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The Lord Has Done Great Things for Us (Col. 1:1-2)

The Living Voices of Jesus Christ

Paul begins this letter with a declaration of the Lord’s authority chain for his word. He does not say, “I had a dream,” or “Imagine if the world was like this.” He recognizes that his authority is derived from the Lord Jesus. This is what is meant by “apostle.” An apostle was someone sent by Jesus Christ and equipped by the Holy Spirit. Our Lord said of the apostles that “he who hears you, hears me” (Luke 10:16). To be an apostle, one had to have been with the Lord from his baptism to his ascension. He had to have seen the resurrected Christ (Acts 2:21-22). He also had to receive a specific call from the Lord Jesus to the office, for no legitimate servant of Jesus Christ puts himself forward to serve in an office (Heb. 5:4). Our Lord knew he would soon return in glory to heaven, and so he chose the apostles as his living voices, the witness to his divine majesty and his resurrected glory. The apostles received a unique filling of the Holy Spirit so that he guided them into the truth (John 16:13) and empowered them to do mighty works in Jesus’ name (Acts 2:43; 5:12; 2 Cor. 12:12). The apostles were conscious of their authority. Paul once wrote, “If anyone thinks himself to be a prophet or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord” (1 Cor. 14:37).

The Foundations of the Church

Together with the Old Testament prophets, the apostles are the foundation of the church of Jesus Christ (Eph. 2:20-22). We know and hear Jesus Christ to the degree that we are built upon this foundation, the “faith once for all given to the saints” through them (Jude 3). The apostles were the inspired, human instruments through which the Lord Jesus completed God’s revelation to man in the New Testament. Those who downplay Scriptures downplay the apostolic office or claim it for themselves. Sometimes this is a direct theft of Jesus Christ’s authority, as in apostate Roman Catholicism, or a practical theft, in the pastor in the local church who exercises authority for himself and does not serve the body but lords over it. But the apostles claimed nothing for themselves. They did not build personal empires or get rich by the gospel. They said to “imitate them as they imitate Christ” (1 Cor. 11:1). The apostles were received as “angels of God, as Christ himself” (Gal. 4:14), for they carried his authority. The church must not therefore try to reinvent itself to keep up with the times. The times must be shaped by the apostolic witness speaking solely through the Scriptures and applied by the quickening work of the Spirit. Otherwise, if we try to build upon another foundation, the building will be off-centered and lose its glory and power, for there is no other foundation (1 Cor. 3:11-13). Christ is not otherwise known and followed than by his word. If we try to modernize the church, we build upon wood, hay, and stubble. God’s fire will test such an attempt, and it will be burned up.

The Abiding Authority of Jesus Christ

All fallen men are anti-authority – except their own. When we believed Satan’s first lie, the covenant curse fell upon us – that we would not willingly rest under any authority except our own. Man revolted against God’s authority; the woman chaffed under man’s authority. The apostolic office calls us back to authority – God’s authority. He defines what we must believe and how we must live. There is no other name under heaven by which to be saved except for Jesus Christ (Acts 4:12). There is no other way to be forgiven of our sins and accepted as righteous before God except by the obedience and blood of Jesus Christ (Col. 1:20). The path is narrow; the gate is narrow and fixed. It is Jesus Christ alone. The attacks against the Christian faith are more open and perverse at present, and some are shaky in knowing how to answer them. Remember the narrow gate, the old paths, the one foundation, and the apostolic office. The church grows shaky only when she tries to add a porch to her edifice upon the foundation of the world, or traditionalism, or personal experience, or being tolerant toward lies. We build upon Christ and his apostles, and upon which one foundation the Spirit will continue to build and indwell the church until Jesus Christ returns. Let us not be embarrassed by this high note of authority with which this letter commences, or hate Paul, as many do, even in the church. It is either God’s authority or man’s. If you choose man’s authority, welcome to hell – the hell of our own making.

He Makes Us Saints and Faithful (v. 2)

Our Salvation by Christ

God’s word has always stood firm and the only foundation for man’s earthly security and eternal happiness (Ps. 119:89). But as rebels, we plugged our ears against his word. We must be saved from our sins before we will place ourselves willing under the gracious authority of Jesus Christ. The Spirit must give us new hearts and ears. He must renew our wills so that we are able to believe and repent. This is what the Lord gives to us. He makes us saints and faithful. To be a saint is not primarily a description of how one lives but of who one is before God. To be a saint is to be set apart to him by faith, to profess faith in Jesus Christ. The church in Corinth was called “saints of God,” even the congregation was beset by numerous, serious sins that called forth the strongest rebukes and church discipline. Thus, by “saint” we are reminded not of what we are in this life but of what Jesus Christ made us by his obedience to his Father’s word and death on the cross. We are saints because we are washed from our sins in his blood and stand righteous before him, without spot or blemish, by our Savior’s obedience imputed to us. He will make us faithful in life by his Spirit, but this is the fruit of our saintliness, not its cause. Saints also reminds us that the Lord looks at the church very differently from the world. We must be careful in our zeal for grace to all men not to forget that the Lord does not give his grace to all men. If you have received his grace and believed upon the name of Jesus Christ, you are a saint now, however much you may be struggling with various sins and attacked by the world. The Lord has his eye upon you. You are his child. He will allow nothing to happen to you that is not for your ultimate good and joy in him. You are a saint – boast in his grace!

Our Union with Christ

The world will mock such claims and accuse us of arrogance. We point them immediately to the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. There is nothing special about us that led the Lord to redeem us. The Son of God sent down from heaven to save blind sinners and criminals condemned before the holy God. He saves us by gathering us under his headship, to share in his life, and to be with him a child and heir of God. “In Christ” summarizes these glorious truths. To be in Christ is to be in a union of life and grace with him. It is to have him for our Mediator, our Surety or Representative, our Righteousness, and our Burnt Offering. To be in Christ means that he brings us into a relationship with God as our Father. Remember that it is through Jesus Christ alone that we “have boldness to enter by a new and living way,” and may “come boldly to the throne of grace” (Rom. 5:2; Heb. 4:16; 10:19-20). To be in Christ means that we stand in the same relation to the law as our Savior does – obedient, justified, innocent. God’s law no longer condemns us and his authority over us no longer makes us cringe; we view it as true freedom and peace. In Christ, we have him for our Advocate with the Father and Head. We are no longer defined by human blood connections, national flags, and political parties but by our connection to the blood of Jesus Christ – covered and forgiven or uncovered and condemned. In Christ, we are heirs of heaven, welcome at the throne of grace, and blessed with every spiritual blessing (Eph. 1:3).

Our Life in Christ

Paul greets them as “faithful,” or believing. This, also, comes from the grace of God through Jesus Christ. We are not justified by his imputed righteousness only to be cast upon our own resources to obey the Lord in daily life. In Christ, we receive both justifying righteousness and holiness of life – he heals our record and standing. He also heals our heart and life. The true gospel does not divide up the work of salvation and of grace between God and man. It is from Jesus Christ that we draw the fruits of righteousness (Phil. 1:11). He gives us the Holy Spirit to work his grace unto holiness in our lives (Gal. 5:16-26). You face a parenting duty, or a temptation at college, or a very difficult work week. The Lord has not brought this into your life to trip you up but to show you as an heir of salvation the richness of his grace. There is abundant life in Jesus Christ, and in him alone. There is help from him, by calling upon him, using the Word of God as he did, and walking with the Spirit. To be faithful does not mean that these believers had “mastered principles” or had “higher spiritual experience” or knew “deeper truths.” It means that they knew Jesus Christ. For us it means that we live by the faith of the Son of God (Gal. 2:20). From him we draw wisdom for practical decisions, strength for difficult duties, and comfort to dry our tears so that we run our race with joy. We are one with him, and he offers all he has to us.

He Gives Us Grace and Peace (v. 2)

He Views Us Kindly

After calling them saints and faithful, he immediately brings them to the fountain of their virtues – the grace and peace of God. He does not mention mercy as he usually does, but it is assumed, for God is “gracious and merciful” (Ex. 34:6). “Grace” is his kindliness toward sinners. The God against whom we have constantly and wickedly sinned is the same God and Savior who views us kindly and does us constant good, all to magnify his grace and draw us close to him. What wondrous mercy is there in the gospel of Jesus Christ! If you think you will find any mercy in Hinduism or Islam, or Technocracy, look at its languishing slaves – or in any Eastern religion, or the various forms of Marxist statism – mercy is a boot on the face of those being robbed and oppressed to empower and enrich the elites. You will find no mercy in today’s progressivism and gender Marxists – there is only original sin with no cleansing except forced conversion to perversion. How easily in this environment we forget that our faith is very different. The Lord God of heaven is merciful. He is compassionate to sinners. He saw there was no one to deliver, no one who could or wanted to please him, that all had gone astray, including you and me. He saw that our best works were filthy and worthy of his condemnation. Did he give us what we deserved? Turn his back upon us? No, he extended compassion and love to us through his Son. He made peace with us when we were waging war against him. There is nothing anywhere like the Christian gospel. There is nothing that compares to God’s grace, mercy, and peace. Think upon them often.  Become merciful through tasting of the Lord’s compassion and live praising him for his mercy. We shall not overcome the evil of our times with a hateful and vengeful spirit, but by the same mercy that saved us. “But I say to you, ‘Love your enemies.’” Why? Because the Lord loved us when we were his enemies.

He Adopted Us

And why did he love us? He made us to live in his fellowship. We can look at our circumstances and think he does not love us, but if we think carefully of what our sins truly deserve, we will think differently. The worst sufferer experiences nothing like what his actual sins warrant. This is true of each of one of us. But the Lord wants us to know that he loves us, never treats us as our sins deserve, and has adopted us to be his children. He does not love us because we feel like he does but because he is always faithful and merciful. “God our Father” brings our adoption to the forefront. Our Father in heaven has reconciled himself to us through laying upon his Son the weight of our sin and guilt. There is nothing left to be paid. One day, we shall understand the glory of this basic truth, and it will be heaven for ten billion years – that we, you and I, wretched sinners, are by Jesus Christ recovered to fellowship with God, to heaven, to being children of God rather than condemned rebels. Think on this often – that we are not children of this world, children of the devil, children enslaved to our lusts – but children of God, heirs of God and of heaven, joint heirs with Jesus Christ of all things. This is because of the grace of adoption. Some of you may feel like your birth parents rejected you and never accepted you. You may feel abandoned. We abandoned our heavenly Father by our sins, but he sent his Son to come and find us. He has brought us back to our Father’s house, carrying us in his arms like a lamb in his bosom.

He Gives All through Jesus Christ

All of these blessings come to us through the person and work of Christ (Eph. 1:3). All of God’s promises are secure and certain to us because of him (2 Cor. 1:20). He is the covenant (Isa. 42:6). If we would know God as our Father, we must humbly come, receive, and rest upon Jesus Christ alone. Even our coming, receiving, and resting are graces he gives us. Ask him. He is not waiting upon you to work up the energy and faith to believe. He wants you to recognize like the lepers and blind men that you need to be carried to Jesus Christ, led to him. The first step in coming to him is to recognize our complete inability to heal ourselves. And the Lord does not expect you to do so. He is able and willing. Faith looks upon him and says, “I cannot, but he can.” This is where many stumble. We may feel that we are very broken, but we see the truth about Jesus Christ shakily. Jesus Christ is the Son of the living God. He can do what we cannot do. He was sent down from heaven to be our Savior, to heal our moral leprosy, to give us a new record, new heart, and new life. He asks, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?

Since all these blessings of grace and peace, justification and adoption, come through Jesus Christ alone, surrender to him. Confess that he is your Lord. Commit yourself to his safekeeping. Commit yourself to him – as your Master, follow him. As your Lord, obey him. As your Redeemer, trust his blood and intercession. Call upon him to save you, to be the Mediator that the Father sent into the world. Do not be paralyzed by unbelief but believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and Savior of sinners. Resolve this week by his grace to walk in faith and obedience. Keep coming back to him. Do not forget about him. He promises to walk with you and help you by his Spirit. To confess that he is Lord means that we can come to him and confess our sins to him. He likes it very much when we trust him to be the Savior that he is – not ourselves and our works, but him and his grace and power. He is not honored when we try to deal with the sins in our lives without him. He will be all in all to us.

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