is powerfully strengthened (v. 29). Paul sweats and strains to bring the believers to maturity in Christ. Yet all the while, it is the God of all power who is mightily enabling him. And me. And you.
What are the kinds of things that we should be warning people against? Why does the New Testament give such an important emphasis to teaching in the church?
Why is the work of ministry so hard?