Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Colossians 1:1-14 Our Gift Defines Our Calling

KEY TEXT: Colossians 1:9-11 And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. 

KEY THOT: Paul prays unceasingly for the Colossians specifically for one thing: that they may be “filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding” (v.9). The knowledge of his will is the key to spiritual fruitfulness, for he gives his reason for praying thus: “so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.” In other words, if we know the will of God and carry it out with wisdom and understanding, we will be fruitful Christians, living a life worthy of the name of Christ we bear and growing in our knowledge of God.

The converse is true: believers are unfruitful in their lives and testimony when they are ignorant of God’s will for their lives. So they live their days without wisdom and understanding and unable to increase in their knowledge of God. Knowing God and living a fruitful life worthy of the Lord depends us knowing the will of God. So, how can we know the will of God? There are two aspects to the will of God: what we should do and what we should become.

Jesus has spelled it out quite clearly in Matthew 6:33 with regard to these two dimensions of God’s will. Regarding what we should do, he says, “Seek first the kingdom of God”. Regarding what we should become, he says, “and his righteousness”. In other words, we are to become like Jesus as He is revealed in the Gospels in our doing and becoming. That is the essence of discipleship: following and imitating Jesus in how he lived his life. To be a disciple of Christ is to follow in his footsteps: to do what He did and to become what He became--even down to the point of carrying our own cross daily so we may die to self and live for Christ. This is the general will of God and it is true for all believers—not just full-time workers or pastors. 

The second aspect of knowing God’s will is more personal and specific. It has to do with knowing our spiritual gift. Paul introduces himself to the Colossians (as in all his letters) as an apostle of Christ. In Colossians 1:1, he identifies himself as “an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God.” He identifies the will of God closely with his gift and calling as an apostle. His self-identity and life mission are tied up with his apostleship. He no longer defines himself by his religious title (Pharisee) or his educational background (lawyer) or his societal standing (member of the Jewish Parliament, the Sanhedrin). He is simply Paul, “an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God.” What this means for him is that God’s will defines who is and what he is to become. So, to know our spiritual gift is to know the will of God for our lives—in other words, our life calling.

There are five leadership gifts in the church as listed in Ephesians 4:11, namely “some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers.” These are leadership gifts because their role is to equip the saints (ordinary church members) for the work of the ministry. They don’t just do their ministry on behalf of the saints; they equip the saints to do the work of ministry: viz., church-planting (trained by apostles), prophetic ministry (trained by prophets), evangelism (trained by evangelists), pastoral care (trained by pastors), and bible teaching (trained by bible teachers). Of course, these gifted leaders also do the work themselves, but they have the additional task of equipping others to do the work they do.

Beside these leadership gifts, there are also manifestation-gifts listed in 1 Cor. 12:8-10 (wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, miracles, prophecy, discerning spirits, tongues and interpretation) and service gifts listed in Romans 12:6-8 (prophecy, practical service, teaching, exhorting/counselling, contributing, leading, community service). This list is not exhaustive. 1 Cor.12:28 mentions helping ministry and administration. In our modern context, we may add gifts like hospitality, worship leading, missional entrepreneurship, medical missions, etc. So, if we know our gifts, we also know our calling for these two are intricately linked: “For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable” (Romans 11:29).

May God help us become fruitful Christians, living lives worthy of the name of Christ we bear and growing in the knowledge of God in the process. 

Father, help us discover our gifts and our calling in Christ Jesus, that it may define who we are and what we are to become. Amen.


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