Paul must have felt tremendous responsibility for the church in Colosse and Laodicea. He did not found these two churches. Others who had come to Christ through Paul’s ministry (Acts 19:10) found these churches (Epaphras in Colosse – v7). Paul may have thought, “I hope I have adequately discipled these converts and that they may stand strong in the face of adversity and false teaching.”
Paul agonizes for their steadfastness in faith. He encourages them and reminds them of the truth they believed in Christ. He does all he can to continue pointing them to that truth. Lord, I have felt the responsibility of mentoring others in ministry. I have agonized over ministry plants in places near and far. To train and disciple is a joy. It is also a weighty responsibility. Father, may I always take such work seriously.
Who exactly is this agent of light Paul speaks of? Who effects man’s rescue from the empire of darkness and transfers us to the Empire of Light. It is here, beginning with Christ, that Paul begins his rebuttal of two philosophies that threaten the early Church, Syncretism and Gnosticism.* It is here that Christianity gets its most complete explanation of Christ’s singular deity above all others (Sōlus Christus).
Modern movements today that would reflect syncretistic or gnostic attributes might be The Jesus Seminar (est 1985). It does not accept the physical manifestations of the miracles, virgin birth or resurrection of Jesus. Another would be the New Age movement (est 1970s). It is an amalgamation of many humanistic self-actualization beliefs and spiritual views.
But Jesus is the only and undisputed Champion of redemption. He is the exact image, manifestation, of the living God. He is the preeminent and sovereign Lord of all and over all. His life, teachings, miracles and resurrection are rooted in historical fact. May Jesus be elevated in all things concerning my life today and always.
* Syncretism in religious terms merges multiple religious belief systems, traditions and practices into one new system.
*Gnosticism is a religious movement claiming that, 1) salvation is acquired on some mystical higher plane of secret knowledge, not from Scripture; known only by a few; 2) all matter is evil and the spirit is good. Anything done in the body, even the grossest sin, has no meaning because real life exists in the spirit realm only. Vis-à-vis, Christ in human form could not be God. Gnosticism was perhaps the most dangerous heresy that threatened the early church during the first three centuries.
We see here that Paul’s faithful friend and co-laborer, Epaphras has joined him in a Roman prison (Phe 1:23). Incarceration has not diminished in anyway the enthusiasm or sense of mission that Epaphras (or Paul) have for the gospel.
Epaphras is pleased to report to Paul the good progress of the Colossian church (vv4,5); their faith and their love for others given by the Holy Spirit. Men and women called of God may suffer shame and dishonor, but the cause of Christ will always move them forward. Father, may the greater good of the Gospel be ever before me today.
To the people of Colossae Paul writes, “You learned about the Good News from Epaphras.” All we know of Epaphras is found here and in Philemon 1:23. Paul calls him a “beloved worker…faithful servant”; Paul leaned on him to lead the day-to-day ministry founded in Colossae. He was a kindred spirit to Paul, same as Philemon, in whose house the Colossian Church met (Phe 1:1,2).
We also learn from Philemon 1:23 that Epaphras may also have been in prison with Paul in Rome for preaching the Gospel. The bond between Paul and Epaphras was deep and profound. I have been blessed through the years to know such men and women in ministry. Lord, my heart is moved even now with joy unspeakable to have forged new local church ministries with such dear friends. They always encourage the heart of this old prayer sentry.
In Paul’s defense before Herod Agrippa, he admits to being a “cancel culture“ practitioner. Like the media, big tech, divisive politicians and oligarchs of our day, Paul lead out in silencing the Christians of his day.
BUT GOD – God arrested Paul, quite literally, in his tracks. He was on his way to Damascus to hunt down and punish those Christ followers. Those who did not tow the party line. Paul saw Jesus. He was changed. He became the compassionate Christian preacher/pastor for the ages.
God can turn any “cancel culture“ on its ear. He can save completely the worst of all oppressors in any society. Lord, it is incumbent upon me, and my honor, that I should pray for oppressors in my culture. I must pray for flashes of God’s light and glory to shine stunningly on their Damascus road to salvation. This is my sentinel duty.
“Cancel Culture“ is nothing new. Jesus was a victim of “Cancel Culture.” Weak politicians enable a culture that seeks to silence whatever does not fit their agenda or narrative. Two Governors, Felix and Festus, sought to appease the Jews of Palestine (a religious special interest group). They sought to “Cancel” the apostle Paul. Now King Agrippa would join in to silence, to cancel, the claims of Christianity. The goal was to shut down Paul’s revolutionary message of grace.
What does the Christian do when politicians and special interest groups seek to silence the gospel message? The Christian does what Paul did. He was relentless in sharing the message of Christ. No “Cancel Culture” will stamp out the gospel message of Jesus. “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty” (2Co 3:17). Lord, enable sentries in the watchtowers to always, in every way, rise above the “Cancel Culture” of the day.
My late friend, mentor and father in ministry of 30+ years, had a saying. “There are none so blind as those who won’t see and none so deaf as those who won’t listen.“ Such were those of the violent mob formed against Paul when, at the end of his missionary journeys, he returned to Jerusalem. When he showed up in the temple he was mobbed, treated like a rebel, and beaten by uninformed irrational Jews.
Like Jesus, Paul was accused of leading Jews to disown Judaism. Roman soldiers had to rescue Paul from the angry crowd. Paul’s best attempts at conciliation (vv 21-26) were met with deaf ears and angry hearts. At times my best good faith efforts at peace and unity may not be enough. Lord, if the sentry is called upon to suffer for Christ, may his/her resolve to stand faithful be strengthened.
Once again Paul finds himself caught between Jewish tradition and the new Christian faith. Again he is confronting the Jerusalem church elders steeped in Jewish tradition. Both Paul and these elders had come along way from the Acts 15 conflict. They all seemed more prepared to yield to each other as being sincere in faith. Everyone seemed confident that various traditions among believers and between church bodies were acceptable. As long as they understood that traditions are not the means of salvation.
The fundamental issue is faith in the cross of Christ for the atonement of sin, as the solitary means of salvation. What follows after that is a matter of choice and conscience. It is a matter of threading the needle between relationships and religious tradition.
It would seem that relationships over traditions would be a small matter when it comes to the all important mission of taking the gospel to a lost world. Yet, if the world is to see faith in action among believers, then relationships must always trump ritual and religion.
Father, may the faithful sentry seek to find common ground with sincere believers who worship different than they; who have different backgrounds than they, but worship the same Jesus.
It is imperative that followers of Christ speak in plain understandable language and terms to a world without Christ, without understanding. Even the use of “tongues“ requires an interpretation to follow, that there may be understanding. The gospel of Christ must be made plain and clear.
When Scripture is spoken clearly people will be convicted of sin. They will fall on their knees and worship God…declare that the presence of God is in that place. I am thankful to attend a church like that. The gospel, Scripture truth, is made clear through many avenues of ministry. Lord, open the mouth of this sentry to speak the truth of your word, that conviction and repentance might follow.
Day 13 of 40 Days of Prayer For Family & Friends – Lord, pull my believing family and friends together as a genuine representation of who you are.
What is a temple? It is more than just brick and mortar. It is a symbol of God‘s presence in the world. Paul calls followers of Christ the temple of God, a place in which the Holy Spirit has taken up his residency. Followers of Christ are the embodiment of Christ and his presence in this world.
Peter calls Christ followers living stones, fitted together in Christ as a spiritual house [a temple] (1Pe 2:4,5). What believers do, individually and collectively, represent to the world who God is. Lord, my sentinel goal is to be a genuine reflection of who you are to those near me.
Day 6 of 40 Days of Prayer For Family & Friends – Lord, lead my family and friends to walk in the Light. Our days are numbered on this earth. Every day is an opportunity to dispel darkness wherever we may go. May we choose to walk in the light of knowing Christ.
As a children of the Light [Jesus] we can bring hope and courage to those we meet along the way. We can be a Charlie Brown “Pigpen,“ living in doom and gloom. Or we can be a “Peppermint Party,” spreading joy, light and hope. Choose to walk in the Light. Lord, a sentinel command on the watch is to give those around us hope and joy in Christ.
Day 4 of 40 Days of Prayer For Family & Friends – Lord, surround my family and friends with a spirit of love and good deeds. Who does not need a regular word of encouragement? “Spur one another on“ (NIV). The idea in this Scripture is to stir up, encourage, provoke, motivate others around you. Especially strive to “spur on” those with whom we share faith in the Lord Jesus.
“Spur On” [motivate] to what? To do love and good deeds. Today our country is experiencing much provocation toward cynicism, skepticism and distrust. We need to hear, in a big way, from those in the faith who express genuine encouragement of others. Lord, I want to be the kind of friend and brother that motivates others toward love and acts of kindness. I want to get my “Spur On.”
Paul is about to leave the leaders of the church at Ephesus. He will entrust them with the great message of grace. He tells them, “GUARD yourselves…feed and care for the flock – the church. “WATCH OUT!“ Be alert to false teachers and prideful men who seek only a following for themselves. Such people will divide and create disunity in the church.
To “GUARD” and to “WATCH OUT” are a call to arms for the faithful leader in the church and in the family. Standing vigilantly requires him/her to, 1) teach God’s word well, 2) minister in truth and all sincerity, 3) counsel by prayerful insight, sought through tears and deep spiritual connections and 4) sound the alarm when danger approaches. Father, may this sentry effectively share the gospel and express the truth of Scripture by my words and by my example.