Commentary on Colossians, 1:28-29 (Pattern for Pastors and Churches)

Colossians 1:28-29

“whom we proclaim, admonishing every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ,”

“every man”

Every person

“whom we proclaim”

Christianity isn’t simply a religion, it’s a Person. Jesus is the One whom we proclaim, not some sort of religious system. We preach Jesus, the Son of the living God, not merely a human leader of a particular faith. Christianity is not a religion, but a personal relationship with God through His Son. Apart from the Lord Jesus Christ, we have nothing. There is no truth, there is no salvation, there is no eternity in the presence of God, apart from Him.

“admonishing”  (Gr. noutheteo – 3560)

To warn, caution, exhort.

“perfect”  (Gr. teleios – 5046)

Complete, finished, brought to its end, fully grown, mature.

There is good reason to “admonish” or “warn” every individual, for every individual is a lost sinner before God, separated from Him, and on the way to an eternal hell of punishment. This aspect of the salvation message, this fact regarding a place of torment, is something that is often missing in today’s gospel presentation. Pastors and Christians now days want to avoid being negative, and simply focus on the positive of being in a personal relationship with God. While that is something we want to present, in order for a person to be saved, he must understand what he’s being saved from. As the saying goes, “to get a person saved, we must first get them lost.”

If we don’t explain what we are being saved from, then it doesn’t tell the whole story of why Christ died on the cross for our sins. The Bible provides us with the complete gospel message, therefore that’s the same message that we’re to present to the lost. To purposely avoid talking about hell in order to avoid being negative, or to avoid being sneered at, is not only being irresponsible, but it’s doing a disservice to the listener. People need to see the complete picture of why Jesus died on the cross for their sins. The more information a person has, the better their understanding, and the better their understanding, the better they’re able to make a decision regarding Christ. We shouldn’t leave out any of the central aspects of the gospel message, for in doing so, it may give a person a false understanding, which may result in a false conversion.

“teaching every man in all wisdom”

When we preach the gospel of Jesus Christ, when we teach the Word of God, we must do so in wisdom. Wisdom tells us first and foremost, that we teach it faithfully. It means that we teach it without compromise. That means teaching it verse by verse and book by book. We live in a day when churches are teaching a very shallow version of God’s Word. Pastors today pick a subject they want to talk about, and then find verses to support it. This type of selective teaching doesn’t produce “fully mature” followers of Christ. There is nothing wise about that. When pastors teach the Bible verse by verse, it covers every aspect of the Christian life and our service to Christ, thus providing Christians with everything they need to grow spiritually.

Teaching in wisdom also considers who our audience is, whether it’s from the pulpit, or one on one. If a pastor is preaching to a congregation of mostly Christians, then he focuses on their spiritual needs. If he knows that he will be preaching to a large number of unsaved, then he makes sure he addresses their spiritual need. If we’re dealing personally with people who are involved in cults, then we should take the time to learn what they believe, and learn how to deal with them accordingly. This follows Paul’s practice, who said:

“20 And to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, not being myself under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law;
21 to them that are without law, as without law, not being without law to God, but under law to Christ, that I might gain them that are without law.
22 To the weak I became weak, that I might gain the weak: I have become all things to all men, that I may by all means save some.”  (1 Cor 9:20-22)

That’s wisdom!

“that we may present every man perfect in Christ”

Paul’s goal was, and is to be the goal of pastors and Bible teachers, to present everyone as spiritually mature followers of Christ before God. As I mentioned above, the only way to do that, is to be faithful in teaching God’s Word as it is, verse by verse.

Furthermore, we as Christians have a personal responsibility before God to commit ourselves to learning God’s Word for ourselves. That includes reading it, studying it, meditating on it, and applying it faithfully. If we learn a shallow message, we will be shallow Christians. Therefore, we should learn the Word of God for all its worth. How much is God’s Word worth? If we acknowledge the infinite worth of God’s Word, then we should give it the time and attention that it deserves.

This verse supports the Arminian position regarding the atonement of Christ, and election:

“admonishing every man”
“teaching every man”
“present every man”

Paul’s approach to people reveals that he understood the atonement of Christ to include everyone, and that the election of God’s people included everyone who would come to God by way of His Son. The language in this verse is straightforward, and should, therefore, be understood according to the natural reading of Paul’s statement.

He understood his calling. He understood the Great Commission that Christ gave us:

“19 Go therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit:
20 teaching them to observe all things that I commanded you: and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the world.”  (Matt 28:19-20)

He viewed everyone not only as in need of Christ as Savior, but also had the ultimate goal in view, which was spiritual maturity as “disciples” of Christ. He didn’t just lead people to salvation, and then leave them to figure out the Christian life on their own. He followed them up with the sound teaching of God’s Word. Pastors are to follow Paul’s example and give their people everything they need to grow by. Teaching the Bible with a limited selection of topical messages, won’t do the job. Pastors who choose to go that route in their teaching, do a great disservice to God’s people. I’m not saying that there’s no place for topical messages, there is, of course. But I don’t believe it should be the norm, but should be supplemental to expository teaching.

“for which I also labor, striving according to His working, which works in me mightily.”

“for which I also labor”

Studying the Bible the way it was meant to be studied, takes a lot of hard work. But as with all hard work, it pays off. Every man called by God to serve as a pastor, as a shepherd of His people, is called to a life of diligent study and diligent teaching. God’s people shouldn’t be short-changed by fluffy, devotional type of messages. Christians need the meat of God’s Word in order to grow in Christ-likeness.

“striving according to His working, which works in me mightily”

While studying the Bible and serving Christ is hard work, it’s even harder when we try to do it in our own strength. In fact, it can’t be done according to God’s will unless we do it according to the power that He supplies. Living the Christian life and serving Christ, is a life in full dependence upon the Holy Spirit. To serve faithfully, in His power, we must be completely surrendered to live for God’s glory. We must seek Him with our whole heart. We must turn away from the pursuits of this life and this world, with God’s will and eternity in full view. And again, we must be fully devoted to the study and learning of God’s Word. As we do, the Holy Spirit, over time, will transform our hearts and way of thinking in conformity to Christ.

In regard to church ministry: It’s when we listen to the philosophies of man, or follow the patterns of this world, that churches find themselves out of God’s will. In order for Christ to “work in us mightily,” we must be fully surrendered to doing things God’s way. We will not find God’s way in cleverly written books presented from man’s perspective. The pattern for ministry is found in God’s Book, and is to be followed in the strictest detail, applying the wisdom and discernment that He provides.