Note to reader: For a briefer version of this article, please check out the other blogsite at: http://pastormahlon.blogspot.com/2014/09/what-is-necessary-in-getting-ready-for.html
Today’s post will feature Paul’s closing thoughts in Colossians 4:2-18. The whole theme of the book of Colossians is: “Jesus is Enough”. This theme is gleaned from what appears to be the key verse to the epistle in Colossians 1:28 – “We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every mancomplete in Christ.” How is it that revival is prepared for, reinforced and maintained in the local church? As Paul wraps up his letter to the church at Colossae, such questions are answered in the final set of exhortations and encouragements that we find in Colossians 4:2-18. What will follow will be some exegetical observations and devotional applications for the reader to consider and apply. Sound and consistent exegesis of the text of scripture should not just be about information, but transformation. With these opening thoughts, lets dive into the text and consider today what it means to get revived and remain on-fire for God.
What is necessary in getting ready for revival. Colossians 4:2-18
1). Persistent Prayer. Colossians 4:2
Colossians 4:2 represents the first ingredient necessary to preparing for a move of God – prayer. We see the opening phrase in the NASB regarding the command to pray: “Devote yourselves to prayer….”. The Greek text has the word for “prayer” (Τῇ προσευχῇ = tay pros-oo-kay) at the beginning of the sentence, followed by the present active imperative verb προσκαρτερεῖτε (pros-kar-te-ray-te). When Paul issues this command, the verb προσκαρτερεῖτε (pros-kar-te-ray-te), translated “devote yourselves” in the NASB, is defined by the Liddle/Scott/Johnson Greek Lexicon as “positioning oneself, waiting or attending a session in a court of law”. Do you and I rush through our prayer time? Or do we wait on God to speak to us in accordance to what we may have read in His word or heard in times past in sermons or Sunday School classes.
New Testament scholar Dr. William Mounce defines this key verb with the following translations and cross references: “to persist in adherence to a thing; to be intently engaged in, attend constantly to, Acts 1:14; 2:42; Rom. 13:6; to remain constantly in a place, Acts 2:46; to constantly attend upon, continue near to, be at hand, Mk. 3:9; Acts 8:13; 10:7”.
The first cross reference, Acts 1:14, depicts the 120 early Christians praying in the upper room prior to Pentecost: “These all with one mind were continually devoting themselves to prayer, along with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers.” The phrase translated “were continually devoting themselves” is in Greek a past paraphrastic construction, meaning that the early church was habitually and continuously meeting together in prayer in the events leading up to that moment recorded in Acts 1:14. The people waited and did not yield to fatigue or pressing, non-essential priorities, but rather chose to “attend, to wait” in prayer. This posture is so necessary when preparing for revival. (2 Chronicles 7:14).
The persistence in prayer commanded here in Colossians 4:2 is coupled with the command to be vigilant, to be watchful. In the NASB we read: “keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving”. The verb translated “keeping alert” comes from a root verb that has to do with being awoken, raised (from the dead) or what we could say in modern day terms, revived. This verb translated “keeping alert” is a present active participle, meaning that those who devote themselves to prayer must at the same time be ever watchful and on the alert. Prayer is as much about keeping ones eyes open to the things around you as it is about keeping your eyes directed heavenward at the throne of grace. What is God doing around us and in us? Persistent prayer is necessary when preparing for revival, but notice also…
2. Evangelism. Colossians 4:3-4
Paul then writes next in Colossians 4:3-4 “praying at the same time for us as well, that God will open up to us a door for the word, so that we may speak forth the mystery of Christ, for which I have also been imprisoned; 4 that I may make it clear in the way I ought to speak.” Paul of course wrote these words while under house arrest in Rome, chained to a Roman Soldier. His incarceration gave him ample opportunity to share the Gospel with people who visited and with the soldiers who were assigned to guard him. In Colossians 4:4 Paul requests that the Colossians pray that he makes the message “clear”. The verb translated clear is the verb φανερώσω (fa-ne-ro-so = I will make visible, plain, manifest). We know that Paul’s request for prayer was being answered based upon the background text to Colossians found at the end of Acts 28. Notice what Luke writes in Acts 28:30-31 “And he stayed two full years in his own rented quarters and was welcoming all who came to him, 31 preaching the kingdom of God and teaching concerning the Lord Jesus Christ with all openness, unhindered.” When we make prayer and the great commission our increasing priorities, we are positioning ourselves to be ready for a might move of God. Notice the third necessary ingredient needed to prepare for revival….
3. Testimony. Colossians 4:5-15
What is a testimony? A testimony is a consistent lifestyle devoted to living out the living message of Jesus Christ before a watching world. Colossians 4:5-6 states: “Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity. 6 Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.” The phrase translated in Colossians 4:6 “seasoned with salt” The verb for “seasoned” and the noun translated “salt” are found in Mark 9:50 “Salt is good; but if the salt becomes unsalty, with what will you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.”
Think about what happens when you eat seasoned or salted food. Salt and seasonings makes one thirsty – thus as Christians, our concern for a strong testimony before God ought to be that others around us get “thirsty” for God.
Secondly, salt and seasoning in the scripture is sometimes used to describe the purity of a sacrifice. Leviticus 2:13 speaks of acceptable sacrifices before God in the Jewish sacrificial system: “Every grain offering of yours, moreover, you shall season with salt, so that the salt of the covenant of your God shall not be lacking from your grain offering; with all your offerings you shall offer salt.” In the New Testament we as Christians are described as presenting ourselves as living sacrifices, Holy and acceptable unto God, which is our spiritual act of worship. (Romans 12:1-2) Testimonies before a watching world ought to communicate a thirst for God and a consistent pattern of “walk” matching with “talk”.
But notice a third reality associated with salt in the scriptures – preservation. Matthew 5:13 speaks of the preserving quality the presence of believers have in slowing the tide of evil – “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men.”
A solid testimony aims for cultivating thirst for God, purity before God and preserving the integrity of God in an otherwise godless world. Now to ensure these three necessary ingredients are not just abstract, colorless ideas floating in mid-air, Paul puts forth before his readers a listing of faithful believers with whom he either ministered the Gospel or of whom he knew about in the course of his travels. When you take together the three necessary ingredients for preparing for revival: prayer, evangelism and testimony, all three work their way through the following listing of Paul’s ministry partners like an unbroken, braided rope:
a. There was Tychicus, described in Colossians 4:7-8 as a faithful and beloved brother. b. In Colossians 4:9 we read of a man by the name of Onesimus. One can read Onesimus’ story in the short little letter of Philemon, written at roughly the same time as Colossians. Onesimus whad been a run away slave who ended up in prison with Paul. Having been converted under Paul’s own testimony and witness, Onesimus quickly became a major part of Paul’s ministry and according to church history, not only obtained his freedom, but auctually became a pastor. c. Colossians 4:10 mentions a man by the of Aristarchus, who is a fellow prisoner of Paul. It was common in some first century Roman imprisonments to allow the prisoners relatives and friends to visit them. This man may very well had spent some extended time with Paul in his rented quarters where he stayed during his house arrest. d. We then come to a more well known figure by the name of Mark in Colossians 4:10. John Mark’s past was a checkered one that started out strong, but then shortly after the beginning of Paul’s first missionary journey, Mark deserted the Apostle. Thankfully years later both were reconciled and Mark would be used of God to write the second Gospel we find in our New Testaments. e. The next man mentioned by Paul is “Jesus, who is called Justus”. Clearly we can see a mark of humility in this man, being that he wanted to be called “the just one” (i.e Justus) rather than named after our Savior and Lord. Furthermore, Paul speaks of this man as being an encouragement to him in Colossians 4:11. f. The sixth man who evidences prayer, evangelism and a powerful testimony is Epaphrus. We of course meet this man early on in Colossians 1:7 “just as you learned it from Epaphras, our beloved fellow bond-servant, who is a faithful servant of Christ on our behalf.” g. The seventh man mentioned by Paul that demonstrates a person who is prayerful, all about evangelism and a solid testimony is Luke, the great physician. This is the only passage we find in the entire New Testament where two Gospel writers are mentioned in the same context (Mark in Colossians 4:10 and Luke in Colossians 4:14). h. The eight man, who is only mentioned by name, is Demas, found in Colossians 4:14.
Thus these eight men stand as pillars of example regarding those who are prayerful, all about the work of sharing the Gospel and serious about maintaining a Godly testimony – necessary ingredients in preparing for revival. Its one thing to be ready for revival, however how can one maintain the fervor and fire for God?
What is necessary in remaining on fire for God? Colossians 4:16-18
1. Focus on the scriptures. We read these thoughts in Colossians 4:16 “When this letter is read among you, have it also read in the church of the Laodiceans; and you, for your part read my letter that is coming from Laodicea.” The verb translated read is the Greek verb ἀναγινώσκω (ana-gi-no-sko) which, according to New Testament scholar William Mounce, means: “to gather exact knowledge of, recognize, discern; especially, to read”. Romans 10:17 reminds us that: “faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.” 1 Timothy 4:13 has Paul writing to Timothy: “Until I come, give attention to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation and teaching.” Why is such a devotion to scripture so necessary? Notice what Paul explains to Timothy in 1 Timothy 4:16 “Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things, for as you do this you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you.” These similar instructions are found in Colossians 4:16, and speak of the supernatural life changing and sustaining power of the Word of God preached, read and taught. In the history of revivals, no revival has been started or maintained apart from a concerted effort to “get back to the Bible”. However there is one other necessary componet for staying on fire for God…
2. Follow through. Notice what Paul writes in Colossians 4:17-18 Say to Archippus, “Take heed to the ministry which you have received in the Lord, that you may fulfill it.” 18 I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. Remember my imprisonment. Grace be with you.” The word translated in Colossians 4:17 “Take heed” is the verb βλέπω (ble-po), which can refer to being aware and taking careful effort to be watchful and alert. Liddle/Scott and Jones in their Greek Lexicon suggest a possible rendering of “expectation”. Should we not being ever in a state of “expectation” when it comes to what God can do whenever we get in order with Him in prayer, evangelism, testimony and the Word. This is all part of our “follow through” in seasons where maybe the excitement of revival has waned and the revival services have ended.
Following through in this context speaks of finishing those commitments that we made. Archippus, undoubtedly the pastor of the church at Colossae, is commended by Paul to “stay in the saddle” so-to-speak. Jude writes in Jude 20-21 “But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holyfaith, praying in the Holy Spirit, 21 keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life.”
Today’s post was all about exegetically and devotionally working our way through Colossians 4:2-18 in consideration of how one prepares for revival and then maintains fervor for Good. We saw that in preparing for revival, there must needs be prayer, emphasis on evangelism and testimonies with the outside world. Then in consderation of how we maintain our fervor and fire for God in the wake of a move of God, emphasis upon scripture and follow-through must ever accompany our church-lives and Christian lives. As Paul closes out in Colossians 4:18, may the same final word be what motivates and empowers us to apply what we saw today: “Grace be with you.”