Mission Bridge and The Shepherd’s House Weekend Outreach to the Homeless and Impoverished of San Francisco’s Tenderloin District
May 20-22, 2016
Team: 12 persons—5 men and 7 women, two vans for long distance travel, one van for inter-city trips
- Visit, clean, and rededicate the Memorial Cross of 1894 in memory of the service held near Drake’s Bay about St. John’s Day on June 24, 1579, by Francis Fletcher, a priest of the Church of England and Chaplain to Sir Francis Drake; the site of the first Christian service in the English tongue on the coast of California, the first use of the Book of Common Prayer in what became the United States, and the first recorded missionary prayer on this continent. Our prayers included dedication of our trip to San Francisco and the city of San Francisco itself.
- An after dark excursion onto the sidewalks around the SF City Center International Hostel where we stayed the two nights of our weekend. We distributed our homemade hot chocolate to the homeless “street people,” served up from a thermos and with marshmallows and a sprinkling of cinnamon as an extra upon request. If a door to further interaction opened, we offered listening ears, heartfelt concern, joy as appropriate, Scripture, prayers, the Gospel, and testimonies to the love of Christ.
- We broke into two teams. One team served breakfast through San Francisco City Impact by knocking on the doors of single room occupants at a local hotel, and the second team served breakfast to the homeless and many hotel single room occupants through St. Anthony’s Church Dining Room, which serves 2,500 free hot meals daily.
- Carrying two full lunches each from Subway, we ministered in Civic Center Plaza by offering one of the lunches to a homeless person and asking permission to sit with him or her as we ate the other lunch. (Variations to this format did occur.) Stories were heard, love and the gospel were shared, and prayers were given.
- In late afternoon/early evening our street band congregated at Ghirardelli Square to praise and worship God, offering public testimonty to his great goodness that causes us to sing with joy.
- During free time in the Square and on the Wharf, some ministered by engaging shop employees and passersby on the street in conversation and evangelistic blessing in Christ.
- The entire team served hundreds of breakfasts to the poor of the city at GLIDE church within short walking distance of the hostel.
- Distribution of oranges and first aid kits in baggies opened doors of conversation with street residents on the walk both to and from the church.
- Some in the team were fortunate enough to receive a private tour of “Tenderloin National Forest,” an amazing botanical and artistic, forested masterpiece on Cohen Alley, created by the Tenderloin residents in cooperation with the nonprofit The Luggage Store/509 Cultural Center. This alley used to be known locally as “Crack Alley.” Our enthusiasm and interest tremendously blessed our street person tour guide, who played an instrumental role in construction of the park.
Personal Highlights of the Ministry Weekend
Best of Everything: By far and away, the best part of everything we did Friday-Sunday was meeting and greeting the beautiful, welcoming and responsive street people of the Tenderloin District near the International Hostel, many of whom were homeless. Their brokenness was tragic, yet light kept breaking through.
- Cici — I read the word “hope” like a banner across my mind as we talked with Cici, who had just received a devastating medical diagnosis that she needed to share with her wheelchair bound, dependent friend. As I prayed Christ’s hope into her, she responded with thanksgiving and hope! and her friend, who had mostly been nonresponsive up until then, lifted his head and broke into a big grin. I also prayed for healing.
- Charles — Charles gladly received two cups of hot chocolate from us, then began jumping up and down in excitement to show us what he does–he carves bars of soap into the forms of angels and sells them on the street. He has them carefully wrapped in a shoebox inside a brief case inside a cloth bag. He even has a neatly typed order form. They are beautiful, smell great, and are reasonably priced. He began his business while living on the street. I prayed for his success.
- Victoria — a small woman carefully dressed, Victoria became homeless when the client for whom she worked as a live-in caregiver recently died. I have two personal friends who also become homeless when their clients die. Victoria is a caregiver by nature. First, she introduced us to Samuel, a crippled man with an open wound on his ankle. She spoke with great compassion about how his soiling himself causes other street folk to tease and belittle him. Next, when a very tall man came from his “bedroom” on the sidewalk a short distance away to ask her if she had socks, she reached into what looked like her personal bag and pulled out a pair of ankle socks, which she gave him. She didn’t just give them, however; she stooped over twice and carefully placed and fitted one sock on each of his upraised feet. Happy, he ran back down the sidewalk.
In the meantime, Victoria began making a racket with the wooden handle of a broom, which she violently banged against the iron bars of a nearby gate. When another man yelled at her, she explained that she was simply trying to scare the mice away. When one ran out onto the sidewalk near her feet, she scampered and shuddered in fear. I kept asking myself, How is she ever going to sleep peacefully with all these mice running around? We encouraged Victoria to contact City Impact, where we pray she will get a referral for another caregiving placement.
- When we next passed the tall man who had received the socks, he was trying to fit his lanky body between a folded piece of cardboard serving as both bed and blanket, but he needed to keep his legs somewhat bent.
Most Memorable Quote: — from the street man on Sunday morning, who said, “It’s good to look back on the different stages of my life and to now have nothing, because when there is nothing to worry about, I realize how much I have.”
This same man described how the Ku Klux Klan had stolen his father’s inherited land, tortured his father, and killed him in front of his mother (I’ve edited out the graphic details of his story). Cuppng his hands and lifting his tightened arms in an upward arc that began near his stomach, he said, “There’s something in me that says I need to forgive them.” Then he told me what he saw in my eyes–and he was right on. I encouraged this man to be the light-bearer on his street, and I pray that God will use him to plant a street church right where he is in the Tenderloin.
Most heart-wrenching moment: — awakening in the deep middle of the night to the terrified screams of children in great pain, screams seeming to come from one of the nearby hotels, “Mommy, please don’t!” “Mommy, please stop!” Later, an adult male’s loud voice.
Most gentle moment: — the following morning, watching the young, single father spoon feed and care for his 1-1/2 year old son in GLIDE Church’s dining room, seeing him exert the same wisdom and tenderness my own son uses with my toddler granddaughter.
…equivalent fathers, nothing lacking, nothing different
…the young father’s comment, “I’m working very hard to keep him.”
…the way the pre-speech child, almost a toddler yet still an infant, kept his eyes trustingly and expectantly fixed on his father’s face
…the scene a portrait of love and “the way it’s ‘sposed to be” in the middle of tragic brokenness.
…I don’t know why it is that perfect goodness brought me to tears in the midst of heart-wrenching yet dry-eyed tragedy, but this is how it was for me. I saw a portrait of a Father’s love for his own children and how we as children should look to our Heavenly Father with patiently expectant love and confidence that all our needs will be gently and lovingly met, no matter how much the external circumstances and impossible surroundings say otherwise.
- for the street’s own Christian ministry to itself, one homeless person to another
- for sidewalk Bible studies by street Christians, both men and women
- for revival among the homeless of the Tenderloin
- that Christ is everywhere
- to be repeatedly accepted and welcomed as the foreign missionary among people who gladly received what we offered and who purposefully gave back their own experiencing of Christ and God
- joy in giving and blessedness in receiving
NIV Colossians 2:1 I want you to know how hard I am contending for you and for those at Laodicea, and for all who have not met me personally. 2 My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, 3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. 4 I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments. 5 For though I am absent from you in body, I am present with you in spirit and delight to see how disciplined you are and how firm your faith in Christ is.
NET Colossians 2:2 My goal is that their hearts, having been knit together in love, may be encouraged, and that they may have all the riches that assurance brings in their understanding of the knowledge of the mystery of God, namely, Christ,
How can Paul be agonizing and contending, fighting, for those in Colosse and Laodicea, if he is in prison and has never met many of them in person? (for the following list, please see Hendriksen, 94)
- striving in prayer (Colossians 4:12, 13; Romans 15:30)
- listening to God
- careful planning
- letter writing
- give direction to those in the mission field
- exhorting the resistance to Satan
- gospel proclamation wherever and however possible
- giving his personal witness and testimony
- living a model Christian life while undergoing pressure and affliction
Verse 2a Paraphrased (Wright, 98):
In other words, while the process of knitting together the church into a united body clearly includes the growth of love, it also includes the growth, on the part of the whole community, of that proper understanding of the gospel which leads to the rich blessings of a settled conviction and assurance. Living in a loving and forgiving community will assist growth in understanding, and vice versa, as truth is confirmed in practice and practice enables truth to be seen in action and so to be fully grasped (cf. 1:9-11). All of this promotes the encouragement, comfort and strengthening of the heart, regarded metaphorically then as now as the seat of affections and the mainspring of actions.
Verse 2–“in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ,” is central to the entire letter, is central to the entire New Testament, to the entire Bible. Everything is wrapped up in Christ, “namely, Christ.” To know Christ is the goal of Paul and God’s ministry here on earth. Christ is the answer to everything we might want to know about God and his purposes.
NIV 2 Peter 1:3 His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.John 17:3 Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.
NIV 1 Corinthians 8:6 yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live.
NIV 1 John 5:20 We know also that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true. And we are in him who is true by being in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.
3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
Verse 3 expands and reiterates verse 2. Christ is the “mystery of God” (v. 2) revealed. All that which was hidden and secret about God is fully made known by him to man in Jesus Christ.
NIV Colossians 2:9 For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form,
Wisdom and knowledge are treasures, and those who are in Christ may begin to eternally plumb those treasures.
NIV John 17:21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.
NIV John 17:23 I in them and you in me–so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.
How is God’s wisdom different than human wisdom? How are wisdom and knowledge related?
In Christ knowledge is never separated from wisdom, as it often is among men. Now wisdom is the ability, in concrete situations, to apply knowledge to the best advantage. It uses the most effective means to achieve the highest goal. (Hendriksen, 105)
God’s wisdom is creative; it is the source of all that we as humans can only reflectively know and understand. We who are created in God’s image, create by using what he alone created from nothing, himself excepted.
4 I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments.
Paul is almost but not quite telling them that they may be deceived or about to be deceived. This is a warning spoken from love and concern, because the true knowledge of Christ is far better than every deception. Paul will describe some of the deceptions as Chapter 2 continues to unfold.
5 For though I am absent from you in body, I am present with you in spirit…
Verse 5a speaks to the spiritual unity all believers share with one another in Christ (see John 17 quoted above). This unity is emphasized and made more real (conscious) as we pray for one another. Paul’s presence with the Colossians, though physically absent from them, was a reality to him, because he constantly agonized for them in prayer.
Colossians 1:9 For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you.
Colossians 1:29 To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me.
Colossians 2:1 I want you to know how hard I am contending for you and for those at Laodicea, and for all who have not met me personally.
…and delight to see how disciplined you are and how firm your faith in Christ is.
After warning the Colossians in the prior verse that they may be deceived or about to be deceived by false teachers, Paul builds them up and encourages them by naming strengths he knows they already have.
- This reassures them in their faith that they are doing well and are on the right path.
- Such reassurance is an encouragement to them to continue as they are doing, even though the path may be difficult.
- Paul’s words also reassure them of the high regard he has for them. (How does this help prepare them for the more difficult words he is to tell them further on in the letter?)
- Paul’s compliments to them speak into the characteristics he wants them to continue to practice and grow, that is their orderliness–discipline–and firmness–stability–in the faith and in their meeting together.
This conclusion to Paul’s lengthy introductory remarks ends on a happy and positive note. The next verse begins Paul’s exhortations.
Recap of the letter so far:
Introductory Remarks: Laying a Good Foundation for What Follows (1:3-2:5)
A. Prayer for the Colossians (1:3-12a)
B. The Father’s Role in the Colossians’ Salvation (1:12b-13)
C. The Son’s Role in the Universe and in Salvation (1:14-23a)
D. Paul’s Role (1:23b-2:5)
1. for the gospel (1:23b)
2. for the church (1:24-29)
3. for the growth of the Colossians and Laodiceans (2:1-5)
- In Paul’s entire introductory foundation, Colossians 1:1-2:5, what evidence do you find of his diplomacy? Do we apply Paul’s kind of diplomacy in our interactions with non-Christians and Christians alike?
- Does learning about the full “mystery of God, namely, Christ in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” cause me to want to say with Paul:
Philippians 3:10 I want to know Christ–yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,…
Philippians 3:13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
- What am I doing to achieve this goal? What “corners” am I cutting? Where am I being lazy? Where am I commendable?
Our group will be taking a break at this point. I hope that these studies have in some way been helpful to someone. Blessings in Christ!
NET Exodus 15:26 He said, “If you will diligently obey the LORD your God, and do what is right in his sight, and pay attention to his commandments, and keep all his statutes, then all the diseases that I brought on the Egyptians I will not bring on you, for I, the LORD, am your healer.”
At Bible study last evening, a young Christian asked the sincere question in the title of this blog. I, for my part, before I became a Christian, for many years nurtured anger against God because he killed the Egyptian babies.*
NET Exodus 12:29 It happened at midnight– the LORD attacked all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sat on his throne to the firstborn of the captive who was in the prison, and all the firstborn of the cattle. 30 Pharaoh got up in the night, along with all his servants and all Egypt, and there was a great cry in Egypt, for there was no house in which there was not someone dead.
After I became a Christian, a better knowledge of God and his loving ways, especially as revealed in the Old Testament, brought me to peace with this difficult portion of Scripture. The key was to see the story of Israel’s deliverance from Egypt through God’s eyes, not through my own.
In beginning a small study to help my friend untangle her knot about God’s love and the Egyptian plagues of disease, I came across the following Bible study done by Robert L. (Bob)Deffinbaugh and published at Bible.org on May 13, 2004. I think it does a good and complete job of laying out the facts as presented in Scripture. The Holy Spirit needs to work it into a believer’s heart, as He did in mine, by resolving the underlying issues there. For me, it was a matter of accepting the fact and gravity of sin, especially my own. Indeed, before I became a Christian, I was one of these biblical “Egyptians.” Here is the link:
* I was not a careful listener in those years. God actually killed all the firstborn; many of whom were undoubtedly adults at the time.
A lesson on the Bible and what it says about the Human Body & Healing, by Brent Eglitis
Given at The Shepherd’s House on May 10, 2016
ESV Colossians 1:24 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.
God Commissioned Paul to Be a Servant to the Church: Verse 25
NIV Colossians 1:24 Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church. 25 I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness–
Being a Servant Means Suffering According to the Pattern Christ Established in His Earthly Body
NIV Colossians 1:24 Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church.
A. The church is the body of Christ–it is corporal (corporeal).
B. Paul suffers for the sake of Christ’s body, the church. That is, he suffers in a corporal way.
C. Christ also suffered for the church and would continue to do so if he were still on earth.
D. The attacks of the enemy against Christ have spilled over to attacks against Christ’s body, the church, of which Paul is a chief servant. Paul willingly takes on these attacks for the sake of the church of which the Colossian believers are a part.
ESV Romans 8:17 and if children, then heirs–heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.
2 Corinthians 1:5 For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.
Galatians 6:17 From now on let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus.
Philippians 1:29 For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake,
1 Thessalonians 2:14 For you, brothers, became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus that are in Judea. For you suffered the same things from your own countrymen as they did from the Jews,
2 Timothy 2:3 Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.
1 Peter 2:20 For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. 21 For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.
1 Peter 4:1 Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin,
1 Peter 4:13 But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.
1 Peter 5:10 And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.
Revelation 12:13 And when the dragon saw that he had been thrown down to the earth, he pursued (or, persecuted) the woman who had given birth to the male child.
The Mystery = Christ
ESV Colossians 1:26 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.
The Message Bible 26-27 This mystery has been kept in the dark for a long time, but now it’s out in the open. God wanted everyone, not just Jews, to know this rich and glorious secret inside and out, regardless of their background, regardless of their religious standing. The mystery in a nutshell is just this: Christ is in you, so therefore you can look forward to sharing in God’s glory. It’s that simple.
NLT Colossians 1:26 This message was kept secret for centuries and generations past, but now it has been revealed to God’s people. 27 For God wanted them to know that the riches and glory of Christ are for you Gentiles, too. And this is the secret: Christ lives in you. This gives you assurance of sharing his glory.
[GING] μυστήριον μυστήριον, ου, τό secret, secret teaching, mystery with reference to something previously unknown but now revealed Mk 4:11; Ro 11:25; 1 Cor 2:7; 13:2; 15:51; Eph 3:3f, 9; Col 1:26f; 4:3; Rv 10:7. Secret truths 1 Cor 14:2. Allegorical significance Rv 1:20; 17:7. τὸ τ. εὐσεβείας μ. the Christian religion 1 Ti 3:16. [mystery] [pg 130] (Shorter Lexicon, 130, Accessed in BibleWorks)
Other Verses with “mystery” in the first sense.
ESV Mark 4:11 And he said to them, “To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables,
[This is a sense of “mystery” (insiders, outsiders) that the gnostic false teachers might use. Paul’s intent is different: Colossians 1:28 Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ.]
Romans 11:25 Lest you be wise in your own sight, I want you to understand this mystery, brothers: a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in.
1 Corinthians 2:7 But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory.
Colossians 4:3 At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison—[to make freely known what had been unknown—Christ]
Revelation 10:7 but that in the days of the trumpet call to be sounded by the seventh angel, the mystery of God would be fulfilled, just as he announced to his servants the prophets.
The Mystery = Christ for Everyone
ESV Colossians 1:27a To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, For God wanted them to know that the riches and glory of Christ are for you Gentiles, too…
Colossians 1:28 Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ.
Ephesians 1:18 having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints,
The Glorious Mystery = Christ in You
Colossians 1:27b …the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.
Romans 8:11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.
Paul Joins God in Working for God’s Goal of Bringing Everyone to Maturity in Christ
NET Colossians 1:29 Toward this goal I also labor, struggling according to his power that powerfully works in me.
A. Paul, as the church’s servant (vs. 25)
B. commissioned by God (vs. 25),
C. suffers (vs. 24) for the church,
D. which is Christ’s body (vs. 24),
E. and labors in a great struggle, as though he were an athlete fighting for the prize (vs. 29),
F. yet not alone, but with God’s energy that effectively energizes him (vs. 29)
G. in the power (δύναμις, dunamis) that God provides (vs. 29).
“Why is this blessing happening to Me?”
And for some on the other end of the spectrum, those who have always lived under pain, bearing up under sorrows of sadness and affliction, when joy comes, when God answers the prayers, when the river turns around and runs in the other direction, when blessing arrives, when the ship laden to overflowing docks in the harbor, when promises are delivered, rewards distributed, do some also cry out, “No, Lord, not me?” Often–yes.
Change of any sort is hard.
Those who live happy and successful lives find the change to hardship difficult, and those who live difficult lives of sorrow and trial find the change to joy and blessing hard to receive.
Challenge: I want to challenge and encourage you today–if you are one who has learned to live a life of strong faith, inner fortitude, and grace under trial–when the end of the road of travail arrives and the promised blessing comes, receive it with as much faith in God’s goodness as you learned when things were tough. Don’t feel you are not worthy. Don’t feel destined to disappointment. Not one of us is worthy. It’s God who is good. Don’t sabotage your own blessing because you are used to suffering. Receive the reward of your faithfulness with belief, trust in God’s trustworthiness, rejoice, and keep on giving thanks. Yes! This blessing is for you. Your day has come, and Christ is distributing his reward. Hallelujia!
Matthew 25:23 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’
ESV Colossians 1:21 And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22 he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, 23 if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.
Paul’s attention shifts once more to the Colossians and their role as Christians in God’s grand plan of redemption and reconciliation.
I. “And you…alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds,”
A. Humankind’s disposition on account of the Fall is that we are all by nature alienated from God…
Ephesians 2:12 remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.
Ephesians 4:18 They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart.
…and therefore children who hate God…
Romans 5:10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.
…doing evil deeds.
B. Thoughts and actions form an interactive, self-reinforcing circle. “Wrong thinking leads to vice, vice to further mental corruption, so that the mind, still not totally ignorant of God’s standards, finds itself applauding evil.” (Wright, 85)
II. “he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death,”
A. Grammatically, it is not clear whether God does the reconciling to himself through Christ, or whether it is Christ who does the reconciling to himself.
1. The NIV chooses the former, and the NET and ESV allow for the latter.
2. Biblically, both are true.
a. God reconciles: (2 Corinthians 5:18)
b. Christ reconciles: (Ephesians 2:14-16)
c. Christ and the Father are One (John 14:10)
B. The Joyful News is that the formerly estranged Colossians and all believers have been brought back into a right (a good) relationship with God through the blood of Christ on the cross.
C. The “body of his flesh”: In the prior section, verses 15-20, we saw the divinity of Christ; here we see his humanity.
A father and daughter had a quarrel. The daughter, doubting her father’s wisdom and love, renounced her father first, turning her back on him in disbelief of his wise instruction. He then turned his back on her. The daughter, having been kidnapped by a lying and treacherous false lover, could no longer find her father. And even if she could, she didn’t want to return to his house, because as time went on, her mind tricked her into thinking of him more and more as a brutal dictator.
It remained for the father to locate his daughter and bring her home. But how could he, after she had abandoned him for his arch enemy?
There was a son, whom the father loved above all else. Between them, they devised a plan to bring the daughter home. The son volunteered to go to the foreign land in the enemy’s territory to locate the daughter and woo her back. In the process, he died, thus paying the ransom for the daughter’s life. The father, now satisfied that his holy justice and honor had been vindicated, called his daughter by the winds of his own spirit. She heard and responded, turning to see her father’s face shining on her in love. She ran to him. Thus they were reconciled. She and the son, who by a miracle of her father’s power had been resurrected from death, went out together to locate her own sons and daughters to tell them that Papa was welcoming them back home.
III. “in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach“
- holy — cleansed from all sin and separated entirely to God and his service
- blameless — without any blemish whatever, like a perfect sacrifice (Philippians 2:15)
- above reproach — completely above merited accusation (1 Timothy 3:10; Titus 1:6-7)
A. This is every believer’s accomplished legal standing before God in principle at the moment of salvation, and in daily living these words describe a progressive and ongoing practise.
B. If such were not the case, Paul would not have written (Colossians 3:5-9).
C. The Presentation: Here Comes the Bride!
This glorious presentation is here referred to as the purpose of the reconciliation. (Wright, 84)
Revelation 19:7 Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready;
Revelation 21:2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
Revelation 21:9 Then came one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues and spoke to me, saying, “Come, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb.”
Ephesians 5:31 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.
IV. If… Unconditional love has a condition
“if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven,“
A. Salvation is unconditional…”whosoever believeth in him”…(John 3:16)
B. Perseverance (assurance of salvation) has conditions… “if indeed you continue in the faith,…“
1. No human can tell the genuineness of another’s salvation, not even the Apostle Paul, or John, or Peter. Appearances deceive–consider the Pharisees. And often, it is difficult to judge the state of our own hearts–“Jeremiah 17:9 The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?”
2. It is better to discover sooner, rather than later, the true state of one’s soul, in case there may be need of repentance–
Hebrews 3:15 As it is said, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.”
Hebrews 4:1 Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us fear lest any of you should seem to have failed to reach it.
3. Because God has created us in his image, especially in the new birth, and because Christ is our forerunner, our model, our guide, our paradigm, we believe that we have free will, that God does not carry his children kicking and screaming into heaven. Therefore, as Colossians 1:23 indicates, continued and willful disobedience to the standards of a “stable and steadfast” faith and moving away from “the hope of the gospel that you heard” are both strong warning signs that all may not be right.
4. Notice that this verse does not say that living a sin free life, or a nearly sin free life, after salvation is the condition for our being presented to Christ at the End Time. Remaining in the faith is what Paul says God requires.
C. What does it mean for believers to “continue in the faith“? How can we know if this is true of both others and ourselves? Is it about certain doctrines or signing or not signing certain petitions? The Bible gives us Sure Signposts of a Steady and Steadfast Faith:
3. Regularly meeting with a body of believers for worship, prayer, and edification (Bible study). (Hebrews 10:25)
4. Repentance for ongoing sins. (1 John 1:5-10)
5. We are not doing this alone!
b. God is FOR us, and he wants us to succeed. (Romans 8:31-39)
c. God uses us to fight the battles for a stable and steadfast faith in order to bring about the end that he underwrites–the salvation of our souls.
We are in partnership with the Son, the Holy Spirit, and God. We are required to cooperate–to fight beside God–for our own perseverance to the End.
V. “and of which I, Paul, became a minister.“
Having spoken about the roles of God the Father (Vss 12-13), God the Son (Vss 14-20), and the Colossians themselves (Vss 21-23a), Paul now shifts to his own role in the salvation and sanctification (ongoing walk of faith) of the Colossian believers (Vss 23b-2:5).