Eschatology, Evangelism and the Glory of a Greeting
August 28, 2016
Part 1: A Nice Ending
So let’s see what we have here at the end of Paul’s letter to the Colossians. We have a few words on prayer. We have some advice on how to live toward outsiders. We have a heads-up about Tychicus and Onesimus. And finally, we have various personal greetings. That’s it. The end of Paul’s letter to the Colossians. A pretty mundane and ordinary ending.
But nestled within this mundane and ordinary ending are beautiful and glorious things - things that I hope will encourage you as you endure this fading world and look forward to the world that is to come.
Part 2: On Eschatology and Praying Well
Paul instructs the Colossians to pray well. He writes, “Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. At the same time, pray also for us….”
Now, this seems like another one of those standard, run-of-the-mill bible verses on prayer. Except there’s this one word that sticks out and catches the eye. I’m talking about the word “watchful.”
Brothers and sisters, when I think of watchfulness in prayer, I think of a soldier standing on the city walls. I think of him going through the deep dark night, keeping his eyes lifted up toward the horizon, ever vigilant, ever ready, and at certain times, ever waiting. When I think of watchfulness in prayer, I think about David’s words in Psalm 130, “I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope; my soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning.”
Watchfulness in prayer means this. It means that when we pray, we remember the big picture. It means that when we pray, we look forward to the final kingdom and the new heavens and new earth that is to come. It means that when we pray, we wait for the last day, the eschaton. It means that when we pray, we can’t wait to see the one who we pray to: our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Brothers and sisters, Jesus is coming back. I urge you to live your life in full accordance with this life-changing gospel truth. And I encourage you to pray accordingly as well.
So, Highland, let us be a church that prays well. Let us not just talk to God. Let us talk to God as travelers who are on the move. Let us not just ask for God’s help with earthly things. Let us ask God for help with heavenly things, as we fix our eyes on things that are above. Let us not pray as if we are in the first quarter. Let us pray as if we are in the final seconds of the fourth. Brothers and sisters, let us be watchful in our prayer.
Part 3: On Evangelism and Walking Well
Paul instructs the Colossians to pray well and walk well. He writes, “Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.”
Brothers and sisters, when I think of walking in wisdom toward outsiders and letting your speech be gracious, I think of our Lord Jesus. I think of how he invited Zacchaeus to come down from the tree. I think of how he treated the woman at the well. I think of how he looked at the rich young man with love. I think of how he wept for Jerusalem. I think of how he washed Judas’ feet. I think of how he spoke before Pilate.
And I think of Jesus’ wisdom and grace toward us. I think of how he qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints. How he delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to his kingdom. How he made us alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. I think of how we have died with Christ. How we have been raised with Christ. And how our lives are now hidden with Christ in God.
Walking well means this. It means that in this world, we are aware of people who are on the outside looking in and our hearts go out to them. It means that in this world, we are mindful of the time that we live in and the fact that our time is running out. It means that in this world, we are wise because salvation is a serious matter of life and death, and we are gracious because we humbly remember that we were once as good as dead. It means that in this world, we are ready to answer each person, because we actually do have something to say.
Brothers and sisters, Jesus is coming back. I urge you to live your life in full accordance with this life-changing gospel truth. And I encourage you to walk accordingly as well.
So, Highland, let us be a church that walks well. Let us not spend our time on earthly or individual matters. Let us make the best use of our time for the sake of those who do not yet have faith in the Lord. Let us not push outsiders away. Let us be warm and evangelistic. Let us not be afraid. Let us know how to answer each person and share the gospel of Jesus Christ simply and plainly.
Part 4: Encouragement As We Wait
Paul closes his letter to the Colossians with a brief note about Tychicus and Onesimus and with greetings. Two of Paul’s beloved and faithful brothers and friends are to travel to Colossae and share with the church about everything regarding Paul’s imprisonment in Rome. And five more of Paul’s friends give greetings to the church in Colossae.
That’s a lot of love for Colossae. What’s up with all the greetings?
Consider this. When Aristarchus and Mark greeted the Colossians, they were basically saying, “We miss you, and we’re with you.” When Justus and Epaphras greeted the Colossians, they were basically saying, “Hey, we’re thinking about you, and we’ll see you again someday.” When Luke greeted the Colossians, he was basically saying, “we are all waiting for the Lord with you, more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning.” And when Paul greeted the Colossians with his own handwriting, he was basically saying, “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.”
You see, behind every greeting in Colossians is a statement of faith, hope and love. And Mark, Luke and Paul are hardly alone. There was Abel, who offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain. There was Noah, who in reverent fear constructed an ark. There was Moses, who chose to be mistreated with the people of God rather than enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. There was Abraham, who went out, not knowing where he was going.
Time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets - who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. Women received back their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated - of whom the world was not worthy - wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.
The sad thing about all of these Old Testament saints is that they all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them… and greeted them… from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. They acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.
Brothers and sisters, that’s the gospel and the glory behind these mundane and ordinary greetings at the end of Colossians. May your life have a proper greeting as well. May you enjoy a gospel and a glory that is to come.
Part 5: Epilogue
Brothers and sisters, I hope that our time in Colossians was good for you. Once upon a time in a land far away, there was a church in the town of Colossae. But soon and very soon, there will come a time and a place in which there will be no more spiritual immaturity. Soon and very soon, there will be no more need for endurance or patience. Soon and very soon, there will be no more Lord’s Suppers. Soon and very soon, we will walk by sight and not faith. Soon and very soon, there will be no more sin to put to death or old things to take off. Soon and very soon, there will be no such thing as sanctification. Soon and very soon, there will be no more need for greetings that these in Colossians. Because Jesus Christ is returning soon.