At Colosse, But In Christ
1. The Bible indicates that the believer has two addresses… one earthly, and one heavenly… two spheres of existence… our earthly city and our heavenly position…
2. Paul introduced many of his epistles in this manner:
a. Col. 1:2 – “at Colosse… in Christ.”
b. I Cor. 1:2 – “at Corinth… in Christ Jesus.”
c. Phil. 1:1 – “saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi.”
d. Eph. 1:1 – “at Ephesus… in Christ Jesus.”
3. Today we are going to take a look at this dual citizenship Paul so often speaks of… and take a look at some of its implications.
1. First of all, Paul addresses the believers as living in the city of Colosse.
2. Colosse was located:
a. Lycus River Valley in what is now Turkey.
b. 80-100 miles inland from Ephesus.
c. Only a few miles from Hierapolis (13 miles northwest) and Laodicea (11 miles west).
3. The CITY of Colosse.
a. At the time of this epistle, Colosse was not a large and important city like Ephesus.
b. It was not a cultural center; neither a political center; neither was it an economic center.
c. The church at Colosse was not a center for the faith – like the church in Jerusalem or Antioch.
d. The book of Acts which outlines the early church history doesn’t even mention the church at Colosse.
e. At the time of this writing, it was a rather run down city that had been outstripped by its two close neighboring cities, which also had churches (Hierapolis and the wealthy Laodicea).
f. The only reason we know of the city of Colosse today is because of the problems and divisions that arose in the church in this run down city… a problem that later developed into Gnosticism.
4. The saints and faithful brethren were at Colosse.
a. Most of them were probably born there. Many lived there all their lives. Some were transplants from other regions.
b. The men worked in Colosse. The children went to school in Colosse. The women shopped in the marketplace at Colosse. They built homes there. They established businesses in Colosse.
c. Some of the believers in Colosse probably did quite well selling their goods. Others struggled to put food on the table. Some built large, comfortable homes. Others lived in dreary apartments.
d. Some of their children went on to live for the Lord… some of the young people went off into the world and broke their parent’s hearts.
e. Some of the brethren in Colosse lived long, healthy lives. Others were sickly all their days… and struggled with one illness after another.
f. Some of the saints in Colosse were running around like a chicken with their head cut off… they were so busy they didn’t have time to think. Others sat around their homes lonely with no one to talk to all day…
g. Some had large families working the farm. There were probably some widows trying to make ends meet. Some of the old grandpas sat around the marketplace and told stories all day long…
h. When they went away to the big city of Ephesus on a family vacation, everyone could tell they were from Colosse – their Colossian accent gave them away!
i. They looked like Colossians… they talked like Colossians… they dressed like Colossians… you’d never mistake them for a Greek or an Egyptian.
j. Colosse is where these folks LIVED – day in and day out. It was HOME to these brethren.
k. And even though their city wasn’t famous, wasn’t prosperous, wasn’t a center for much of anything – it was HOME for these folks. It’s where they brought their kids up. It’s where grandma and grandpa were buried. It’s where they paid their taxes. It was home!
5. We are the saints and faithful brethren in Salem, New Hampshire.
a. Of course, there are other faithful brethren in this city who go to other Bible believing churches… we recognize that.
b. But like the folks addressed in this epistle, we are saints and brethren living in Salem… central New England.
c. We too have to live here on earth in our earthly city…
d. Our wives shop in local marketplaces… our kids go to school here… the men work in the factories, offices, run businesses here…
e. Some of the saints here run around like chickens with their heads cut off… too busy… and others sit around bored and lonely…
f. And when we go to Florida or Texas for vacation, they can tell we’re neither Floridians nor Texans. We have Yankee stamped on our foreheads.
g. Some of the saints do quite well economically. Others struggle to pay the bills month to month.
h. The believers in Salem aren’t much different than the saints and brethren at Colosse.
i. Times have changed. The geography is different. The culture is different. But basically, we are believers living in our earthly city… just like the believers at Colosse 2000 years ago.
6. The city of Colosse, like the town of Salem, is part of the world system… what Paul calls the “present evil world.”
a. Gal. 1:4 – the present evil world…
b. II Cor. 4:4 – Satan is the god of this world system.
c. I John 2:15-17 – we are not to love this world, for nothing in the world system is of the Father. None of it is eternal. It is all passing away… and we will leave it all behind. Don’t love it!
7. God has a purpose for His sons in the world… in their local Colosse:
a. Acts 1:8 – Here Luke states that God would send the disciples into the world and that they function as His witnesses…
• God has strategically placed His saints in neighborhoods, in office buildings, in schools, in factories, and even on soccer teams and baseballs teams… to function as a witness for Him before the lost.
• Everything we DO in our little Colosse ought to be done with this in mind. Whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God! Your fellow Colossians; or your fellow Salemites…are watching.
b. Phil. 2:15 – God has left us in this world to SHINE as lights in the world…
c. Matt. 5:16 – Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father which is in heaven.
d. God reared up a small body of believers in the city of Colosse. They were His witnesses in that location… to represent Him… to demonstrate the indwelling life of Christ to that community… to demonstrate what Christ can do in a yielded heart… how He can transform men, women, and children into His image… and to attract others in the city to their Savior.
e. That’s why we are here in Salem too… God’s purpose for the local church has not changed… God’s purpose for His saints and brethren has not changed…
f. We are God’s witnesses… a testimony to the truth…
g. We’re not here to change the world – but rather as a witness TO the world – and to call men OUT OF the world.
8. God not only has designed our presence in the world as a testimony FOR the world… He has also a purpose FOR US – as believers…
a. John 16:33 – in the world ye shall have tribulation.
• In Colosse, believers would experience all kinds of trials and tribulations.
• But Christ has overcome the world… and they were IN Him.
• Hence, knowing this marvelous position in Christ will enable us to deal with the world better… more level headed… clearer…
b. 1:10 – In Colosse, they WALKED. That’s where they lived their lives.
• They went to work there, school there, church there, and spent their days there.
• Their walk in Colosse was to be WORTHY – worthy of their position in Christ!
• We live in Salem – or Nashua, Atkinson, and some live in Mass.
• Yet, as believers, we are all in the same place – in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.
• Our walk here on earth is to be WORTHY of that glorious position.
• Is your walk worthy?
c. 2:2 – in Colosse, their hearts needed comforting.
• Some of these folks had to bury their parents… some had to bury their children there…
• In Colosse, there were cases of adultery and immorality, some of the families they grew to know and love in the Lord broke up – and left many of these folks broken hearted…
• In Colosse, they had years when there was no fruit on the vine, the figs trees did not blossom, and there was no herd in their stalls… and they needed comfort and encouragement in those dreary days…
• And it isn’t any different today. We too get our hearts broken in Salem… in our little corner of the world. We too face the death of loved ones; we sorrow and grieve over the messes we see people make of their lives spiritually… our hearts needed comforting in our Colosse too.
d. 2:8 – Spiritual danger existed in Colosse too.
• There were false teachers who had influenced the believers in unbiblical ways.
• They introduced a blasphemous view of the Person of Jesus Christ… like the Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons of today…
• They were replacing sound doctrine from the Scriptures with the traditions of men.
• And sadly, some of the saints were gullible enough to swallow it… some were ignorant enough of the Bible to be led astray by them…
• There is spiritual danger as we live in our Colosse too.
• I Peter 5:8 – Satan still walks about Salem, (or other fallen spirits in his army) seeking to devour the believer… destroy us spiritually… to get us all mixed up spiritually and doctrinally. And sometimes, he is quite successful.
e. 3:5 – In Colosse, they had to deal with SIN in their lives.
• In Colosse, there was fornication… the filthiness of the flesh…
• In Colosse, there was covetousness… which is far worse than fornication… this is filthiness of the spirit… idolatry!
• They had to deal with their sin natures every single day… just like we do.
• Some of the saints in Colosse struggled with certain sins… and walked around as if they were defeated, spiritually.
• Some of us are still struggling with one sin or another at any given time… in the world… in our Colosse, we shall have tribulation.
f. 3:18-20 – this is recorded because in Colosse, there were believers who were experiencing family problems too.
g. 4:5 – In Colosse, some of the believers were not using wisdom; they were wasting their time on frivolous things…
• We do that today too…
• Too much time wasted on TV, games, pleasure, sleeping, amusements…
• Not enough time used for the Lord – witnessing; serving in the local church; ministering to the Body; doing good to all men…
h. 4:6 – in Colosse, some of the saints opened their mouths too often and got themselves in trouble… and stirred up trouble.
9. Colosse is where they lived, breathed, walked, talked, and died.
a. Colosse was their earthly home… and their earthly testing ground… their earthly training grounds…
b. Colosse is where they had to deal with all the issues of life…
c. Colosse is where they spent the time of their earthly sojourn.
d. The saints at Colosse (God bless them all!) walked with God and were faithful brethren… in varying degrees of faithfulness… in varying degrees of usefulness in God’s service… in varying degrees of maturity… in varying degrees of fruitfulness… but they lived their days in their earthly city… and then died — and went to be with the Lord.
e. Absent from their earthly body…and their earthly city – is to be present with the Lord.
f. We too are going to live the time of our earthly sojourn in our earthly city… being prepared for glory… prepared to stand before the Bema seat of Christ… and if the Lord should tarry – die here!
g. Our time on earth is important… God’s university, preparing us for eternity…
h. Only one life, will soon be past; only what’s done for Christ will last!
1. I Cor. 12:13 – At the moment of saving faith, the believers whose physical bodies were in Colosse were placed IN CHRIST spiritually.
a. Ron dealt with this subject a couple of weeks ago, so we won’t spend a lot of time on it today.
b. It is Spirit Baptism that places the believer IN Christ… we were IN Adam… and are now IN Christ – a new, eternal, and irreversible position.
c. Spirit baptism began on the Day of Pentecost, and at that time the entire group of believing Jews in Jerusalem were placed into Christ – the Body of Christ – the Church.
d. Pentecost marked the birthday of the church – and it began with Spirit baptism.
e. Each and every believer experiences Spirit baptism the MOMENT he places his faith in Christ today.
f. It isn’t something that is felt… (not that kind of experience).
g. It is the work GOD does in us… whether we are aware of it or not.
h. The only way we KNOW that it occurred is by reading the New Testament – and BELIEVING what God said.
i. If you are born again – if you have received Christ as your personal Savior – then you have already been baptized by the Spirit … placed IN Christ… made a member of the Church universal.
2. Some other results of being IN Christ…
a. 1:18 a – Those in Christ are UNITED with Him as members of His Body
b. 2:12-13 – we died, were buried, and rose again with Him.
c. 2:20 – he bases his teachings on the fact that we died with Christ.
d. 3:1 – he also bases his exhortations on the fact that we rose with Christ… because we were IN HIM… fully identified with Christ…
e. We died to our old relationships (our old city – this world is not our true home)… and we are now alive as new creations in a NEW sphere of existence: IN Christ…
3. Things are very different in Christ.
a. Eph. 1:3 – they were seated in heavenly places in Christ – and blessed with all spiritual blessings!
b. II Cor. 5:17 – they were new creations in Christ Jesus.
c. Col. 3:3 – Their new lives were hidden with Christ in God.
d. Col. 3:4 – Christ was now their life.
e. Col. 3:10 – in Christ, they had already put on that new man.
f. Col. 3:11 – in Christ, there were no divisions, no social elites, no bond or free… but they were all one in Christ – and Christ was all in all TO them all!
g. Col. 2:10 – we are complete in Christ!
h. Col. 2:1 – in Christ, they had already put off the sins of the flesh. Positionally, the battle has been won. It is finished!
i. Col. 2:15 – because they were in Christ, they had already spoiled and triumphed over Satan and the host of evil. They were more than conquerors in Christ!
j. In Christ, things were very different than life in Colosse.
4. The Colossian believers (like all believers – even us!) had a DUAL citizenship.
a. They were citizens of Colosse… with all the implications of dwelling in an earthly city.
b. Phil. 3:20 – They were also citizens of heaven… seated in heaven in Christ positionally. (conversation = citizenship)
c. Not only were they citizens of heaven, but positionally, they had already been seated in heavenly places. It was as if they were in heaven already… in God’s mind.
d. The same is true of believers today. Our citizenship is in heaven… and it is so sure for believers, that the New Testament speaks of us as being there already… even though for the present time, we continue to dwell in our Colosse…our earthly city.
e. Everything is perfect in our heavenly home in Christ.
• There is no sin there… no suffering… no struggling.
• There are no divisions among God’s people there.
• There is no strife… no debate… no division.
• There are no false teachers… no confusion.
• There is no divorce… no family problems…no wayward children.
• There are no dreary days… no fruitless vines.
• In Christ, all of our enemies have been defeated.
• Seated in heavenly places in Christ.
• In Christ, there is no more suffering, no death, no more sorrow, no more tears.
• In Christ, the battle is won… the strife is o’r.
• Our position in Christ is perfect, settled, eternal, and unchangeable.
5. What a contrast between the believer being in Colosse (earthly city) and being in Christ (citizens of our heavenly city; seated; glorified; complete). Paul spoke of the two spheres in which we live:
a. At Colosse… In Christ
b. Earthly… heavenly
c. Physical… spiritual
d. Physical birth, spiritual birth
e. Local… universal
f. Temporal… eternal
g. Body… heart and mind
h. Tribulation; battles, conflict; fighting the good fight… eternal REST and peace!
1. This dual citizenship always causes conflicts in the believer’s life.
a. There always has been and always will be (till the Lord comes) a conflict of interests… conflicting motives… conflicting schedules… conflicting purposes… conflicting viewpoints…
b. Phil. 1:21-24 – Paul felt these inner conflicts acutely.
• To him, Christ was life. His life was hidden with Christ.
• On the one hand, to die and depart his earthly city would be great gain. He had an inward DESIRE to depart and be with Christ.
• Yet, on the other hand, he knew that God had a purpose for his life in his earthly city – to minister to others for the glory of God.
• This was not a morbid desire to die – nor was this an expression of discouragement, like Elijah. This was a godly desire to be with Christ which grew out of a love for the Lord. Period! It was healthy!
• We have probably all felt this conflict at one time or another.
• Perhaps what it takes is some bad news from the doctor to make this a bit more vivid… news that you have cancer and might not make it much longer… news that you have some other disease, and you probably won’t live long…
• That has a way of awaking us to a whole new outlook on life…
• Kids – even spiritually minded kids – don’t think of the closeness of heaven… as being but a breath away. They can know it intellectually – but it takes age and maturity and time for it to really sink in… that we are but mere mortals!
• The conflict Paul describes is NOT between staying here on earth and leaving because you are sick and tired of all your troubles… but rather, the conflict is between a love for serving God in our earthly city… and an inner longing to be with Christ in glory!
2. Consider some of the conflicts that arose because of the difference between being IN Christ, and yet still AT Colosse.
a. Earthly… heavenly city
• Matt. 6:19-20 – conflict in laying up treasures… for our retirement on earth, or for our eternity in heaven?
• Let’s face it. We have conflicts in this area. We are often pulled in two different directions.
• In Colosse, we often love the world; in Christ, we love the things of the Lord – and there is often a PULL…
• But our heavenly city is home… we are to be seeking that city which hath foundations – whose builder and maker is God!
• We are pilgrims and sojourners in our earthly city. Are you growing in your recognition of this truth?
b. Physical… spiritual city…
• Are we more concerned about our physical health or our spiritual health?
• Listen to the prayer requests on Wednesday night.
• Are we more concerned that our children make in the world – with a good paying job, or are we more concerned that they “make it” spiritually?
• But as time goes on – we are to be continually abiding in Christ… entering into that holy place of communion – where our hearts are weaned away from the physical realm – and where we learn the value and importance of the spiritual realm…
c. Physical birth, spiritual birth
• We entered our earthly city by means of a physical birth.
• We enter into our new relationship to God… we are new creations “in Christ” by means of the new or spiritual birth.
• And doesn’t this create conflicts between our earthly family (who may not understand our faith in Christ) and our spiritual family…
• They may not understand why you put going to church to be with your spiritual family BEFORE going to their annual Superbowl party on Superbowl Sunday! You always USED to go to their party before you were saved!
• Jesus said that a man’s foes shall be they of his own household. Being born again… the spiritual birth and our spiritual family creates conflict at times with our earthly families…
• This is especially true in countries like China and Saudi Arabia where Christians are persecuted openly.
• As we mature in the Lord, we discover that our spiritual family is our real family…
• Immature believers come to a church looking for people their own age… with their own interests… sports… activities etc. But as we mature, we discover that fellowship is based upon our love for the Lord – where age or gender means nothing… where social status and race mean nothing… but Christ is all and all!
d. Body… heart and mind
• Our Colosse is home for our body… it needs to be fed, bathed, clothed, and cared for in our Colosse.
• But as believers, while our bodies live in our earthly city, our hearts and minds ought to be in our heavenly position in Christ…
• Col. 2:20-23 – here Paul states that the Colossians died to the world’s way of doing things…
» Yet some of the Colossians were still acting in a worldly manner –
» They were thinking the way the world thinks: if I don’t taste this, and don’t touch that, and don’t handle this – if I concentrate on the externals – and LOOK the part, then I will be holy and acceptable to God.
» That is a legalistic form of asceticism… it is a false humility and a false spirituality… and it is one of main purposes for the book of Colossians – to expose that error.
• Our bodies dwell in our earthly cities – and God’s Word tells us HOW to deal with the issues of living in a body of flesh in a sin cursed earth.
• The world’s methods do not help – they hinder! Check the Bible!
• Our bodies struggle to remain pure in a filthy world… and our hearts and minds are more and more attracted to that far better land…
• Col. 3:1-4 – we need to continually remind ourselves that we died to this world, and we have been raised into a new sphere of living…
• We have a continual conflict between setting our affection on the shiny new and attractive things of our earthly city… vs. setting our affection on things above.
• Our bodies live down here… but our hearts and minds dwell above.
• This creates tension and struggles at times.
• Sometimes in one home, there are some family members who are more heavenly minded than others… conflicts arise!
• Sometimes within our own hearts conflicts arise… we want to seek things above – but keep on getting dragged back down to earth…
• We want to serve one master, but, by the choice we make, we find ourselves serving two masters…
• You want to serve the Lord, but you have to work to survive… and your boss is making you work on Sundays next month… or you have to work late on Wednesday’s and can’t make prayer meeting… an inner conflict.
• You want to honor Christ – and your children who are not yet very heavenly minded want to skip church and go to an amusement park on Sunday… or a dog show… or a soccer game… or some other activity going on in Colosse… an all too common conflict…
e. Temporal… eternal
• Colosse was their temporal home; being in heavenly places in Christ is forever.
• II Cor. 4:16-17 – as we grow in the Lord, we discover that more and more we are looking not at the things which are seen (in our earthly city – I see the sights that dazzle; the tempting sounds I hear) but at eternal things…
• As time goes on, and our hearts are more and more attached to things above, our trials here seem light “for a moment”… and we focus more and more on things that really matter… on eternal things…
• Finally, the things of earth grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace!
• This is the process of spiritual growth… what Paul wanted for the Colossian believers… and what God wants for all of us.
f. Local… universal
• Another contrast between being in Christ and at Colosse had to do with the church in that city.
• The saints in Christ Jesus mentioned in this verse were members of the Body of Christ.
» They were members of the universal church – the Body of genuinely born again believers worldwide… from the Day of Pentecost until the rapture.
» That was their position… unalterable… eternal.
» Thus, they were brothers with the believers in Ephesus, Alexandria, Jerusalem, Rome, Antioch, and wherever true believer might be found.
» They were also brothers with those believers in Christ who had died and were now in glory.
» Being in Christ meant they were part of the universal church…
• But they were also members of the local church – at Colosse
» Being part of the universal church is a wonderful truth…
» But when it comes to practical everyday living, the principles in the New Testament are only practiced at a local level.
» Members of the universal church, (ex: believers in China) aren’t the ones who are likely to gossip about you… or step on your toes… or offend your sensibilities…we don’t get upset over what believers in Moscow say… or what believers in Tahiti wear… or the kind of music believers in India listen to… or what kinds of entertainment believers in Ethiopia engage in…
» But we are acutely aware of those issues in our own local church – the church at Colosse or Salem!
» We don’t have to practice forgiveness with believers in Brazil; we don’t have to overlook an indiscretion of believers in Alaska; we don’t have to bear the burdens of believers in Argentina… but we DO have to practice those principles/responsibilities for believers in our own local setting…
3. We are dwelling above in Christ – but we practice our Christianity in Salem… in our earthly city.
a. Here in the local setting is where the rubber meets the road… where we put our faith into action…
b. There will always be a bit of tension between our position and our condition… between the earthly and the heavenly… between our eternal home (heaven) and our temporal home… between being in Christ… and at Colosse…
c. There will always be a source of conflict between the two – between living for this world… and the world to come… laying up treasures on earth as opposed to laying up treasures in heaven…
d. We will always sense a pull in both directions… having a desire to depart and be with Christ… yet a need to remain here and serve Him…
e. Hence, we need to be careful to maintain a proper balance in our Christian lives.
» Some might tend to live in the theoretical… in the heavenly city… so caught up in our glorious position in Christ… that we are of little practical use at Colosse… and hence, some don’t get involved in the local church for that reason. They live in an ivory tower and forget that our feet are upon the earth.
» But far more likely is the probability that we are too caught up in our earthly home – and are not dwelling in the heavenlies as we ought!
» Too often, we as believers are dragged down to earth and live a very mundane, earthly life – with little attention given to heaven and spiritual things… we live for today and forget about tomorrow… like Esau.
» Oh for that holy balance… where our minds and hearts dwell in heavenly places… yet we never forget that our feet… our bodies… and our brethren… dwell at Colosse… in our earthly city – with all of its struggles and needs.
4. What will KEEP us in that proper balance?
a. Heb.10: Entering into the holy of holies with God – day by day… communion… fellowship… worship…
b. John 15: Abiding in Christ… abiding in the Vine and partaking of all that He is…
c. Rom. 6:13 – reckoning self to be dead to the world and alive unto God… and yielding our members to Him…
d. Gal. 2:20 – remembering that we are crucified with Christ, nevertheless we live, yet not I but Christ liveth in me…
e. Gal. 6:14 – But God forbid that I should glory save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me and I unto the world…
f. Eph. 4:1 – walk worthy of our high calling in Christ…
g. Phil. 1:21 – for to me to live is Christ… and to die is gain
h. Col. 3: seek those things which are above… for ye are dead and your life is hidden with Christ in God
i. The New Testament repeatedly reminds us that we are IN CHRIST… and that truth should capture our minds and hearts…
j. When it really sinks in – it will transform our lives in our earthly city… and it will produce fruit…
k. By abiding in Christ and communing with Him – learning of His ways – we will thus manifest His life through our mortal bodies in our little Colosse.
l. The more heavenly minded we become, the more of the sweet character of Christ and fruit of the Spirit will be manifested through us…
m. Our real life is hidden with Christ in God. The distractions of Colosse – our earthly city seek to draw us away from that place of communion and fellowship.
n. HEREIN lies the real battle of the Christian life: Abiding in Christ… and refusing to allow the cares of life below to distract us from that sweet fellowship and worship… out of which flows a spiritually fruitful life… Christ in us – the hope of glory!