What’s a Body To Do
Text: Colossians 3:16-4:1
Proposition: There are two simultaneous calls upon the church: to uphold the centrality of Christ over all and to strive to build the unity of the body, the church.
Introduction: Some things in life are easy to fix and if you are a person that likes to fix or put together what’s broken then fixing things is gratifying. I think the more obvious the problem is the easier it generally is to fix it. A flat tire is easy to detect, a broken arm you can see, a torn shirt or a broken window tells you what has to be done. This morning we are going to hear what it takes to fix something that isn’t easy to see, where you can’t quickly see what is broken. What you can see is that something is broken but it’s beneath the surface. It affects the way you walk, it impairs the way you think and distorts what you feel. Paul was no doctor but he could definitely see that this is what was happening to a small church in a town called Colossae. So in a letter to them he prescribes a fix, it will require them to do two things simultaneously. If they will do these two things then what is broken will mend, what is torn will repair, what is bruised will heal. All through his letter to them he points them to these two things they must do if they are to walk upright, think clearly and feel restored. Turn with me to Colossians 3:16,17.
I. The More Connected a Body Is the Better Each Part Functions.
Why do you think that this might true? Is it that we know it as a general principle in physiology with joints and ligaments? Is it that we know it’s true of corporate success where the cohesive quality of how it’s employees care for each other is what makes the company a great business? There’s an old adage that says, “Employees don’t quit their jobs, they quit their bosses.” I think that the same could likely be said of the church, people don’t quit a church because of what they used to do in it, they quit because of the leadership they worked alongside of. What that says is that we are all connected, all at some stage of being a leader and at the same time of being led. Have a look at what Paul says in Colossians 3:16, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another…”. Who is the ‘you’ that he is referring to here? Well we’d be quick to say that it’s you and me and to some degree we’d be right but that’s not who he is addressing. To find out who that is, have to look at the preceding verse of which this is a continuation of sorts. Verse 12 says, “ And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body…”. It’s the ‘one body’ that he directs this to. So what he is saying is that as the whole church allows the word of Christ to dwell in it abundantly that wisdom will increase and as wisdom builds so will the ability to teach and admonish one another which is where the connective tissue is built. It’s an interesting word that he uses when he says we are to let the word of Christ ‘dwell’ in you. It has the picture in it of the way the presence of God dwelt in the Temple. It became the place where God and man met and where forgiveness and worship at its deepest levels occurred. Now the word of Christ dwells in a new temple… you. It is still where God and man meet, where worship is experienced and forgiveness and redemption are received. If the word of Christ is abundantly indwelling the church through the active work of the Holy Spirit then real wisdom is what is produced. That wisdom will transmit, it will radiate, it will proclaim and teach and correct within the context of relationship in the body. As it does each part that receives the teaching or imparts the teaching, receives the correction or imparts the correction, it equips them to function as a healthy part of the whole body stimulating the whole body to health.
That folks, is when something wonderful begins to occur, something called the intimacy of belonging. Look at how that intimacy of belonging expresses itself, “…in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.” When the word of Christ indwells you and you have this sense of belonging in a church then the expression of that is when you proclaim it to one another in the way you sing together. It is like making a painting where instead of one painter there is 60 or 70 all painting one painting in the space of four minutes. That’s what singing does in the church. The world has nothing like this, it does not have repeated opportunities to ‘paint’ ,only to watch others ‘paint’. What is it you paint as a body that sings together… you paint the focus of what the Psalms, Hymns and spiritual songs spur you towards. ‘Create in me a clean heart’, is a cry from the Psalms, written by people who yearned to know God more, they saw the same raw qualities of being human that we do and they thirsted for forgiveness and redemption as we have. The hymns point you upwards to ascribe praise to God, A Mighty Fortress, Power in the Blood, Holy, Holy, Holy. The spiritual songs wrestle with our humanity and call us to worship Christ, songs like Once Again, The River, Your Name. But the way these work is that they take the collective voices of the people, in unison and with vulnerability, moving together from the soul to a place of grace, a wonderful grace of Jesus that brings healing and hope. When the word of Christ richly dwells within us in all wisdom there will be the connecting of the body in teaching and admonition that moves it to a place of worship in song and heart. This is the first thing the Colossians must do if they are to walk upright, think clearly and feel the restoring presence of Christ. They must seek to be connected, to uphold the wonder of being one body in the unity of the church.
II. The Importance of the Head to Direct, Effect and Correct is Supreme. Have a look at verse 17, “And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” In what you speak or what actions you take let the head, let Jesus Christ, direct you. The analogy here would be to the way the brain directs our body. When the body doesn’t do what the brain is telling it to do we would say something has impaired the response. The brain can be overwhelmed with what scientists call ‘noise’, electrochemical responses from all over the body that are sent to the brain for direction. What Paul is saying is don’t let anything impair your response to what Christ directs us in. When you respond to His direction it is an action that reflects His will, it’s done in His name or character or authority. What I’m getting at is that for a Christian to recover, to walk spiritually, to get spiritual balance into their lives they need to remember that Christ is supreme, that nothing else ought to rule them, to reduce as best they can the other things that create the noise that seeks to overrule that. In other words their can only be one king if you are to take direction effectively. ‘Whatever you do in word or deed do all in the name of the Lord Jesus’, calls you to not only receive direction from Him but then also to be effective in how you follow through on that direction. Jesus is God, He is the Saviour of the world, the One who takes away the sin of the world by His death on the cross and by His resurrection from that death. What Paul is wanting the Colossian church to see is that if Christ alone is not this center then they will be misdirected, ineffective and they will err.
So what are the examples Paul holds out as what it means to do all in the name of the Lord Jesus? Interestingly he doesn’t start with money or possessions, he starts with relationships. “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.” Wives are to submit not because of their husbands need to control but because of Christ’s design, it’s what fits. The submit He has in mind is a support that is absolutely critical for the male if he is to be effective in loving and leading. “Husbands, love your wives and do not be bitter toward them.” This focus of not being bitter is more directed to what that bitterness will cause in the woman. When a husband is bitter for whatever reason, for whatever disappointment or unmet expectation the bitterness is like putting a tourniquet on the relationship. It begins to be starved, to lack what it needs in circulation. Instead love your wives, that’s what the name of Christ is calling you to do despite the noise that is getting in the way. “Children, obey your parents in all things, for this is well pleasing to the Lord.” Why do you think this would be well pleasing to the Lord? Again see the motivation for children to do this ought more to be for the right response to Christ than for the right response to their parents even though it’s unlikely that they might make that connection. I believe it’s because it fits, it’s a picture of authority which itself is under authority. It’s design and it pleases Christ when that design is seen and followed. Christ directs us, makes us effective in what He directs us to do and even then He corrects us that His design reflects the pattern that God the Father is the upper most a part of. If we will walk right, think right and be restored in Christ then two things must take place simultaneously: 1. being connected to the body that the church would unified ; 2. the centrality of Christ in all I say and do. This is what Paul gave to that staggering Colossian church. It’s what’s a body to do.