Great Conflict for You
A. Paul’s Conflict Defined
1. 2:1 – FOR — speaks of a continuation of thought.
a. The chapter division here is not inspired…
b. It is really a continuation of the thought in 1:28-29. (read)
2. The term for conflict in 2:1:
a. Agon: Strong’s: the assembly of the Greeks at their national games… hence the contest for a prize at their games; generally, any struggle or contest… a battle.
b. This term is used in I Tim. 6:12 two times: fight the good fight of faith…
• Verb = fight = agonizomai (to contest; to struggle; fight; agonize in conflict)
• Noun = fight = agona (a contest; battle; fight; a conflict; a struggle)
c. The term is used in Heb. 12:1 – let us run with patience the race that is set before us… (contest; struggle) set before us…
d. It is used of the spiritual battle and struggle involved in living the Christian life… running the race… fighting the good fight…
e. It is also the term Paul used in Col. 1:29 = striving according to his working…
B. Paul’s Conflict Described
1. This fact links 2:1 with the previous thought…
a. Paul said that he labored and agonized in his ministry for them… (1:29)
b. In 2:1 he continues the same thought by stating that he wanted them to KNOW about this striving or agonizing over them…
c. The agonizing in 2:1 is the same as the agonizing in 1:29.
2. Over what was Paul agonizing?
a. 1:28 – His contest, struggle, battle, agonizing, or conflict was THAT he might present them perfect in Christ Jesus.
b. In other words, Paul was engaged in real spiritual warfare; a battle… a contest… an ongoing struggle… a conflict.
c. The world, the flesh, and the devil… not to mention the false teachers at Colossae were all opposed to what he was trying to accomplish.
d. Paul strove and was in great conflict FOR THEM… for their spiritual growth and progress towards perfection… spiritual maturity.
e. That’s what he was working towards. That’s what he was in a great conflict over.
f. Paul was concerned about the influence of the Gnostic-like cult in the city of Colossae. He saw this as a struggle for the hearts and minds of men… especially the believers in that region. Paul AGONIZED in this conflict!
3. His striving for them was an expression of his love for them.
a. You don’t labor to the point of exhaustion for someone unless you want the best for them. That’s love.
b. You don’t agonize in an unrelenting struggle for someone unless the love of Christ is operating in you… unless it is Christ in you, the hope of glory… unless God is working in you mightily!
c. Otherwise you’d quit! To attempt to engage in this kind of agonizing struggle in the flesh would wear a man out.
d. It would be extremely discouraging to toil to the point of exhaustion for folks who seemed to make no progress… and did not seem to appreciate or value what you were trying to do for them.
e. The flesh might make a valiant attempt, but would never endure. The flesh cannot produce good fruit… transforming believers into the image of Christ… bringing them to spiritual perfection/ maturity.
f. It requires GOD working mightily in a man to continue to be engaged in this kind of spiritual battle.
g. This is how Paul engaged in the battle… working together with God… God working in him…
h. Paul’s willingness to continue in this conflict for them was a demonstration of God’s indwelling love that knows no bounds… which was manifested THROUGH Paul’s efforts and TO the saints.
i. His conflict for them was a demonstration of both his love and the love of Christ for them.
j. Application: any kind of toilsome ministry or spiritual battle in which we are engaged FOR someone is an expression of the Love of Christ.
• Col. 4:12 – the spiritual contest of prayer for those who are weak, sick, out of fellowship, forsaking the assembly… is an expression of love. (laboring = agonizomai)
• I Thess. 1:3 – a labor of love… laboring in the Lord’s work (conducted under the filling of the Spirit) is an expression of the love of Christ.
• Every Sunday school teacher is expressing the love of Christ to their students; every dad who leads his family in devotion time is expressing the love of Christ to them all; every Vacation Bible School worker; every one who distributes gospel tracts; etc…
• Our labor and spiritual conflict for others is an expression of the love of Christ. Labors of love!
C. Those for Whom He Agonized (Col; Laod; etc.)
1. Paul mentions the Colossians and the Laodiceans (10 miles west of Colossae) specifically. But there were probably others in the Lycus Valley too that he had in mind… like the believers at Hierapolis.
2. Evidently, Paul had never met these folks face to face… but he knew what they were facing… and their battle became his… just as believers all around the world joined together to pray for the New Tribes missionaries held hostage by terrorists in the Philippines. We didn’t know them personally, but we all agonized with them.
3. Paul didn’t know these folks, but he STILL labored and strove (agonized) for their perfection… hence, this epistle!
a. He feared the Gnostic-like cult might hinder their progress.
b. He wanted to see them grow up and mature in Christ… and that they might be presented perfect before the Bema Seat.
c. For one reason or another, he wasn’t able to meet them personally… but he still had the love of Christ for them. They were brethren!
d. And while he couldn’t minister to them face to face, because he was in prison, he wrote a whole BOOK to them!
e. This too was part of his labor and striving for their perfection.
f. He didn’t want to see them overcome by the false teachers who were mixing Christianity with Jewish legalism, traditions, and pagan asceticism.
g. He agonized over their spiritual progress and did what he could to help them. This was an expression of his love for all those believers in the Lycus Valley and it was also the love of Christ working in him.
h. We too can and should be concerned for other believers around the world… folks whose faces we have never seen. We can strive in prayer for the suffering saints in China… or the new, fledgling churches of Eastern Europe…
D. He Wanted Them to KNOW of His Conflict
1. Not only did Paul have a great conflict over these folks. He wanted them to KNOW that he did!
2. Don’t misunderstand his intent here.
a. He wanted them to know of his conflict for them NOT so that they would feel sorry for him… or that they might be impressed with his work.
b. Rather, he wanted them to know of his great conflict for them because it was an expression of the love of CHRIST for them… the love of Christ working through Paul.
c. Paul wanted them to know that Christ cared for them…
d. Paul loved them in the Lord even though he wasn’t able to be there personally. (prison bars prevented that) Paul wanted them to know the love of Christ…
3. Paul wasn’t afraid to express his love toward them.
a. Paul had never met these believers, but he wanted them to know of his love for them… expressed in deeds and laboring.
b. Don’t be afraid to express your love to the brethren. Let them know they are appreciated… missed when not here… prayed for…
c. Believers easily get discouraged and begin to think that no one cares for them. They need to be reminded.
d. People don’t know that you love them… or that you have concern for them… or that you are praying for them. Sometimes they need to be TOLD!
e. Paul had labored to the point of exhaustion for these folks; he was engaged in a great conflict for them… an agonizing struggle for their spiritual well being… but because they never met, they would never KNOW… and Paul wanted them to know.
f. And again, don’t misread Paul’s motives. It was not that he wanted personal recognition for all the work he did for them. Rather, he wanted them to experience Christ’s love for them THROUGH Paul.
g. He wanted them to grow up and to be mature… to be presented perfect in Christ… and Paul was willing to agonize on their behalf toward that end.
h. Col. 1:24 – Paul would even rejoice in his sufferings on their behalf… for their sake… for the sake of the Body… that the Head might receive all the preeminence.
i. His suffering for them… His agonizing over them in ministry was but an expression of the love of Christ for them.
j. Christ the Head DWELLS in the Body… and He expresses His life and His love THROUGH yielded members of His Body. That’s how the Body is edified… because the indwelling Christ cares for you… and HE uses His Body to prove it.
k. No wonder we are commanded NOT to forsake the assembling of ourselves together.
l. When the Body meets for doctrine, fellowship, breaking of bread, prayers—BE there! We need one another!
4. Summary: Paul’s conflict was the spiritual struggle in which he was engaged, the purpose of which was that the Colossians might mature spiritually and be presented perfect in Christ at the Judgment Seat.
EVIDENCES OF PERFECTION (Maturity; Spiritual Growth)
Paul lists four evidences of spiritual maturity:
a. That their hearts might be comforted
b. Being knit together in love,
c. Unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding,
d. To the acknowledgement of the mystery
1. The flow of thought:
a. Paul warned, preached, and taught about the mystery. (Christ in you) (vs. 28)
b. He did so THAT he might present them perfect in Christ. (vs. 28)
c. His ministry was toilsome and agonizing at times, but God worked in him to accomplish this goal.
d. Paul wants the Colossians to know abut his conflict for them…
e. Now he states his conflict again more specifically.
• In general, his conflict was that he might present them perfect… mature…
• Now he expands on that thought… explaining the EVIDENCES of such spiritual maturity.
• We will look at the first two today: encouraged hearts and lives that are knit together in love.
• This is evidence of progress toward perfection… towards Christlikeness.
A. That their hearts might be comforted
1. Comforted: παρακαλέω (parakal-e-oh)
a. The term means to “call alongside.”
b. It has countless shades of meaning… because you can call someone alongside for many purposes.
c. Strong’s: to call to one’s side, summon. 2 to address, speak to, which may be done in the way of exhortation, entreaty, comfort, console, instruction, encouragement, admonition, etc. … for the purpose of building up and strengthening.
d. The term implies the RESULT of being called alongside: that the believer might be strengthened in the inner man.
• The Colossians and Laodiceans needed spiritual strength to face the false teachers… not so much comfort.
• They needed to be encouraged to stand firm as they faced the adversary…
e. Passive subjunctive:
• Passive – the action of encouragement or comfort comes from an outside source.
• Here it appears to be Christ working through a yielded member of His Body!
• The purpose of Paul’s striving was that this potential for the encouragement and strengthening of their hearts might become a reality!
• Potential action – the strengthening of hearts could happen and it should happen, but it depends upon the response of the Colossians! They needed to LET God work in and through them.
a. The term heart in the Bible is broad enough to include the emotions, but primarily it refers to the MIND… the thinking…
b. As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he; the fool hath said in his heart, there is no god
c. Matt. 12:40 – Christ descended into the heart of the earth. Here it speaks of that which is deep, down, inside…
d. When used of our hearts, it speaks of the inner man… deep down inside… in our inner thoughts, imaginations, intents, and emotions…
3. Paul’s concern for the saints was for their hearts.
a. He wanted them encouraged, comforted, not down in the dumps and ready to quit but strengthened and ready to stand!
b. He was concerned about their spiritual condition.
c. He did not agonize over whether they were physically healthy, wealthy, or even happy.
d. He agonized over the spiritual condition of their hearts. That’s what matters the most.
4. Individual believers (you and me!) can and should be involved in comforting… exhorting… encouraging the hearts of the saints.
a. Col. 4:8 – Paul sent Tychicus there to comfort their hearts.
b. You too can be used of God to comfort the broken hearted… to be like a balm in Gilead to the weary… to encourage the downcast…
c. And as you do, it is an expression of Christ in you. That is the very thing Christ would do if He were here physically!
d. He’s not… so He uses members of His Body to minister in His name.
e. II Cor. 1:4-6 – God allows us to suffer SO THAT we might be equipped to minister to those who will experience a similar trial. We suffer ourselves SO THAT we might experience God’s presence and comfort in our lives… so that we might be better ministers and better equipped to comfort others who will go through similar experiences in life.
B. Being knit together in love
1. Knit together: συμβιβάζω (soom-bee-badzo)
a. Strong’s: to cause to coalesce, to join together, put together; to unite or knit together: in affection.
b. Two possible ways to understand this coalescing:
• Either it means that as my individual heart (inner man) is strengthened and encouraged… my heart will be united… no longer divided… or torn in different directions… but coming together… no longer weak and waffling, but joined together… a united heart.
• Or, it could mean that as believers in general are encouraged, their hearts coalesce or are knit together with OTHER believers’ hearts. They coalesce with each other corporately… the heart of one believer knit together with the hearts of other believers in the local church.
c. Paul’s usage of this term in similar contexts leads us to believe that the term means the latter: the hearts of various believers in the local church are knit together with each other…
• Used in Col 2:19 – Here Paul uses the same term (knit together) and it refers to the closeness in relationship among the members of the Body of Christ… as they all hold the Head. The closer we get to Christ, the closer we grow towards one another… it is likened to the members of the body which are organically united one to another.
• Used in Eph 4:16 – Here it is translated “joined together.” It refers again to the organic union each member of the Body has to each other… like ligaments woven and knit around the bone…
• Hence, it is best in Col. 2:2 to understand it in the same way.
• Paul put it this way:
∗ Rom. 12:5 – ?So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another
∗ Eph. 4:25 – Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbor: for we are members one of another.
• These passages speak of a unity and closeness among the various members of the Body because their lives have been knit together in love.
2. EVIDENCE of progress toward perfection (Christlikeness) is that our hearts are woven and knit together with other members of the Body of Christ.
a. It is evidence that the Body is being “joined together and compacted that which every joint supplieth”… it is evidence of the church as a building “fitly framed together and GROWING into a holy Temple in the Lord”… and is being made a fit habitation for God through the Spirit! (Eph. 4:16; 2:21)
b. It is an evidence of a growing understanding of and appreciation for the Body of Christ…
c. It is evidence that a believer is beginning to VALUE what God values: His Beloved Son… His life being manifested through His Body… the church.
d. It is evidence of spiritual growth in that it demonstrates a willingness to bury the taboos, the bigotry, the national, racial, social, distinctions and barriers erected by the world… a willingness to fellowship with those of LIKE precious faith… even if in the world we would have nothing in common. In Christ we have everything in common!
e. A believer CANNOT become whole, mature, spiritual healthy… apart from the Body of Christ… any more than your finger or your hand can be whole and complete all by themselves.
f. Christ the Vine said, “Without me ye can do nothing!” A branch cannot bear fruit apart from a vital, abiding relationship to the Vine.
g. A body member cannot fulfill his reason for being apart from a vital, abiding, relationship to the Body of Christ.
h. This is what Paul looked for in an assembly to see if the Body was increasing with the increase of God. Were the hearts of the saints growing in love towards one another?
i. That’s why disunity was such a serious issue. It hindered spiritual progress and growth for the individuals and the body!
j. Were the members being KNIT together as a unit? Or was the body still functioning like an assortment of individual, independent, isolated, body parts? There is not much growth or progress in that!
k. The Body is much more than a pile of parts. It is an assortment of various parts that have been designed, organized, woven together, knit together, compacted together, united together to function together as a unit under the direction of the Head.
l. We are all ONE in Christ… (Gal. 3:28) The Body of Christ has been baptized together as a unit… made one in the Spirit… and knit together as a unit.
m. That is our position. Now God expects us to BEHAVE as if we really believed it… so that it is experienced in our daily condition.
3. Note that believers are knit together in the sphere of LOVE.
a. Believers’ lives are joined together in the service of Christ in the local church… as they minister towards the goal or Christ-likeness for each member and the body corporately. Such selfless ministry is conducted in the sphere of Christian love.
b. Col. 3:14 – love is the BOND of perfection.
• Bond: that which binds together, of ligaments by which the members of the human body are united together.
• Love has a BINDING effect in the Body of Christ. It is the glue that holds it all together.
iii. Our love for Christ brings us all together. We are united around Him… and nothing else.
• Our love for one another holds us together as a body. Blest be the tie that binds!
• In Col. 3:14, love is seen an essential part of perfection or maturity. It holds it all together… it binds the wholeness together.
c. In Col. 2:2, it is listed as an EVIDENCE of perfection or maturity.
d. Of course the kind of love of which Paul speaks is not just feelings or thoughts… but feelings and thoughts that are put into action. Deeds of love!
e. And when members of the Body show love towards another member, it is also an expression of love for the whole body… because when one member suffers, all members suffer along with it.
f. When that suffering is alleviated or mitigated by an act of kindness and love… the whole body rejoices. It is good for that individual member… AND it is good for the whole Body… for the whole body benefits from encouraged, healthy members!
g. If you’ve got a broken foot or an arthritic hand, your whole body will be glad when it is fixed! It’s good for the whole!
h. When the Body is encouraged and spiritually healthy, it grows… it is maturing… progressing towards perfection… evidencing a measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ… growing up in Him… being readied to stand before the Bema seat!
4. Aorist passive participle. (Lit = having been knit together…)
a. This participle further explains the main verb, comforted.
b. The grammar here implies that the heart is comforted BY MEANS OF lives being knit together in love.
c. FIRST comes the knitting together of the lives of the saints in the sphere of love. THEN comes encouragement… comfort… strength.
d. The Body is not going to be edified, encouraged, and strengthened UNTIL the members learn to love one another… and until their hearts are knit together in love.
e. For OUT OF an atmosphere of brotherly love and care comes the word of exhortation… the word of comfort… the word of encouragement… a unity around Jesus Christ.
f. How can you comfort someone if you are NOT knit together closely to them?
• You can’t comfort them unless you are close to them… and you KNOW what they are facing.
• How do you know HOW to exhort them unless there is a blending together of lives… knowing where they need exhortation?
• How can you encourage a saint unless your life has coalesced with theirs in some way so that you know what it is that discourages them?
g. Having been knit together in love… we are then ABLE to comfort or encourage their hearts.
h. The believer who punches the time clock on Sunday morning… sips the sermon… listens to the choir and then goes home without being knit together with the other saints is MISSING OUT on God’s program for this age.
i. Church is much more than sitting through a worship service. The religious world does that every week.
j. Church is God’s program for this age in which He has designed the Body to FIT TOGETHER as a unit… hearts knit together… pieces of the building fitly framed together… because we are ONE in Christ…
k. If you come to church and don’t get involved… then you are not participating in the Body LIFE… you are participating in what God is doing in the world today: manifesting the life and character of His Beloved Son through yielded members of the Body.
l. That’s why it is so important for the Body to get together to have a church picnic and share together… to participate in the hospitality night… fellowship nights… and other functions. These are not supplementary but are VITAL to the life and spiritual health of an assembly.
m. It is at such times that we fellowship and get to know one another… and our hearts are knit together in love.
n. Instead of standing along the sidelines and complaining about the failures of others… you might get to know WHY they are like they are… know better what they are facing… and you might even learn to be more understanding and thus, ABLE to help… able to pray.
o. Instead of being a hindrance to the progress of the saints towards Christlikeness… you can be used of the Lord to HELP in that progress. (Hindrance or helper: your choice!)
p. Thus, Paul states that it is AFTER our lives are knit together in love that our hearts will be comforted, edified, strengthened, encouraged, built up… and ready to face the difficulties of life victoriously.
q. The believer who refuses to participate in Body life is rejecting God’s means of strengthening his heart.
r. You can get by on your own for a while…
• Until God sends something your way that is just too BIG for you to handle.
• Then you will become aware of the weakness and frailty of the flesh… and aware of your need for strength outside of yourself…
• Then you will be brought to the place where you cry out, “Lord I need you! And I need your people! I need to be part of what you are doing…
• I need the edification and strength and comfort that comes from experiencing the LIFE and compassion of Christ through His Body.
• That expression of need is an expression of maturity and spiritual progress towards perfection: when we realize that God’s plan really is best.