Covenant Words
Covenant Words

Episode · 6 months ago

Grace and Peace

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Rev. Paul Johnson

I'm going to mend the bulletin a bitand look at Colossians chapter, one again, but just its first two versesColossus chapter, one beginning in verse. One listen for this is the word of the Lord Paul, an Apostle of Christ, Jesus bythe will of God and Timothy, our brother to the Saints and FaithfulBrothers in Christ at Colosse, grace to you and peace from God, ourfather as by the reading of God's word me, hebless it to us. Please beset it envelopes, I'm going to talk for a little bit, maybe too long about envelopes. Envelopes are rarely interesting, and yet did you know that envelopes pre date, most things they've found evidence of envelopespredating even a written language. Before people were even carving Cuneoon to clay tablets, they were sending and delivering messages using miniatures of sheep or items thatthey wanted to trade and sending them far away the way they would do that isthey would encase them in a clay ball, basically and to ensure that it didn't get openedor tampered with. They would roll a stamp around this clay ball to makesure everyone knew when it got there that this is from the original sender. Sandels predate even the writtenlanguage and my interesting envelopes began when my father was a postmaster for the:U S Post Office, he worked in a tiny one man post office. He was thepostmaster which meant his job was selling stamps one at a time and in an attempt to drum up businessin this five hundred people town where he worked he and to keep himself busy. Hedeveloped a hobby and as this hobby was, writing writing letters, and not just anyone right, but writingletters to famous people, and sometimes they respond with a note or maybethey'd respond with an autographed picture and will embarrassed to say he got me intothis hobby as well, so in in high school days off and on Summers, when Iwould go and spend a day with him at this tiny post office. We'd spend ourdays looking up, addresses writing letters because you never know what wasgoing to happen. We would write to cartoonists to to musicians, to authors,to actors even to presidents, because you never know who would respond...

...every day, we'd check the mail to seeif any one wrote back. Usually they did not, but every once in a while you'd getsomething interesting in the mail and on only a couple of occasions, we'd receive a handwritten personalizedletter from someone that we'd seen on on the TV and in those instances youcould always tell that they'd taken the time not only to write the letter, but it was the same handwriting on theoutside of the envelope as well and for some reason that felt extraspecial to me, and so you know in saving all of these. These are artifacts. We end up saving some of the envelopesas well, and when was the last time youtreasured an envelope and not just the the letter that it contained, I mean most of the time they are uninteresting. We cast them aside because, havinggotten the letter to us they've accomplished their mission, theyfulfilled their function and now they're just clutter, which is why this evening I wanted totake some time to reflect on what is essentially the address line or the outside of theenvelope of Paul's letter to the Colossians. It's just a couple of verses here andtherefore it's easy for us to sort of skim past these words in an effort toget to what Paul really wants to say to the church, whether even these opening greetingsare written with a purpose, and this brief introduction doesprepare for what to expect throughout the rest of Paul's letter. Now. Paul is writing this letter to achurch he has not yet visited and, as the Gospel message is spreading asassociates of Paul are also going out and planting churches even Paul hasn'tbeen to all of them. So he's writing to a church in which hehopes to see he's ready to encourage this youngchurch he's writing to strengthen them to keep them from error and because thereason he be because the reason they can't visitthem is due to his own imprisonment. He's writing this letter from prison,and so even if he physically cannot be with them. He sends this word to them to bring them Greater Assurance of theGospel for he longs to this church to know thetruth. He longs for them to grow in their knowledge of the truth. He longsfor their lives to shine with the truth. Now, ultimately, Paul is writing tothis church, with instruction on on doctrine and on life. He's telling this young church not only what man is to believe concerning God,but what duty God requires of man. Throughout this letter he is remindingthe Church of the hope of the Gospel...

...and in just a few chapters the lengthof this letter. He covers at a depth of topics he proclaims the person andnature of Christ. The Ministry of the Gospel proclaimingthe mysteries hidden for ages now revealed to the saints, because he's aware of the attempts ofothers to delude and to deceive this church with error and so he's bringing comfort as wellhe's bringing encouragements that the church would not be led astray by whatappears to be wisdom, for Christ is the one in whom arehidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge and as he directs the Church not onlyto the nature of Christ but to his gracious work on the Cross. This work produces a response in thelives of God's people. He calls us all to live lives than ofgratitude, saying for you have died and your lifeis hidden with Christ in God, and so this is a young church, but onethat is growing in maturity and will be used by God for the spread of theGospel Message. And so this is a letter that proclaims Christ, not only what hehas done for us in securing our salvation, but what he continues to doin and among the lives of his own people, which is why this is a letter. Not justfor one church but for the whole church as Paul gives instructions near the endof this letter in Colossians. Four. Sixteen, when this letter has been readamong you, have it also read in the Church of the loud essint and so by us. Reading this letter todaywe are continuing to fulfill the apostles instructions to pass thisletter along, and so even in the opening lines ofthis letter, Paul is already teaching and comforting and encouraging thischurch. I know that sounds like a lot to do onthe outside of the envelope, but look at how much there is here inthese few verses. I me, on the one hand, is not all thatcomplex he's. Writing the necessary details right, just like the outside of theenvelope he's telling us who the letter is from he's telling us who this letter is for, but even here we are already broughtinto the heart of why this letter was written. For here. We're show not only Paul'scare and concern for the Church were shall Christ's care. Paul is expressing the concern of theLord and that the Lord cares for his churchis seen in the very first verse of this Epistle Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the willof God,...

...and here we see that it is God's who issending forth. His word Paul is writing this letter, and so he identifieshimself by name, but just so we're clear he's telling us that he's notwriting to us on his own authority. His address to this church is notsimply with his own instructions. His own opinions he's coming to them in the name of someone else. This is what an apostle is. He is a messenger one sent out like anambassador. This letter is therefore obviously written by Paul, but itcarries the weight it has. The significance of Christhimself Paul is the representative of Christ. That's what an apostle is. Therefore, his address to the church isultimately not his own, but Christ's address to this church and just to make that even more clear.What this means Paul says that he's an apostle of Christ, Jesus by the Will of God, Sene Apostle, is not a self appointedposition. Paul didn't wake up one day and apply for the job, nor was Paulvoted to be an apostle by his peers. Now we know the details of Paul'sconversion and calling on the road to Damascus. He was a Pharisee who'd beenpersecuting the church. He was there when Stephen was stoned in axe seven and he was on his way to wreck morehavoc on the church in Damascus, but the Lord intervened appearing to him, blinding him speakingto him Saul Saul. Why are you persecuting me and I answered? Who Areyou lord? He said to me: I am Jesus of Nazareth whom you are persecuting andwhen a sight was restored in Damascus, he was told the God of our fathers has appointedyou to know his will to see the righteous one and to hear a voice fromhis mouth, for you will be a witness for him to every one that you have ofwhat you have seen and heard it was by very direct divine intervention. ThatPaul is an apostle, and it was the Lord alone who convertedthis persecutor and made him into a witness. Paul is an apostle, thereforecompletely according to the will of God, and this is good news not only for Paulbut for the church. God is at work in Paul speaking to hischurch and not only to the church in Colosse,but to us to day. God has been speaking his words since the day Paul put pen toparchment. This word has remained God's word tohis church throughout time, and so Paul is a heavenly sent apostle to human. Is the letter written...

...as a messenger of the Lord, who is hisaudience to the Saints and Faithful Brothers inChrist at Colosse, grace to you in peace from God our father? Now this isthe standard way letters were written in the ancient world. This is thestandard way. We still write letters even to this day, who is it from WHO?Is it four? And yet, even in these ordinaryconventions, Paul is using them to communicate. Something Eternal for her Paul is writing to the churchin Colosse. And yet what word do we find missingfrom this address line? He doesn't call it a church, I meanclearly that's who he's addressing and yet what does he call them? He calls them saints. He called them faithful, brothers inChrist, in the New Testament. The word saint isused very often as a title for a Christian. Did you know what the word saint means literally, it means holy ones, just as Israel was called to be a holynation, so here that same language is now being applied to the church. This is so significant, especially forPaul Paul was a Jewish pharisee who has now been sent to preach Christto the gentiles, and the Pharisees were clearly knownfor their holiness codes and holiness laws for the Pharisees. Those who were notJewish were ceremonially unclean and inherently UN holy, and so just on a historical level. It'sfascinating that this former pharisee would be addressing a group of Greekgentiles as holy ones and not a theological level. How amazing that gentiles are being drawn to the God ofAbraham Isaac and Jacob that gentiles are worshipping the holy one of Israeland that gentiles are themselves are being called Holy. Is that how you think of the Church, a gathering of Holy Ones as the faithful brothers in Christ? If the post office in Tucson got aletter simply addressed to the holy ones of Tucson, those who are faithfulin Christ Jesus, but they know where to deliver it? Would you know where to deliver it Paul uses these words as synonyms forthe Church? Is this how you think of the Church...

Holy People Faithful in Christ m? Maybenot. I mean, after all, aren't we reminded of our unfaithfulness. Frequently, aren't we confronted by oursin as we read the law? Don't we repent of our unholy attitudesand desires? So often I mean isn't the Christian life a constant struggleagainst sin against pride against selfishness? Would we ever be so arrogant as to callourselves wholly faithful? Well, God is telling us that, yes, yes, this is exactly how you shouldview yourself, because this is exactly how God views you notice the parallel in this verse. Where are these holy ones? Where arethese faithful brothers? They are in Christ and in Colosse, even here in this address line. Don'tyou see how we're shown our identity? How should we view ourselves holy for? Are we not called to be HolyFaithful? Is this not Le What we've been charged with, and yet this calling is locatedsomewhere not only in a physical location, Tuson Colosse but spiritually? Where are we located in Christ, and so why does God Call You holy? Why does God call you faithful here because we're getting better every dayand every way, because we're winning a fight we're winning? This struggle,because every day is just another victory of holiness and righteousness. No, we have our abson downs right, but regardless of our failings,regardless of our successes that we that we are in Christ meansthat when God sees us, He sees Christ when he sees you, he views you as holy blameless, not because you're winning, but becauseyou're in Christ, because he won the ultimate on finalstruggle against sin. When he took your sin, we paid for it on the cross because of His Holiness andrighteousness is now yours. Only then can you be called Holly andfaithful by God himself, locating us in Christ. We then hear theFamiliar Apostolic Greeting Grace to you and peace from God. Ourfather a all, begins this letter in a typicalway. This is a standard greeting, but in this greeting too, it's easy toskim over and miss what is really...

...taking place. It's easy to simply hear Paul's wordsas just another bit of formalism, but not as the consistency of thesewords, with what he's already just said to those holy and faithful in Christcomes a message. Grace peace to you from God, our father, which means that you cannot hear thesewords simply as a wish, like the kinds of things we put in ourletters, hope you're doing well have a nice day. You see how differentthis greeting is. It's not simply a kind remark or a simple wish: it's apublic declaration from the appointed Messenger of Godhimself. This is why Paul says grace to you andpeace from God, our Father Paula's, saying these words on behalfof his God and Lord not himself this letter. This begins with anofficial announcement, and this announcement tells ussomething about who we are, that God is announcing grace to us. What does that imply? It means that inourselves we are undeserving, undeserving of God's goodness,undeserving of God's favor and grace implies even more than that.This term implies that we were actually deserving the opposite of God's favor. God is gracious towards those whodeserve wrath and judgment. I mean it's the difference betweenbeing poor and having having nothing and being in debt owing everything before the Lord, wedon't just comply, simply come empty handed. We come holding the debt of our sin,and yet the Lord greets us, with a declaration of grace, rather than judgment s rather than payup the announcement is grace and that Godannounces peace to US forces us to ask the question: Why? What does this word imply pieces? A declaration made at the endof war, which means God is announcing peace tothose who were his enemies, as Paul will go on to tell us inchapter two and you who were dead and your trespasses and the uncircumcisionof your flesh, but in Christ as those gathered in him.What do we hear? Grace and peace? There is blessing where there was oncewrath. There is peace where there was one's hostility. This is what Christ has accomplished, as I say, a prophesied, but he was wounded for ourtransgressions. He was crushed for our iniquities upon him was thechastisement that brought us peace...

...and with his stripes we are healed. This declaration is not pulse, as wehave seen it's the announcement of God, our father. Our Lord addresses us with this AmazingAnnouncement of the Gospel Grace to you and peace. For God is being gracious to you and inthat very piece that exists between father and son in the trinity is thesame piece you now have with God, which is why we call God more thangracious more than peace maker, what we call him our father, the result of this grace and peace isour entrance into the very family of God, beloved, then, as those trusting in theLord. This is God's message for you as those who have been called by him.This is his message to you grace peace. Have you noticed this is how ourworship services begin every Lord's Day. It's not a coincidence, as God's people come into his presenceas a body under the declaration of these words,it's an announcement that likewise closes out worship. It's this message is not only colors.Our entrance into the church covers our life, as this is what is declared over andagain to us again and again. Throughout God's word, this simple announcement identifies US points as to who we are in ourselves.It points us to our need and it points us to who we are in Christ and who we will be for ever in hispresence, Holy Ones and faithful, because that's who you are in Christ and that's who you will be on thatgreat day, as God will welcome you into his presence once and for all. Withthese same words of grace and peace, men. Let's pray.

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