Perseverance and Colossians 1

Paul’s epistle to the church at Colossae addresses false teachings that are evidently infiltrating the church. These teachings seem to be originating in Greek philosophy, running the gambit of implementations. From ascetic living to Bacchanalian ribaldry involving all sorts of evil. It is in this context that we find Paul proclaiming the sufficient work of Christ, along with the security of the true believers and a warning to persevere.

What follows are the notes for a Sunday School session on these verses.

Colossians 1:21-23
Context

Historic crossroads of east and west
Ancient melting pot culturally
Greco-Romans, Jews, and Phrygians present
1). G-R’s ? religion and philosophy (Stoic, Epicurean, Platonic)
2). Jews ? Judiasim
3). Phrygians ? Mystery religions

All this works against the believers in Colossae

Outline ? Courtesy Hans Bayer/CTS

I. 1:1-14 – Description, establishes context
vv 13&14: transferred from one kingdom to another

II. 1:15-20 ? Hymn of Christ
A. Outgrowth of and Embed in instruction above
B. Highlights the work of Christ and its application to believers

III. 1:21-22 ? Instruction in Christ
A. Reminds Colossian believers of the source of their existence, faith

IV. 1:23 ? Signal of something to come
A. Privilege of holding salvation/responsibility to continue in the faith
B. III & IV together issue a Divine Promise with Human Responsibility

Conclusion on vv 21-23: True believers are reconciled to God the Father through the sacrifice of the Son, in order that one may be presented before the father holy, blameless (unblemished), and irreproachable (blameless) so long as one persists in the faith.

The Question:

Perseverance of True Believers ? what does it mean?

Practical Promise of Security ? God will finish the work He started in you
Paul –
1 Corinthians 1:8-9: 8who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Ephesians 1:13-14: 13In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it,to the praise of his glory.

Philippians 1:6: 6And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

2 Timothy 4:18: 18The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory forever and ever. Amen

New Testament –

John 5:24, 6:39, 1: 24″Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.
39″And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day.”

Hebrews 7:25: 25Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.

1 Peter 1:3-5: 3Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5who by God?s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
Words of Warning for True Believers ? Responsibility of True Believers
Paul –
Colossians 1:23: 23if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.

NT –
Gospels ? Very few, if any, warnings for believers; rather, the positive side: exhortation to continue in the faith.

Heb 2:1: 1Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it.

2 Peter 3:17: 17You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability.

Synthesis of Biblical Materials ? Applying the Truth to Life
There is a dualistic sense to the Christian life – there is an objective truth, then the living reality. For instance, you as a true believer are, right now, righteous before God because of the righteousness of Christ. But do you feel righteous all the time? When situation x is happening?

1). Already/Not yet
2). Diving Sovereignty/Human Responsibility
3). Nature of the Church ? Observation and truth don’t always reconcile.
4). Marks of Salvation ? fruit, fruit, and more fruit (cf John 15, Matt 10:22)

Perseverance is usually associated with the Canons of Dordt, and is usually not represented very appropriately. Let’s consult with the eminent theologian John Murray, from Redemption Accomplished and Applied, pp 151ff:

In order to place the doctrine of perseverance in proper light we need to know what it is not. It does not mean that every one who professes faith in Christ and who is accepted as a believer in the fellowship of the saints is secure for eternity and may entertain the assurance of eternal salvation. Our Lord himself warned his followers in the days of his flesh when he said to those Jews who believed on him, “If ye continue in my word, then are ye truly my disciples, and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:31, 32). He set up a criterion by which true disciples might be distinguished, and that criterion is continuance in Jesus’ word. …. It is the same lesson that is the burden of Jesus’ teaching in John 15 in connection with the parable of the vine and the branches. “If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch and is withered” (John 15:6). The crucial test of true faith is endurance to the end, abiding in Christ and continuance in his word.

This emphasis of Scripture should teach us two things. (1) It provides us with the meaning of falling away, of apostasy. It is possible to give all the outward signs of faith in Christ and obedience to him, to witness for a time a good confession and show a great zeal for Christ and his kingdom and then lose all interest and become indifferent, if not hostile, to the claims of Christ and of his kingdom. It is the lesson of seed sown on rocky ground (cf Mark 4:5, 6, 16, 17)…There is, of course, a great deal of variation within this class of people. Some appear to be converted, they boil over with enthusiasm for a little while, and then suddenly cool off. They disappear from the fellowship of the saints. Others do not show the same enthusiasm; their attachment to the faith of Christ has never been one of very pronounced character. But in the course of time it becomes precariously tenuous and finally the tie is completely broken – they walk no more in the path of the righteous. (2)We must appreciate the lengths and the heights to which a temporary faith may carry those who have it. This is brought to our attention to a certain extent in the parable of the sower….To a greater extent it is brought to our attention in the language of the epistle to the Hebrews when it speaks of those ?who were once enlightened and tasted of the heavenly gift and were made partakers of the Holy Spirit and tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come? (Heb. 6:5,6)….A doctrine of perseverance that fails to take account of such a possibility and of its actuality in certain cases is a distorted one and ministers to a laxity which is quite contrary to the interests of perseverance. Indeed it is not the doctrine of perseverance at all.?

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