And as I said, Paul's emotion is not simple personal love. It isn't just that he's concerned about some people he likes a lot. He has this agony over people he's never even met, because he loves the church, the church anywhere.
Friends betrayed him, colleagues slandered him, and he was even tortured. I'm talking about the Apostle Paul, the trials he experienced as he planted and pastored churches. Now, you might think that all of those trials would cause Paul's love for God's people to wane, but it only seemed to grow.
Why is that? What fueled Paul's love for the church, and what can fuel yours? John MacArthur takes you to Scripture and shows you the answer today on Grace to You as he continues his study, Complete in Christ.
It's a study that can help you recognize and rejoice in the blessings of salvation in Christ like never before. John will be looking at Colossians chapter 2 today, so turn there now if you're able, and here's the lesson. Now coming to the first seven verses of the second chapter, Paul is in the midst of his argument against the false teachers, and he's arguing, of course, for the deity of the Lord Jesus Christ and the sufficiency of Christ without any other needed additions. But here he is also discussing something of his own view of the ministry. And so we find from chapter 1 verse 24 through the beginning of chapter 2 a real inside look at how Paul viewed his own ministry. As we look at chapter 2 and see the opening statements in it, we're going to get an idea of the goals of Paul's ministry, not so much the attitude toward his own responsibility, but the result that he was after.
Now by way of introduction, let me say this. People might argue, and they have, over the primary requisite for an effective minister of Jesus Christ. They might debate about what if there was one quality that a minister would have, what would it be?
What would the one thing be that would make the shepherd the true shepherd of the sheep, the pastor the true pastor of the flock? Some people might say the most important ingredient would be intelligence so we can understand the Bible. Others might say knowledge. He should already know the Word of God. Some might say education. He should have a lot of input.
He should have a lot of experience, others might say. Some might say any combination of those foregoing. And others would say, no, the most important ingredient for the pastor or the leader or the minister or any Christian servant would be leadership ability. Or others might say boldness or holiness or purity or preaching power or sympathy or whatever or whatever or whatever and multiples of combinations of all of those. And I grant you that all of those have a part.
That's why I thought of all of them, because they all fit in somewhere. But behind it all, I think the most basic, the most effective, the most necessary ingredient in the life of any minister is the love of the church. The love of the church.
Because that becomes the catalyst that motivates him in every other dimension. The love of the church. In Ephesians chapter 5 and verse 25, it says, husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church and gave himself for it. It was Christ's love for the church that prompted him to give himself for it. Jesus loved the church and gave himself for it. He didn't love the institution particularly. He didn't love the organization particularly.
It wasn't the structure. He loved the people that are the church. And he was willing and able to die for them.
And I hasten to add that the apostle Paul was not far behind. His death was not substitutionary, Paul's. It was not efficacious. It was not atoning.
It was not divine. But Paul loved the church. And again, it wasn't the institution that he loved. It wasn't the denomination that he loved.
It wasn't the organization that he loved. It was the people that he loved and gave his life for them. There are so many scriptures that speak of this that I don't even want to begin to get into all of them. But the apostle Paul's love for the church becomes manifest again and again and again and again. I'm thinking of 2 Corinthians 3, 2 for one where he says, you are our epistle written in our hearts. You are inscribed on our hearts. We care about you. As we shall see later and I just mentioned at this time in 2 Corinthians chapter 6 verse 11, he says, oh, you Corinthians, our speech to you is candid.
Our heart is wide open. We love you. In 2 Corinthians chapter 12, that very, very melancholy statement in verse 15, I will very gladly spend and be spent for you though the more abundantly I love you, the less I be loved. I'll die for you, he says, even though the more I love you, the less you love me. Paul loved the church. He loved the church so much that in the pursuit of it and its maturity he gave his life.
He suffered pain all the way along the way until finally he was executed. We've seen again and again in the epistles, Philippians, Colossians, primarily the love of the apostle for his church. In Philippians 1, 7 he says, because I have you in my heart.
I have you in my heart. In Colossians chapter 1, we saw earlier in verse 24 that he literally rejoiced in suffering for the sake of the church of which he was made a minister. Paul loved the church. And you would have to say, I think that his entire life was a love affair with the church, the people, the believing community. And the reason he loved the church so much is because he loved the Lord so much. And if you love the Lord, you love whom the Lord loves.
It was never really Paul's church, it was Christ's church. And he loved Christ so much that he loved what Christ loved and he would give his life for what Christ gave his life for. And it was that motivation that made him purify his life, that made him preach with power, that made him act with sympathy, that made him apply his mind to the things of God, that made him bold. It was all of that that was a byproduct of a deep down love for the church. And I'll say to you this, Christian, you will never serve God on the behalf of God's people with any kind of motivation other than an outright and total love for the church.
It's necessary. He poured out his life loving the church. In 1 Corinthians chapter 4, and I just have you look at verse 11, he says this, under this present hour, we both hunger and thirst and are naked and are buffeted, literally punched in the mouth and have no place to live. And we labor working with our own hands, being reviled, we bless. Being persecuted, we endure it.
Being defamed, we entreat. We are made as the filth of the world and the garbage, the refuse of all things to this day. That's what we go through. That's what we endure. You say, why do you keep it up, verse 14? I write not these things to shame you, but as my what? Beloved sons, the reason I do it is because you're beloved to me.
That's why. You see, that's the difference between the professional and the passionate. That's the difference between the one who cranks it out and fulfills it on a professional level and the one for whom it is a heart passion. Now this is the thing that I believe more than anything else the man of God must have. This is the thing above anything else in my own life that I would pray that God would give to me. The kind of love for the church that would make me sacrifice my life for the sake of the church. And this is the thing that made Paul different. This is the thing that made him head and shoulders above any man that ever lived apart from Jesus Christ since the New Testament era. Never a man like this man because of the tremendous quality of his love for the church and added to that the marvelous gifts the Spirit of God gave him.
Now in his love for the church, as he comes to chapter 2, he's looking at the Colossian assembly and he's including with it the other two cities in that area, Hierapolis and Laodicea, all three of them being sister cities located in the Lycus Valley. And he sees that church and those other two sister churches being attacked by false doctrine, false teachers. There were a lot of different aspects to this false teaching. They were getting it from legalizers. They were getting it from philosophizers. They were getting it from ascetics.
They were getting all kinds of heresy from everywhere. And he has such a tremendous love for them that even though he has never met them and even though he did not found that church, when Epaphras who did found it and who was their pastor came to Rome as he was a prisoner for a period of three years and told him about it, it created in his heart such anguish that he sat down and wrote the letter to the Colossians. And he says in verse 1 of chapter 2, I would that you knew what great conflict I have for you and them at Laodicea.
And some manuscripts add and also them at Hierapolis. And for as many as have not seen my face in the flesh, I wish you knew, he says, how much I ache for you. And so he writes in the initial part of chapter 2, he pours out his love.
And you know what it winds up being? It winds up being the expression of the deepest desires that he had for the church. He pours out his heart.
Listen to what he says. I have this great conflict, verse 2, that their hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding to the acknowledgment of the mystery of God, namely Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. And this I say, lest any man should beguile you with enticing words, for though I am absent in the flesh, yet am I with you in the spirit, joying and beholding your order and the steadfastness of your faith in Christ.
As you have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him, having been rooted and being built up in him and being established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding with thanksgiving. Now what it comes down to, folks, in those simple verses, is five things that Paul desires for the church that come pouring out of his love for a people he's never even seen, for a people he's never even met, but that didn't matter. Because you see, now mark this, his love for the church was not predicated on the people in it, it was predicated on the Christ who died for it, you see? It was not a discriminating love. It was not a love that was isolated to the ones he liked in terms of personality or even the ones he knew, but he could love the church, the whole church, equally because he loved Christ. And so he pours out his love, and as it comes gushing out, you can pick out of the outpouring of his love five things that he desires for the church. And they come like a checklist for you and me. And I went through these five things and just checked my own life against them, because they're vitally important. Now let's back up to verse one and get a running start.
I would that you knew what great conflict I have for you. The word conflict picks up a word that he used in the previous verse, the word striving in verse 29. It is the word agon, the verb agonizo from which we get agonizing. It's a word that was especially related to athletic endeavor, where somebody was agonizing and straining and striving to win.
He says, you don't know the anguish and the pain that I endure for you. And the word agon maybe only has its ultimate understanding to an athlete. No one but an athlete who's been in the throes of the ultimate kind of competition where victory is everything will understand what it means to pursue a goal experiencing pain that is beyond belief to attain what it is you're after. And I've experienced it sometimes.
I can remember playing in a football game for 60 minutes with a separated shoulder, so much desiring to win that I wouldn't acknowledge it to anybody and just biting the bullet, as they say, and enduring the pain. It's that kind of thing that Paul says. I experience agony. And as I said, Paul's emotion is not simple personal love. It isn't just that he's concerned about some people he likes a lot. He has this agony over people he's never even met because he loves the church, the church anywhere. God help us to have that kind of thing instead of bickering, instead of being proud, instead of rejoicing in the failure of other believers. We ought to have the same agony in our own hearts and souls over those believers who do not fare as well as God would have them. I wish you could understand it, he says.
I wish you could understand what I feel for you. He longed that they would grow and mature as any of the congregations he himself had ministered to. And I think this idea of being able to love the church that you don't know really sets a pattern for all those who minister. It in no way diminished his passion for the people near him, but it was right that he loved them equally. And so out of this love comes the deepest desires for the church.
And let's look at them. Number one, the first thing. The first thing that he wants for the church is that it be strong in heart. Strong in heart. Verse 2, that their hearts might be strengthened.
Strengthened. That their hearts might be strengthened. Even though you have not seen my face in the flesh, I have a great agony for you. I don't want you to fall into false doctrine. I don't want you to get sucked into error. I want you to be strong in heart.
Now I want to talk about this for a minute. You see the word heart, that their hearts might be strengthened. Now when we talk about the heart, what do we mean?
We have to make that clear because otherwise we will not understand what he's saying. Because in the English language, the heart is the seat of what? Emotion. My heart cries for you, we say.
I love you with all my heart. The heart is the symbol of emotion. To the Hebrew, it was not the symbol of emotion.
Did you get that? In the English language, heart represents emotion. To the Hebrew, it did not. Now the Hebrews referred to two organs of the body.
Now I want to talk about these two. The two organs that they referred to many, many times in the scripture are the bowels and the heart. Now we'll take the bowels first.
Don't panic. There are many references in the Bible to the term bowels. They have been fairly well erased in the later translations. But the pure translation of the Hebrew indicates that that is the word. Now it is used in the Bible to speak of the womb, of the stomach, of the intestines, and of several other abdominal organs. So it becomes a general term for the gut, if you will. When a Hebrew says, my bowels such and such, he means I feel it in the gut.
That's what he's saying. Now watch this. The Hebrews did not know anything of speculative thinking. And they did not know anything of interpreting things in abstraction.
Everything to them was a concrete, experiential, physical reality. Turn with me and I'll show you. Turn with me to Psalm 22, 14. And here is a description of Jesus on the cross. And this is the prophetic picture of Him on the cross, but I want you to notice how the Psalmist expresses what Jesus feels. He's dying on the cross. I am poured out like water. All my bones are out of joint.
Perfect picture of crucifixion. Listen now. My heart is like wax. It is melted in the midst of my bowels. And here He means my whole abdominal area is in upheaval. I feel it in the gut is what He's saying.
I feel it in my stomach is in knots. A very experiential concept. Not abstract at all. He wouldn't say, a Hebrew would never say, I sense a certain anxiety.
You see, anxiety is an abstraction. You've got to say what you mean by that. But He doesn't say that. He doesn't speak in abstractions. He speaks in experiences.
I feel it in the stomach. I'll show you another one. This is very interesting. Song of Solomon chapter five.
And I know you're all racing there. Song of Solomon chapter five verse four. Now this is very interesting. Just to give you an idea of how the Hebrew expressed his feelings. Now you've got to have the picture.
The bride is waiting for the bridegroom. It is time to consummate the marriage. This is a great hour. Now listen. The Hebrew says in verse four, my beloved put his hand to the latch of the door and my bowels are moved for him.
Now you say, wait a minute. That's in the Bible? That's in the Bible. What does that mean, John? That means is that the bowels include that whole area including the arousal of sexual desire in the human body. All of that area, even feeling in the genital area was expressed by the Hebrews in that terminology. You see, they didn't say, and I began to sense great overwhelming passion.
That's an abstraction. The Hebrew defined it in its lowest level of experiential feeling. Now we'll hurry to Lamentations 2 because we do not want to malinger at that particular point. Lamentations chapter two verse 11. You know the Bible isn't nearly as uptight about some things that people are uptight about.
I want you to know that. Lamentations chapter two verse 11. Now Jeremiah, he was a patriot. I mean he was a real patriot, Jeremiah.
But he wasn't a blind patriot. He loved his country when his country loved God. In Lamentations 2, 11 he says, my country's falling apart, in essence. He's seeing the death of his country. That's why Lamentations is called Lamentations. It's the weeping of Jeremiah over the death of his country.
He says, my eyes do fail with tears. And here it comes. My bowels are troubled. I feel it in the gut again.
The pain in my stomach is, I'm in knots. Now you've experienced that. He is having psychosomatic responses in his body to anxiety in his mind, but the Hebrew expresses it in terms of the psychosomatic symptom, not in terms of the abstraction. So emotions, biblically, in the Old Testament particularly, are not experienced as abstractions, but at the lowest level of experience.
And so, now watch this. In the cases of the bowels being used in the scripture, they have reference to emotional responses. So that to the Hebrew mind, the heart is not the seat of emotion.
What is? The stomach, the bowels. Further, look at 1 John chapter three. And I'm going to pull this all together and show you something interesting in a minute.
This is interesting too, but something summarily interesting. 1 John 3.17. And I never understood this. I can remember when I was a little kid I'd hear my dad preaching. This was before they re-translated this and I'd always hear that. I didn't know what he was talking about. Some of you may be in that same boat, but it says in 1 John 3.17, whosoever hath this world's good and sees his brother have need and shuts up his bowels from him, how dwells the love of God in him? Boy, that is strange.
That is strange. What is he saying? He is simply expressing what in the Hebrew mind is an obvious thing. He is saying, look, when you see somebody have a need, that need ought to cause a gut feeling in you.
It ought to stir you up and tighten up your stomach and make you feel some real anxiety. Now notice, in every one of those passages that I showed you, the bowels are always responding. They respond to pain in the first one I told you about. They responded to sex in Song of Solomon. They responded to disaster in the case of Jeremiah.
And they respond to human need in the case of 1 John 3. So that in the Hebrew mind, the bowel is always that which responds. It is emotion. They felt it inside. You say, what did it respond to? In the Hebrew mind, it always responded to the second organ that they discussed, the heart.
The heart. This is Grace to You with John MacArthur. Thanks for being with us. Today John continued his compelling study from Colossians titled, Complete in Christ. Along with teaching each day on Grace to You, John also serves as Chancellor of the Master's University and Seminary. Well, John, anyone who follows your teaching knows that you have a particular affection for the Apostle Paul.
In fact, you've said that Paul is really the model for your ministry. So when did that connection with the Apostle Paul take root? Does that go back to your seminary days?
Well, it probably does go back to my seminary days in a sort of a germ form. But I don't think it was really until I got into the ministry at Grace Church and began to dig into the epistles. Obviously, preaching through the entire New Testament, you're dealing with the Apostle Paul all the time. You're dealing with him for the majority of the Book of Acts, starting in chapter 12 to the end of the Book of Acts, and then all the epistles that he wrote deal with him. And so it's the overwhelming presence of Paul in the New Testament documents that make him this massive figure. And because it's both his theology and his life, I mean, you're following the pattern of his teaching, but also his life. Like in Galatians, tremendous teaching on law and grace. But at the same time, you see him having a sort of a fight with Peter. So there's this personal reality to that. And that comes through a lot, even in his letters as well as in the Book of Acts.
So he's alive. You don't necessarily have that so much with John. You don't have it so much with Peter, because Peter and John sort of disappear early in the Book of Acts. And John's epistles aren't so much giving any personal information about John, and neither is Peter focusing on his own life. But what you get with Paul, this amazing man who is the right model. I mean, Paul said in writing to the Corinthians, he says, be followers of me as I am of Christ. So if you want somebody to follow who told you he was the guy, that's Paul.
Get started. And since we've been doing this study in Colossians, maybe a good place to start would be with the volume on Colossians and Philemon in the MacArthur New Testament commentary series. I've written 34 volumes on the whole New Testament. But the commentary on Colossians and Philemon, you would find an incredibly enriching experience reading that commentary.
It's very extensive, goes into detail, and it would be a good place to start. I mean, if you want to go for the whole thing, you can get all 34 volumes of the MacArthur New Testament commentary series, and if you get them all, you'll have a significant saving. But maybe just to start, buy one volume and see what you think, and Colossians and Philemon would be a great one.
That's right. Colossians is all about the majesty of Christ and all that he's accomplished for sinners like you and me. To fully absorb those amazing truths, pick up the MacArthur New Testament commentary on Colossians and Philemon when you contact us today. To place your order, call toll-free 800-55-GRACE or log on to gty.org. And let me mention again, if you purchase all 34 commentaries at once, you'll get a substantial discount on each volume. Or to order the Colossians and Philemon commentary or any other volume or the entire commentary series, call us at 800-55-GRACE or go to gty.org. That's our website, gty.org. And remember, while you're there, you will find thousands of free Bible study resources.
If there's a passage in the New Testament that has always confused you, or you simply want to know more about it, John has a sermon on it. Or you can spend some time reading our blog. You'll find series on compelling topics like Glorifying God in the Gray Areas of Life, The Doctrine of Sovereign Election, Moral Purity, and many others. Our website one more time, gty.org. Now for John MacArthur, I'm Phil Johnson encouraging you to watch Grace to You television this Sunday with your family. Check your local listings for Channel and Times. And then be here Monday when John looks at the key to overcoming sin and growing in grace. He'll continue his study complete in Christ with another half hour of unleashing God's truth, one verse at a time, on Grace to You.
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