24 Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church, 25 of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, 26 the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints. 27 To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. 28 Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. 29 For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me. (Colossians 1:24-29)
I’ve titled this message, “Proclaiming Christ with Power.” Paul writes elsewhere, in 2 Corinthians 4:5-6: “For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”
We all sit here this morning as proclaimers. We are, in a sense, preachers. To proclaim simply means “to announce, with focus upon the extent to which the announcement or proclamation extends—‘to proclaim throughout, to announce, to speak out about.’” So in this sense we are all proclaimers regarding something. This simply means that we talk about subjects or people that we have on our minds regularly, and sometimes with great force. What is that for you?
I was the kind of kid that drove my parents nuts over things that I wanted to do or wanted to have. I would get something in my mind, and my driving desire would be to convince them that I needed this thing or needed to do this thing. I would become a proclaimer to them of what I wanted. I would come from all angles with my arguments, I would be persistent with my regular announcements, I would demonstrate the importance of whatever this thing was.
If you look around at your circle of friends, what are they most passionate about, what are they regularly proclaiming? Or to be more helpful, what are they seeing in you? What are you most passionate about, what are you regularly proclaiming?
The list can be as endless as our imaginations. Maybe it is life after high school, that is what we are talking mostly about, or a relationship that may evolve into a more serious one. Maybe it is a new job opportunity, or a pending move. Maybe it is healthcare techniques and products, or perhaps family relationships that you are building, or how about politics, the second amendment, cultural decline, or world events.
If you were in the spotlight and everyone close to you had a vote, how would you be defined? What would your passions be wrapped around, what are you most loudly and regularly proclaiming? Paul says in Colossians 1:28, “Him we proclaim.” And again in 2 Corinthians 4:5, “For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.”
Paul’s message was Christ Jesus. He clearly saw that the hope of everyone rested in Jesus, the person of Jesus. As one commentator has written, “The gospel is not a system, hierarchy, or set of regulations. It is the person and work of Jesus, which is, indeed, the message.” It is Jesus that we are to proclaim, to make known to those around us. Paul mentions two ways that he does this, which are two ways that we as believers can conform to as well.
Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone (Colossians 1:28a)
What is Paul’s method for proclamation of Christ? It is in both warning and teaching. The proclamation of Christ to the lost and to believers, telling of Jesus can and should include both warning and teaching.
Warning or admonition is more of a negative declaration, but it is really important. It is not negative in that it is a negative message. It really is a positive message, but it is one of warning regarding sin. It is encouraging in that sin is discussed, consequences of sin are discussed, but always in a context of hope. This is the word “noutheteo,” or “nouthetic.” Sometimes we refer to Biblical counseling as nouthetic counseling, meaning it is counseling that admonishes or talks openly about sin – personal sin or the sin of others – in a way that is frank, and yet is saturated with the hope of the gospel, the person of Christ Jesus.
Sugarcoating or minimizing sin is not helpful. Covering over sin does not bring about needed change. What brings about godly change is understanding the ugliness of sin, talking about it in its reality, and then encouraging one another to move away from that and toward Christ. It is to see Christ as more attractive, more appealing, more beautiful and satisfying than that sin ever could be. It is a changing of our affections from sinfulness to Christlikeness. This is what admonition does or warning ought to accomplish. So in that sense it is a positive thing.
But for most of us this can be a real struggle. I mean, who wants to go to someone else and talk to them about their sin, even if it is obvious and we can see the destructiveness of it in their lives and in the lives of others around them? And you know, sometimes we are hesitant to talk with someone about their sin even if they come to us for help with it. This is human nature. Most of us struggle with this. It is like, you know, “Let’s just keep things on a surface level.” Or, “I am so aware of my own sin, that who am I to speak to someone else about theirs?” And yet, to warn someone regarding their sin and its effect on Christ is to proclaim Christ, it is to preach Christ. It is to make Christ known and to bring Him and His work into the picture of life.
No one’s sin is just about them. The sin of the Christian is about Christ, about what we are doing to His name, about how we are representing Him. If that is not going well, then we need others to come along with us and help us get more on track with His will for us.
We are told in Ephesians 4 to speak the truth in love. Many times it must be our love for Christ that drives us to speak to anyone about sin. Our love for His name, for who He is that should give us the courage to speak real truth to others.
Love for ourselves will keep us from speaking truth to others when it may be hard or uncomfortable. Love for ourselves drives us to protect ourselves, protect our own peace, and to protect our place in life as liked by others. We sometimes have to step out of that and say, “For their good and for the glory of Christ, I will go and I will speak and I will express love by expressing concern, and I will then walk with that person to a place of Christlikeness and out of a place of deceit and lies.”
I say these things because they’re in the Bible, but I also speak here from experience. If you know me at all, you probably know I’m not a confrontational kind of guy. And yet, I know at times I must speak, and that speaking regarding sinfulness is an act of proclaiming Christ and His way, and His sacrifice for sinners.
You may have some business to take care of here regarding this. You may have a special opportunity right now to show your love to Christ and to another person by encouraging that person to turn from sin and turn to the Lord Jesus Christ. Will you take that opportunity for His sake?
14 If anyone does not obey what we say in this letter, take note of that person, and have nothing to do with him, that he may be ashamed. 15 Do not regard him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother. (2 Thessalonians 3:14-15)
16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Colossians 3:16-17)
Another method that Paul mentions for proclaiming Christ is through teaching. Colossians 3:16 ties these two things, admonishing and teaching, together nicely.
Teaching is also a responsibility of every believer. It is simply conveying truth from God’s Word about Him to others. Matthew 28:19-20 shows how we are all to be teaching others.
19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age. (Matthew 28:19-20)
This is certainly a responsibility of church leaders, but it is not limited to church leaders. Please don’t get into a way of thinking that says, “I can’t teach, I’m not qualified to tell others about the Bible, about Christ, about redemption.” That is simply not true. You can teach what you have learned, you can proclaim Christ to those around you, you can convey what has helped you from God’s Word to those who need the same help.
You may say, “But it’s too much pressure, what if they don’t respond?” And I would say, the pressure is on the Lord, not on us, and He can handle it. What I mean is that it is not our place to convince or to convict, that is God’s place. We cannot affect any outcome on another person regarding a response to God’s Word. They may take it or leave it, but that is not our responsibility. We can just be faithful and let God decide what will be of it, how far it will go, how it will be received. We are to be proclaimers, we are not to be worried with the outcome of what is proclaimed.
Both warning and teaching are to be mixed with wisdom. And here is the great thing: God gives wisdom to those who ask!
1 My son, if you receive my words
and treasure up my commandments with you,
2 making your ear attentive to wisdom
and inclining your heart to understanding;
3 yes, if you call out for insight
and raise your voice for understanding,
4 if you seek it like silver
and search for it as for hidden treasures,
5 then you will understand the fear of the Lord
and find the knowledge of God.
6 For the Lord gives wisdom;
from his mouth come knowledge and understanding;
7 he stores up sound wisdom for the upright;
he is a shield to those who walk in integrity (Proverbs 2:1-7)
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. (James 1:5)
God gives us discernment to speak as we should with truth, that it might be appropriate in the circumstances with others. He gives us that, we should ask for it and acknowledge that He offers us His wisdom. He has it all covered for us!
And in this Paul is not a respecter of persons, meaning he does not favor some over others or prefer one people group over another. He wants everyone that crosses his path to reap the benefits of the Lord Jesus Christ. He writes, “Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ.” You’ve got to love that! He throws a wide net and lets the Lord sort it out. We can warn and we can proclaim truth to a wide audience, that is church folks, work friends, neighbors, strangers, liberals, conservatives, sinners of all kinds, hypocrites, those who pretend some spirituality and those who have rejected all spirituality. Again, it’s not our place to bring people into the kingdom or even to bring about spiritual growth, it is our place to show the way of the kingdom and the way of spiritual growth! We are to proclaim.
But as we proclaim, it ought to be with great power.
For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me. (Colossians 1:29)
There is this amazing twist to this verse regarding Paul’s efforts. He says that he toils and struggles regarding proclaiming Christ through warning and teaching all people.
To toil and struggle means to labor intensely. It speaks of an athlete who is driven to achieve a goal, disciplining his body, conditioning it, pushing it forward to gain more strength, greater ability in his competition. It can mean working to a point of exhaustion even. And yet we see this in Paul’s self-description of his tremendous work ethic, and then we see something greatly encouraging. All the energy needed for this expense of labor, all the power needed comes from Christ. I suppose Paul would have burned out very quickly if his labor for the gospel of Christ was somehow from his own resource of energy and power. Maybe that is why so many burn out in ministry or even in the Christian life in general. There is a power that we need as proclaimers of Christ, it is a laborious task, and the power we need is from Christ. It is not ours, it cannot be ours.
20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (Ephesians 3:20-21)
I can do all things through him who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:13)
One expositor says, “The struggle is carried on in proportion, not to his natural powers, but to the mightily working energy of Christ within him.”
We have work to do for Jesus, but our work must be in His strength. I tend to find out quickly when I am moving out on my own to do a work that God never meant for me to do on my own. If I am working in my own strength, in my own way, motivated by selfish desires or goals rather than resting in His power for His glory, am I just trying to get a job done or am I seeking to please Him? What am I really wanting? That is the question we need to answer.
Also, we do not all have the same work to do. God gives us the power, the energy to accomplish what he has for us as proclaimers of Christ. If this is true, then we don’t have to compete with others who seem to have more energy than we do. This is not intramural competition, it is doing as God gives us the ability to do for His glory.
So yes, we labor, we struggle and strive, but only with the energy that He provides, the power that He works in us.
This will not look the same for each of us, but will be unique to our individual situation. But in each case we are to be faithful in making Christ known, warning each other regarding sin, teaching one another in truth, with a desire that all mature in the Lord Jesus Christ. Toiling, struggling, but not in our power, in our might, but in His power and in His might. It is His work, not ours. It is for His glory, not our glory. So we can take a deep breath and, in His peace, move forward in His strength.
28 Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. 29 For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me. (Colossians 1:28-29)