Great Verse of Scripture
in teaching the book of Colossians, some truths impacted me with a freshness
and vitality that I had not experienced before. Colossians 1:28 is the
verse in particular I am talking about (and there are others that stand
out). There is a lot said here. This verse reads: "Whom [Christ]
we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that
we may present every man perfect [complete] in Christ Jesus." Two
things stand out that especially impacted me (although we will consider
the whole verse). (1) One is the warning and teaching of "every man," and
the other is (2) who was doing this warning and teaching of "every man"
(who the "we" are that is spoken of here). A proper understanding of this
verse should arouse and prod us into considering if what the Lord had in
mind in the Great Commission is actually taking place today.
Background of Colossians
Perhaps a brief look at the background of Colossians
would be in order before we zero in on this verse. (Read the entire epistle).
Paul is experiencing his first imprisonment at Rome when he writes this
letter (4:3,18). He is being visited by Epaphras (1:7; 4:12), preacher
from the church at Colosse. Colosse was located inland from Ephesus in
Asia Minor (up in the mountains where the snow line begins). It seems that
Paul had never been here (1:4,9). Epaphras, who had brought the Colossians
to faith in Christ (1:4-7), tells Paul of their conversion and of potential
problems confronting these new Christians. Paul thanks God and prays for
them. The problems facing them took the form of false teaching embodied
in "philosophy" (2:8) and possibly Jewish tenets (2:16-23) (two different
doctrinal errors, or, perhaps a single hybrid combination of the two).
Being in particular the apostle to the Gentile world (1:23,25-29), Paul
felt compelled to write them and fortify them against possible apostasy
(2:1ff). Before briefly touching upon the doctrinal error, he lays the
positive foundation of the great and wonderful truths that they had in
Christ (2:2-10). Appreciating these truths should anchor their souls. Then,
after dealing with the error, he gives practical admonitions about living
the Christian life (3:1-4:6). Christian living actually has its roots in
the great doctrines of which he has spoken. Then he signs off with more
of a personal section as he winds down in the last chapter.
In the immediate context leading up to Colossians
1:28, the verse we are considering, Paul highlights the great and wonderful
truths about Christ, how this had been widely preached, and that he was
Godís minister in making this gospel known. That which had been kept under
wraps in the ages and generations past, was no longer a secret. "God would
make known [and had decidedly made known, 1:23] what is the riches of the
glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope
of glory: Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man
in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect [complete] in Christ
Jesus: Whereunto I also labour, striving according to his working,
which worketh in me mightily" (Colossians 1:27-29). The Colossians were
recipients and beneficiaries of this mystery and were now participants
in its disclosure.
The Warning and Teaching of Every Man
Now let us notice the first thing that sprang
out and captured my attention as I studied Colossians 1:28. In preaching
Christ, Paul was "warning every man, and teaching every
man." In other words, Paul was literally carrying out what Christ
had commanded in the Great Commission, "Go ye into all the world, and preach
the gospel to every creature" (Mark 16:15). All have sinned
and personally have come short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23), and appropriately
each personally is to be warned and taught in the preaching of the gospel.
Christianity is intensely personal, and the gospel message is to be personally
presented. Yes, there is the public proclamation of the gospel, but to
get the message across effectively, there must be that personal appeal;
person to person evangelism; one on one. It is Christís intention that
every person in the world be personally approached with the good news of
salvation. Paul was "warning" and "teaching" every person that he knew,
that he met, or that he ever would meet. This was the driving impetus of
his life. It is no wonder that Christianity spread like it did in the first
century. It was not kept behind four walls, but individuals were excitedly
telling individuals the good news of the resurrection, salvation and everlasting
life (Acts 8:4; Colossians 1:23; 1 Corinthians 15:2-4).
Those Warning and Teaching Every Man
Notice that Paul said, "Whom we preach, warning
every man, and teaching every man." Of whom was Paul speaking here when
he said "we" (the "we" doing the preaching, which also involved warning
and teaching every man)? (Finding the answer proved very interesting and
refreshingly impacted me). Is Paul speaking of Timothy who jointly sent
greetings in Colossians 1:1, Epaphras from Colosse who is named in 1:7,
and himself personally when he says "we" ("we preach)? That is a possibility.
Or is he simply using the editorial "we," a common practice in writing?
This is a possibility, but I think not. In the verses leading up to this
(1:23,25ff) he had used the singular pronoun "I," referring to himself.
But now in verse 28 he uses the plural "we" in the expression "whom we
preach." Then in verse 29 he jumps back to the singular pronoun "I," again
referring to himself. So, "we" must distinctly mean "we." If I were standing
before a church group and said, "We will now sing," would this be hard
for those who heard to know who the "we" were? Paul writes to the Colossian
Christians and says, "we preach, warning every manÖ" Is it hard to grasp
who the "we" could be? It would include the Colossians. Overall, the "we"
could well be inclusive of Timothy, Epaphras, himself, and the church at
Colosse (and every Christian who would read this).
Christís plan seems to be that every Christian
tell the gospel story to everyone with whom they come in contact, and in
so doing, "warning every man, and teaching every man." The Great Commission
as recorded in Matthew 28 is envisioned as a continuous, ongoing experience.
The original disciples were to go, teach, baptize and teach those who had
accepted the gospel to observe all things he had commanded. He had just
commanded the Great Commission, and thus this would include the new converts
being given the Great Commission all over again. Doesnít Revelation 22:17
read, "And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth
say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him
take the water of life freely"? The rank and file membership of the Jerusalem
church that were scattered abroad went everywhere preaching the word (Acts
8:4). Paul in describing the spiritual armor that every Christian is to
wear while engaged in spiritual combat includes having "your feet shod
with the preparation of the gospel of peace" (Ephesians 6:15). Every Christian
is to be "shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace." New Testament
Christianity knows nothing of a stilted and artificial clergy system with
its "right reverends." The entire church is a priesthood of believers,
with each individual being personally involved (1 Peter 2:5,9; Romans 15:14;
Colossians 3:16). Yes, there are leaders, but each and every Christian
does his part. Christianity in its inception was a grassroots movement.
Thought on Colossians 1:28
"Warning" and "teaching" are involved in every
Christian sharing the gospel message with "every man," according to our
Scripture. Contrary to modern so-called evangelism that appeals to the
flesh with gimmicks, entertainment and sports, there must be the personal
warning and teaching of every person. The Great Commission by saying, "He
that believeth and is baptized [immersed] shall be saved" (Mark 16:16)
explicitly implies that humanity is lost outside of Christ. People must
be made aware that they are sinners, that there is a Day of Judgment coming
and that they need a Saviorófirst the bad news, and then the good news.
Solid conversions require teaching, not just being enticed by an entertainment
program. In the early church the growth of the church was described in
terms like "the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples
multiplied" (Acts 6:7), "the word of God grew and multiplied" (Acts 12:24)
and, "So mightily grew the word of God and prevailed" (Acts 19:20), and
not just numbers alone. Evangelism was regarded in relation to the Word
And, according to Colossians 1:28, "wisdom"
is another important factor in talking to others about Christ (also check
out Colossians 4:5,6). It is necessary, to be an effective soul winner.
Pray for wisdom (James 1:5).
Rest of the Verse
The end result to which the preaching, involving
warning and teaching, is moving, is "that we may present every man perfect
[complete] in Christ Jesus" (1:28). The presentation may be when "every
man" (each person) becomes a Christian, and/or Paul may be looking forward
to eternity when we shall meet the Lord and present those we have won to
Him. This being made perfect [complete] takes place initially when a person
repents and is baptized [immersed] for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38;
Galatians 3:27). Christís righteousness is counted to be our righteousness
in forgiveness, "For he [God] hath made him to be sin for us, who knew
no sin: that we might be made the righteousness of God in him" (2 Corinthians
5:21; 1 Corinthians 1:30). We put on Christ. Then as a second possible
application of presenting "every man perfect [complete] in Christ Jesus,"
each person is being encouraged as he works toward that end in his sanctification,
becoming more Christ-like and complete in Christ, as he grows in the grace
and knowledge of the Lord (2 Corinthians 7:1; 2 Peter 3:18).
"We" Measuring Up?
So, in the light of what we have examined here,
we are made to ask if the modern church is measuring up to what is taught
in Colossians 1:28. Are "we" ("we," meaning each and every Christian) teaching
and warning "every man"? Are "we" even concerned about the lost? Personally,
not only was I pleasantly impacted by freshness of insight into this verse
of Scripture, I was very much disturbed. (I was disturbed by the world
situation and my inaction). With the exploding world population (now over
six billion), and with secularism and unchristian forces on the ascendancy,
Christianity is on the wane. We have to run just to stand still. Materialism,
denominationalism, unbelief and just plain unspiritual living have sapped
the vitals of the church. Many, wanting something to happen, have settled
for less than the spiritual, appealing to the flesh to attract numbers.
Many times we are made to wonder if they have forgotten that the business
of the church is spiritual (1 Peter 2:5).
Prodding Prayer Implored
To prod our outlook, I call your attention
to Matthew 9:36-38. "But when he [Christ] saw the multitudes, he was moved
with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad,
as sheep having no shepherd. Then saith he unto his disciples, The harvest
truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few; Pray ye therefore the Lord
of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest." His
disciples were to pray that laborers would be sent into the harvest. The
word from which "send" is translated is a strong word, in some places being
rendered "cast out" (as in the casting out of demons). In the language
of the New Testament, the word for "send" here is ekballo
(ek, out + ballo, throw). This highlights the
urgency of how the Lord looked upon the situation. They were to pray for
"laborers" to "get with it" and bring in the harvest.
When we pray this prayer in view of the world
situation, and then read Colossians 1:28, we will realize that every Christian
must be involved in the answer to this prayer today. How we need a living
and vital relationship with the Lord! How we need to be thankful for our
salvation! How we need to be soul-conscious! I challenge you. Just think,
if each and every Christian would continually have it upon his heart to
talk to each and everyone that he knows, to each and everyone that he meets
or ever will meet, we would experience New Testament evangelism again.
We need to pray that we will indeed be soul-conscious, be soul-winners,
seeing every person who crosses our path as someone who needs the gospel.
We want to talk to them and will talk to them about the Lord when we have
the chance. Letís face it. The world is lost in sin, and we have the only
message of hope and salvation.