Sunday, June 21, 2009

"We proclaim Him..."

We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ. - Colossians 1:28

This passage has come to my attention several times lately in a variety of ways. It's the central mission verse for the church in northern California that son Mike is interning at. And it was also in the text that our interim pastor preached on this morning, although since he's not an exegete or expositor he pretty much missed the point. But I see this statement by Paul as a succinct statement of mission and purpose for the church of Jesus Christ, one that is sorely needed today to bring us back to what the church is to be and why she exists.

Paul starts with what the church is to do: "We proclaim Him..." The proclamation of the person and work of Christ is the main focus of the work of the church. The heralding of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, in all of it's glory and scandal, is what those who would be ministers are to be about. Not communicating stories and anecdotes, not "sharing" feelings and personal experiences, not providing therapeutic self-help life-lessons. But rather declaring the truth of Christ, boldly and exclusively.

He then outlines some specifics of how that proclamation is to be carried out. First, it is to be done through admonition. The Greek is noutheteo, to put in mind, to caution, to reprove. The Gospel of Christ is serious business, literally life and death, and its communication must be done with a sense of warning, cautioning, putting the truth into men's minds so as to reprove from the path of sin and death. When we treat the message of Christ and the preaching office of the church as a thing to be played with, we fail to meet this standard.

Second, the proclamation of Christ is to be done through teaching. The Greek didasko refers to instruction via discourse. It implies the teaching and communication of the doctrines and truths of Christ, the essentials of the Christian faith. In other words, systematically catechizing the church in the truth that makes the church the church. The "faith once for all delivered to the saints," as Jude puts it. This is no feel-good superficial devotional type of Sunday school, but the solid meat of the Word inculcated to believers in Christ, so as to grow in the grace and knowledge of Him.

And how is this admonition and teaching to be performed? With all wisdom. It's to be done in a wise and understanding manner. And since God is the source of all wisdom, this means that it's to be done His way. Not subject to the latest marketing whims or seeker strategies or felt needs, but in the pattern and means that God has revealed in His Word.

So Paul has now described the what (proclaiming Christ) and the how (wise, God-honoring admonition and teaching). Next he explains the why, the purpose and objective of all this. "So that we may present every man complete in Christ." Notice the word "present." The picture is of the shepherd of the church bringing his flock to Christ as a father giving his daughter as a bride. Presenting a holy and sanctified church to her Lord and Master. And notice the extent of this purpose - "every man." That through the proclamation of Jesus Christ, God would gather His elect, and build them up to maturity and completeness. Or as Paul states here, "complete in Christ." No stragglers, no half-hearted disciples, no so-called "carnal Christians", but every one of Christ's chosen sheep fully grown and glorifying to Him.

Lord, make this the over-arching purpose of everyone who is privileged to lead and shepherd your church. Make this the single-minded obsession of all who minister to your people. Until you return and we can present every believer to you, complete in You.

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