Come Out of the Tomb

John 11:38-44 – Then Jesus, again groaning in Himself, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it.  Jesus said, “Take away the stone.”  Martha, the sister of him who was dead, said to Him, “Lord, by this time there is a stench, for he has been dead four days.”  Jesus said to her, “Did I not say to you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God?”  Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead man was lying. And Jesus lifted up His eyes and said, “Father, I thank You that You have heard Me.  And I know that You always hear Me, but because of the people who are standing by I said this, that they may believe that You sent Me.”  Now when He had said these things, He cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come forth!”  And he who had died came out bound hand and foot with grave clothes, and his face was wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Loose him, and let him go.”

We have all had situations when it seemed like it could not get worse and somehow it did. We have all had fears and pent-up emotions in crisis situations and just knew things were bad and going from bad to worse.

In these kinds of situations, we did not know where to turn.   All looked bleak on the horizon but then just in the nick of time, the tide turned.  The gray sky changed and things within began to calm.  The churning of the stomach, the wringing of the hands, the sleepless nights, the constant turmoil was gone.  Jesus had come on the scene.  Our heart was at rest.  We were again at peace.  Jesus was with us every step of the way.

Anyone here ever had a bad day?  We all have.  Those days seem to us dark, dreary, tomb like.  We feel alone.  Days like those we do not like, and do not want in our life.  

Lazarus was in the tomb – continued illness took his life.  All hope seemed to be lost.  All that was left for family and friends was to endure and hope that the pain would ease.  But then, in their despair, in their crisis, in their turmoil, in their helplessness, Jesus made His appearance.

In the story of Lazarus, we see emotions – in Mary, Martha, the crowd, and even Jesus.  In Mary and Martha’s loss, in their despair, their crisis, their turmoil, their helplessness, they had forgotten that this same Jesus, their friend, had stilled the waters, fed the multitudes, opened blinded eyes, healed the lepers, made the lame to walk again and much more.

In their despair and pent up emotions of hurt and possibly even bitterness, they had forgotten this same Jesus had spoken those fantastic words of blessing we refer to as the Beatitudes.  They had heard His parables, His sermons, His words and seen His works.  Yet after what had been almost daily contact for three plus years, they still did not understand, still did not believe.

…as He began to pray….”Father, I thank You that You have heard Me….And I know that You always hear Me, but because of the people who are standing  by I said this,  that they may believe that You sent Me.”  And then with a loud voice He cried out “Lazarus, come forth.”  

And then, they saw him who had died as he came out of the tomb, hand and feet bound…. AND THEY BELIEVED.

Are you bound?  Come out of the tomb. Are you in bondage? Come out of the tomb.

When Jesus Christ saved you and brought you out of the tomb of sin and despair…he did not stop at “Come out of the tomb.”  He also said be loosed and set free.

We are doing our Lord discredit.  We are trampling again the Blood of Jesus under our feet when we continue to do those things that reflect negatively on our freedom in Christ.  Christ Jesus said COME OUT OF THE TOMB…BE LOOSED AND SET FREE…

I ask you here today…is that what He said? 

Did He say “COME OUT OF THE TOMB?”   Did He not also say…”He whom the Son sets free is free indeed?”

The three Hebrew children were in the worst turmoil, the worst situation anybody could be in….but they weren’t in a tomb…and the scripture says they weren’t bound either.  In fact the old king said they were walking around down there in that fiery furnace.  They were not walking around down there bound but they were free and Jesus was walking with them. 

You may be in a terrible spot…you may be in a predicament, and you may be in a devil’s torment that you have never seen before and don’t want to see again…but YOU DON’T HAVE TO ACT LIKE YOU ARE IN A TOMB AND YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE BOUND. 


Do you want to stay in the tomb?  Do you want to stay bound?


Do you want to come out of the tomb and be set free?

We can say we can’t…

But He says…”We can do all things through Christ which strengthens us.” – Philippians 4:13

We can say we are afraid

But He says… “I have not given you the spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” – 2 Timothy 1:7


We can say we don’t have

 But He says… “I shall supply all of your need according to my riches in glory.”  – Philippians 4:19

We can say I am defeated



We can say I’m bound

But He says …”Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” – 2 Corinthians 3:17

We can say I’m under condemnation

But He says…”There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” – Romans 8:1


We can say we are sick

But He says…”By my stripes you are healed.”  1 Peter 2:24

We can say Satan has me overpowered

But He says…”Greater am I that is in you that he that is in the world.” – 1 John 4:4


We can say we have too many doubts and don’t have enough faith

But He says…”I have given to everyone a measure of faith.” – Romans 12:3

What is your need today?  Come out of the tomb….be set free.  

A Changed Life

Acts 9:20-22

Immediately he preached the Christ in the synagogues, that He is the Son of God.  Then all who heard were amazed, and said, “Is this not he who destroyed those who called on this name in Jerusalem, and has come here for that purpose, so that he might bring them bound to the chief priests?”  But Saul increased all the more in strength, and confounded the Jews who dwelt in Damascus, proving that this Jesus is the Christ.


  • Immediately – Paul began immediately to preach about the Christ, “The Anointed One.”
  • Amazed – “What a change!”  Paul was changed because of his own experience in coming face to face with the Anointed One (Acts 9:1-6).
  • Increased – Paul was increased in spiritual strength.
  • Confounded – Paul perplexed the Jews in Damascus “for he vigorously refuted the Jews publicly, showing from the Scriptures that Jesus is the Christ” (Acts 18:28). 


  • Immediately – We must begin immediately to serve the Lord – testifying of what He has done in our life.
  • Amazed – “What a change!”  There should be a change in us – in our reactions, our behavior, our attitude – a change that others will notice and know that there has been a change in us.
  • Increased – Where did that knowledge of Paul come from?  The same Lord is available to us to increase our knowledge of His grace and His Word.
  • Confounded – God will also give us an understanding of His Word – of the message of salvation so that we can share with others.

For Me To Live is Christ

Philippians 1:12-26

But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel, so that it has become evident to the whole palace guard, and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ; and most of the brethren in the Lord, having become confident by my chains, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.  Some indeed preach Christ even from envy and strife, and some also from goodwill: The former preach Christ from selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my chains; but the latter out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is preached; and in this I rejoice, yes, and will rejoice.  For I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayer and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, according to my earnest expectation and hope that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor; yet what I shall choose I cannot tell. For I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better. Nevertheless to remain in the flesh is more needful for you. And being confident of this, I know that I shall remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy of faith, that your rejoicing for me may be more abundant in Jesus Christ by my coming to you again


  • The Example of Paul, the Apostle
  • Circumstances were bleak; he was a prisoner in Rome.  The circumstances were immediate, not something in the future.  He waited for trial, day after day, not knowing the outcome.  For over two years he waited.  One of the most difficult of all circumstances is knowing the problem is there, but not being able to do anything about it except to wait and wait for the final resolution.   
  • Note the following:
  • in spite of waiting trial,
    • in spite of being under house arrest,
    • in spite of false accusations,   
    • in spite of trumped up charges,
    • in spite of not having his freedom;
    • Paul did not grumble or complain,
    • he did not question God and wonder why,
    • he did not whine and murmur,
    • he did not fall to pieces,
    • he did not curse God and give up his faith.
  • Paul, instead, used this two years, with a dark cloud hanging over his head, to spread the Gospel.
  • One of the saddest verses of Scripture is found in Jeremiah 8:20 – “The harvest is past, the summer has ended and the gathering of fruit is over, yet we are not saved!”  Paul used the time that he had to the best of his ability.  He could not go to distant cities and spread the Gospel message.  He could not travel land and sea as he had done before.  He could not because of his imprisonment but yet he used the time he had to do all that he could.  He realized that he might not have much time left to do the work to which he was called.

Matthew 9:37-38 – “Then He (Jesus) said to His disciples. The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few.  Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.”

Mark 4:26-28 – “And He said, ‘The Kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground, and should sleep by night and rise by day, and the seed should sprout and grow, he himself does not know how.  For the earth yields crops by itself: first the blade, then the head, after that the full grain in the head.  But when the grain ripens, immediately he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.’” 

Luke 10:2  – “Do you not say, ‘There are still four months, and then comes the harvest?  Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest!’”

  • Perhaps, we should follow Paul’s example.  Maybe we could use the short three phrase statement that in times past we have mentioned.
  • If you have not yet done what you are to do as a Christian, witness, invite, and tell others of His great love, START WHERE YOU ARE.
  • If you don’t seem to have any strength, no power, no energy, no talents, no nerve, USE WHAT YOU HAVE.  As you begin to exercise the little bit of ability that you do have, God will give more ability as you begin to do for Him.
  • Then, you must DO ALL YOU CAN for the Lord, everywhere, every time, anyway that you can do. 

Acts 28:30-31 – “And Paul lived two years in his own house, (he was under house arrest), and received all that came in unto him, preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching those things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ, with all confidence, no man forbidding him.” 

Mark 16:15 – “And He said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.” 

John 20:21 – “Then Jesus said to them again Peace be unto you: as my Father has sent me, even so send I you.” 

1 Peter 3:15 – “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asks you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear.” 


  • Are we positive, upbeat, joyful, at peace, or are we negative, down, sad, in turmoil?   In our behavior, actions, lifestyle, are we at peace with ourselves or are we always in a dither?  When we are conducting ourselves in any position of authority, small or great, do we come across to others as God’s great gift to humanity in our know-it-all style or is there a prized possession of humility at work?
  • Paul stated “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain.”  We all know of course what the last portion means.  It will definitely be our gain when we go to be with Christ.  No more problems, heart-ache, pain and trials will we have to go through.  But what did he mean “For me to live is Christ?”  What does that question speak to you?  I believe Paul was saying that he had a purpose in life.  He had a reason to live.  Christ was his most prized possession.  Christ was first in his thoughts.  Is that our feeling about life?  Is life more than a meager existence on this earth, then it is over?  Is life drudgery?  Is life something that must be endured or is it to be lived – lived in its fullest sense, in Jesus Christ?   

Romans 14:1 9 – “Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another.”

Romans 15:2 – “Let every one of us please his neighbor for his good to edification.” 

  • Let us be ready to always glorify Christ in this life by the way we live.  Let us be ready to hear Him say – “Well done, good and faithful servant; because you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things; enter into the joy of the Lord.”  Matthew 15:23         

The First Great Gentile Church

Acts 11:19-30

Now those who were scattered after the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to no one but the Jews only. But some of them were men from Cyprus and Cyrene, who, when they had come to Antioch, spoke to the Hellenists, preaching the Lord Jesus. And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number believed and turned to the Lord.  Then news of these things came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent out Barnabas to go as far as Antioch. When he came and had seen the grace of God, he was glad, and encouraged them all that with purpose of heart they should continue with the Lord. For he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were added to the Lord.  Then Barnabas departed for Tarsus to seek Saul. And when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. So it was that for a whole year they assembled with the church and taught a great many people. And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.  And in these days prophets came from Jerusalem to Antioch. Then one of them, named Agabus, stood up and showed by the Spirit that there was going to be a great famine throughout all the world, which also happened in the days of Claudius Caesar. Then the disciples, each according to his ability, determined to send relief to the brethren dwelling in Judea. This they also did, and sent it to the elders by the hands of Barnabas and Saul.

Acts 11:18 is a momentous passage.  Peter’s ministry to Cornelius and his household, and the positive response by the church at Jerusalem (see Acts 10:1-11:18) set the stage for Paul’s outreach to the Gentiles in the remaining chapters.  The next few verses cover one of the most important events in history – the founding of the Gentile church. 

  • The Gentile Church is Born
  • Born through the witness of lay believers (Acts 8:1-4).  Note that everyone was scattered except the apostles
  • Born by believers sharing with everyone they met – Jews and Gentiles alike.  God desires everyone to hear the good news and for everyone to be saved.

Isaiah 45:22 – “Look to Me, and be saved, all you ends of the earth!”

Matthew 22:9 – “Go into the highways, and as many as you find, invite to the wedding.”

Romans 10:12 – “For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek (between the rich and the poor, between the educated and the uneducated, between the white and the black, between the Church of God and the Baptist, between the Anglo-Saxon and the Hispanic), for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon Him.”

  • Borne by the hand of the Lord.  “the hand of the Lord was with them.”
  • God allowed the persecution.
  • God gave the believers the boldness to proclaim the good news.
  • God opened the eyes of the people in Antioch to receive the good news.
  • The Gentile Church is Nourished
  • Mother Church sent ministerial help – the church needed leadership.
  • Barnabas encouraged the new church – to continue with the Lord with purpose of heart (a deliberate plan, an intention, a design).  It is not enough to start walking with God, but the church must have a deliberate plan, an intention to keep walking with God.
  • Barnabas taught the new church – teaching is an important part of the church.
  • The Gentile Church had an Effective Witness
  • Believers were first called “Christians” at Antioch.  The Greek word used was christianos.  This was likely an insulting name given to the followers of Christ (Christos) like the term “Jesus-freak” was used a few years ago.  Later, believers took the name and began applying it to themselves.  Eventually the name was adopted by the whole world for the followers of Christ.   If we call ourselves “Christian,” we need to recognize what it means to be a true follower of Christ.

Colossians 2:6 – As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him.

1 John 2:6 – He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked.

  • The Gentile Church Had a Ministry to Others
  • When they heard of the prophesied famine coming, they took up a relief offering to Jerusalem.  This was an offering each person shared in according to their ability.  Again, we see that a growing, thriving church is one that reaches out to others – it is not consumed with just meeting its own needs.

Galatians 6:10 – Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us (ergazomai – work, be busy, accomplish something, produce things, be engaged in, toil.  Ergazomai is the opposite of idleness, laziness, or inactivity.) do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.

1 Timothy 6:18 – Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share.

NOTE:  Preaching–Teaching–Exhortation – There are three different Greek words used for preaching and teaching in this passage.

  • Lalountes is translated “preaching” in the King James Version and “spoke” in the New King James Version.  It is the simple sharing of conversation among people.  In other words, as the believers were scattered abroad, wherever they went, whoever they talked to, Jesus was the topic of their conversation.  Jesus was so real in their lives, so much on their mind that they simply “spoke” about Him to every one they came in contact with. 
  • Euaggelizomenoi is translated “preaching” and it means to declare and proclaim the gospel – the good news.  The believers – the lay people – actually went into Antioch and preached and proclaimed that Jesus Christ had died and risen again for their sins. 
  • Parekalei is translated “exhorted” or “encouraged” and means to warn, comfort, encourage, challenge, admonish or advise.  The believers – both in their day-to-day conversation and in their preaching – urged the people at Antioch to continue with the Lord with one purpose, one plan, one commitment of service.

Defending the Faith

Galatians 2:1-10

Then after fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, and also took Titus with me. And I went up by revelation, and communicated to them that gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but privately to those who were of reputation, lest by any means I might run, or had run, in vain. Yet not even Titus who was with me, being a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised. And this occurred because of false brethren secretly brought in (who came in by stealth to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage), to whom we did not yield submission even for an hour, that the truth of the gospel might continue with you.

But from those who seemed to be something—whatever they were, it makes no difference to me; God shows personal favoritism to no man—for those who seemed to be something added nothing to me. But on the contrary, when they saw that the gospel for the uncircumcised had been committed to me, as the gospel for the circumcised was to Peter (for He who worked effectively in Peter for the apostleship to the circumcised also worked effectively in me toward the Gentiles), and when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that had been given to me, they gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised. They desired only that we should remember the poor, the very thing which I also was eager to do.


  • God directed Paul to Jerusalem.
  • God directed Paul to protect the work of the Gospel.  “Faith in Jesus Christ = salvation.”

John 3:16 – For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

Romans 5:6-8 – For when we were still without strength, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.  For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die.  But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Ephesians 2:8-9 – For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.


  • Titus – example of salvation by grace alone.
  • False believers planted in the church.
  • False believers teaching bondage.


  • God has no favorites.

Acts 10:34-35 – …In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality.  But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him.

Romans 10:12-13 – For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him.  For whoever calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.

  • Gospel is not to be added to.


  • James, Peter, John – to the Jews.
  • Paul, Barnabas – to the Gentiles.

A Changed Man

Galatians 1:22-24

And I was unknown by face to the churches of Judea which were in Christ. But they were hearing only, “He who formerly persecuted us now preaches the faith which he once tried to destroy.” And they glorified God in me.

Dr. Harold Wilmington of Liberty University writes “they (the early church, Peter, Paul, & others) took the teachings of Jesus at face value.  They refused to compromise with any pagan or secular code.  They were absolutely happy always getting into trouble.”


  • His zeal in attacking the Church.

Philippians 3:6 – concerning zeal, persecuting the church.

 Acts 7:57-58 – Then they cried out with a loud voice, stopped their ears, and ran at him with one accord; and they cast him out of the city and stoned him.  And the witnesses laid down their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul.

  Acts 8:1-3 – Now Saul was consenting to his death.  At that time a great persecution arose against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles.  And devout men carried Stephen to his burial, and made great lamentation over him.  As for Saul, he made havoc of the church, entering every house, and dragging off men and women committing them to prison.

Acts 9:1-3 – Then Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high pries, and asked letters from him to the synagogues of  Damascus, so that if he found any who were of the Way, whether men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.

Acts 22:4-5 – I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women as also the high priest bears me witness, and all the council of the elders, from whom I also received letters to the brethren, and went to Damascus to bring in chains even those who were there to Jerusalem to be punished.

  • Causing Christians to be imprisoned.

Acts 26:9-11 – Indeed, I myself thought I must do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. This I also did in Jerusalem and many of the saints I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests; and when they were put to death, I cast my vote against them.  And I punished them often in every synagogue and compelled them to blaspheme; and being exceedingly enraged against them, I persecuted them even to foreign cities.

  • Opposing the Way.

I Timothy 1:12-13 – And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord who has enabled me, because He counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry, although I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent (violently arrogant) man but I obtained mercy because I did it ignorantly in unbelief.


Acts 26:19-23 – And I was unknown by face to the churches of Judea which were in Christ. But they were hearing only, “He who formerly persecuted us now preaches the faith which he once tried to destroy.” And they glorified God in me.

Acts 22:12-21 – Then a certain Ananias, a devout man according to the law, having a good testimony with all the Jews who dwelt there, came to me; and he stood and said to me, ‘Brother Saul, receive your sight.’ And at that same hour I looked up at him. Then he said, ‘The God of our fathers has chosen you that you should know His will, and see the Just One, and hear the voice of His mouth. For you will be His witness to all men of what you have seen and heard. And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.”

Now it happened, when I returned to Jerusalem and was praying in the temple, that I was in a trance and saw Him saying to me, ‘Make haste and get out of Jerusalem quickly, for they will not receive your testimony concerning Me.’ So I said, ‘Lord, they know that in every synagogue I imprisoned and beat those who believe on You. And when the blood of Your martyr Stephen was shed, I also was standing by consenting to his death, and guarding the clothes of those who were killing him.’ Then He said to me, ‘Depart, for I will send you far from here to the Gentiles.’

  • Great in ministering the Word.

Acts 9:20-22 – Immediately he preached the Christ in the synagogues, that He is the Son of God.  Then all who heard were amazed, and said, ‘Is this not he who destroyed those who called on this name in Jerusalem, and has come here for that purpose, so that he might bring them bound to the chief priests?’  But Saul increased in strength, and confounded the Jews who dwelt in Damascus, proving that this Jesus is the Christ.  

HE WAS A CHANGED MAN! – Everywhere Paul went; he either started a church or created a riot.

Acts 14:1-7 – Now it happened in Iconium that they went together to the synagogue of the Jews, and so spoke that a great multitude both of the Jews and of the Greeks believed. But the unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brethren. Therefore they stayed there a long time, speaking boldly in the Lord, who was bearing witness to the word of His grace, granting signs and wonders to be done by their hands.

But the multitude of the city was divided: part sided with the Jews, and part with the apostles. And when a violent attempt was made by both the Gentiles and Jews, with their rulers, to abuse and stone them, they became aware of it and fled to Lystra and Derbe, cities of Lycaonia, and to the surrounding region. And they were preaching the gospel there.

Acts 16:20-34 – And they brought them to the magistrates, and said, “These men, being Jews, exceedingly trouble our city; and they teach customs which are not lawful for us, being Romans, to receive or observe.” Then the multitude rose up together against them; and the magistrates tore off their clothes and commanded them to be beaten with rods. And when they had laid many stripes on them, they threw them into prison, commanding the jailer to keep them securely. Having received such a charge, he put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks.

But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were loosed. And the keeper of the prison, awaking from sleep and seeing the prison doors open, supposing the prisoners had fled, drew his sword and was about to kill himself. But Paul called with a loud voice, saying, “Do yourself no harm, for we are all here.”

Then he called for a light, ran in, and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. And he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”

So they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.” Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their stripes. And immediately he and all his family were baptized. Now when he had brought them into his house, he set food before them; and he rejoiced, having believed in God with all his household.

I Corinthians 2:2 – For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.

I Corinthians 15:3-4 – For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures…

  • Great in appointing bishops to churches he had established.  Throughout the Epistles there is evidence of his establishment of churches and appointment of bishops.
  • Great feats of power manifested in and through him.
  • Great in miracles and signs following.

Acts 14:8-10 – And in Lystra a certain man without strength in his feet was sitting, a cripple from his mother’s womb, who had never walked. This man heard Paul speaking. Paul, observing him intently and seeing that he had faith to be healed, said with a loud voice, “Stand up straight on your feet!” And he leaped and walked.

Acts 19:11-12 – God was performing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul, so that handkerchiefs or aprons were even carried from his body to the sick, and the diseases left them and the evil spirits went out.

Acts 28:8 – And it happened that the father of Publius was lying in bed afflicted with recurrent fever and dysentery; and Paul went in to see him and after he had prayed, he laid his hands on him and healed him.

The Bible says that God is no respecter of persons.  He is still in the business of changing men and women who surrender to Him.

Intoducing the letter to the Colossians

Although Paul never actually ministered in the city of Colossae, a small town in the province of Asia, about 100 miles east of Ephesus, it appears this church was an outgrowth of his three-year ministry in Ephesus.  Epaphras, probably a convert of Paul, appears to be the church’s founder and leader (Col. 1:7, 8; 4:12-13).  Comparing Philemon 2 with Colossians 4:17, it appears the church met in the home of Philemon.  Many Bible scholars believe Paul wrote this book during his first imprisonment in Rome and that the letter was delivered by Tychicus along with the letter to the church at Ephesus (see Handout on Prison Epistles given with the book of Ephesus).  Apparently at the same time Tychicus brought with him Onesimus to restore him to his master, Philemon, and he also carried with him Paul’s note to Philemon beseeching him to take his slave back “as a man and as a Christian”.  (Philemon 15-16).

Paul was apparently writing his letter to deal with false teaching which was threatening the church at Colossae (2:8-9).  The false teaching appears to have been an early from of Gnosticism.  Gnosticism (from gnosis in Greek which meant knowledge) taught that matter was evil.  Therefore, God could not have created the world.  Rather, God (the original source) created an angel who in turn created another angel, who created yet a third angel, etc.  The last of these angels created the world as we know it today.  It was impossible for Jesus (or anyone) to be both fully God and fully man because of the evil of material things.  Therefore, Jesus was only one of the many semi-divine beings that bridged the gap between God and the world.  Because He was not God, Jesus did not have the authority to ability to meet their needs.

Since the material world was evil, there evolved two different philosophies regarding how man should live.  The first said that if matter is evil, then the body is evil.  Therefore, man should avoid all joys of life and abuse the body for the spirit’s sake.  This point of view was called Stoicism.  The other philosophy said that since the body was evil, it is ultimately destined for the dust.  It does not really what we do with it.  Therefore, if it felt good, do it.  This led to a belief system called Epicureanism.

However, the heresy was not just a simply form of Gnosticism.  It appears that it was a blending of pagan and Judaic speculation which results in a syncretism.  A study of its characteristics can be beneficial to the church today as we see many of these same characteristics in beliefs and philosophies being taught today. 

  1.  It stressed philosophy (Col. 2:8).
  •  It stressed “enlightenment” with a strong emphasis on wisdom and knowledge (Col. 2:3); philosophy and tradition (Col 2:8); delving into the unknown and using one’s fleshly mind (Col 2:18) and worshipping man’s own ability and will to control and discipline himself (Col. 2:23).
  • It stressed soul over body (Col. 2:16, 20-23).  Again, this brings about two different approaches – both are wrong.  One says – The way to release or take care of the soul is to discipline and control the body.  This involves into all kinds of legalism – “Touch not, taste not, handle not.”  (Col. 2:21).  The other says – One can do what he wishes with his body as long as he takes care of his soul by participating in religious worship and rituals.
  • It stressed ritual and tradition.  Special foods and special days (Col. 2:16, 22).
  • It stressed other mediators between God and man:  elementary spirits (Col. 2:8, 20) and angels (Col. 2:18).

It appears Epaphras was not able to deal properly with this false teaching and so he made the dangerous and wearisome journey of 1000 miles from Colossae to Rome to speak to Paul.  While in Rome, he was evidently also imprisoned (Philemon 23) probably because of his bold preaching.  Paul wrote the letter to the Colossians in response to the report from Epaphras and sent it by one of his trusted workers.  Tychicus (Col. 4:7; Acts 20:4; Eph. 6:21; 2 Tim. 4:12; Titus 3:12).

To counter the error, Paul underscored the deity of Christ and His death on the cross for our sin.  No other New Testament book sets forth more fully or defends the universal lordship of Christ more thoroughly than Colossians.  The book sets forth Christ as supreme Lord.  The first two chapters present and defend this truth.  The last two chapters unfold practical implications of this truth.

This was important because the false teaching attacked Jesus Christ at every point. 

  •  It attacked His deity.  If the world is material and man’s body is evil, then God would never take upon Himself human flesh.  God would become evil by taking man’s flesh upon Himself.  Col. 1:15 – “He is the image of the invisible God.”
  •  It attacked His creative power and His role in creation.  If the world is evil, then God could not have been the creator.  Col.  1:16 – “For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth. . .All things were created through Him and for Him.”
  • It attacked the humanity of Jesus.  If He was really God, then He could not have been flesh since flesh is evil.  Col. 2:9 – “For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily (in bodily form).”
  • It attached His redemptive power.  Something more than Christ was needed to defeat the powers that oppose man – Angels, philosophy, human effort.  Col. 1:21-22 – “And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind. . .in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, blameless, and above reproach in His sight.”

Paul showed three primary ways in which Christ is Lord:

  • Christ is Lord over all creation.  His creative authority includes both the material and the spiritual universe (1:16).  Because of this, He alone is to be worshipped.  No other being – man or angel – deserves the worship that is His alone.  This also means there is no reason to fear demonic forces or seek superstitiously for protection from them. 
  • Christ is Lord over the church.  He is the Creator and Savior of the church (1:18).  He is the very life source of the church.  He is over all, and in Him the church is made perfect (2:10).
  • Christ is Lord of salvation.  He is the one who has made Christians of all mankind (3:11).  Only by associating with Him in His death, burial and resurrection can anyone hope to find eternal life                            Col. 2:11-14).

Colossians may be compared to other writings of Paul:

In Romans we are justified in Christ.

In 1 Corinthians we are enriched in Christ.

In 2 Corinthians we are comforted in Christ.

In Galatians we are free in Christ.

In Ephesians we are quickened in Christ.

In Philippians we are happy in Christ.

Then, we come to Colossians.  This book gives us the glorious culmination of it all.

In Colossians we are complete in Christ.

This completely is achieved in four ways.

  •  Building downward.  Col. 1:23 – “Grounded and steadfast. . .not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard.”  This is the deeper life.
  •  Building upward.  Col. 2:7 – “Rooted and built up in him and established (to make firm, secure, guarantee) in the faith.”  This is the higher life.
  • Building inward.  Col. 3:3 – “for you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.”  This is the inner life.
  • Building outward.  Col. 4:5 – “Walk with wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time (the opportune time, appointed time, due time, proper time for action; this word for time, kairos describes kind, or quality, of time rather than quantity of time).”  This is the outer life.

Colossians bears a close resemblance to Ephesians in language and subject matter.  Over 70 of the 155 verses in Ephesians contain expression echoed in Colossians.  In a sense, Colossians concludes that which Ephesians introduces.  In Ephesians Paul emphasizes the fact that the church is a body.  In Colossians he emphasizes the head of the body which is Christ.

Colossae, along with the towns of Laodicea and Hierapolis (Col. 4:13), lay beside the banks of the small river, Lycus, in the Roman province of Asia.  Today that area is in west Turkey.  In earlier days it had been a prosperous center of wool and weaving and was described in the fifth century B.C. as “a great city.”  However, at the beginning of the Christian era its influence had greatly declined and a first-century geographer, Strabo, described it as “a small city.”  It is now no more than a barren and uninhabited site.  But because of the letter of Paul, it remains in the memory of the church.