Growing as Christians (Col. 2:16-19)


I hope that you keep helping more people with all that you know. I hope that I can become someone like you, who helps people so that they can advance.
— Note from a student at Falls Church High School (see "Growth Application" below)

Our goal - individually and corporately - is to grow spiritually into the character and likeness of Jesus. This is the work he began in us. This is the work he will see to completion (Philippians 1:6).

To accomplish this goal, we are going to focus on four words or phrases in this text. “Judge” and “disqualify.” “Hold fast” and “grow.” Of course, we will focus primarily on hold fast and grow!

Verse 16 - Therefore

When you see the word “therefore,” the author has just concluded an explanation. This explanation informs what you are about to read, so it is important to understand what was said. Next week Sam will preach on this passage, so I will simply summarize it here.

Some members of the church in Colossae began to embrace a philosophy that was a mix of early Gnosticism, Greek philosophy, and Jewish mysticism. This was dangerous because it was not obviously sinful. It was high-sounding and seemed intelligent.

Paul is naturally concerned about the health and effectiveness of the church.  So what does he say? He reminds them of who they are in Christ.

Here’s my summary. “You are alive in Christ! Your identity, righteousness, purpose, and hope in him are secure and unshakable.”

Let’s return to v. 16.  Paul continues, “Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ” (Colossians 2:16-17).

Because you are alive in Christ, do not let anyone judge or disqualify you.  Let’s briefly consider two words, “judgment” and “disqualify.”

The Colossians were struggling with a “Christ Plus” philosophy, thinking that to be a faithful Christian, one must be alive in Christ  plus  keep certain regulations and observe certain festivals. Paul said, “No!”

The Colossians were struggling with a “Christ Plus” philosophy, thinking that to be a faithful Christian, one must be alive in Christ plus keep certain regulations and observe certain festivals. Paul said, “No!”

Verse 16 - Judgment (“Let no one pass judgment on you…”)

What is judgment? According to the dictionary by Merriam-Webster, it is “a formal utterance of an authoritative opinion” (3a). Why is the church in Colossae being judged?  Some in Colossae were advocating the use of pagan rituals alongside a belief in the gospel. To put it simply, this is a “Christ Plus” philosophy. Those in the church were saying, “To be a faithful Christian, you must be alive in Christ plus keep these regulations and observe these festivals.”

Paul says, “No.”  Once the substance – Jesus Christ – has come, you no longer need the shadow. 

What does this mean for you and me? What is splitting the church across the country today?  Plausible, practical, reasonable-sounding arguments. They sound something like this. You have a right to choose your reality - truth - and define things according to your desire or reason, and to create your own system of beliefs.

This past week I spotted a bumper sticker with a credo. It began, “We believe . . .” followed by seven beliefs. Some of them are good and important beliefs about conservation, human dignity, and justice. They have a ring of truth to them. But they do not lead to forgiveness, salvation, and eternal life. That is why each Sunday we profess the Apostles or Nicene Creeds. These creeds have informed our understanding of our faith since the Early Church.  

What should be our response? Let no one within the church add a “Christ plus” philosophy to your faith in Jesus. “You are alive in Christ! Your identity, righteousness, purpose, and hope in him are secure and unshakable.”

Now let’s look at disqualify.

Verse 18 - Disqualify (“Let no one disqualify you…”)

In verse 18, Paul says, “Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind” (Colossians 2:18).

What does it mean to disqualify? Merriam-Webster says it means “to deprive of a power, right, or privilege” (2).

Who wants to disqualify you?

First, others.  There are those who want to save their lives by disqualifying yours. Have you ever felt someone - knowingly or unknowingly - try to disqualify you? You get the feeling that in their opinion you don’t really get it, your knowledge and experience don’t really count, or you’re not really “in.” Have you ever felt this? I have.

This is why in our gospel reading today, Jesus says, “Beware of false prophets . . .” who want to disqualify you (Matthew 7:15).

The one who really wants to disqualify you - take you completely out of the race - is the Enemy of the Truth.

This is why in his first letter to the churches, Peter writes, “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8).

How are we to let no one disqualify us? We must stand on the Truth. You are alive in Christ!  Your identity, righteousness, purpose, and hope in him are secure and unshakable.

We have briefly touched upon judge and disqualify. Now we turn to spiritual growth that is from God in verse 19.

A Roman coffin lid showing athletes running to the right with their arms outstretched while the man on the left prepares the soil for the pentathlon. In 1 Corinthians 9:27 Paul writes, “I discipline my body and bring it under strict control, so that after preaching to others, I myself will not be disqualified.”

A Roman coffin lid showing athletes running to the right with their arms outstretched while the man on the left prepares the soil for the pentathlon. In 1 Corinthians 9:27 Paul writes, “I discipline my body and bring it under strict control, so that after preaching to others, I myself will not be disqualified.”

Verse 19 - Grow (“Grow with a growth that is from God…”)

What is the growth that is from God? In his letter to the church in Corinth, Paul writes, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth” (1 Corinthians 3:6).

In his letter to the church in Philippi, Paul wrote, “It is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13).

This is the work of God in your life and mine to conform us into his image. It is God who accomplishes the growth in our lives.  

What does growth look like? There are many images for growth, but Paul chose the image of the body. Turn with me to Ephesians 4:14-16.

Growth looks like no longer being children! That means we are no longer immature in our faith.  Ephesians 4:14 says, “So that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.” 

If you are not spiritually grown and mature, you are susceptible to letting others judge or disqualify you by every wind of doctrine.

When each body part is working properly, the body grows so that it builds itself up in love. (Eph. 4:16)

When each body part is working properly, the body grows so that it builds itself up in love. (Eph. 4:16)

How do you grow to maturity?  See Ephesians 4:15-16, which says: “We are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.”

Many of you are praying for our dear friend, Rachel Barkley, who underwent surgery to remove a tumor from her spinal column which caused her to lose feeling in her right leg. Basically, this tumor neurologically disconnected her head from her leg. She no longer could feel or move her leg.

Fortunately, the tumor was successfully removed, yet Rachel has a long, painful road ahead to recovery.  She and her family still need our prayers.

Recently, however, we celebrated that Rachel wiggled her toes! Her head sent a message down her spinal column to her right leg to her knee to her ankle to her foot to her toes, and they wiggled!  Her body is connected! Every part played its part. And Rachel wiggled her toes!

I have never been so excited about someone wiggling toes!

What does that mean for you and me?  It means you and I are to grow individually and corporately into the Body of Christ.

Individually. It means you and I are to grow to live a life worthy of the Lord. In his sermon on June 16, Sam Ferguson said a life worthy of the Lord will be marked by fruitfulness. He said about fruitfulness, “To be a fruitful person means that in your relational networks you give rise, through your influence, to health and holiness.” You and I should ask ourselves, “Am I giving rise to health and holiness in others?”

Corporately. We - together - are to become a Body of Christ, connected, mature, and robust. A Body that reflects the glory of God in who we are, how we live, what we do, and whom we proclaim!

What does growth require of us? Look at Colossians 2:19. “… and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God.”

God grants the grace to hold fast to him. What does that mean? “To use strength, to seize or retain.”

We are alive in Christ; therefore, we are to let no one judge or disqualify us based upon festivals, observances, and visions that are only a shadow of the substance. Instead, we are to hold fast to the Head, which is Christ, and grow with a growth that is from God.

Growth Application

What does that look like practically? In other words, what must we do to hold fast to the Head?

There are many ways we can be part of the growth that is from God, but I will focus on four.

  1. The Word (Grow) - First, we must put ourselves under the authority of the living and written Word of God. Who is the Word of God? Jesus. Jesus is the living Word of God. What is the Word of God? It is God’s revelation of himself through the canon of Scripture. It is the written Word of God. And it is “living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit . . . and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). We must put ourselves under the authority of the Word of God and the entire Word, not just our favorite parts. Not just the theology we cobble  together to suit our purposes. Not just the way we want the Word to work for us. The Word of God must have His way with us.

    Would you like a simple application to study the Word?  See the Colossians sermon series on our website! Every week for one of my devotional times, I have listened to the previous sermon and taken notes on my laptop. I am compiling an amazing commentary on Colossians! A dear friend whom I asked to pray for me wrote, “The beauty of preaching is what it does in the preacher.” And she is right! It is informing how I see, think, and pray.

  2. Community (Belong) - Second, we grow by submitting ourselves not only to the Head, which is Christ, but also the Body. You and I are not our own. We belong to Christ, and we have a place in the Body of Christ. We have a unique role and responsibility. But it does not operate independently. It takes direction and guidance from the Head. It is subservient to the good of the whole. And it is accountable to the whole.

    In a recent sermon Sam Ferguson said, “Knowing Christ is inseparable from belonging to the Body of Christ. There is no such thing as a solitary Christian.” He explained, “A Christian becomes like Christ by being enmeshed in Christian friendships—by being a member of the body of Christ.” I cannot overemphasize the importance of this especially now - especially in this season of transition. We have a unique opportunity - together - to set aside our personal agendas to be part of God’s work in, among, and through us. We grow by being under the Word of God and connected to the Body of Christ.

  3. Serve - Third, we enter God’s eternal redemptive work out there! Out there where we live, study, work, and worship. Do you want to grow? Put yourself between the God who is love and the pain of a broken, fallen, and suffering world. Jesus’ disciples followed him into the synagogue and the marketplace. They followed him into Samaria and Caesarea Philippi.

    What does that mean to you and me?  We follow Jesus where he is going! Feed the hungry, clothe the naked, give shelter to the homeless, free the oppressed, and bind up the brokenhearted. Then will our light shine like the dawn! (Isaiah 58:6-12)

    Do you want to know what that looks like?  I’ll give you two examples.

    A. You can start simply with your next door neighbors! See Will Shafferman and the Westover Community on learning the “Art of Neighboring.” They see where they live as a place where the Kingdom of God is advancing. They are purposefully and prayerfully meeting all of their neighbors, doing things together, and learning to love and serve them.

    B. You can start with a backpack. Roxana Vaquero picked this one out for me, and I’m wearing it proudly! Our goal is to fill 500 backpacks with school supplies for students at Falls Church High School, Homestretch, and the Willston Multicultural Center. You can pick up a backpack in the East Lobby. See more on page 6 of the Weekly (bulletin).

    Listen to this note one of our volunteers received from a student at Falls Church High School.

    Thank you for all your help in teaching me how to read and reflect on everything I was reading, so I could learn more about what the book was talking about. Thank you for your help. I have gotten better at reading. I hope that you keep helping more people with all that you know. I hope that I can become someone like you, who helps people so that they can advance.  Many thanks for everything. - AL

    Y
    ou see, the children who receive these backpacks have a gift for us - a reminder about the beauty, dignity, and worth of every person. We grow by being under the Word of God, connected to the Body of Christ, and loving and serving our neighbors.

  4. Proclaim (Believe) - Fourth, we proclaim the good news of Jesus! If you want to grow, put yourself at the risk of being misunderstood, judged, or rejected because you are sharing the good news of Jesus. This is where he is going! This is what he is doing! You may never feel more alive - and more needy - than when you are sharing the good news of how Jesus changed your life with others.

    My wife, Libby, recently received a Facebook invitation from Terry, a colleague with whom I shared my faith in Jesus over 30 years ago. Terry wrote, “Steve led me to the Lord.” Her life radically changed.

    ACNA’s* recent Annual Provincial Assembly was titled “Disciple:  Renewing Our Commitment to the Great Commission.” Do you want to grow?  Let’s renew our commitment to the Great Commission. “Jesus said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  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, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age’” (Matthew 28:18-20).

    I would like to see a team of those at our church who want to equip us to practice hospitality, to share the good news of Jesus, to provide a basic apologetic or defense of the Gospel, and to hold regular classes for new believers. If you are interested, contact me.

    We grow by being under the Word of God, connected to the Body of Christ, loving and serving our neighbors, and proclaiming the good news of Jesus. It is God - through his Holy Spirit - who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure (Philippians 2:13). What does growth accomplish? All of this is for God’s purpose and God’s glory.

Conclusion

You are alive in Christ! Your identity, righteousness, purpose, and hope in him are secure and unshakable.

Therefore, let no one judge or disqualify you. Instead, hold fast to Jesus, the Head, and grow with the growth that is from God into maturity. What is maturity? Christ-likeness. Am I contributing to the health and holiness of others? The growth that is from God is not for our comfort, happiness, security, or well-being, though all of those are by-products of faith in God.

Instead, the growth that is from God is to create a people - individually and corporately - who are first, the Body of Christ, and second, part of his eternal redemptive work in the world. It is the outcome of a radical life of faith wholly devoted to Jesus which accomplishes his purpose for his glory. Amen.

*The Anglican Church in North America (ACNA)

These aspen trees in Utah are one of the world’s largest organisms: a forest of 107 acres, which all stem from a single root system. In Colossians 2:7, Paul says to be rooted and built up [in Christ], established in the faith,” and in Colossians 2:2 he tells the Colossian believers to be “knit together in love.”

These aspen trees in Utah are one of the world’s largest organisms: a forest of 107 acres, which all stem from a single root system. In Colossians 2:7, Paul says to be rooted and built up [in Christ], established in the faith,” and in Colossians 2:2 he tells the Colossian believers to be “knit together in love.”


by Steve Cannizzaro. Sermon given on July 7, 2019