Life-Study of Colossiansby Witness Lee
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
In this message we shall consider the matter of struggling according to the operation of Christ (1:29). We have pointed out that Paul labored to present every man full-grown in Christ. Presenting others full-grown in Christ is a very difficult task, a task which can be accomplished only by struggling according to Christ’s operation.
Some may think that the way to present others full-grown in Christ is to pray. However, it is possible to have a superstitious understanding of prayer. For example, suppose someone thinks that meals can be prepared only by prayer and that there is no need to go shopping or to cook food. Such a concept is superstitious. In presenting others full-grown in Christ we need to follow the principle set up in Genesis 2: Man tills the ground, and God sends the rain (v. 5). On the one hand, we must till the ground. On the other hand, only God can send the rain. As we trust in God and look to Him for the rain, we should be faithful in our responsibility to till the ground. This means that we must fulfill the principle ordained by God. If we depend only on our work of tilling the ground and do not trust in the Lord to send the rain, we are wrong. But we are also wrong if we only pray to the Lord for rain and do not fulfill our responsibility to till the ground. Applying this principle to the matter of presenting every man full-grown in Christ, we see that we should not merely pray, but also labor according to Christ’s operation.
In 2:1 Paul says, “For I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you, and for those in Laodicea, and for as many as have not seen my face in the flesh.” This verse indicates that Paul was struggling, agonizing, wrestling, to see a particular matter accomplished among the Colossians and Laodiceans. Verse 2 shows the object of Paul’s struggle: “That their hearts may be comforted, being knit together in love and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding, unto the full knowledge of the mystery of God, Christ.” For years I could not understand why Paul spoke about hearts being comforted immediately after giving such a high vision of Christ. Not knowing how to connect the vision in chapter one to this word in chapter two, I spent a great deal of time to find out why such a word was inserted. Paul did not say that he struggled so that the Colossians and Laodiceans would see the vision of Christ given in chapter one. According to my concept, this is what he should have said. If verse 2 had been written in this way, it would have been much easier for me to understand. Nevertheless, Paul did not say that he struggled so that the saints would exercise their spirits to see what he had shared with them concerning Christ. He struggled that their hearts might be comforted.
Why was it necessary for the hearts of the Colossians to be comforted, knit together in love and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding? It took years before I could answer this question. Assurance implies two things: faith and knowledge. When we have faith and knowledge, we have certainty about what we believe. This certainty then becomes our assurance. Paul wrestled so that the hearts of the Colossians would have full assurance.
The words “unto the full knowledge of the mystery of God, Christ” are in apposition to “unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding.” The second “unto” equals the first. Although I could understand certain of these details, I could not understand the verse as a whole. I simply did not know the reason for this word.
We thank the Lord that, through the years, He has shown us the reason. As we consider this reason, let us recall that, as sister books, Ephesians is concerned with the church as the Body, whereas Colossians deals with Christ as the Head. Ephesians places great emphasis on the human spirit; it uses the phrase “in spirit” repeatedly. Colossians, however, refers to the human spirit only once (2:5). In Colossians the heart is of crucial significance. Here Paul emphasizes the importance of the heart in receiving the revelation concerning Christ. For years we have spoken about turning to the spirit, exercising the spirit, and abiding in the spirit. However, we have not given as much attention to taking care of the heart. Paul knew that if we would present others full-grown in Christ, we must be concerned about the condition of their hearts. The fact that he concludes chapter one with a word about presenting every man mature in Christ and opens chapter two with a word about the comforting of the hearts indicates that presenting others full-grown in the Lord has much to do with the heart.
Because of the different observances, ordinances, and philosophies that had crept into the church life, the hearts of the saints in Colosse had been hurt; they had become cold and dissatisfied. Whenever such things come in, the result is always dissension and division. We must guard the door of the church lest such things enter in and cause harm. The church in Colosse had been invaded by Jewish ordinances and observances and by pagan philosophy, mysticism, and asceticism. These things caused the saints to become opinionated, dissenting, and dissatisfied. They also caused the hearts of the saints to be hurt and to become cold, divided, and separated from one another. Therefore, Paul struggled on behalf of the saints that their hearts would be comforted and knit together in love.
In this verse to be comforted means to be cherished, that is, to be lovingly warmed up. Ephesians 5:29 says that Christ nourishes and cherishes His church. To nourish is to feed, and to cherish is to make warm. How the saints in Colosse needed the Lord’s cherishing! Their hearts needed to be comforted, to be warmed.
Paul speaks of the hearts being knit together in love. The words “knit together in love” indicate that some kind of separation had taken place and that there had been a loss of love. The different observances, ordinances, and philosophies that had crept in had caused this loss of love.
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