Friday, February 25, 2011

Father’s Blessing

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (Colossians 1:2)

After introducing himself to the Colossians as an apostle of Jesus the Messiah, and introducing them to themselves as faithful brothers and sisters in the Messiah, Paul offers a benediction, as he does so often in his letters.

A benediction is a prayer of blessing. A common Jewish salutation in those days was “Greetings and peace.” The Greek word for “greetings” is chairein, but Paul has replaced that with a related word, one that is theologically much more potent: charis — grace! Grace is the favor of God, who opens up all the resources of heaven on our behalf.

The Greek word for “peace” is irene, but Paul, being Jewish, no doubt had the Hebrew word shalom in mind, which is, again, more theologically profound. Shalom speaks of wholeness and restoration, with nothing missing or broken. The shalom of God is the wholeness that comes from being in right relationship, in covenant relationship, with God.

The divine favor and wholeness of which Paul speaks comes from “God our Father.” Here again, Paul signifies the relationship he has with the believers at Colosse (see Building Relationship at Colosse). God is our Father. This speaks of family, of household, of inheritance. As believers in Jesus the Messiah, we each have a place in the family and a share in the abundance of the house. Paul teaches us elsewhere that we share equally in the inheritance with Jesus Himself (Romans 8:17).

Father’s blessing of favor and wholeness comes to us also from the Son, Jesus the Messiah. The confession we make as Christians is that Jesus is Lord (Romans 10:9), which is to say that He is both God and King over all. It is through Him, through faith in Him, that we have wholeness in our relationship with God the Father and enjoy His favor (Romans 5:1).

(For more about the benedictions found in the New Testament, see Praying With Fire: Change Your World with the Powerful Prayers of the Apostles.)

The Focus of Our Faith
The Focus of Our Faith
Paul’s Letters to the Jesus Believers at Colosse
Bite-Size Studies Through Colossians
by Jeff Doles

Preview with Amazon’s “Look Inside.”

Available in paperback and Kindle (Amazon), epub (Google and iTunes) and PDF.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Building Relationship at Colosse

Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, to the saints and faithful brethren in Christ who are in Colosse. (Colossians 1:1-2)

Paul had never been to Colosse, but he spent an extended time in Ephesus, about 120 miles away, preaching and teaching about Jesus the Messiah, and the influence of his ministry reached Colosse. Luke records, “And this continued for two years, so that all who dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks” (Acts 19:10).

It was probably at this time that a man named Epaphras, of the region of Colosse, Laodicea and Hierapolis, heard Paul and became a believer in Jesus the Messiah. Epaphras came home with the message of the gospel. Many there became believers and a church was started, meeting in a number of homes. Epaphras returned to Paul with news of their “love in the Spirit” (Colossians 1:8).

Now Paul sends them this letter. Notice, though, that it comes not just from Paul, but also from Timothy. This does not mean that Timothy actually composed any part of this letter, however, although he might well have served as Paul’s secretary in putting pen to papyrus. So why does Paul mention him? He is building on relationship. Notice that he refers to him as “our brother.” In the Greek text, Paul uses the definite article before the word for brother. Timothy was not just a brother but the brother, that is, the brother of us.

Timothy was himself converted by the ministry of Paul. Elsewhere, Paul calls him, “a true son in the faith” (1 Timothy 1:2). Timothy was native to the region and often travelled and served with Paul in his journeys throughout that land. He was known to the Colossians but would also have been known by some, perhaps many, of them as well. By referring to him as “our brother,” Paul immediately establishes a family bond between himself and the believers at Colosse.

In two brief sentences, the From and To slots of his letter, Paul connects with the Colossians in the vertical and horizontal dimensions. Vertically, Paul identifies himself as “an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God.” He belongs to God. Apostleship was not something he took upon himself or, indeed, could have taken upon himself. It was something God did, “by the will of God.” In a similar way, Paul addresses the Colossians as “saints” — holy ones! To be holy means to be set apart for God. It is not something we do ourselves but something God does. He has set us apart for Himself. To be a saint, then, means to belong to God. Paul belonged to God, the believers at Colosse belonged to God, and that is a very strong point of fellowship. This relationship has everything to do with Jesus the Messiah. It is through Him that Paul is an apostle, and it is in Him that the believers in Colosse have put their faith.

Horizontally, Paul relates to the Colossian believers as brothers and sisters. He does this in two ways. The first is indirect: He calls Timothy “our brother.” If you and I have the same brother, then we must be sisters and brothers also. The second way he demonstrates this relationship is explicit: He calls the saints at Colossae “faithful brethren” (brothers and sisters). They all share in the same devotion of faith with him.

The powerful truth of relationship in these opening verses is that all who put their faith in Jesus the Messiah belong to God and to each other as brothers and sisters.

The Focus of Our Faith
The Focus of Our Faith
Paul’s Letters to the Jesus Believers at Colosse
Bite-Size Studies Through Colossians
by Jeff Doles

Preview with Amazon’s “Look Inside.”

Available in paperback and Kindle (Amazon), epub (Google and iTunes) and PDF.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Chosen Inheritance

The LORD brings the counsel of the nations to nothing;
He makes the plans of the peoples of no effect.
The counsel of the LORD stands forever,
The plans of His heart to all generations.
Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD,
The people He has chosen as His own inheritance.
(Psalm 33:10-12)
Ancient of Days ~ by William Blake
When presidents, kings or heads of state rise up to declare their counsels, whether they be good or evil, do not get excited. They will not last for long. Kings come and go; movements rise and fall. They are only here for a season.

More importantly, they cannot stop the counsel of Yahweh. Rather, He brings the counsels and plans of the nations to nothing, and He does it so that He may establish His own counsel and the plans of His heart. The counsels of the nations bring chaos. The plans of the peoples cannot bring about the wonderful destiny God has for the world. Only the counsel of God can establish it.

Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD. In the Old Testament, Israel was that nation, the people He chose as His inheritance. God chose her to be a “kingdom of priests” (Exodus 19:6). Through her He would gather in all the nations (see Isaiah 2:2-4 and Isaiah 60-62). In the New Testament, this is fulfilled in Jesus the Messiah, Son of David, Israel’s King.

Jesus came into the world and announced, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel [good news]” (Mark 1:15). He taught us to pray, “Kingdom of God, come. Will of God, be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10 JVD). This is the purpose of God — heaven on earth! Now all who receive King Jesus, whether Jew on non-Jew, have a share in this plan and are described in this way:
You are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy. (1 Peter 2:9-10; see A New Kind of People)
Before Jesus ascended to His throne at the right hand of the Father, He gathered His disciples and gave them this charge:
All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you. (Matthew 28:18-20)
God’s heart is for all nations and all generations. His plans and purposes are as wide as the world and as deep as time. His counsel endures forever. His kingdom has come into the world and will come to completion when King Jesus returns. Blessed is the chosen generation, the royal priesthood, the holy nation, the people He has gathered as His own inheritance.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Blessed Be Egypt, My People

In that day there will be five cities in the land of Egypt that speak the language of Canaan and swear allegiance to the LORD of Hosts. One of these will be called the City of Destruction.

In that day there will be an altar to the LORD in the midst of the land of Egypt, and a pillar to the LORD at its border. It will be a sign and a witness to the LORD of Hosts in the land of Egypt. When they cry to the LORD because of oppressors, he will send them a savior and defender, and deliver them. And the LORD will make Himself known to the Egyptians, and the Egyptians will know the LORD in that day and worship with sacrifice and offering, and they will make vows to the LORD and perform them. And the LORD will strike Egypt, striking and healing, and they will return to the LORD, and he will listen to their pleas for mercy and heal them.
In that day there will be a highway from Egypt to Assyria, and Assyria will come into Egypt, and Egypt into Assyria, and the Egyptians will worship with the Assyrians.

In that day Israel will be the third with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing in the midst of the earth, whom the LORD of Hosts has blessed, saying, “Blessed be Egypt My people, and Assyria the work of my hands, and Israel my inheritance.” (Isaiah 19:19-25 ESV)
This is an amazing promise Yahweh of Armies (“the LORD of Hosts”) spoke through the prophet Isaiah. The whole chapter is about Egypt. It is like a good news/bad news story. The first seventeen verses speak of the divine judgment that would come upon Egypt, but then it suddenly takes a wonderful turn, a gospel turn, and prophesies salvation for Egypt.
  • It speaks particularly of five cities, though not by name, except for one. The Hebrew for “City of Destruction” sounds very much like that for “City of the Sun,” and some ancient versions of this text render it as the latter. This would be a reference to the ancient Egyptian city of Heliopolis (“City of the Sun”), the site of which lies under the northern portion of modern Cairo. These five cities will speak the language of Canaan, possibly a reference to Hebrew, the language Israel spoke in Canaan, and they will swear allegiance to Yahweh of Hosts.
  • Worship of Yahweh will be central in the land of Egypt, and His honor will extend throughout, even to the borders. These will be a sign and a continuing witness to Yahweh in the land.
  • They will cry out to Yahweh and He will send a savior who will defend and deliver them.
  • Yahweh will make Himself known to the Egyptians, and they will acknowledge, give thanks devote themselves to Him.
  • Yahweh will “strike” Egypt with the purpose of healing. Think, for example, of a surgeon who slices into his patient and removes a cancer so that the patient may be healed. This “striking” will cause them to turn to Yahweh and call on Him, so that He can show them His mercy and heal them.
  • There will be peace between Egypt and the Assyria, her enemy. Though the Assyrians are now scattered throughout the Middle East, both they and the Egyptians will worship Yahweh together.
  • God will bless all three — Israel, Egypt and Assyria — in the land. Egypt was the ancient enemy who once held Israel in captivity. Assyria was Israel’s current enemy. The wonder of this prophecy is not that judgment would come upon Egypt, as upon Assyria and also Israel (foretold earlier in Isaiah), but that salvation would come to all three together in the worship of Yahweh, the God with whom Israel was in covenant.
Various Bible commentators have identified events in history they believe fulfill this prophecy, at least in part. Perhaps, but I believe there is a greater fulfillment coming, and it is for this I know pray. The coming of King Jesus the Messiah into the world was not just for Israel but also for the whole world. He is the One sent by God to be the savior, defender and deliverer of all. Even His name, which in Hebrew is Yeshua, means “salvation.” Before He ascended to His throne at the right hand of the Father, Jesus commissioned the Church to “make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19).

So, this has been my intercession for Egypt is recent days: That God will remember His ancient promise. That He will send the Savior, the Defender, the Deliverer — Jesus the Messiah — and make Himself known to them. That He will say, “Blessed be Egypt, My people.”

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Yahweh the Righteous One

Yahweh the Righteous One
Has cut in pieces the cords of the wicked
(Psalm 129:4 JVD)
Yahweh is the Righteous One. The Hebrew word for “righteous” is tsaddik. The Theological Lexicon of the Old Testament defines it as “communally faithful.” It has much to do with covenant, and the relationship God has established with and for His people. To say that someone is righteous means that he has been faithful in that relationship. God is faithful to His people and honors those who are faithful in their relationship with Him:
  • God knows (has regard for) the way of the righteous (Palm 1:6).
  • God blesses the righteous, and surrounds him with favor (Psalm 5:12).
  • God is righteous and He loves righteousness; the upright will see His face (Psalm 11:7).
  • God eyes are on the righteous and He hears their cries (Psalm 34:15).
  • God delivers the righteous out of all their afflictions (Psalm 34:19.
  • God upholds the righteous (Psalm 37:17).
  • God is the salvation and strength of the righteous (Psalm 37:39).
  • God is gracious and merciful (Psalm 116:5).
  • God is righteous in His judgments (Psalm 119:37).
  • God is righteous in all His ways, gracious in all His works (Psalm 145:17).
  • God loves the righteous (Psalm 146:8).
If the relationship should be broken, God is not the one who broke it, but He will always do what is right in regard to it.
Then Shemaiah the prophet came to Rehoboam and the leaders of Judah, who were gathered together in Jerusalem because of Shishak, and said to them, “Thus says the LORD: ‘You have forsaken Me, and therefore I also have left you in the hand of Shishak.’” So the leaders of Israel and the king humbled themselves; and they said, “The LORD is righteous.” (2 Chronicles 12:5-6)
The judgments of Yahweh are always in line with His covenant and faithful to His promises.
The LORD is righteous in her midst,
He will do no unrighteousness.
Every morning He brings His justice to light;
He never fails.
(Zephaniah 3:5)
The ultimate expression of God’s covenant faithfulness — His righteousness — is found in Jesus the Messiah, who took the sins of the world upon Himself and nailed them to the cross in His own body. By His blood, He has cut a new covenant with the Father on our behalf. If we sin, He stands before the Father for us, on the basis of that covenant act, so that we may be counted as righteous before God — faithful in our relationship with Him — even as God is faithful and just toward us.
But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin … If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:7, 9)

My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the Righteous. (1 John 2:1)

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Crammed Full of God

For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power. (Colossians 2:9-10)
All the fullness of the nature of God dwells in Jesus the Messiah. In Him, all that God is, is manifested in bodily form. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God … and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:1, 14).

In Colossians 1:27, Paul talked about the mystery God has been making known among the nations, to all who believe in King Jesus the Messiah: “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” Now in Colossians 2:10, he tells us that we are “complete in Him.”

The Greek verb translated here as “complete” means to make full; to fill up to the top; to the brim, so that nothing is lacking; to cause to abound; to level up; and from Strong’s Greek Dictionary — and this is a meaning that really captures my imagination — to cram. In Jesus the Messiah, we are made “complete” — crammed full. Full of what? Of God Himself. All the fullness of God is in Him, and He is in us, so all the fullness of God dwells in us.

From Genesis 1:26-28, we learn that we were created in the image of God, to be like Him on the earth. He has given us dominion over all the works of His hands (Psalm 8:6). Through faith in King Jesus, we have received “exceedingly great and precious promises,” that through these we might “partake of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4).

Now, let me be clear here: We do not become God, but we are made to be like Him and to fellowship with Him in His divine nature. He has given us His Spirit to dwell in us (1 Corinthians 3:16). Indeed, Messiah Himself dwells in us by the Holy Spirit. This is the mystery God has been revealing to the nations ever since Jesus came. This is the “hope of glory,” the joyful anticipation of God’s glory and goodness manifesting in us and through us.

In other words, in King Jesus the Messiah we are crammed full of God.

The Focus of Our Faith
The Focus of Our Faith
Paul’s Letters to the Jesus Believers at Colosse
Bite-Size Studies Through Colossians
by Jeff Doles

Preview with Amazon’s “Look Inside.”

Available in paperback and Kindle (Amazon), epub (Google and iTunes) and PDF.