Jack Carroll - Colossians - San Bernardino - 1956

A few months ago, I had the privilege of speaking to two groups of workers. In those two meetings, I suggested to all that were present that it would be a very helpful and profitable thing for them to make a special study of Paul's letter to the Colossians, and to memorize the four chapters of this letter. I have been greatly pleased in seeing letters from several telling me that they had memorized each of these four wonderful chapters of this letter. I don't know whether any of you would have the courage to memorize these four chapters, but if you do, I feel you would be greatly enriched in your thoughts.

 

This is one of the most wonderful letters that was ever written. It was written by a man whose life was filled with Christ, his gospel was filled with Christ and the letters which bear his name were also filled with Christ. It seems to me that in this particular letter, he was anxious to make clear once and forever the all-sufficiency of Christ — that Christ could meet the need of every sinner, of every child of God, of every servant of God. He wrote of the risen, invisible, glorified Christ. He wrote from this side of Calvary, this side of the tomb, and he had in his mind the Christ to whom all power had been given in heaven and upon earth, the Christ who was the all-knowing one, the Christ who was the ever-present one, the eternal Christ, the same yesterday and today and forever. In writing this letter, he wanted to help those Colossian Christians to lay hold more firmly upon this Christ, and not be carried away by false teachers who would seek to lead them astray. There were teachers in Colosse whose teaching would tend to destroy their simple faith in Christ and wreck and ruin their lives. They would add to Christ part of their own pagan philosophy, part of the Jewish ritual, and in doing so were robbing Christ of His honor and authority over their lives.  The first business of a preacher is to live Christ, then to preach Christ. The sure mark of what is evil in this world is preaching Christ AND somebody else. We value more highly with the passing years those of our fellow servants in every land whose message is characterized by this fact:  that they exalt no man, nor themselves; they seek by lip and life to exalt the risen, invisible, glorified Christ - omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent - the same yesterday and today and forever. It is about this Christ as He is portrayed in this letter to the Colossians that I would like to speak to you this morning.

 

Colossians 1:18 - THE PREEMINENCE OF CHRIST, "And He is the head of the body, the church:  who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence." Some thing or somebody must be first in every life. Each one of us is responsible for deciding what that thing might be, or who that person might be. God has given Christ the first place in the universe; He has given Him the first place on this planet; He has given Him the first place in His Body, the Church; and we are responsible for giving Him the first place in our hearts and home and business. The happiest children of God that I know are those whose lives are characterized by giving this Christ, who loved us and gave Himself for us, the place that He purchased with His own precious blood. Every child of God is tempted to do the opposite. Like those who were invited to that great supper, our possessions, our business, our family, would take the first place. Never forget, my brother, my sister, that your possessions and your business and your family can either be a mighty help to you, or just the opposite. Paul had a great anxiety in writing to those men and women at Colosse that Christ in all things might have the preeminence, or first place. I tried to visualize how wonderful this fellowship would be, how wonderful God's people would be, if day by day in the world their whole lives were characterized by putting Christ first. The peace of God can only be ours when this risen, invisible, glorified Christ has the place in our lives that God purposed He should have. Surely if God has given Him first place in the universe, on this planet, and in the church, it should not be difficult for us; we should not even hesitate to give Him the first place in our hearts and in our lives.

 

Colossians 1:27 - THE INDWELLING OF CHRIST, "To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory." To me, the New Testament definition of Christianity is "Christ living His life over again in Christians."  It is not a sect, nor a denomination, nor a set or rules or a code of laws given for men to live by. Christianity is the risen, glorified, invisible Christ taking possession of surrendered hearts and lives, establishing His throne there and reigning over them. Hearts of Christians have learned to sing:

 

"Reign over me, Lord Jesus,

Make my heart Thy Throne,

It shall be Thine forever,

It shall be Thine alone."

 

I have been troubled sometimes by the thought that there may be many of God's people satisfied with the outward fellowship of God's people and servants, worshipping in homes consecrated to Him — and lose sight of the fact that if Christ has not established His throne in their hearts and is not reigning over their lives, that they will be doomed to eternal disappointment and eternal despair. I am not very much exited about numbers, by the increase there are in numbers attending our meetings. This increase fills me with fear, and I feel more than ever the necessity of bringing people face to face with the words of this servant of God in Romans 8:9, "But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his." Many talk glibly about the true way of God and true servants of God - "If any man have not the spirit of Christ, he is none of His." In this first chapter to the Colossians, we read of the hope of the Gospel and of the hope of Heaven. The only sure hope of Heaven is based on this 27th verse - "Christ in you, the hope of glory." This was Paul's own testimony and experience. I have asked some of you to memorize Galatians 2:20 where Paul summarizes in 44 words the Gospel he preached for so many years. "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me." Embodied in this verse are five fundamental Gospel truths:

 

   (1)  The love of Christ for sinful men.

       (2)  The atoning death of Christ for sinful man,

       (3)  The indwelling of Christ to enable sinful men to live the Christian life.

       (4)  Crucifixion with Christ — a clean break from the past.

       (5)  A changed life. 

 

I like to see God's people rooted and grounded in these truths. It is good to meditate upon these words; our faith is nourished by the Word of God.

 

Colossians 2:6-7 - THE LORDSHIP OF CHRIST, "As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him:  rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving." The very heart and kernel of the Gospel in New Testament days was the Lordship of Jesus — Jesus the only Saviour as Lord. The battle men and women had to fight in their own hearts was:  "Am I willing for Jesus, the only Saviour, to be my Lord? Am I willing to be publicly identified with Him? Am I willing to go outside the camp, bearing His reproach?" These Colossians had made this choice. They had been alienated and enemies in their minds by wicked works...outside the Kingdom of God's dear Son. They saw Christ lived, and heard Christ preached by this young man, Epaphras, and now Paul is exhorting them to walk in Him. I want to ask you, "Have you really faced this? Are you content with a knowledge of what you speak of as the true Way? Are you willing honestly and truly for Jesus the only Saviour to be your Master and your Lord?" John 1:10-13 answers the questions, "How can I become God's child?" Verse 10 covers the entire period or Old Testament history. "He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not." Verse 11 tells us of His own by creation, His own by redemption, His own by profession — it is one of the saddest verses in the Bible. "He came unto His own, and His own received Him not." There was no room for Him in the inn at Bethlehem when He was born; no room for Him in Nazareth where, when He preached, they rushed upon Him and would have cast Him over the brow of the hill; no room for Him in Capernaum where most of His mighty works were done; no room for Him in Jerusalem, that dreadful cry, "Away with Him, away with Him…"


It is easy for us to pass judgment on those of old who treated Him thus. Take care, my brother, my sister! The attitude of your heart today in this meeting toward this Christ determines exactly what your attitude would have been then. If you're saying, "I will not have this Christ to reign over me," you're no better than the innkeeper of Bethlehem, the men and women of Nazareth or Capernaum or Jerusalem — you come under exactly the same condemnation.  The Laodiceans (Revelation 3:14-22) had allowed other things and other people to push Christ off the throne of their hearts and crowd
Him out of their lives. They were rich and increased with goods, and didn't know that Christ had been crowded out of their lives. They were satisfied and content with the outward ritual and way of life. Oh, how glad we ought to be that Christ came to that group of professing Christians and said, "I counsel thee to buy of Me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear..." They had treated Him shabbily and had allowed other things and other people to push Him off the throne of their hearts, and crowd Him out of their lives. The unchanging Christ said, "Behold, I stand at the door and knock." Do some of us recognize that this has happened to us — still counted in and numbered among the people of God, but the joy of this fellowship is gone? What has happened?  Something or somebody has crowded Him out of your life — what are we going to do about it? We have come together in order that we might have dealings with God, and that there might be in every heart and life a new surrender to His claims, a new willingness for His rule and reign so that His Lordship over our lives may be a blessed reality from day to day.  John 1:12, "But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name." There are five men mentioned in this first chapter of John who received Him and to them He gave power to become His sons. What happened in the lives of those five men in the long ago can happen in your life today. Throw your heart's door widely open, and bid Him come in while you may.

 

Colossians 3:4 - CHRIST, OUR LIFE, "When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory." How can we know whether we have this life or not? Thank God there is an answer to this question that ought to be a comfort to every child of God! I John 3:14, "We know that we have passed from death unto life because we love the brethren." The most dangerous thing to take root in your heart is hatred in your heart to any child or servant of God; do you know that? One who walks in light, but hates his brother, is a religious fraud, a corrupter of the Truth of God. The devil is seeking to ruin and wreck the lives of God's children by robbing them of their confidence in the Lord's servants and in His people. If that happens, our testimony may be different from what we had planned. Colossians 3:16, "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord." It isn't possible for any child of God to be truly healthy and helpful that habitually neglects the reading of God's Word.

 

I have seen Christ thousands of times in the lives of my fellow-servants, young men and women going forth to preach the Gospel, and Christ changing and transforming and manifesting Himself through these broken, surrendered lives. The men and women you should honor most in this world are those who have sacrificed their all and placed their all upon the altar of God, and are keeping it there, so that from our lives there may ascend to God a sweet smelling savor that would bring a blessing to men and pleasure to God's heart. I have seen Christ in the lives of God's people-sacrifice, self-denial, gentleness, meekness, and love manifested before my eyes. To men and women like these, Jesus said, "Ye are the salt of the earth." But there is a note of warning: those marks can disappear out of any life. Those who are salt today can be something else tomorrow. Matthew 5:1-16 - if these graces die out of your life, you become like savorless salt. It is more serious than that. Those who become savorless salt very soon become persecutors and revilers and slanderers of the brethren. "Ye are the light of the world ...” This has to do with our attitude toward the world and the effect of our influence.  May God grant that whatever salt is in our lives as the servants and people of God, that we may not lose that savor, but retain it that our contact with others would be helpful and profitable and enable them to grow in grace and in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus.