For though I am absent in the flesh, yet I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good order and the steadfastness of your faith in Christ. (Colossians 2:5)
What do you want the church to be? That is a question that can bring many answers. There is no shortage of opinion, or of people willing to express it. The reality is that those opinions will vary so greatly, that it would be impossible to shape the local church to suit such diverse expectations. Sadly, much of this is rooted in self-interest and personal preference that leads to a tug of war in the membership. The pastor may feel like the rope being yanked! Might I make a radical suggestion? The church needs to be what Jesus wants it to be! The pastor hopefully is being led by Him as he seeks to communicate that word to the church. The people we trust are in tune with faith and obedience in following Christ’s agenda. What Paul says in Colossians 2 would be a wonderful starting point for the church God wants.
IT WOULD BE A CHURCH THAT EXPRESSES SACRIFICIAL LOVE (v.1-2a). Paul speaks of his conflict for the church—not with the church! That’s a big difference! He was a fighter, but he knew who the enemy was. He was fighting a spiritual battle for the sake of the church. Love will do all it can to protect those in their care. I know I would fight to the death to protect my loved ones from harm. If we love the church we are willing to pour out our lives to preserve her. Not only do we face the Devil as an enemy, but discouragement. So the Apostle goes on to exhort them to encourage each other. Then, there is the problem of division. God wants our hearts knit together in love. Without that, the fabric of our fellowship unravels.
IT WOULD BE A CHURCH THAT EXPERIENCES SPIRITUAL LEARNING (v.2b-4). The early church had a breadth of fellowship, but also a depth of doctrine. The church today is plagued by Biblical illiteracy. Spiritual learning is marked by embracing the truth (v.2b-3). The Greek language suggests becoming progressively more acquainted with God. Some people think being spoon fed for an hour on Sunday will give them all the Bible they need. Such brings an impoverished soul. We must get into the Word day by day so our lives will be enriched with truth. People will say, “I need practical teaching,” and by that they want therapeutic moralism—which is what pulpits and devotional books are churning out in evangelicalism today. Your soul will shrivel. There is nothing more relevant than the Word of God taught in depth and power. Paul says this is the way to understanding and wisdom. Spiritual learning also is marked by exposing the false (v.4). Think of it as promoting a spiritual immune system that guards the church from false teaching. Error acts like a deadly virus invading the body.
IT WOULD BE A CHURCH THAT EXHIBITS STEADFAST LOYALTY (v.5). The “good order” Paul calls for is a military term of soldiers standing shoulder to shoulder in battle formation. The church needs to stand together like the 300 Spartans who resisted a far larger force and though perishing turned the tide against the Persian invaders. This requires, “steadfastness.” We will not desert the church. We will dig in our heels. The church is a band of brothers. May we be loyal to the end!