Did you know that for centuries many Bibles used to contain a small Epistle from Paul to the Laodiceans? It’s true, it’s a small, single chapter book and it sat right next to Philemon.
Now, I mention this today, because we see this letter referenced in the book of Colossians in two places. At the end of Paul’s letter to the Colossians he tells them after this letter has been read to you, see that it is also read in the church of the Laodiceans and that you in turn read the letter from Laodicea. That was a practical issue because the cities of Colosse and Laodicea are less than fifteen miles apart. (Easy walking distance in those days)
It might be surprising to some people that other letters from Paul exist, but several attributed to him do indeed exist. And the Epistle to the Laodiceans, in particular, has been highly esteemed by learned men of the church and others, including the Quakers, who themselves printed and distributed a translation and plead for it to remain in canon of scripture. It remained many Bibles throughout the world up to the 1400’s but was ultimately not included in the Authorized or King James translation, and has not been in any English language Bible since that time.
Again, it’s only one chapter and 19 verses long and I thought I would share a few verses with you starting at verse one.
- Paul an Apostle, not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, to the brethren which are at Laodicea.
2. Grace be to you, and peace, from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ.
3. I thank Christ in every prayer of mine, that you may continue and persevere in good works, looking for that which is promised in the day of judgment.
Does that sound familiar to you?
It should. It’s almost word for word the way Paul began some of his other letters, and the similarity of this letter with others doesn’t stop there.
As a matter of fact, this letter contains virtually not one additional word or idea that is not contained in the other letters that are included in scripture.
So the church fathers discerned though the Spirit that it added nothing to the others that were included, and that this letter was just a shorter more compact version.
Some argued that being a writing of Paul it should be included and remain in the Bible anyway. But is a book’s claim to apostolic authorship the ultimate test of what should be in the bible? After all, we also have additional writings that are almost certainly from the hands of others in the early apostolic age such as part of a gospel from Peter, and other writings by Barnabas, James, Bartholomew and others. Should anything and everything by a first century Christian writer be included in the Bible?
God’s answer is No. What God has brought forward as the bible we have is perfectly sufficient for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. It’s the Bible God wanted us the have and all the truth we need leading thus to salvation is contained within.
But it is perfectly OK to read and study these other texts, just like it’s OK to read a book by Max Lucado or Billy Graham or Tim Lahaye. But these books are not scripture.
The bible we have is all that we need.
A couple more verses from this letter to the Laodiceans:
8. Whether I live or die, to me to live shall be a life to Christ, to die will be joy.
9. And our Lord will grant us his mercy, that you may have the same love, and be like-minded.
11. For it is God who is working in you;
Again, those verses and the rest of this letter are perfectly fine. I see no doctrinal inconsistence or problem in it all. These verses actually mirror almost exactly Paul’s words in today’s reading as well as Philippians and Thessalonians and other places. They are fine to read, but they are not necessary.
Because God has provided for us in all sufficiency, and that’s the theme behind our reading today in Colossians Chapter 2
All that we need is already in the Bible.
All that we need is stored up in Heaven by the Father when we die to our flesh and are born again in Him.
All that we need, all that anyone needs is in Christ Jesus forever.
Colossians Chapter 2 [From The NLT – New Living Translation]
1 I want you to know how much I have agonized for you and for the church at Laodicea, and for many other believers who have never met me personally. 2 I want them to be encouraged and knit together by strong ties of love. I want them to have complete confidence that they understand God’s mysterious plan, which is Christ himself. 3 In him lie hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
4 I am telling you this so no one will deceive you with well-crafted arguments. 5 For though I am far away from you, my heart is with you. And I rejoice that you are living as you should and that your faith in Christ is strong.
6 And now, just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must continue to follow him. 7 Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness.
8 Don’t let anyone capture you with empty philosophies and high-sounding nonsense that come from human thinking and from the spiritual powers* of this world, rather than from Christ. 9 For in Christ lives all the fullness of God in a human body.* 10 So you also are complete through your union with Christ, who is the head over every ruler and authority.
11 When you came to Christ, you were “circumcised,” but not by a physical procedure. Christ performed a spiritual circumcision-the cutting away of your sinful nature.* 12 For you were buried with Christ when you were baptized. And with him you were raised to new life because you trusted the mighty power of God, who raised Christ from the dead.
13 You were dead because of your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away. Then God made you alive with Christ, for he forgave all our sins. 14 He canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross. 15 In this way, he disarmed* the spiritual rulers and authorities. He shamed them publicly by his victory over them on the cross.
16 So don’t let anyone condemn you for what you eat or drink, or for not celebrating certain holy days or new moon ceremonies or Sabbaths. 17 For these rules are only shadows of the reality yet to come. And Christ himself is that reality. 18 Don’t let anyone condemn you by insisting on pious self-denial or the worship of angels,* saying they have had visions about these things. Their sinful minds have made them proud, 19 and they are not connected to Christ, the head of the body. For he holds the whole body together with its joints and ligaments, and it grows as God nourishes it.
20 You have died with Christ, and he has set you free from the spiritual powers of this world. So why do you keep on following the rules of the world, such as, 21 “Don’t handle! Don’t taste! Don’t touch!”? 22 Such rules are mere human teachings about things that deteriorate as we use them. 23 These rules may seem wise because they require strong devotion, pious self-denial, and severe bodily discipline. But they provide no help in conquering a person’s evil desires.
In the last few years, the world economy has come upon some real tough times. The stock market suffered huge losses, real estate prices collapsed and many people lost a great deal lot of money including for many their life savings and retirement funds. At the same time, there has continued to be war, political unrest at home and abroad, and acts of terrorism across the globe. At the same time, the world has suffered though a significant cluster of weather related events and disasters; earthquakes; hurricanes; tornados; floods; typhoons; droughts; volcanic eruptions. At the same time, it could be observed that we have seen a great ethical and moral decline.
As far as life on earth goes, recent events have made life very difficult for a whole bunch of people.
It seems like there is little one can count on. And that’s only on a global scale. There are also the personal losses we all suffer unexpectedly.
Maybe you have suffered great loss in your own life – loss of a job or property, loss of health, loss of respect, loss of a relationship or the loss of a loved one who has died.
And yet, after all that, Paul tells us to “rejoice in the Lord.”! And we can do that!
But for people without Christ, what do they have to rejoice about?
We know there is someone we can count on, and that one is Jesus. In Christ we have all we need.
But to some He’s just a name, a figure in history, a shadow, a phantom, a ghost, but not to us. By a great act of God though faith, He became our Lord and Savior when we received Him into our hearts. We received His doctrines, His teachings, His precepts. We received the blessings of His covenant-His grace, His mercy, His gifts.
But most of all and above all we received Christ Jesus Himself as our friend, our companion, our Lord to whom we pray, upon whom we lean on to heal us and to help us and to encourage us and to cheer us and to lead us and to show us the way.
In Jesus, we have everything. I’m asking… Do you really know this is true in your heart this morning? Do you really know have much you have in Jesus?
There’s no in between place. In Christ we have everything, or we have nothing at all.
If Christ is not the Son of God, then we are idolaters, we are worshipping a mere man and not the Creator. And if He is not resurrected we worship a dead man, no less.
But we know…
We know He is the Son of God, and like the Father all things are in Him. There is no middle ground.
Scripture tells us: “It pleased the Father that in Him should all fullness dwell.” “He is the express image of His person.” “In Him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.” “Nailed to the tree, God hath made Him both Lord and Christ.”
So do we proclaim like Thomas proclaimed to Jesus Himself: “My Lord and my God”? Do you proclaim that this morning, or is all this Jesus stuff just a hypothetical possibility, a “could be” or a who knows?
Because we keep searching, and searches when the search should be over. Because when a person really sees in truth who Christ is and knows in their hearts what God has done, they will know that they are in need of nothing else.
Of ourselves we have nothing, and need everything. And Christ is everything.
In Paul’s time, however, people were teaching other things. They said circumcision was required for salvation. But Paul throughout his letters makes it a point to show that Abraham was justified BEFORE he was circumcised. He says what we need is a circumcision of the heart. Paul says internal transformation is what is important and that is something only God can do.
It takes an act of God to change us. There is no single thing we can do to please him enough, to be worthy enough, to be righteous enough.
To be made right in God’s eyes it’s done “not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ.”
Now we don’t have a lot people telling us that we need to be circumcised before we can be saved today, but there are lots of people prone to giving us a long list of things we MUST do or not do BEFORE we can be saved.
Some point to good works we must do.
Others point to habits we must eliminate.
Some condemn themselves and think they CANNOT come to Christ until they have stopped sinning, until they become a better person.
Paul however says, “conversion starts in the heart!”
And it all starts with what Christ did, not with what we do. He’s all we need and accepting him unto salvation comes first.
We must be saved BEFORE we can be changed and not the other way around!
We lay our sins down at Christ feet and he takes them from us when we believe on Him.
He didn’t die on a cross for people who didn’t have sins. What point would there have been to that?
Paul says in Romans “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.
He says almost the same thing in Ephesians, “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air . . . “
And here in Colossians he reminds us “but God made you alive in Christ.”
. . “we were dead . . . .BUT GOD made us alive.”
Scripture does not say: “God helped us to change” or “God helped me to do what is right” or “God helped me overcome my weakness.” It says GOD MADE US ALIVE.
Christ did it. It’s all Him. He’s all You Need.
Max Lucado wrote this in A Gentle Thunder,
Think back to your own birth. . .Look at yourself. Brand-new. New hands. New eyes. New mouth. No pre-owned parts. . . Now tell me, who gave you these parts? Who gave you eyes so you could see? Who gave you hands so you could work? Who gave you feet that you could walk? Did you make your own eyes? Your own hands? Your own feet?
No, you made nothing; God made everything. He was the one who made everything new the first time, and he is the one who makes everything new the second. The Creator creates again! “If anyone belongs to Christ, there is a new creation. The old things have gone; everything else is made new!
The problem is we think God is like other people, even like other Christians . . . He is waiting for you to fail and then will never let you hear the end of it.
What would our lives be like if we believed this truth that in Christ, it’s a brand new day.
- We would spend less time regretting the past and more time living the present
- We would be less concerned about keeping people at “arms length” be more willing to be open with those around us.
- We would justify less and confess more.
- We would spend less time licking your wounds and more time counting our blessings
- We would find it easier to forgive others
- We would love Him more
We are responsible! We incurred the debt. We deserve the punishment. The law condemns us to death. But, through Christ . . . God makes us alive.
It was common practice for the ones who were condemned to die on a cross to have their crimes posted above their head.
Imagine that, above the head of Jesus a listing of your sins. And his sin, and her sin, and everyone’s sin.
Christ did it for you! Because of that we don’t have to go to die for our sins, but die to them. It’s been done yet we spend so much time crucifying ourselves and others.
Have you noticed that? I think the reason is we don’t really, truly embrace the truth.
The sins of you, and me and everyone died on that cross with Jesus and though His resurrection we are made alive again! Washed clean and born again by the Spirit in His name.
Today, just like in Paul’s time, there are a lot of people who say they believe in Jesus Christ, but it’s inevitably Christ plus something. It might be Christ plus human intellect, or Christ plus philosophy, or Christ plus some sort of mystical experience, or Christ plus science, or Christ plus rituals or ceremonies.
Christ plus a lot of things, but not Christ plus nothing, not Christ all-sufficient, not total completeness in Christ, not absolute abandonment of my life to Christ.
So we can’t let people tell us it’s Christ plus beads and candles, Christ plus holy underwear, or Christ plus a certain form of baptism, or Christ plus observing the Sabbath only on Saturday, or Christ plus fasting or eating no pork, or Christ plus bowing to the east or Christ plus anything like that. There are today many people who would advocate that.
And maybe even more common, churches just like this one are full of people who believe their salvation is attached to how often they read the Bible, pray and go to church. Or they’re confidence in their salvation is attached to the fact that they don’t do certain things and they don’t go certain places. Or, they DO do certain things and they do go certain places.
But to do any of that is not really trusting in the all-sufficient Christ. There is no middle ground on this. In Christ, we have all that we need. He is life. He is everything.
In Christ we are saved. There are things to do, and to say, and to read, and they can enhance our walk with Christ, but they are not the walk itself.
So that’s my parting thought. Who is Christ to you really? What does he mean to you?
Is He all that you need?
©2010 Timothy Henry