Paul had never been to the city of Colosse. He had never preached to the church there, never prayed with those Christians, and never sat down with them and fellowshipped in the things of God.
Yet when he heard of a difficulty that was causing problems in the church at Colosse, he was deeply concerned and wrote his letter to the Colossians expressing this concern.
Some Christians may have been tempted to tell Paul to ‘keep his nose out’. The Colossian church was nothing to do with him, and there were plenty of problems in the churches Paul had founded to keep him busy.
Such an attitude would have been unacceptable to the great apostle. He tells us that he faced ‘daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches’ (2 Corinthians 11:28). It is this concern that distinguishes the true servant of God from the career preacher or, worse, the false shepherd.
The problem at Colosse was a false teaching. We are not too sure what exactly the Colossian heresy was, but we do know how Paul dealt with it. The heresy was answered in a most positive and thrilling way — by exalting the Lord Jesus Christ.
Our churches today are plagued with problems. Sometimes they are caused by false doctrine, sometimes by worldliness, and often by personality clashes. Whatever the cause, they need to be faced and exposed.
But the answer is rarely to use the big stick and beat the saints back into line. This approach does not work, and only serves to make some believers more stubborn and hard, whilst others are discouraged. What we need today is something to melt the hearts of Christians not to harden them.
Church problems are not just caused by believers being silly and awkward. Behind every problem there is the hand of Satan. It is true that the Galatians were foolish, but that was because they had been ‘bewitched’ by the clever words of false teachers (Galatians 3:1).
When Paul calls them foolish he is, says John MacArthur, ‘not talking about the absence of intelligence; he is talking about the failure to use it’. The devil who had blinded their minds before they were saved was now trying the same trick and they were letting him get away with it.
To all the problems, Paul’s answer is to exalt Christ. He reminds the Colossians of the gospel (1:23) and proceeds to show them the loveliness and beauty of Jesus. He is writing to believers, and his words demonstrate the neglected fact that Christians need the gospel too, and pastors need to preach it regularly.
We know that only the gospel can save lost sinners. But do we also realise that only the gospel will restore backsliders and deepen the love of committed Christians for their Saviour? The warmth of the gospel is the greatest tool to make believers more useful in the life of the church.
The old, old story
It is not uncommon today to hear some who attend Evangelical churches complain that they never hear sermons on the cross or the blood of Christ. This is because pastors in turn have another complaint, namely, that there are no unbelievers in their congregations! So what is the use of preaching the gospel to the converted?
Instead, they concentrate on sermons on holiness, prayer, family relationships and so on. These are biblical and, therefore, necessary subjects that Christians need to hear. But they also need to hear the gospel. It is a total fallacy to assume that sermons on the cross and the blood of Christ are only of value to unbelievers.
Christians need the gospel
Whether we have been saved for two weeks or twenty years, we all need to hear regularly the message of the cross and of the grace and love of God in and through the Lord Jesus Christ.
We need it because everything else in the Christian life flows out of it, and depends upon it for freshness and vitality. This is why there is nothing more thrilling to a believer than to hear the gospel preached in the power of the Holy Spirit.
It melts his heart and stirs his soul. It may even cause him to want, if it were possible, to be converted all over again. If we lose sight of everything the New Testament teaches as to its meaning and significance, we will flounder spiritually.
We may still go through the motions of Christian activity, but we ourselves will be spiritually dry and barren. The gospel is crucial to a healthy Christian life — that is why Christians need the gospel.
Full of the gospel
Many pastors recognise this and include a little of the gospel in every sermon, so that sinners are challenged and saints encouraged. But we need more than a little of the gospel in a sermon. We need sermons given entirely to exalting Christ as the Saviour. We need sermons full of the gospel and full of Jesus.
Spurgeon once said to preachers: ‘You must have a real desire for the good of the people if you are to have much influence over them’. A preacher can do no greater good than to tell the people, saints and sinners, about Jesus.