The Sermon for Sunday, July 17th, 2022, the Fifth Sunday after Trinity
The Lessons: Genesis 18:1-14; Psalm 15; Colossians 1:21-29; Luke 10:38-42
The Text: Colossians 1:21-29
The Topic: Not having moved from the hope of the Gospel, we must edify others in the Christian faith
In the opening verse of our Epistle Lesson today a sharp contrast appears – the contrast between the enemies and the friends of God, between what Christians once were, before coming to faith in Christ, and what they now are – reconciled to God by Christ’s death on the cross. “Estranged from the life of God” is a phrase used in Ephesians 4:18 to describe the Gentiles who have not believed in the Lord Jesus Christ. The same Greek participle is used here that is translated “estranged” in that verse. The word “alienated” used in this verse in the KJV conveys the same meaning of being cut off from God. What Christians once were is estranged from God and hostile in their minds to him because of their evil deeds. Though that was the case before they came to faith in the Lord, it is by a glorious contrast no longer the case, since Christ has reconciled Christians to God by offering himself on the cross to God (Col.1:22a).
Now the purpose of our Lord’s redeeming death on the cross was not only to reconcile all people to God, but to present them holy, blameless, and faultless in God’s presence, and this will be accomplished on the day of the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24). The contrast is not only between the unredeemed state of people outside Christ and the redeemed, but also between the past and the future. But it is not as if we have no effort to make between when we first confessed our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and the Second Coming of the Lord! It is not as if we are left to live as sinfully as we like, and suddenly, at Christ’s Second Coming, we are made perfect! There is a condition to being made perfect, or sanctified by the Holy Spirit, and it is our cooperation with the Holy Spirit. St. Paul expresses this condition like this:
If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister.
(Colossians 1:23, KJV)
In the Greek, there is an emphatic particle after “If,” and we should better translate, “If indeed.” The condition is that we continue in this faith, or persevere in it, that we are “grounded and settled” in our faith, that is, established and steadfast in our faith, not only in the knowledge of our faith, but also in our obedience to the Lord’s commands and in our exercise of the hope of the Gospel, so that nothing ever shifts us from our hope in the Lord Jesus Christ and in His resurrection.
We can learn something about Christian hope from fishermen. In Pavlov’s Trout, Paul Quinnett writes:
It is better to fish hopefully than to catch fish.
Fishing is hope experienced. To be optimistic in a slow bite is to thrive on hope alone. When asked, “How can you fish all day without a hit?” the true fisherman replies, “Hold it! I felt something.” If the line goes slack, he says, “He’ll be back!”
When it comes to the human spirit, hope is all. Without hope, there is no yearning, no desire for a better tomorrow, and no belief that the next cast will bring the big strike.
According to the Bible, the Christian life is also hope experienced. A hopeless Christian is a contradiction in terms.
In v.27, Christ in us is described as “the hope of glory.” When Christ comes to live in a person, that person has in himself Christ, who is the hope of glory. But even then, we cannot rest content, for St. Paul goes on to say about the Lord Jesus Christ:
Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus: Whereunto I also labour, striving according to his working, which worketh in me mightily.
(Colossians 1:28-29, KJV)
St. Paul preached Christ to all that he came across, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all the wisdom given him by God in order to present everyone perfect in Christ. In verse twenty-nine, St. Paul emphasizes that he labors at this task. The words “we preach” refer first to Ss. Paul and Timothy, listed as authors of this Epistle in Colossians 1:1, but they also refer to all who preach and teach the Gospel, all believers, as they share and teach the Christian Gospel and the Christian faith. For not only do we have a responsibility to be firm and steadfast in our faith and hope in Christ, but we must encourage one another and new believers to be firm and steadfast in their faith as well. Just as the Lord Jesus Christ presents every member of His Church blameless, spotless, and irreproachable to God, so we all as Christians bear responsibility for helping one another reach maturity of faith. We, too, share in presenting ourselves and others in perfection to Christ.
How will you edify your fellow-believers in the Christian faith and hope? To do this, you must yourself be steadfast in your faith!
 p. 252, 750 Engaging Illustrations for Preachers, Teachers and Writers from Craig Larson and Leadership Journal. Grand Rapids, Michigan: BakerBooks. 2002, 2nd Printing, 2008