Speaker: Ps Daniel Tan
Sermon Title: The Maturing Disciples appreciates the body of Christ
Scripture Text: Colossians 4: 7 – 18
One body with many parts
One body towards prayerfulness and maturity
One body across borders
7 Tychicus will tell you all about my activities. He is a beloved brother and faithful minister and fellow servant[ in the Lord. 8 I have sent him to you for this very purpose, that you may know how we are and that he may encourage your hearts, 9 and with him Onesimus, our faithful and beloved brother, who is one of you. They will tell you of everything that has taken place here.
10 Aristarchus my fellow prisoner greets you, and Mark the cousin of Barnabas (concerning whom you have received instructions—if he comes to you, welcome him), 11 and Jesus who is called Justus. These are the only men of the circumcision among my fellow workers for the kingdom of God, and they have been a comfort to me. 12 Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ Jesus, greets you, always struggling on your behalf in his prayers, that you may stand mature and fully assured in all the will of God. 13 For I bear him witness that he has worked hard for you and for those in Laodicea and in Hierapolis. 14 Luke the beloved physician greets you, as does Demas. 15 Give my greetings to the brothers at Laodicea, and to Nympha and the church in her house. 16 And when this letter has been read among you, have it also read in the church of the Laodiceans; and see that you also read the letter from Laodicea. 17 And say to Archippus, “See that you fulfill the ministry that you have received in the Lord.”
18 I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. Remember my chains. Grace be with you.
Blessed Sunday morning to all.
We have come now to the final 2 sermons of the preaching books for this year. Today we have the final sermon from Colossians and next week we will end it with the letter to Philemon.
Not sure about you, but I’ve been blessed by the study of God’s Word and how God has graciously used the Apostle Paul, though in prison, to write such instructive and encouraging letters to the various churches.
Letters filled with deep theology of who Jesus Christ is, who we are in Christ and also the implications of what it means to be Christians.
It shows that theology is very practical. Right thinking should lead to right living.
I imagine that Satan thought, that by locking Paul up in prison, the Gospel will not advance nor mature.
Instead God’s sovereign providence turned Paul’s imprisonment into God’s glorious message for the people of Asia Minor.
And God has also preserved it for us today.
As 2020 draws to a close, I hope we can all take away, a key phase from each letter.
For Ephesians, let’s remember the oneness of the Ecclesia. How God in Christ, redeemed sinners by faith alone. And through Christ, unified Jews and Gentiles, forming the Ecclesia, which is the church.
And so as one body, we received one Spirit, we have one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism and one God and Father of all.
Through Philippians, let’s remember the phase Gospel Partners. We got to understand how the heart and mind of the Gospel partner looks like. How do we pray for Gospel Partners and what should their priorities be.
We ended by understanding how Gospel Partners should walk and why they should always rejoice.
Since Colossians is the latest book, I hope we are familiar with our tagline for the book – ‘the maturing disciple’.
And we have seen that maturing disciples are ceaseless prayer warriors, who confesses that Christ is supreme. He seeks to continually mature himself and others and is vigilant against false spirituality.
As she seeks to be rooted and built up in Christ and established in the faith, she exhibits holiness which is seen in her relationships at home, at her workplace and with non-Christians.
Finally next week we will explore through Philemon what is biblical koinonia. What does the sharing of our faith looks like.
Church this is a wonderful picture of the local church. This is who we are as Christians and who we are called to be as Hermonites.
Let us be grateful that because of his imprisonment, Paul had to write to these churches and this has resulted in us today having these precious truths to guide us towards being the acceptable body of Christ.
Today, if you are listening to this at home and you have not been to Sunday Service in CCKBC yet, may I encourage you to reflect upon what has been written the Hermon editorial today.
The Gospel of Jesus Christ is incarnational. The Word became flesh and dwelled amongst us. This sets the pattern for how we are to interact as Christ’s body.
So may I encourage us all, come back and be the church, praise God together and fellowship over a meal after service.
Our faith is not only in our heads, but it should flow down to our hearts and out through our hands.
Remember, God’s truth applied, changes our lives. And one clear expression of that is the desire to encourage each other by meeting together.
And these final verses from Colossians encourages us in this direction. Thus, I’ve entitled this sermon ‘the maturing disciple appreciates the body of Christ.’
One body with many parts
Comparing Ephesians and Philippians, the concluding section of Colossians stands out as many names are mentioned.
It gives us a sense that Paul was not merely a teacher who wants to communicate a body of knowledge but someone who is pastoring, who wants the Gospel truths to impact real people and real lives.
Yes, Paul does not know the church members in Philemon’s home, but they have mutual friends in Philemon, in Onesimus and Epaphras.
In this first section, may I submit, we see that Paul appreciates the body of Christ in its diversity. One body but with many parts.
Our first observation is that Paul was a team player. To him ministry was not a one-man-operation. If we count the names here, we would see 10 individuals mentioned.
But we must not forget Timothy who is mentioned at the beginning of the letter and so we have 11 individuals.
I think this is telling because with Paul being an Apostle, with his pedigree of education, many in his position would think themselves as the key and maybe only person that can do the ministry.
One characteristic in the past of the BP churches was that of the founding pastor syndrome. Because of the pioneering spirit of the founding minister, everything was done through one man and the ministry seems to revolve around him and him only.
And so one problem of such founding pastors is that the church can be personality driven and ministry does not continue to flourish when the person is not on the scene any longer.
Paul was not like that. Colossians 1:7 reminded us that it as Epaphras and not Paul who had shared with them the Gospel.
Because Paul was in prison it is now Tychicus who was bringing the letter from Paul to the church in Philemon’s home.
So because we are one body with many parts, we need to remember the principle from Ephesians:
Eph 4:11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ,
We are all team players, we are all needed for the work of the ministry. Thanks be to God for Paul’s example of ministering in teams.
Secondly we see that within the teams, there was a diversity of backgrounds.
With regards to race, Paul had team members who were Jews (Aristarchus, Mark and Justus). And also those who were Gentiles (Tychicus, Onesimus, Epaphras, Luke and Demas).
With regards to Gender, there are also ladies together with the men. Nympha who opens her house for the church at Laodicea.
With regards to economic status, we know of Philemon a wealthy man and Onesimus a slave.
Paul’s diverse team is a picture of the inclusiveness of the Gospel
Col 3:11 Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.
I feel we would likely be able to say amen to this and so may I challenge us further.
If we are willing to have diversity within our faith community, can it also translate to our non-church activities?
Meaning, let’s not have a sacred or secular divide. Would the diversity in church permeate to our ordinary lives as well?
For example, as we eager await the next time we can travel out of Singapore on holiday. Would you and I be willing to adjust our vacation standards to travel with those of diverse financial means.
Instead of the Maldives would Malaysia do?
Yes, it would mean, you & I are willing to expend our precious annual leave to build deeper relationships with fellow Hermonites outside of church camps.
As independent adults, would you be willing to slow down your vacation pace so that you can travel together with families with young children?
It does mean that instead of seeing 5 places in 1 day, its just 2 in a day and eating only at family friendly places.
I pray we will embrace diversity in both our sacred and secular spaces.
Thirdly, we see the issue of reconciliation. 2 persons to highlight – Mark the cousin of Barnabas and Onesimus. I’ll just concentrate on Mark as we will touch on Onesimus next week.
Who is Mark? This is John Mark from Jerusalem and he accompanied Paul and Barnabas on their first missionary journey. However, we understand from Acts 13 that Mark left the mission team for unknown reasons in Perga.
Acts 13:13 Now Paul and his companions set sail from Paphos and came to Perga in Pamphylia. And John left them and returned to Jerusalem,
Because of Mark, at the beginning of Paul’s second missionary journey, Paul and Barnabas had a sharp disagreement on whether Mark should join them.
Acts 15:38 But Paul thought best not to take with them one who had withdrawn from them in Pamphylia and had not gone with them to the work. 39 And there arose a sharp disagreement, so that they separated from each other.
According to commentators, 12 years has passed by the time Paul wrote to the Colossians. And here Paul is saying if Mark comes to Colossae, welcome him.
We see the beautiful picture of reconciliation.
I’m sure Mark must have matured in his faith and ministry and Paul now accepts him back as part of the team.
To me, Paul is following the footsteps of Jesus in His own restoration of Peter.
What about us today? As we serve together as one body in Hermon, are we open for reconciliation?
Can we follow Paul’s footsteps to give someone a second chance? Can we follow Mark’s footsteps and be willing to continue serving instead of being forever offended?
I see this as the outworking of Col 3:
Col 3:12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 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. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.
What we know in our heads, it must change our hearts and affect the way our hands move.
Finally, speaking about agape love, Paul’s final greetings shows us that biblical discipleship is relational discipleship.
We are not to journey alone with God. We are to journey together with God.
Look at the way Paul describes his team members:
We see that Paul’s life and these people were intertwined. Paul uses terms of endearment towards them. They are close family members. He is full of praise for their ministry as well.
And for Paul, he longs for physical presence and fellowship with them because, it enables mutual encouragement and comfort for one another.
Church, God is giving us a picture of a faith community for us to model after.
To appreciate the many parts of the body, we need to be a team player, we need to embrace our diversity, we need to strive for reconciliation and finally we must develop relational discipleship.
In Hermon we are not there yet, but we are getting there. Let’s continue to press on.
One body towards prayerfulness and maturity
Remember, Colossians has a theme verse from which we get our tagline of ‘the maturing disciple’. And that is found in Col 2:6-7.
As we appreciate what it means to be the body of Christ. Let us appreciate that maturity is the goal of being in the body of Christ.
And Paul highlights this goal of spiritual maturity again with his description of Epaphras.
So as we end Colossians, let’s observe that this goal of maturity is found throughout the letter as well.
Remember Epaphras was the one who taught them the Gospel. But he did not want them to just have an accurate understanding of God’s Word, he wanted them to be mature in Christ.
Epaphras prayer was that God’s Word is lived out. That God’s Word transforms all their relationships.
And so, may I encourage us, don’t strive for more knowledge, strive instead to be more in love with Jesus Christ.
When that happens, you and I will be living more fully for Jesus in every aspect of our lives. And we will be surprised that this will also result in us knowing Jesus better.
In Paul’s description of Epaphras’ ministry, Paul also gives us the access to the means of maturity.
Since maturity is the goal and that the source to maturity is God’s power (Col 1:11), Paul says, the access to God’s power is through prayer.
Paul is in prison, and what this church is receiving is just a letter which is being read out by Tychicus.
This does not seem like any power pack solution towards maturity. But Paul knows that prayer is where access to God’s power lies.
And so we will see that prayerfulness permeates the letter.
As we appreciate what it means to be part of the body of Christ, we must appreciate that the goal is to be mature in Christ. And that our access to God’s power for maturity is through prayer.
It was the example of Epaphras that encouraged me to pledge at our Anniversary that I will build Hermon up by praying regularly for every Hermonite.
And I must confess, I’ve not been consistent at all. It is really hard work. It really requires steadfastness of will. So please keep me in your prayers.
But I feel God has motivated me through the testimony of Epaphras and I pray that Colossians will encourage us all, to be more prayerful and be one another’s prayer partner.
When this happens, I’m sure increasing maturity will be found in Hermon.
One body across borders
What we have gone through so far is, that to appreciate the body of Christ is to appreciate that it has many diverse parts. Next we saw that to appreciate the body, is to know its goal of maturity and that prayer gives us access to the power for maturity.
Finally, I submit that to appreciate the body means to appreciating that it is borderless.
Laodicea is about 19 km east of Colossae. And it seems Paul also wrote to them and his desire is the church in Colossae and Laodicea exchange the letters. And in the exchanging of letters, to take the opportunity to mutually greet one another.
Paul seem to be intentionally creating opportunities for them to interact. Paul it seems felt that the local body of Christ found in Philemon’s home and the church found in Nympha’s home should not exist alone.
As individual believers need to be part of the body of Christ, so too, individual churches should have companionship.
And so even while he was in prison, Paul facilitated fellowship. Paul wrote letters to the churches and enlisted his teammates help to deliver them.
Mind you, such delivery was costly. Tychicus carried not only the letter to the Colossians but also the one to the Ephesians. And we know that Ephesus was about 200 km from Colossae.
That would be similar to the distance from Hermon to our gospel partner in Melaka yet without the luxury of modern transportation.
Church, let’s appreciate the effort it took for them to communicate and to encourage each other.
One of the ways our leaders in the Mountain churches keep in touch with each other is through the circulation of our weekly bulletins. We do receive the electronic bulletins from Carmel, Hebron and Horeb.
Through reading them, we can be informed of what is happening in their congregations. We can know their thanksgivings and their prayer petitions.
Hermon is also part of the BPCIS. The Bible-presbyterian Churches in Singapore. There are 8 members currently.
I represent Hermon in the committee and we meet once a month. Here too, updates are shared and we can mutually give thanks or seek God’s mercies for each other.
Church, outside of Singapore, we have our gospel partners in Thailand, Malaysia and Myanmar. From time to time, our missions committee will update the issues and challenges of our partners. They can be found in the Herald either as an announcement or as a prayer item.
Paul is encouraging us, take note of all these. Do not just be concerned about the affairs of Hermon, but be concerned as well, for our fellow brethren in Singapore and abroad.
Each time I feel ministry in Hermon is challenging, all I need is to recall my experiences visiting our missions partners. And that helps me to gain a proper perspective of my situation. Our troubles are but first world issues.
They are challenging but in comparison, the challenges overseas are much tougher because they do not have access to the resources we have available here.
Just think, for example in Myanmar, during the raining season, just to come to church is so difficult. The road to the church is flooded.
And since public transport is limited, most walk many miles in water just to come to church.
In the first century, Paul and his team travelled over much distances, compelled by the Holy Spirit to preach and teach the Gospel in Asia Minor and into Europe.
And as they planted churches in towns to be God’s witnesses, Paul worked hard to communicate with them so as to build them up in the faith.
Today, this responsibility has been passed down to our generation.
The Lord has placed upon the hearts of the Hermon leaders, the geographical region of ASEAN. 10 countries including Singapore.
As we appreciate the body of Christ, let us appreciate that it has no borders. Let us be open and obedient to God’s call to make disciples in Choa Chu Kang, in Henderson, in Singapore and in ASEAN.
Let us also be prayer intercessors for our brethren in sister churches, that the Lord will continue to bless their witness.
And we can start by praying that Hebron will be able to raise the necessary financial resources to pay for the lease renewal of CCKBC in 2024.
Let me bring the sermon to a close. Paul ends the letter as he started. God’s grace be with the Colossian church.
Yes, grace is God’s unmerited favour, yes it is spiritual. But it is not abstract. It is not something we cannot understand nor grasp.
The embodiment of grace is found in the person of our Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is the grace of God.
And so in Colossians, we have been taught –
Col 1:19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.
Church this is the grace of the gospel. In Christ, we have been reconciled and now have peace with God.
To end this letter with the words ‘Grace be with you’, is to say to all believers, Jesus Christ be with you.
What a wonderful and complete blessing and benediction that is.
Church, we are the Body of which the Lord is Head,
Called to obey Him, now risen from the dead;
He wills us be a family, Diverse yet truly one:
O let us give our gifts to God, And so shall his work on earth be done.