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Faith, Hope, & Love

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
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October 10, 2022 12:01 am

Faith, Hope, & Love

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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October 10, 2022 12:01 am

We must know the truth of the gospel if our lives are to be shaped and defined by the gospel. Today, R.C. Sproul considers the relationship between Christian doctrine and faithful Christian living.

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Today on Renewing Your Mind... Let's look at His standard apostolic greeting as we begin with the text of Colossians itself. But let's look at some of the critical elements of the greeting that He gives. The first thing He does, of course, is identify Himself by name, which is His custom.

But then immediately following the name, He identifies His office, and that is something we need to pay very close attention to. He says, first of all, that Paul is an apostle. And you'll notice in the text that he also includes a reference to his co-worker, who was with him obviously at the time of this writing, and sends the greeting not only from Paul but also from Timothy. And later on, he'll mention Epaphras, but even though Timothy and Epaphras were co-laborers with Paul in this missionary venture, they were not apostles, at least not apostles with a capital A. I need to say parenthetically that there are times when Paul will mention part of his entourage and refer to them as apostles in the generic sense. But we need to distinguish formally before we start our study of the body of the epistle the difference between the technical office of apostle and the generic form.

The word apostolos means one who has been sent or commissioned. An apostle in the ancient world would be something like an ambassador would be today who is authorized to speak in behalf of the one who sent him. And we remember that Christ from the disciples selected some to be apostles. And an apostle was one who was commissioned by Christ, sent by Christ with the word of Christ and with nothing less than the authority of Christ, so that the apostle was one where in Jesus said those who receive you receive me.

Those who do not receive you do not receive me. And I say this for this reason, that in this day and age there are many people, particularly within the feminist movement, who are so opposed to Paul's teaching that they want to drive a wedge between the authority of Christ and the authority of Paul, saying that, oh, Christ we obey, Christ we believe, it's Paul whom we can't endure. And at this point they are doing the very thing that Christ would not permit in the first century community, that is a rejection of those whom He certifies as His spokesman, that if you reject them you are rejecting Him. Now the first apostle in the New Testament is whom?

Christ Himself, who is the apostle who is sent from God. And remember Jesus said, I speak nothing on My own authority, but only that which the Father has revealed to Me that I declare to you. And Christ argues that He was sent by the Father, and He ran into debates with the Pharisees of His day who tried to say, we are the children of God, we're the descendants of Abraham, and so on, but we don't accept you. And they claimed to believe God but not Christ. And what Christ said to them was, if you don't believe Me, you don't believe the one who sent Me.

So that Christ Himself appealed to His apostolic office for the grounds of His authority. Later on in early church history, we see the writings of Irenaeus in his defense of the apostles. He used the same argument here when he said, if you reject the apostles, you reject Christ.

You can't have the one without the other. If you embrace Christ, you must embrace those whom He authorizes to be His spokesman, and if you reject those spokesmen, you are in effect rejecting Him. And Irenaeus went on to draw the logic to his final conclusion. You reject the apostles, then you reject the one who sent them, namely Christ. If you reject Christ, then you reject the one who sent Him, who is the Father. I think it's also important to remember that in the imagery of the New Testament, the foundation of the church is not Jesus. The image of the building has Jesus principally as the chief cornerstone. And the references to His being the foundation is that there is no other foundation that can be laid except that foundation which is laid in Christ Jesus. But the metaphor of the building refers to the apostles as the foundation, the foundation that is laid in Christ. Christ is the chief cornerstone. But again, when we talk in contemporary terms about the church, we believe that the foundation of the Christian church is the apostolic Word, which is codified in Scripture.

When we attack the authority of Scripture and seek to undermine the apostolic foundation of the church, the building, which is the church, cannot stand because the foundation upon which God built the building is the apostolic Word. And so it's very important that when Paul identifies himself, he says, Paul, an apostle, one who has been authorized and commissioned by Jesus Christ. Now, he says, Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ, by the will of God and Timothy, our brother, to the saints and faithful brethren in Christ who are in Colossae.

Now, again, part of the standard form of greeting and address. He calls the people of the church, the Colossian Christians, saints. And we always need to comment on that because Paul does the same thing to the Corinthians, to the saints who are in Corinth, and to the saints who are here, and to the saints who are there.

And when you read, for example, you read Paul's letter to the Corinthians, and it's just one huge problem after another in the Corinthian church that Paul has to address. These people are hardly behaving as saints, and the same thing could be true of the Galatians, and certainly those who were caught up in the Colossian heresy were not behaving as saints in terms of what we refer to as sainthood. But that is a traditional development of the meaning of the word saint that is reserved for people who have reached extraordinary levels of godliness and sanctification. The word hagios in the New Testament, which is translated by the word saint, simply means holy one. Now, when I say simply means holy one, what it means again here is not holy in the sense of having achieved or arrived at a high state of purity, but the primary meaning of holy means to be different, to be set apart, to be consecrated. And every person who had embraced Christ and entered into a relationship with Christ is now set apart by God. A member of His family, adopted into His family, has been marked by His identification with Jesus as a holy one. Again, not holy in the pure sense, but holy in the separated sense, the consecrated sense.

And every Christian in that regard, even though they may be at the very beginning of their Christian pilgrimage and may be only slightly sanctified, nevertheless is still a saint. I remember once having a meeting with Dr. Robert J. Lamont, who was the senior minister of the First Presbyterian Church of Pittsburgh. It was kind of like the pope of Presbyterians in that day. And as students in college and seminary, we looked to Dr. Lamont as the most intimidating, awe-inspiring ministerial authority that we could ever encounter. And I had an occasion to want to gain an audience with Dr. Lamont on a very important matter in my own life. And we had met, he knew me and so on, but he was willing to have this audience. And I can still remember sitting in the waiting room being more nervous than I am in the dentist's waiting room or something like that. And I was going to go in and see the great man.

And I walked in and he stood up from behind his desk and came around and extended his hand to me. And he looked at me and he said, well, Robert, what's on your partially sanctified mind today? Obviously, I haven't forgotten that description of my condition at that time, partially sanctified mind. And I think, well, that's true of all of us until we enter into glory that we're all in a state of partial sanctification. So we may be saints in the sense that having been set apart by virtue of our relationship to Jesus, but we have not yet achieved the status of sainthood that is established in the Roman Catholic Church. But these are, that is how the people among the Colossians are addressed, to the saints and faithful brethren in Christ who are in Colossae.

Just one simple word here. What every saint is called to be is faithful. In order to be a Christian, one has to have faith. But in that context of faith, wherein we trust Christ and Christ alone for our salvation, there is a call to each one of us to fidelity to Christ. That is, to be a Christian involves not only believing in Jesus, not having faith, but being faithful. That there is a loyalty that is incumbent upon every Christian. When we use the name Christian, when we take the name of Christ, we take upon ourselves a commitment to undivided loyalty. And frankly, if I can get practical for a second, I would say the greatest struggle that we have as Christians in an age of unbelief, an age of secularism that has pervaded the church itself, is to be loyal to Christ first, to be loyal to Him above all other loyalties. If I were ever to receive a letter from the pen of the Apostle Paul, I would like to have it start out something like this, Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God, to the saint and faithful R.C.

Sproul. I haven't gotten a letter like that, have you? But that's what I'd like to receive. And what an amazing thing that Paul writes to these people in the midst of their trouble and heretical tendencies and makes mention of their fidelity to Christ. To the saints and faithful brethren in Christ who are in Colossae, grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Now, some of you may not have the and the Lord Jesus Christ in your Bibles, but this was the customary greeting that the apostle gave and obviously was a customary greeting in the New Testament community, grace and peace.

And what you have here is kind of a play on words. In the Greek-speaking world, the standard greeting among the Greeks, Paul, was kare, which is like hail. It's like the Latin ave. And it is almost the exact same word that Paul uses here when he says karis, which is grace.

So that the word grace plays off of the Greek word for the common Greek word of greeting. And what happened in the apostolic community is they took the standard Greek greeting, changed it slightly to refer to the grace of God, and then incorporated the traditional Jewish greeting, shalom aleikum, aleikum shalom, which is what? Peace to you. And unto you, peace. So the Jews always greeted each other with that word peace. So now in the New Testament you have the Greek karis combined with the Hebrew peace, and the apostle says, grace to you and peace from God our Father.

Then in verse 3 he goes on to say, we give thanks to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you since we heard. Now I want you to pay attention to what it is he's heard about them. Since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus.

Second of all, we've heard of what? Your love for all the saints. Third, because of the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, comma, before we get to the comma. Have you noticed what three things Paul has heard about the Colossian Christians? What three virtues have been manifested in their midst? Now abide, faith, hope, and love.

These three and the greatest of these is love. And so here Paul makes mention of how delighted he is to have heard of their faith and to hear that they were a people who had tremendous love for each other and which love and faith were deeply established in their hope for the future consummation of the kingdom. So that the triad of Christian virtues that Paul elsewhere celebrates has marked the Christian community among the Colossians.

Because of the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, comma, of which you heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel. Here we see a common concern that Paul is writing to the Colossians even though the Colossian heresy is a different heresy, a heresy distinct from the heresy that plagued the Galatian believers. Nevertheless, in both circumstances, the concern for the Galatians and the concern for the Colossians focused on the truth of what? The truth of the gospel. Because with the Colossian heresy, beloved, nothing less than the truth of the gospel was at stake, as was the case among the Galatians. You heard it before in the word of the truth of the gospel which has come to you as it has also in all the world and is bringing forth fruit as it is also among you since the day you heard and knew the grace of God in truth as you learned it from Epaphras, our dear fellow servant, who is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf who declared, also declared to us your love in the Spirit. That marks the end of the second paragraph in verse 8 and where I'm going to stop this morning because in verse 9 and following, Paul immediately begins to address the problems that had arisen in the Colossian heresy. But again, what Paul is concerned about here is the truth of the gospel and the fruit that it brings. In Luther's day, one of the criticisms that was made against Martin Luther was this, Luther, your big concern is about doctrine.

Why don't you show more concern about the behavior of people? This was one of the criticisms of Erasmus, Erasmus who had written the praise of folly, a satirical critique of the immorality and corruption of the Roman clergy of his day. Luther said, Erasmus has attacked the pope in his belly. I've attacked him in his doctrine. And Luther said, if you check among us, among the so-called Lutherans and Protestants, you will find professing Christians with corrupt manners and immoral behavior, which is a terrible thing.

It's an abomination. Luther understood that you can have the doctrine right and never have right living. But he also understood you can never expect right living without first having the truth of God correctly understood. True fruit of the gospel comes from a true understanding of what the gospel is and what it requires. And so it's a false dichotomy to divorce behavior from doctrine. And never in the history of church, in my judgment, has doctrine been more under attack as being worthless than it is today. So people say doctrine divides, what we need are relationships. Never mind about doctrine because all doctrine does is create splits and schisms and all the rest.

It doesn't matter. If doctrine didn't matter, I don't think your New Testament would include more than three pages because 99.9% of the New Testament is written to give us truth about the gospel and that the apostolic epistles particularly, just as we've seen in our series of Romans, how much of the epistle of the Romans is doctrinal in nature before we ever get to the practical application. It's chapter after chapter after chapter where Paul is saying, understand the gospel. And if you do understand the gospel, then we get to the therefore, the application, the bearing, the fruit that comes from the truth of the gospel. And so this is at the heart of his concern in his epistle to the Colossians.

Let's pray. Again, our Father and our God, we thank you for the word that comes to us from the Apostle Paul whom we know and trust was authorized by Christ Himself and that the words that He gives to us are your words, and we can trust them. And we pray that we may listen to them with the same attentiveness that the members of the church of the Colossians would have heard them so that we not fall into the same errors that befell them. And we pray that the truth of the gospel may be made clear among us and that we as your people would bring forth fruits worthy of that gospel. We ask it in Jesus' name. Amen.

Amen. Paul's admonition to the Colossians echoes through the centuries and applies directly to us. We too must understand the gospel and then apply those truths that we find there. This classic message was taught by R.C.

Sproul nearly 20 years ago, and it's never aired before here on Renewing Your Mind. We're grateful that you've joined us on this Monday as we kick off a full week of special messages like this from our archives. What we heard today is part of a large library of messages reserved for Ligonier's ministry partners, and it's a good example of the expert discipleship resources that are made available to those who commit to support Ligonier's gospel outreach on a monthly basis. Their steady, dependable giving means that this teaching continues to expand and reach more people year after year. And as our way of saying thank you, we provide extra resources to our partners each month, including the messages you're hearing this week. So would you consider becoming a ministry partner and committing to a monthly gift of $25 or more? When you do, the message we heard today titled Faith, Hope, and Love will be available in your learning library online, along with the entire ministry partner library, and that includes exclusive monthly messages. You'll also receive Table Talk magazine every month, along with discounts to attend Ligonier conferences and events, exclusive resource offers, and a copy of the Reformation Study Bible. You can sign up today when you go to renewingyourmind.org slash partner or when you call us here at Ligonier.

Our number is 800-435-4343. As we witness all that's going on around us, the political and cultural turmoil, just the challenges of everyday life, finding peace is difficult. When you find peace slipping away from your soul, and you find turmoil racking your spirit, talk to the Prince of Peace and remind yourself of your inheritance, of who it is that owns you, who it is who has adopted you into His family. I hope you'll join us tomorrow as Dr. Sproul provides more encouragement from Paul's letter to the Colossians. That's Tuesday on Renewing Your Mind.
Whisper: medium.en / 2022-12-23 14:55:16 / 2022-12-23 15:03:10 / 8

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