Handfuls on Purpose
by James Smith, 1943
THE POWER OF THE GLORIFIED CHRIST. Colossians 1:9-14
In this prayer the apostle shows his great faith in the all-sufficiency of his Lord, when he pleaded for the "brethren in Christ," that they might be blessed "according to his glorious power," or rather, His power in glory. Let us remember that we have the same Lord who is rich unto all that call upon Him.
I. What the Lord has Done for Us.
1. He has Redeemed us. "We have redemption through His Blood" (v. 14). He "gave Himself for us that He might redeem us" (Titus 2:14). Our redemption
price is incorruptible (1 Peter 1:18), and so possesses eternal value.
2. He has Forgiven us. "Even the forgiveness of sins" (v. 14). Yes, God, for Christ's sake, has done this (Ephesians 4:32), and, for His sake, He is ready and willing to do for them all that His forgiven ones really need.
3. He has Rescued us. "Delivered us from the power of darkness" (v. 13). Rescued from the grip of sin, from the fear of death, the terrors of darkness, and the dominion and delusions of the Devil.
4. He has Settled us. "Translated into the Kingdom of His dear Son" (v. 13). We who were strangers and foreigners have, by the grace of God, been taken and settled in a new kingdom, under a new King, and in entirely different conditions. "Passed from death into life."
II. What the Lord is Able to Do for Us. He is able—
1. To "Fill with the Knowledge of His Will" (v. 9). With regard to God's character and purposes, there is no place for mere speculation. His will for us is clearly revealed in His Word, and the Holy Spirit is ready to teach, giving "wisdom and spiritual understanding." If any man lack wisdom, let him ask of God who gives liberally.
2. To make us "Walk Worthy of the Lord" (v. 10). There are many references in the Word concerning the Christian's "walk," that is the outward and visible expression of their every-day life before men should be pleasing to God. "Walk worthy of Him who has called you" (1 Timothy 2:12). Walk worthy of your vocation (Ephesians 4:1). Walk in newness of life (Romans 6:4). Walk as the wise (Ephesians 5:15). Enoch had this testimony that he pleased God (Hebrews 11:5). To walk and not faint is a crowning blessing (Isaiah 40:31).
3. To make us "Fruitful in Every Good Work" (v. 10). What a victory this would mean to many a discouraged worker. This is possible, for it is God-honoring. "Herein is My Father glorified, that you bear much fruit" (John 15:8). A barren ministry is dishonoring to God, and is a betrayal of the worker's weakness. Where the Holy Spirit controls the "fruit of the Spirit" will be manifest (Galatians 5:22, 23). The Holy Spirit is fruitful in all His work. Abide in Christ, and let His Word abide in you, and your fruit will remain (John 15:16).
4. To "Strengthen with all Might." All the might of our glorified Lord awaits His needy, believing people. The strength referred to here is that they might be "patient and longsuffering with joy fullness" (v. 11). It needs strong faith to be patient and joyful in the midst of prolonged suffering. Many of God's saints in the past have "out of weakness been made strong" (Hebrews 11:34).
5. To make us Meet for the Inheritance of the Saints in Light (v. 12). Paul did not believe that the saints were buried in the darkness of the grave, or lost in the abyss of "eternal oblivion." He knew that they had entered into the fuller light of the Presence of His glory, and had found their inheritance in the fellowship of their Redeemer. He longs to be a partaker with them of the "glory that is to follow." This is not the morbid desire of a faint heart, but the longing of a truly loving heart. "Absent from the body, present with the Lord."
THE PRE-EMINENCE OF CHRIST.
Jesus Christ, as God's Beloved Son, and as the Redeemer of men, has been so honored by the Father that in all things, in all spheres, in all times, and in all Eternity He should have the Pre-eminence. He has the pre-eminence:
I. In Power "For by Him were all things created." All things in Heaven and on earth, visible and invisible (v. 16). It pleased God that "by" Him, "through" Him, "in" Him, and "for" Him, were all things brought into existence, and without Him was not anything made that was made (John 1:3). By Him also He made the universe (Hebrews 1:2). Think of it. This is the same Christ by whom, through whom, in whom, and for whom, God is now seeking to save sinners for the glory of His Name.
II. In Birth. "He is the Firstborn of every creation" (v. 15). He could say: "I am the First: the Beginning and the End" (Rev. 21:6). He is also the "Firstborn from among the dead" (v. 18). This has been called His "second birth." Christ the first fruits, afterwards they that are Christ's at His Coining (1 Corinthians 15:23). The firstborn usually becomes the heir. God has "appointed Him heir of all things" (Hebrews 1:2). And now by His marvelous grace, we who believe in Him are made "heirs together with Him."
III. In Likeness. "He is the image of the invisible God" (v. 15). Angels are holy, many of His people in every age have been Godly, but Christ alone in His essential character was the express image of His Person (Hebrews 1 3). He could say: "He who has seen Me has seen the Father" (John 14:9); also: "I and My Father are One." If the Gospels were read in the light of this glory from the "face of Jesus," surely they would have a deeper meaning, a more humbling, yet more inspiring influence on our hearts and lives. Here we see grace pre-eminent
IV. In Authority. "By Him all things are held together" (v. 17). The law of gravitation as an ordinance of God has a mighty balancing effect in holding material things together. But this law has no influence over heavenly things. The things invisible, the theories, dominions, principalities, and spiritual powers (v. 16). Christ upholds all things by the Word of His power (Hebrews 1:3). His wisdom and His will are in constant activity over all the works of His hands. His will is done in Heaven, and the time is coming when it will be done on earth. The enmity of man's free will is meanwhile a perennial obstacle. But all power has been given Him in Heaven and on earth, and He will yet subdue all unto Himself. The Lord shall reign.
V. In the Church. "He is the Head of the Body, the Church" (v. 18). Here His pre-eminence is generally acknowledged, but does He get His true place as such in the practical life? It is the Head of the body, and not the hands, that does the thinking and the planning. In His Word we have His mind, and will concerning us clearly revealed. The secret of the Church's authority and power lies in obedience to His Word, both in doctrine and in polity. What is displeasing to the Head must be dishonoring to the body. The head takes all the responsibilities of the body, therefore we should cast all our care on Him, both for men and resources. He supplies all the needs of His Body.
VI. In Riches. He is pre-eminently rich, "for it has pleased the Father that in Him should all fullness dwell" (v. 19). This is a Divine act of grace, that God should be pleased that in Jesus Christ the world's Redeemer, all fullness should dwell, that all who are in Him by faith may be in touch with all the fullness of God. "He who was rich, for our sakes became poor: that we through His grace may become rich." "And of His fullness have all we received" (John 1:16). All the blessing we have received has come out of His fullness. Our cup may be full, but the oceans of His fullness still remains (Ephesians 1:3). His Name shall be called "Wonderful" (Isaiah 9:6).
COMPLETE IN CHRIST. Colossians 2:9-15
I. Where this Completeness is Found. "You are complete in Him." In Him in whom "dwells all the fullness of the Godhead in human form" (v. 9). This fullness is abiding in Him forever, that all His loved and loving ones may be filled up and eternally perfected. He is made of God unto us wisdom and righteousness, and sanctification, and deliverance (1 Corinthians 1:30). This is part of His fullness, which we have "all received with grace upon grace" (John 1:16). In Christ we dwell in God's storehouse of infinite grace, and with Him who is "the Head of all principality and power." In Him there is fullness to satisfy and power to protect, to guide, and to keep, to strengthen, to deliver, and to make the life abundantly fruitful. "You are complete in Him."
II. How this Completeness is Attained. Simply by being in Christ. But what is implied by this experience? The statements which follow in verses 11-15 explain.
1. By Being Forgiven. "Having forgiven you all trespasses" (v. 13). Forgiveness is our first necessity, and God's forgiveness is complete. All trespasses. It is against God that we have sinned, and the reconciliation must begin by His act of grace in not imputing their trespasses unto them (2 Corinthians 5:19)
2. By Having the Bond that was Written Against us Cancelled. Blotting out the handwriting that was against us, and contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to His Cross. The law was a bond against us, saying: "Do this and live, disobey this and die." But this bond as the condition of life, Christ has for us blotted it out by nailing it to His Cross—making it a part of His Cross (v. 14). Now you are not under the law, but in the kingdom of His grace. For He has abolished in His flesh "even the law of commandments," and by His Cross He has slain the enmity (Ephesians 2:15, 16).
3. By Being Buried with Him. "Buried with Him in baptism" (v. 12). This is no mere symbol or figure of speech, but a deep and real spiritual experience. Through faith we are baptized into the death of Jesus Christ (Romans 6:3). Now the "old man" is to be thrown off and left in the grave (1 Peter 3:21). Paul refers to this when he says, "I am crucified with Christ." The Cross should be to us the death of the self life.
4. By Being Raised with Him. "You are risen with Him through God-given faith" (v. 12). Having been identified with His death, we have been quickened together with Him (v. 13) into the new resurrection life. Having been planted together in the likeness of His death, we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection (Romans 6:5). The Christian life, then, is a life hid with Christ in God; a life whose birth is "from above;" a life that is the life eternal, for He has begotten us again unto a living hope, by the resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:3). Then what does the Lord now require of us? Surely it is this: "Yield yourselves unto God as those that are alive from the dead" (Romans 6:13). The life we now live in the flesh has been given us through Jesus, then surrender it to Him in thankful service.
5. By Having our Enemies Conquered by Him. "He has spoiled principalities and powers, triumphing over them" (v. 15). All power is given unto Him, and He is able, and has made His faithful followers more than conquerors through His own unfailing and inseparable love (Romans 8:37-39). "All the hostile princes and rulers He shook off from Himself, and boldly displayed them as His conquests, when by the Cross He triumphed over them." In Christ "Greater is He who is for us, than all that can be against us." "You are complete in Him." "Thanks be to God who gives us the victory, through our Lord Jesus Christ."
THE HIDDEN LIFE. Colossians 3:1-4
The essence of Christianity is not a "creed," not a "system of doctrine," not a particular mode of worship, but a life, and that life Christlike. It is—
I. A Life from the Dead. "You were dead" (v. 3) "Dead in trespasses and sin." Dead to God, in that there was no faith in Him, no response to His love, no felt need of His mercy; as insensible to spiritual and heavenly things as the dead in their graves are to the things of earth.
II. A Resurrected Life. "Risen with Christ" (v. 1). The carnal man, as a corn of wheat, has fallen into the ground and died, and the new life, quickened by the Spirit of God, has appeared (John 12:24). "For that which you sow is not quickened except it die." The dead leaves of the old life fall off in the springtime of the new. If we have been buried with Christ in His death, we are risen with Him in newness of life. This life in Christ is eternal, for He who is our life dies no more. We have passed from death into "the life everlasting."
III. A Life Supported by Heavenly Things. "Seek those things which are above. Set your affections on things above, not on things on the earth" (vv. 1, 2). This life which is from above can only be fed and nourished with the things that belong to the heavenlies. Material things can never satisfy a quickened spirit. They that are after the Spirit must mind the things of the Spirit (Romans 8:5). The spiritual life is often choked with the riches of this world. Seek you first the things of God, and all other things will be added (Matthew 6:33); and by so doing you shall lay up for yourselves treasures in Heaven. "If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him (1 John 2:15).
IV. A Substitutional Life. "Christ, who is our life" (v. 4). If His death was a substitute for us, so also is His resurrection and life. "I live, yet not I, but Christ lives in me." "We are in Him that is true, even in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life (1 John 5:20). Truly we "live, and move, and have our being in God." He was judged for us on the Cross. Now we are justified by His life (Romans 5:10). "Because I live, says the Lord, you shall live also" (John 14:19).
V. A Secure Life. "Your life is hid with Christ in God" (v. 3). In grace God was in Christ reconciling sinners unto Himself. In glory, Christ is in God representing His ransomed people. By faith, "You are in Christ as the fruit of His victory, the special treasure which He found in the field of the world (Matthew 13:44). "Hid with Christ in God," you are as safe as Christ Himself. As Noah was shut up in the ark by God, so has His Church as His Body been shut up and sheltered in the ark of His anointed. "I give unto them eternal life, they shall never perish, neither shall any power be able to pluck them out of My hand" (John 10:28).
VI A Life Yet to be Manifested. "When Christ who is our life shall appear, then shall you also appear with Him in glory" (v. 4). "It does not yet appear what we shall be." "Here we suffer grief and pain," because of the world's sins and sorrows, and because of our own weakness and shortcomings. But when He shall appear we shall be like Him, seeing Him as He is (1 John 3:2). For "He shall change our mortal body, and fashion it like unto His glorious body" (Philippians 3:21). "What we now suffer, count as nothing in comparison with the glory which is soon to be manifested in us" (Romans 8:18). Christ came and died that we might have life. He rose and ascended that we might have it in abundance (John 10:10). "Fear not, little flock."
CHRISTIAN CHARACTER. Colossians 3:8-24
The believers at Colosse are here reminded that as Christians there are some things they must put off as inconsistent; some things they must put on as absolutely needful; some things to do as a proof of their faith; and how they should be done as an evidence of true-hearted devotion.
I. Some Things to Put Off. Put off—
1. "The Old Man with his deeds" (v. 9). The old carnal mind which is corrupt, and which lives under the spell of deceitful lusts (Ephesians 4:22). Throw him off.
2. "Anger, Unholy Passion, ill-will, evil-speaking, personal abuse: put off all these" (v. 8). Why should Christians need to be told to put off things that are more like the Devil than their Redeemer? These are sins that do beset some (Hebrews 12).
II. Some Things to Put On. Put on—
1. "The New Man, which is after the image of God" (v. 10). To put on the new man is to give the Lord Jesus Christ—the Second Man, the Lord from Heaven—His true place in the life. Act as if He is mantling you with His presence.
2. "Tender-heartedness, kindness, lowliness of mind, longsuffering" (v. 12). Note that these are the features of the Divine image, as seen in the face of Jesus (This is the fruit of the Spirit). "And above all, we are to put on love" (v. 14). "God is love, and he who dwells in love dwells in God and God in him" (1 John 4:12-16). May the love of Christ constrain us to be more like Him.
III. Some Things to Let In.
1. The Peace of God. "Let the peace of God rule in your hearts" (v. 15). What a blissful kingdom our hearts would be if the peace of God ruled therein (Romans 14:17). "You will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on You" (Isaiah 26:3). We can let this peace rule in our hearts by a trustful submission to the will of Him who is able to say, "Peace, be still."
2. The Word of God. "Let the Word of God dwell in you richly" (v. 16). "That Word, which is quick and powerful, and a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart" (Hebrews 4:12). "Search the Scriptures, for they are they which testify of Me." It is Himself that our souls need if our character is to be enriched and our testimony made fruitful.
IV. Some Things to Let Out. What we have by faith taken in, should in service be let out. "Freely you have received, freely give." We are to—
1. Serve Loyally. "Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the Name of the Lord Jesus" (v. 17). How different life would be if our ordinary duties were done for "Christ's sake. "In His Name" would take the sting of shame but of many a lowly deed. "One is your Master, even Christ."
2. Serve Heartily. "Whatever you do, do it heartily as unto the Lord" (v. 23), "not with eye-service, as men-pleasers." Heartless service must be a solemn mockery in His eyes. Formal lip-service is rank hypocrisy.
3. Serve Thankfully. "Do all in the Name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father by Him" (v. 17). We should give thanks always for all things (Ephesians 5:20). The Lord has done great things for us, and is still doing them on our behalf, therefore "His praise should be continually in our mouths" (Psalm 34:1). In giving and in taking away, His Name is still to be blessed (Job 1:21).
V. Some Things for which we Look Up. "You serve the Lord Christ, and from the Lord you shall receive the reward of the inheritance" (v. 24). Every good thing done is to be rewarded (Ephesians 6:8). The inheritance as a harvest will be according to our works. He shall render to every man according to his deeds (Romans 2:6). But to see Him, and be made like Him, and to dwell with Him, this is the reward of grace alone.