1. Paul addresses the Colossians with two expressions: saints and faithful brethren.
2. Saints: the believer’s relationship to God (set apart unto Him)
3. Brethren: the believer’s relationship to each other (family)
Saints and Faithful Brethren
1. Saints: refers to the believers in the city of Colosse, not in heaven.
a. They are saints because they are sanctified: set apart unto God at the moment of saving faith.
b. We are saints of God…set apart unto His service…
2. The term “faithful brethren” does not refer to a different group of people. They are one and the same as the “saints” mentioned earlier.
a. The Granville Sharpe rule of Greek grammar states that when two nouns are joined by kai (and) and the first noun has the article and the second does not, then the two nouns refer to the same thing.
b. Paul is writing to all the believers in the church at Colosse. Each one of them is referred to as a saint AND a brother.
c. This second term does not divide them into two groups… one that is sanctified (but not necessarily faithful) and another that is faithful member of the brotherhood.
d. That is not the point. The rules of Greek grammar dictate against that interpretation.
e. The church at Colosse, like any true body of believers is referred to as saints and brethren. So too is Salem Bible Church.
f. If you are born again, you are a saint and part of the Christian brotherhood.
3. In the New Testament, the brethren are called: Faithful brethren (Col. 1:2); Holy brethren (Heb.3:1); Beloved brethren (I Cor. 15:58).
a. These are not three different kinds of brothers either.
b. ALL believers… all brothers and sisters in Christ are to be characterized by holiness, by faith, and by love.
• The brothers in Colosse were faithful… not perfectly, but they were faithful. They were believers… brothers… sheep. Sheep follow the Shepherd. “My sheep know me and follow Me.”
• The Hebrew believers were “holy brethren.” They were set apart unto God. They were not perfectly holy practically – but positionally they were sanctified once for all.
• The Corinthian believers were called “beloved brethren.” They were loved by God and one another. They didn’t always act too lovable, but they were beloved.
• These things are true of every brother in Christ: positionally their lives are characterized by holiness, faith, and love.
c. At any given moment, a brother might not be demonstrating those qualities, but over all, his life is characterized by such.
d. This brotherhood is different from any earthly fraternity. God’s fraternity, the family of God is characterized by genuine faith, holiness, and love. You can tell that they are my disciples by their love…
The Christian Brotherhood
1. The family of God.
a. Our Christian Family
• God is our Father; we are sons of God.
• We are also brothers and sisters.
• Eph. 2:19 – we used to be foreigners to God and His family. Now we are fellowcitizens with the saints and of the household of God… God’s family… a brotherhood of believers in Christ.
• Col. 1:2 – brethren with all those “IN Christ”…
» This includes EVERY person in this age who is born again.
» This includes those of like precious faith… in doctrinally sound, Biblical, Christ exalted churches.
» It also includes those who are mixed up in their understanding of the Scriptures – there are some folks still in the mainline denominations who may not be taught well from Scripture, but some are genuine believers in Christ… and part of the family of God.
» It’s a BIG family… brothers in Christ worldwide.
2. Entered by means of the new birth (John 1:12-13)
a. One does not become a son of God because his parents were Christians.
b. One does not become a son of God through the will of mere human flesh… a desire to be a Christian and attendant efforts.
c. One does not become a son of God because of the will of man. It is not conferred upon a person by a priest or a minister.
d. The new birth is a supernatural work of God. It is a BIRTH.
e. We are born sinners (and as Jesus said, “ye are of your father the devil)… and must therefore be born again into God’s family.
f. God’s promise is this: if we will BELIEVE on Christ, God will give us eternal life… a spiritually dead man is made alive… that is likened to a birth… when our spiritual life begins… at the moment of saving faith.
1. The early church family had its share of disputes…
a. Acts 15:5-11 – the brethren were disputing – arguing over issues that arose about circumcision… which really impinged upon the doctrine of justification by faith alone.
b. The brotherhood in Jerusalem was battling over doctrine. This battle nearly resulted in TWO churches: one Gentile and one Jewish.
c. Jews and Gentiles have very different views on virtually every issue under the sun.
d. It was resolved when Peter and James stood up as God’s spokesmen and spoke forth God’s Word. End of debate!
e. Interestingly, in Acts 15, the chapter that deals with the difficulties that arose in the early church, the author uses the term “brethren” 15 times – as a reminder to all!
f. Paul warned the elders at Ephesus that doctrinal error would arise from among them! (Acts 20:29-30)
g. We should expect it here too… and be ready to deal with it in a Biblical manner.
• In the early church there was ONE doctrine… the truth.
• If a church strayed from the truth, the apostles descended upon them and straightened out the error… as in Acts 15.
• Today, we have no apostles, and error abounds… and so does denominationalism… each with their own doctrinal positions.
• That never would have been tolerated in the early church… but we don’t live in the early church. We live in the end times… God’s egg has been scrambled… and there is no way to completely unscramble an egg. So, in many ways, we have to deal with what is… rather than with what should be.
• If doctrinal error is rejected in one church, the teachers will start another church down the road… with a new teaching.
• We can’t change what our brothers are doing in other churches, but we ARE responsible to protect the doctrinal position of this church.
• And that is SURE to cause strife sooner or later. The best way to be ready to refute error is to KNOW the truth.
• We are a brotherhood of those who stand “one in hope and doctrine, one in charity!”
2. The early church family included spiritually minded believers and carnal believers.
a. I Cor. 1:11 – divisions because of carnality.
b. Problems arose because some brothers in the church family liked one speaker better than another… this was the early stages of denominationalism… a plague and blight on the churches!
c. But the carnality did not stop there. They actually were suing one another! (I Cor. 6:1)
d. The church at Corinth was a brotherhood… a family… but not a healthy family. It was at times a dysfunctional family.
e. They were brothers in Christ, but brotherly love did not always continue in that assembly.
f. The family members were divided… and often butting heads.
g. What a miserable testimony to the young people growing up in that church and to the community!
h. Is Christ divided? That was the message they were sending. What a miserably sick condition the Body of Christ is in today. God help us!
i. It’s amazing that anyone got saved in that city with the track record of that church… but they did.
j. Being carnally minded upsets the brotherhood. Being spiritually minded is like the balm of Gilead applied to the assembly.
• The carnal Israelites were constantly murmuring and causing trouble for Moses in the camp…
• The carnal believer is constantly murmuring and causing trouble in the local church today too.
• But he who is spiritual discerns all things. He is discerning enough to see how destructive carnal, self-will is to an assembly… to the brotherhood of believers.
• The spiritually minded man is willing to be personally defrauded for the good of the brotherhood… he is willing to suffer loss for the good of the family of God…
k. What kind of a brother are you? Problems WILL arise in the family of God at Salem Bible Church.
• Are you going to be like the carnal believer who murmurs and adds fuel to the fires of controversy?
• Or are you going to be like the spiritually minded man who is willing to suffer for the good of the brotherhood… the Body?
3. The family included brothers with differing convictions
a. Rom. 14:10 – some brothers judged one another wrongly.
b. Some of the issues that caused trouble to the brotherhood were eating meats offered to idols, supporting widows, Jewish holy days, to name a few.
c. There has always been a whole host of issues about which believers have held various convictions.
• Convictions based on Scripture are GOOD.
• Last Sunday it was good to hear how the Lord led our brother Ron and his family to develop their personal convictions.
• We can only pray that more of God’s people held convictions based on Scripture.
• Yet if we have been saved for five minutes or longer, we are all acutely aware of the fact that not all believers AGREE on their convictions… even though their conflicting convictions are based on the same Biblical principles.
• We are brothers, but brothers often hold differing convictions… because convictions are personal application of principles… and one principle can be applied in many different ways.
• This caused trouble for the brethren in the 1st century, and it is still causing trouble for the brethren in the 21st century.
• Even in this little church, I am aware of at least a dozen or so areas where believers here hold differing convictions on various issues.
d. Rom. 14:15 – Paul made it clear that the issues themselves were relatively insignificant. What mattered was the effect it had on our brothers and sisters in Christ! Sometimes our actions can grieve a brother… or cause him to stumble… ruin him! (vs. 20)
e. Vs. 19 – we ought to be seeking to build up our brothers, not tear them down… even if they have a different set of convictions on non-doctrinal and non-moral issues.
f. What kind of a brother are you?
• One who demands his own way even if it hurts another brother? This is the mind of the flesh.
• Or one who is willing to sacrifice the exercise of his rights for the good of our brothers in Christ? This is the mind of Christ.
4. The family included both rich and poor; bond and free.
a. Can you imagine the family problems that arose in the early churches when one considered that some in the church might be the wealthy land owners who lived in luxury… and others those who worked their fields all day in the hot sun and were paid precious little?
b. Can you imagine the controversies that might arise in a church where one man in the church might OWN another man and his family?
c. Slaves and masters were part of the household of God… the brotherhood… (Col. 3:22; 4:1)
d. Imagine the undercurrent of grumbling… slandering… complaining… resentment and bitterness that must have flowed out of this unseemly situation in the early churches?
e. In Colosse, there WERE such distinctions in the brotherhood.
f. Yet, in Christ, there were no such distinctions. (Gal. 3:28)
g. There can still be a measure of trouble that enters the brotherhood over money, social status, and position in the local church.
h. May it never be the case here.
i. “My brethren, have not the faith of the Lord Jesus Christ with respect of persons.” (Jas. 2:1) This should never be because we are BRETHREN!
j. We live in the world and there will always be different levels of income… different positions in the workplace… differing social status among believers… but when we gather for worship – we leave it all at the door. Here, we are family… brethren… and the only important Person in this place is Christ – the HEAD of the Body.
k. And He is not ashamed to call us brethren! (Heb.2:11-12 – ?“For both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren,? 12?Saying, I will declare thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee.”
1. Faithful to do good to our brothers and sisters in Christ
a. Gal. 6:10 – we are responsible to do good things to ALL men, but especially to the household of God… the family… to the brotherhood of the saints!
b. I Tim. 5:1 – we are to treat believers like family… (the context means that we should treat one another with respect and purity).
c. Philemon 16 – no longer just a servant (earthly relationship) but a brother (a heavenly and eternal relationship).
2. Faithful not to offend or cause to stumble
a. Rom. 14:13, 21 – don’t put a stumbling block before a brother
• Even if you’re in no danger of stumbling over that stone, what about others?
• How will your actions affect your brothers in Christ?
• We are not islands. We are a family… a brotherhood.
b. I Cor. 8:11 – your knowledge of your liberties in Christ could cause a weaker brother to stumble. It is better to give up the exercise of that right for his sake.
c. I Cor. 8:12 – When we DO offend the brotherhood, we sin against Christ. There is an inseparable union between Christ and the “brethren in Christ Jesus”, His Body.
d. What kind of a brother are you?
• Are you the kind of brother who doesn’t care that he is part of a brotherhood of believers… and acts in such a way that might hurt or harm a brother in the Lord?
• Or are you the kind of brother who loves JC so much that you are willing to forgo a liberty for the good of your brother… just because he is a brother… and because sinning against a brother is sinning against Christ!?
3. Faithful in exhorting
a. Acts 15:3 – bring great joy to the brethren.
• We are not traveling missionaries, but we can share what great things God is doing in our lives.
• We do that virtually every Sunday night… in our testimony time.
• I consider our testimony time on Sunday nights like a family sitting around the kitchen table sharing what took place during the day… only this is the family of God sharing together in the things of Christ…
b. Acts 15:32 – exhort (parakaleo) and confirm (render firm; strengthen; establish).
• Don’t you want a strong, vibrant family?
• If you see a family member going astray – go get him!
c. Acts 20:32 – faithful in commending one another to the Word of God which is able to build you up.
• We are brothers. Our brotherhood is a spiritual fraternity built upon the Word of God.
• We are not an earthly fraternity… built upon the fact that we attended the same school… or are all engaged in the same earthly occupation…
• Our brotherhood is based upon our like precious faith in God’s Word.
• The best thing we can do for one another is to commend others to God’s Word… share a passage that God used in your life… point out a verse that might be a help to our brother in the Lord…
• The Bible is able to build him up in the faith.
d. Rom. 15:14 – able to admonish one another – but first be full of goodness… good intentions… good methods… a good spirit… and to admonish, one must know Christ and His Word.
• Are you able to admonish?
• II Thess. 3:14 – admonish AS a brother.
4. Faithful in ministry
a. I Cor. 15:16 – saints and brethren – addicted to the ministry of the saints.
• We have folks here who are addicted to ministering to the saints. That’s how the Body works. Aren’t you glad your heart is addicted to pumping your blood… and your organs are addicted to functioning as designed by God?
b. II Cor. 11:9 – faithful in providing for the needs of the brethren.
c. I John 3:17 – if you have this world’s goods… and shut up your bowels of compassion on a brother…
d. III John 5-6 – thou doest faithfully… to the brothers.
5. Faithful in warning
a. Rom. 16:17 – warn brethren to avoid false teachers – because you love the brethren.
• Those who warn are often accused of NOT loving the brethren and being judgmental.
• In reality, those who warn are demonstrating a love for the sheep by warning of wolves…
• A brother won’t let a brother get torn apart by a wolf if he can help it! That’s brotherly love…
b. Psa. 141:5 – let the righteous smite me and it shall be a kindness.
c. Prov. 27:6 – faithful are the wounds of a friend
6. Faithful in showing brotherly love in other ways too…
a. I Thess. 4:9-10 – they knew this instinctively, but were to increase in it more and more.
b. Philemon 7 – the bowels of the saints are refreshed by this brother
c. I John 3:16 – we ought to be willing to lay down our lives for the brethren.
d. I John 4:21 – if you love God, you must love the brothers. The two are connected.
e. I John 3:14 – loving the brotherhood is a mark of a true believer (we KNOW that we have passed from death unto life…)
f. I Pet. 1:22-23 – being born again, one is able to demonstrate unfeigned love of the brethren. It comes naturally.
g. I Pet. 2:17 – love the brotherhood. That’s an order!
h. II Pet. 1:7 – add to godliness brotherly kindness…
• If not, we are blind and cannot see afar off (lose discernment).
• Holding grudges against the brethren is not only harmful to the brotherhood (a bad spirit), but it will RUIN you spiritually!
• You will regress spiritually… and become blind and dull of hearing… setting yourself up for a big fall.
• For your own spiritual well being – be a faithful brother… and continually be adding to godliness, brotherly kindness.
i. I have observed countless expressions of brotherly kindness in this assembly… and I say this to the glory of God working in us.
• And I am also prepared for the person who comes with a grumbling spirit and says, “There is no love here.”
• I know just what I’ll say: “If I can show you a list of 400 expressions of brotherly love and kindness in the last year or so, will you publicly apologize to the congregation for your self-centered words of slander against your brethren?” (I wouldn’t really say that to anyone… but I might be tempted to!)
• But as Paul said to the Thessalonians, let’s increase, more and more. There is no ceiling for expressions of brotherly love. And what a powerful testimony that is to the world.
7. Faithful in bearing one another’s burdens
a. Gal. 6:1, 2 – brethren bear one another’s burdens.
b. Why should we bear the burdens of others when we have plenty of our own? Because we are brethren! Family!
c. “He ain’t heavy. He’s my brother.”
d. If a brother is down and hurting, it is our responsibility as family… as his brother to help carries that burden.
e. A warning concerning the brotherhood of believers: it COSTS you to get involved in the lives of this family.
• As Christians our greatest joys are going to be found in helping and ministering to our brothers in Christ.
• But it is also true that some of our deepest wounds and greatest sorrows will also be found in our involvement in the lives of our brothers in Christ.
• As a family, we rejoice with those who do rejoice – their joys and victories become ours!
• As a family, we weep with those who weep because their sorrows are shared by us.
• Joy and sorrow are both included in being a part of the family of God… at least an involved member of the family.
• Unfortunately, many believers enter into the family wrongly assuming that it should be all roses and sunshine… they want to share in all the family joy… but are unwilling to enter into the family sorrows and suffering.
• Those who are unwilling to suffer in being part of this great family will be excluded from sharing very deeply in the true JOY of the Lord.
• Christianity will be quite bland and superficial to them… they won’t experience the great sorrows the family experiences, and neither will they experience the great joys either!
• The two go hand in hand… as we invest our lives into the lives of our brethren.
• Theirs will be a lukewarm Christian life… uninvolved… standing off on the sidelines… at an arm’s length from their brothers… a cordial acquaintance perhaps, but not experiencing all that is involved in a true BROTHERHOOD.
f. Does that sound like YOU?
• If so, then perhaps some changes are in order.
• I know that believers often have painful experiences – with other believers… and for some, that has caused them to turn inward… to stay away from involvement in the brotherhood of believers… so as to avoid being hurt again.
• I can’t tell you that you won’t be hurt again. In fact, to be honest, the Bible indicates that you probably WILL be hurt again… but it’s worth it!
• No pain, no gain. Glory is always preceded by a cross… enjoying the resurrection life… the abundant life is always preceded by death to self… death to the world…
• God never intended the believer to live the Christian life alone… or me and my family alone…
• Of course we have responsibilities to our earthly family. How much MORE to our spiritual family in Christ?
• III John 4 – no greater joy — than to see his children walking in the truth.
» It is legitimate to apply this to our earthly, biological children. That is a great joy. That is a good application.
» But the interpretation is that the greatest joy comes from watching our spiritual children… our spiritual family grow and walk in the truth!
» John was speaking of believers in Christ… an assembly of Christians…
» Since our greatest joy will come from watching our spiritual family grow and walk in the truth, then doesn’t it make sense to be INVOLVED in all that is needed to keep that family walking in the truth?
» Doesn’t it make sense to pour our lives into the lives of our brothers and sisters in Christ… since their well being results in our greatest joy?
» I Thess. 3:8 – Consider Paul’s words: “Now we LIVE if ye stand fast in the Lord.”
» Paul experienced a level of joy in the Lord that few will ever experience. Why? Because he invested his life and soul into the lives of his spiritual family… He spent and was spent for them.
» Phil. 2:17 – Paul joyed and rejoiced with them all. Why? Because he poured out his life as a drink offering… as a sacrifice and a service to aid in their faith. The result: a joy few will ever know.
» I Thess. 2:2-8 – But don’t forget his sufferings at Philippi! This man poured his heart and soul into the family of God in that city…
» Involvement in the lives of our brothers in the Lord gives meaning, depth, satisfaction, and contentment to life. Sure, it means suffering with them, but also rejoicing in all their joys.
g. Do you remember our missionary sister in Christ who came last Sunday night, Tory Barret?
• As she ministers in Zambia, and pours her life into the suffering saints in that place, she is going to experience grief and sorrow beyond anything we could imagine.
• But she will also experience a JOY in the Lord and an abundant life that will result from her involvement in believers in that place. That’s a life worth living.
• She doesn’t have to go there. She doesn’t have to suffer, watching young people she grows to love in the Lord die of aids, one after another.
• She doesn’t have to put herself through all that… but she will… because that young lady knows something that God wants us ALL to know: Believers in Christ worldwide are a FAMILY of God… our brotherhood… and being part of any family has its times of sorrow and also times of great joy… and it also carries with it certain responsibilities.
• She is going to Zambia that others might come to know Christ in a saving way, and be brought into the family of God by faith… and so that she can minister to them for the glory of God.
• Their sorrows will become hers. Their burdens will become hers. Their joys and victories will also become hers.
h. God calls some to be missionaries. But you know, God may not want everyone to go to Zambia. But He does want every one of His children to be involved in the lives of those who are part of His spiritual family… involved in the lives of this great brotherhood in Christ. That is a life worth living – regardless of the geography.
8. Faithful to the Local Church
a. Endeavoring to keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace. (Eph. 4: )
b. Ps. 133:1-3 – how pleasant for brethren to dwell together in unity!
Settling family problems:
a. In our earthly families, you settle family squabbles at the kitchen table. You don’t blab your problems all over town… unless you are trying to hurt your family and “burn your own house down.” Sensible people settle family squabbles at home… and those squabbles don’t ever leave the walls of that home.
b. In the local church there will be family squabbles too.
c. I Cor. 6:1-8 – in the family of God we aren’t to blab our problems all over town.
• Why? Because we are saints and brethren. We ought to be able to settle such problems “at home”… in the church.
• Family problems in the church family ought to be resolved at the church’s kitchen table too…
• And even if you think the outcome wasn’t fair, it’s better to turn the other cheek and be defrauded rather than to ruin the testimony of the local church.
• We are a family… a brotherhood. Every family will have its spats and squabbles. Not every family deals with them in a proper manner… a manner FITTING those who are saints and brethren. That is what destroys our testimony in the world.
d. I John 2:9 – if you hate your brother, you are walking in darkness.
e. Gen.13:8 – the reason Abram gave for not disputing was the fact that they were brethren.