Colossians 1:23, 25

A Minister of the Gospel and the Church


Paul, a Minister of the Gospel (vs. 23c)

A. The Gospel Was Heard by the Colossians

1. 1:23 – they heard about the HOPE of the gospel.

2. 1:5 – they heard the word of the truth of the gospel.

3. 1:6 – which (gospel) came unto you.

4. 1:6 – in the gospel they learned of the grace of God in truth.

5. 1:7 – they learned this from Epaphras.

6. 1:14 – they were taught about redemption through His blood.

7. 1:14 – they were taught about forgiveness of sins.

8. 1:20-21 – they were taught about reconciliation through the blood of the cross.

9. Clearly, the gospel was heard and known by the Colossians.

10. Do YOU know the gospel? It is a very simple message:

a. God the Father sent His Son to earth to become a man…

b. Christ, the God-Man, was crucified for the sins of the world. My sin and yours were placed on Him.

c. Christ paid the penalty of sin completely. The work of salvation was FINISHED 2000 years ago.

d. Now that the sin issue has been settled forever, God is free to offer salvation to the whole world… but only on HIS terms.

e. God’s terms: FAITH… believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved. It really is that simple.

f. Have you trusted in Christ for salvation? He offers you eternal life… but you must come to Him in faith.

B. The Gospel Was Preached to Every Creature Under Heaven

1. This is obviously a figure of speech.

a. It does not mean that every human being on earth heard the gospel message at the time of the writing of this epistle.

b. Rather, it speaks of the fact that the gospel is to BE preached to every creature under heaven.

c. It speaks of the universal proclamation of the gospel…

d. It was God’s intention for every creature to hear the message… this was His Great Commission to preach the gospel to every creature. Paul is simply stating that that commission is in the process of being carried out.

e. Acts 2:5 – on Pentecost, there were devout men from every nation under heaven.
• This too was a figure of speech…
• It is unlikely that there were any Aborigines there from Australia or that there were any citizens of Tibet.
• Nor were there any there from the Apache nation.
• It is a figure of speech, like saying, they came from everywhere… though not literally. Or, “Everybody was there.”

f. Rom. 1:8 – Paul thanked God that their faith was spoken of throughout the whole world.
• It is unlikely that at the time of that epistle, folks in inland China heard about the faith of the relatively tiny group of Christians in Rome.
• It means in all parts of the known world to the writer… namely, north, east, south, and west…

g. The literal method of interpretation allows for figures of speech… some have referred to this as hyperbole: exaggeration for the purpose of making a point… a generalization, not requiring statistical exactness.

h. EW Bullinger lists this expression in Col. 1:23 as a synecdoche (the exchange of one idea for another associated idea.)
• Creature is put for man.
• The gospel was preached to every MAN… used in the sense of mankind… without distinction of nationality, gender, social background, etc…
• But not every single person on the planet.

2. Paul’s purpose and point:

a. The false teachers were proclaiming that truth was restricted to a few initiates…

b. Early Gnosticism was restricted to a select group of insiders with special knowledge. No one else could know their spiritual secrets.

c. The gospel message was completely UNLIKE their message. It was not just for a select few, but was for every creature under heaven! All of mankind… from every nation… every social class… every educational level… every economic background… red, yellow, black, and white…

C. Paul Was Made a Minister of the Gospel

1. Minister: diakonos

a. Strong’s: one who executes the commands of another, especially of a master, a servant, attendant, minister.

b. Dictionary of Biblical Languages: servant, one who serves, without necessarily having the office of deacon (like Phebe; Rom. 16:1)

c. This term is different from doulos, which emphasizes an abject slavery. Diakonos is also a servant, but emphasis the ministry performed.

d. It is the term for the church officer: a deacon… which implies a servant of the Body.

2. We too are ministers of the gospel… ambassadors for Christ… to us has been committed the ministry of reconciliation… we have been given the gospel message to share with others. Are we faithful in that charge?

Paul, a Minister of the Church

A. A Minister of the Church

1. Col. 1:1 – Paul introduces himself as an apostle of Jesus Christ… and this was God’s will… thus establishing his authority…

a. His authority was being undermined by the implications of the false teachers.

b. He is an apostle of Christ – a “sent one,” sent TO the church.

2. He is also a minister of the church… one sent to serve the Body of Christ.

a. Paul does not use the term here in the sense of a church officer, a deacon.

b. The term is often used in a generic, not a specialized sense… such as Phebe who is also called a servant.

c. One of the ways in which Paul served the church was through his suffering FOR them…

d. Paul was willing to take his turn in line to suffer for Christ… suffering because he was bringing the gospel to the gentiles… which thing the Jews hated.

e. Paul was a minister of the church in that he was called and given revelation concerning the distinct nature of the church, how it functions, its purpose, its glory, and its final consummation. This he was to deliver to the churches.

f. He was a servant of God to the churches.

B. According to the Dispensation of God

1. Dispensation: stewardship.

a. Oikonomia: from “house” + “manage”

b. Defined: the management of a household or of household affairs.

c. Stewards were managers of large household estates; they were often slaves or freedmen of high status.

d. Joseph was a high ranking slave, the steward of Potiphar’s house. He was given the responsibility over Potiphar’s goods… he was to manage the affairs of his household, and was trusted to be faithful to that task.

e. Being a minister to the church was Paul’s calling; his stewardship. God entrusted to Paul a special privilege of ministry to the Body of Christ.

2. Consider HOW the Lord called this man.

a. Becoming a minister to the Christian church was not something Paul/Saul wanted to be ever since he was a little boy. Hardly!

b. This was not something he had been planning and preparing for.

c. His goal was to “make it” as part of Israel’s religious upper crust… and he was well on his way toward fulfilling that goal. (Gal. 1:14)

d. As a loyal Jew, he hated Christ and Christians.
• Acts 9:1-2 – threatening and slaughtering them.
• Acts 22:4 – he persecuted believers to death.
• Acts 26:9-11 – he went to great lengths to harm if not annihilate the churches of Christ.

e. Nobody could ever say that Saul’s ambition in life was to become a minister of the Body of Christ.

f. Acts 9:3-6 – Saul was on a rampage to wipe out the church if he could.
• It was then that he met Jesus Christ…
• He trusted in Christ and surrendered his will to Him.
• Suddenly that zeal that had been bent on destroying the name of Christ was transformed and now used of the Lord to magnify the name of Christ!
• Vs. 15-16 – God CHOSE Saul to be His vessel
• His charge: to bear the name of Christ wherever he went… through his life, ministry, and message.
• And he would suffer MANY things in carrying out that stewardship.
• Paul knew up front that his call… his stewardship involved much suffering for Christ and His body.
• That is Paul’s point in Col. 1:24-25 – he was rejoicing in his sufferings for them… because he was made a minister of the churches of Christ.

3. Paul was a minister of the church, and this was God’s doing. God Himself granted him this dispensation or stewardship.

a. Eph. 3:2 – the dispensation of the grace of God was GIVEN to Paul for the benefit of the church in Ephesus.
• He was a steward of God’s message of grace.
• Oikonomia – Paul was entrusted with the message of the grace of God… that results in salvation.
• He was also entrusted with the message of the grace of God that results in sanctification and spiritual growth.
• This message of grace was GIVEN to Paul for the purpose of delivering it to the gentiles… unto you.
• Paul was called to dispense… or administer the grace of God to Jews and Gentiles.
• This stewardship was GIVEN to him… granted to him from God.
• He didn’t earn it. He wasn’t seeking it. Rather, God chose him to this ministry and GAVE him the privilege of being a steward of these marvelous truths.

b. I Tim. 1:12 – Christ PUT him into the ministry.
• The ministry = diakonia… service…
• It was Christ who put Paul in the diakonia… along the road to Damascus.
• He thanks Christ for the privilege.
• He notes that it was the LORD who enabled him to be fruitful… not he himself. He recognized that he was nothing without the grace of God… and that he had no power of his own to perform this ministry. He required the Lord’s enablement… and received it.
• He thanked God for counting him to be faithful… trustworthy… and even his faithfulness he attributed to the mercy of the Lord.
• I Cor. 7:25 – Paul spoke of himself as “as one that hath obtained mercy of the Lord to be faithful.”
• It was the Lord who PUT him into the ministry. Put = set, fix; to establish, ordain.”

c. I Tim. 2:7 – he was ORDAINED a preacher.
• Ordained: same word as in I Tim. 1:12 – set; established; ordained… put in place…

d. II Tim. 1:11 – he was APPOINTED a preacher of the gentiles. (same term)

e. Rom. 15:15-16 – becoming a minister was a “grace gift” given to Saul.

f. Nobody had to twist his arm to become a minister.

g. He wasn’t forced to sit through countless meetings where the speakers urged, pleaded, begged, and yelled at the young men until they shamed some into becoming a minister.

h. Christ spoke to this man on the road to Damascus… and that was the end of it. There was no argument. No arm twisting. No coercing. No pressure.

i. God called and Saul responded: “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?”

j. Acts 26:19 – Paul later said, “I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision.”

k. Then God answered and TOLD Saul what He would have him to do. He would preach and suffer… and all for the benefit of the Body of Christ.

4. The ministry to the church was a stewardship Paul was given.

a. Whether he felt like it or not, it was still his stewardship… his responsibility.

b. I Cor. 9:16-17 – there is a reward for willing service; but even if he is not willing, it is still required of him. It is his calling. Stewards don’t have the luxury of serving when they feel like. They are required to serve.

c. I Cor. 4:2 – faithfulness to one’s stewardship is required not requested.

d. Jer. 20:9 – Jeremiah could not stop preaching the Word if he wanted to. It was like a fire burning in his heart.

5. One of the worst things Bible colleges do is to try to convince the young men who attend to become ministers of the gospel.

a. They try to persuade young men to become missionaries or pastors.

b. Well meaning men resort to arm twisting… guilt trips… pressure tactics… trying to get young men to make a quick commitment after an emotional pitch… and leave them with the impression that they are failing God if they become an engineer rather than a missionary…

c. The worst possible scenario for any church is to have a pastor who is in that position because of the persistent persuasion of well meaning, but misguided men… and NOT because he was called of the Lord.

d. I know men in the ministry who should NOT be in the ministry. And this is from their own mouths…

e. I prefer to try to talk young men OUT of going into the ministry. If I can talk them out of it… then I know that the Lord did not call them.

f. I’m convinced that when God puts His hand on a man, wild horses couldn’t keep him away from the ministry.

g. Making known possible areas of ministry is fine and good. But going beyond that, to putting PRESSURE on a young man to accept such a position is not fine.

h. You DON’T want a man in the ministry who doesn’t belong there.
• It will save the flock from wandering without a God-called shepherd.
• It could waste years of that young man’s life… and it could damage the work of God wherever he ends up.
• What could be more frustrating for a young man than trying to function in a way God never designed him to function?
• It’s like putting an eyeball on the side of your head in hopes that it will hear… The eyeball will lead a frustrated life… and the body will suffer loss.

C. The Stewardship Was Given to Paul FOR YOU

1. Paul’s stewardship of the mystery was given to him NOT for his own personal edification, but for the good of the body.

a. I Cor. 14:5,12 – The Corinthians failed in this area. They were zealous for spiritual gifts… but wanted them for their own personal benefit… and they used them at home… but did NOT use them as God intended: for the edification of the whole Body.

b. What could be more selfish…and contrary to God’s purpose?

c. That is why God gives ANY spiritual gift to every believer. (I Cor. 12:7) (to profit withal; for the common good)

2. I Pet. 4:10 – we have ALL been given a gift and that gift is to be used to minister one to another. That means the WHOLE body… all those IN Christ…

a. This includes: Jew and Greek; bond and free; male and female… rich or poor… young or old.

b. If they are in the Body, the church, then we are obligated to use our grace gift to minister to ALL of them.

c. We don’t have the right to say, “I will minister to the rich, but not to the poor.” Nor can we say, “I will minister to the women, but not to the men.” Nor can we say, “I will minister to the young, but not to the old.”

d. Nothing could be more contrary to the purpose and nature of the local church… wherein EVERY member is important!

e. Paul was given a stewardship for the Colossian believers… each and every one of them!

3. We have not been made a steward of the revelation of God as Paul was… but we HAVE been given a grace gift to be used for the edification of the Body… to minister one to another.

a. Have we been faithful? Are we ministering to the Body… ALL of the Body… not just a select group?

b. Are we using our spiritual gifts to function in the Body as God designed… or are we using our spiritual gifts in our closet… at home… just for me, myself, and mine?

c. Perhaps its time to look beyond yourself… beyond your own family… and begin to minister to OTHERS… that is called Christlikeness… godliness.

d. If you are not functioning in the Body as God designed you to do… and equipped you to do… then you are NOT fulfilling your God-given reason for being.

e. We have a stewardship… a responsibility to function in the Body. And if one member is not functioning in the Body… then the whole Body suffers.

f. Don’t YOU be responsible for causing the Body to suffer!

g. You be responsible to build UP the Body… edify the Body…

h. Paul said that he was made a minister “for His Body’s sake.” The PURPOSE of YOUR spiritual gifts is the same: for His Body’s sake… which is the church.

D. To Fulfill the Word of God

1. Fulfill: make full, to fill up, i.e., to fill to the full. 1a to cause to abound, to furnish or supply liberally; to complete. 2a to fill to the top: so that nothing shall be wanting to full measure, fill to the brim.

2. Fulfill the word of God = to preach the Word of God fully.

a. Preaching the Word FULLY…
• To preach the WHOLE counsel of God…
• Acts 20:27 – he desired to preach the WHOLE counsel of God and considered that his ministry was not fulfilled until he did so.
• To leave no truth out…
• To preach the word of God in its entirety…
• To preach the word of God in a balanced manner: not overemphasizing one aspect of truth and underemphasizing another aspect of truth.
• To preach the WHOLE counsel of God… and the only way to do that is line by line; precept by precept.
• To preach in season and out of season.
• To preach the positive and the negative; the blessings and the cursings.
• To preach the Word and present the emphasis as it appears in the Bible… and not to invent a personal agenda.
• In Bible school I heard a preacher say that he could preach salvation out of any verse in the Bible! The only way one can do that is by twisting the meaning of the text, for salvation does NOT appear in every verse.
• The right way to teach the Bible is to just teach what the Bible says… line by line… and NOT to inject our own wishes and whims.

b. The best way to avoid a personal agenda and to present the emphasis as it appears in the Bible is to teach the Bible verse by verse… line upon line… paragraph by paragraph… and not to ever stop.

c. This way, (if the Word is taught accurately, verse by verse) then the emphasis that emerges is INSPIRED by the Holy Spirit… for He is the Author of the Word and its emphasis.

d. The emphasis that emerges is the one that GOD Himself put into His Word… and not an emphasis that biased men would like to see interjected into the Word.
• Ex: We are going through the book of Proverbs—an extremely practical book.
• I debated whether to teach it topically or verse by verse… and verse by verse won out.
• The reason I hesitated was because certain truths are repeated often in the book… and I didn’t want to sound repetitious.
• As I analyzed that thinking, I was convicted. Who am I to “cut out” truths that are repeated? If God repeated them it must be for a good purpose.
• Some truths NEED to be emphasized and repeated—and that is just what God has done in His holy Word.

e. The emphasis in the Bible is on Christ… and making Christ known in a deeper and deeper way.

f. Christ, the Living Word, cannot be known apart from a slow, steady, gradual, complete, careful exposition of the Written Word… line upon line… precept upon precept.

g. If folks don’t like the emphasis that emerges as you read through the Bible verse by verse, my counsel is to take that up with the author. I’m just an index finger, pointing to what God said.

h. Growth takes TIME… lots of time. As Americans, we want everything QUICK… and God doesn’t work on the American time table.

i. Growth takes time… it takes time to grow in grace and in the KNOWLEDGE of the Lord Jesus Christ. It takes time to learn the Written Word… line by line… and it takes time to learn about the Living Word… our Lord Jesus Christ… and to let truth really SINK IN. That takes time.

j. We spent four years going through Hebrews. We spent three years in Ezekiel before that. We spent about 2-3 years in I Kings. We spent about a year in Colossians chapter one.

k. Taking the quick approach leads to the teacher picking and choosing which gems he wants to highlight and which truths he doesn’t have time to cover. It is quick and easy, but superficial… and extremely subjective.

l. Taking your time in the Word… going line by line means that over time a pattern will emerge: GOD’S emphasis… This method takes a long time… it is not quick and easy, but it’s time consuming and difficult… but it results in depth… and is extremely objective in its emphasis.

3. Paul was given the stewardship of FULLY preaching the Word of God… the WHOLE counsel of God… exactly as God delivered it… line by line!

a. This included many truths that the Judaizers, Gnostics, and traditionalists of his day did not want to hear.

b. He was called to preach the mystery (vs. 26).

c. He was called to proclaim that the Law was now obsolete as a rule of life.

d. He was called to describe in great detail, the Body of Christ and how it functions in the world today… and how it stood in stark contrast to Israel.

e. And even though he faced opposition to the doctrinal emphasis that God gave him… he kept on going forward… preaching Christ and Him crucified… preaching the message of the cross… and all that was accomplished there.

4. And he fulfilled his ministry! He was a faithful steward.

a. Acts 12:25 – Paul and Barnabus fulfilled their ministry…

b. Acts 20:24 – Paul wanted to finish his course… and the ministry God called him to…

c. II Tim. 4:5-7 – Paul in fact DID fulfill his ministry.

d. He was made a servant of the gospel and a minister of the church… and was faithful to his ministry till his dying day.

e. Paul continued in the faith… grounded and settled… and was never moved away from the hope of the gospel… he preached it and suffered for it the rest of his life…

f. This should be our goal as well…
• Be faithful to our stewardship to the gospel… as ambassadors for Christ… to preach Christ to every creature…
• Be faithful to our stewardship to the local church… as members of the Body of Christ… and members one of another…
• By God’s grace, let us be faithful to OUR dying day!

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