The Importance of Knowing Christ
Tim Temple

Introduction

Our text today is Colossians, chapter 2, beginning with verse 1:

Colossians 2

1For I would that ye knew what great conflict I have for you, and for them at Laodicea, and for as many as have not seen my face in the flesh;
2That 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, and of the Father, and of Christ;
3In whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
4And this I say, lest any man should beguile you with enticing words.
5For though I be absent in the flesh, yet am I with you in the spirit, joying and beholding your order, and the stedfastness of your faith in Christ.
6As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him:
7Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving.
8Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.

These are the verses that we want to think about specifically today. As we have been looking at the book of Colossians for the past several weeks, we have seen that the subject of the book is Jesus Christ. More specifically, the basic point that Paul wants to get across to the Colossians and to us is that knowing Christ is the central aspect of spirituality. Many people wonder what it takes to be a godly individual. Many people wonder what it takes to be spiritually all that God wants us to be. Paul is telling us in the book of Colossians that it is knowing the Lord Jesus Christ, not just knowing who He is and what He has done, but coming to know Him better and better as a person, coming to know Him better and better just as we would get to know another human being by spending time with them, by finding out what they think and what they say and who they are, etc. This is Paul's point—that as we get to know the Lord Jesus Christ, we attain to spirituality.

In the last part of chapter 1, Paul established the basic secret of his spiritual life and what can be the basic secret of our spiritual life–the fact that we can have confidence no matter what kind of situations or circumstances we may face in life, because of “Christ in you, the hope of glory.”

We talked in our last lesson about the verses surrounding and leading up to that wonderful statement that Christ in us is our hope for glorifying God in our lives and our hope for facing life confidently because we know our Creator personally.

As we come to chapter 2, it is as though Paul backs off a little bit and takes a fuller look at all these things that are ours because of the presence of Christ in our lives. As he does that, he is going to approach it from three standpoints: first, from verses 1-8, The Desirability of the Knowledge of Christ ; in verses 9-15, The Description of the Knowledge of Christ ; in verses 16-23, The Delusion Concerning the Knowledge of Christ .

Today we are going to look at the first of these divisions in the verses that we have read together, and then we are going to see in the latter sections how this knowledge cannot only be understood by us, but exactly what that knowledge is and then the pitfalls to avoid as we come to know the Lord more fully.

The first section of this chapter, then, deals with the desirability of the knowledge of Christ, the importance of the knowledge of Christ, or the reasons for knowing Christ. The first thing that we notice in the text concerning the desirability of knowing Christ is an expression of concern in verses 1 and 2.

The Subjects of Paul's Concern

First, in verse 1, we have the statement of Paul's concern. Notice again Colossians, chapter 2, verse 1:

Colossians 2

1For I would that ye knew what great conflict I have for you, and for them at Laodicea, and for as many as have not seen my face in the flesh;

Notice in verse 1 the word conflict . Paul says, “I wish that you knew what great conflict I have for you.” The word conflict there is a translation of the Greek word agon , which really means a deep desire . Paul says, “I have a conflict. I have a deep desire for you Colossians. There is something that I feel very strongly concerning you, a deep desire that I have for you.”

The subjects of the concern are also stated here in verse 1, and we need to notice that. Notice he says:

Colossians 2

1For I would that ye knew what great conflict I have for you, [Colossians] and for them at Laodicea, and for as many as have not seen my face in the flesh;

If you think carefully, you will realize that the subject of his concern is the Colossians and the Laodiceans and us. Isn't that an interesting thing? “And for as many as have not seen my face in the flesh.” Of course, he was speaking primarily of the people in his own day that he had not met. In fact, the use of this phrase in this verse leads us to believe that probably Paul had not ever been to Colosse. He was writing to them as a part of the group that had not seen his face. But as we had pointed out earlier in our study of the book of Colossians, this means that the subject matter is applicable to us from a very practical standpoint in that we are among that number who have not seen his face. So we can legitimately say that his concern is for the Colossians, the Laodiceans and for us.

Let me digress from the material of the passage for a minute, and point out that here is one of the reasons for Paul's success in the ministry. Of course, the basic reason was that he was yielded to God–he was available to God–and God blessed him. But from a human standpoint, one of the reasons that Paul had the kind of acceptance and the kind of hearing that he had was that he always had a concern for those to whom he ministered. He was always thinking about and praying for those to whom he ministered. He had goals for them. He had objectives that he wanted to see them accomplish, and that is significant, I say, from the standpoint of instruction for us, because God has given each one of us a ministry.

This is something we have mentioned over and over again, and I am sure that you are aware of the fact that when we say that, it does not mean that God has called all of us to stand in the pulpit or to teach a Sunday School class. Surely you are aware of the fact that your ministry may be a behind-the-scenes ministry, but God has put you where you are for the purpose of reaching out to other people. Sometimes that is a matter of reaching out to them with the Gospel, and for the first time they may hear the Gospel, or the third time they may hear the Gospel from you, and you may be the person who has the privilege of being present there as they accept Jesus Christ as Savior. Or your ministry may be simply a matter of helping and being kind and preparing that person's heart for eventually hearing the Gospel and being able to look back on you as an example of a person who really knew Christ.

Whatever place you fit into the Body of Christ, God has given you a ministry. He has given me a ministry. He has given all of us a ministry of whatever sort. We should always be on the alert for opportunities to exercise that ministry. Also, on the basis of the example of the Apostle Paul, we should always be concerned about and praying for those to whom we minister. That's why Paul was so effective. He had a desire even for these people whom he had not met personally. He had a concern for them.

The Substance of Paul's Concern

Now, as we come to verse 2, we find the substance of this concern. Notice in verse 2:

Colossians 2

2That their hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the acknowledgement of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ;

This verse sounds somewhat complicated, but it is made a little clearer by the translation that's given in the New American Standard version of the New Testament, which says, “That their hearts may be encouraged, having been knit together in love, and [notice] attaining to all the wealth that comes from the full assurance of understanding.”

Paul's desire, the substance of his concern, was that we be comforted by realizing all the wealth that we have in Jesus Christ, that we might be comforted by recognizing all that we have in Christ.

The word comforted there in verse 2 is a word that really is understandable as it is, but I think there is a depth of meaning that comes from the Greek word that is even broader than that. The word comforted in verse 2 is a translation of the Greek word parakaleo , which means to encourage . In fact, if you are familiar with the Greek vocabulary, you may recognize the first part of that word as a form of the word parakletos . You know that the word parakletos means one called alongside to help . It is the word often used to describe the Holy Spirit, the word that Jesus used to describe the Holy Spirit when He was promising the disciples that the Holy Spirit was going to come to indwell them. It is a word that means to encourage by helping . So this is what Paul is saying: “If you can come to know the Lord Jesus Christ better and better, you're going to be encouraged no matter what the circumstances of your life may be. You can have encouragement. You can have comfort as you know the Lord Jesus Christ more and more fully, because you will be understanding all that you have in Him.”

Wisdom and Knowledge In Christ

Verse 3 explains why this knowledge is so encouraging. Notice there in verse 3:

Colossians 2

3In whom [speaking of the Lord Jesus Christ] are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

Think about the statement of verse 3 from the standpoint of the Colossians' position in life. The Colossians, you remember, were being told by false teachers that had come into their group that the secret of real fulfillment comes from knowing certain things. You remember that most Bible scholars believe the false teaching that they were being confronted with was the heresy of Gnosticism. We know from the things that Paul writes to the Colossians, even though the teaching of Gnosticism is not mentioned specifically, the kinds of things Paul warns them of are the kinds of things that would fit Gnosticism. And so we believe that that was the problem, that was the false teaching that they were being confronted with.

The term Gnosticism is based on the Greek word gnosis which means knowledge . A part of the false teaching of Gnosticism was that Jesus Christ was not divine, that He was simply one of the overflowings of God. We have discussed all of that in previous lessons, and we are not going to go back into that now; but another aspect of Gnosticism was that as you began to understand all of these things about the overflowings of God and all of these mysterious kinds of knowledge, you would find fulfillment and you would become spiritual king of the mountain. You would be steps ahead of everybody else spiritually.

So it is very significant that Paul writes to the people caught up in that kind of teaching–the Colossians, who probably had friends who were already gone off into it, and the ones who themselves were being tempted to go into it. Paul writes and says, “You don't need to know all this serious mumbo-jumbo. You don't need to delve into the mysteries of the universe [astrology was mixed into Gnosticism]. You don't have to be delving into all that. This is what you need to do. You need to know all that you can about the Lord Jesus Christ as God, the mystery of God.” You see, if we understand Gnosticism, we recognize that as Paul talks in the last part of chapter 1 about the “mystery of Christ in you, the hope of glory,” it was a little bit of a play on words. He was saying to the Colossians, “You don't need to know all about these mysteries, this ancient wisdom mysteries. The mystery you need to know about is the mystery that God Himself could indwell you. That is a wonderful mystery and that is what you need to concentrate on. As you concentrate on understanding the tremendous potential of having the God of the universe indwelling you, that is where real fulfillment comes from. That's where real comfort and encouragement comes from.” That is what Paul is saying to the Colossians and us.

The same thing is equally true today. All of us, I am sure, are personally acquainted with people who are searching everywhere for wisdom and knowledge, for fulfillment and satisfaction. They are trying all kinds of things. There is no need for me to even go into a list of suggestions of things. All of us know the kinds of things that people around us are investing themselves in, in a desperate search for satisfaction and fulfillment.

God says to us, just like he said to those Colossians. “There is no shortcut to spiritual maturity. There is no magic formula for fulfillment and satisfaction. The only means of satisfaction is in knowing Jesus Christ and understanding His Word and coming to know Him more and more fully.”

The Essence of Knowing Christ

We are going to talk, as we get further into the chapter about the real essence of knowing Christ. There is a very significant terminology there. Let me get ahead of myself just for a moment here briefly here and say that if Paul speaks of knowing Christ, as I have already mentioned a few minutes ago, it is not just a matter of knowing who He is, but knowing Him for Who He is. The example that comes to mind would be something like living next door to or living in the same neighborhood with a famous person, but not knowing what he's famous for.

I have a very good friend who has been involved in the ministry of a very well-known radio Bible teacher. My friend tells me that this particular radio Bible teacher, who is known world wide, because of the nature of his ministry, lives in a neighborhood in his city, and many of his neighbors have no idea that this man is heard around the world day after day. Now, that is sort of a sad thing, that you could live next door to someone and not even know the most significant thing about that person. That is kind of the idea, and we will talk more about it as we get farther into the chapter. That is kind of the idea of knowing Christ–to know Him and to know Him for Who He is, not to just be acquainted with Him, but to really know all there is to know about Him, to know Who He is and what He is and what He has done. This is Paul's desire.

Having expressed his desire, that they take advantage of their opportunity to know Christ, Paul now gives an explanation of the concept of the knowledge of Christ in verses 4-7. Verse 4 serves as sort of an introduction to the section. Notice:

Colossians 2

4And this I say, lest any man should beguile you with enticing words.

In other words, Paul is saying, “I am about to tell you how to avoid being misled. I am about to tell you how to avoid being beguiled and misled.” So this is going to be valuable information. It is easy to be misled spiritually, isn't it? We see people all around us who are being misled, misguided into false teaching.

Discipline In the Christian's Life

The first step in developing a proper knowledge of Christ is the foundation that is stated in verse 5. Notice there in verse 5:

Colossians 2

5For though I be absent in the flesh, yet am I with you in the spirit, joying and beholding your order, and the stedfastness of your faith in Christ.

There are two aspects of this foundation which Paul observed in the Colossians. Paul said, “I observed two things about you, as I hear from you and about you. First, I notice your order.” That is a reference to a disciplined Christian life. In fact, some of the translations of the New Testament use the word discipline there instead of the word order . “I notice your discipline in the Christian life.”

Secondly, he says, “I notice the steadfastness of your faith.” Those are two things that are foundational for coming to know the Lord Jesus Christ better. To grow to maturity, to take advantage of all the wealth that is in Christ Jesus, is going to take some discipline and some steadfastness, discipline and some organization. It's going to take some discipline to study the Word of God, to hear God speak. It's going to take some discipline to pray. That is to talk back to God. To have a conversation with God, you see, is a matter of hearing Him speak in the Word and speaking back to Him in prayer. In today's hurried pace (but it has been true throughout history), particularly in the day in which we live, with everything going at a mad rush, it is going to take some discipline to find the time, to make the time to have fellowship with the Lord. But that is what it is going to take. That is what Paul observed in the Colossians. That was foundational for their understanding of God, for the growth that He was hoping that they would have.

It takes steadfastness too. The sense of the word steadfastness , here, is keeping on faithfully . You cannot be steadfast if you have your devotions (for lack of a better terminology), if you spend time in the presence of the Lord one or two days a month. Perhaps you have heard the country and western song that I heard a few years ago. The fellow went on about how he had been faithful to his wife and treated her right all day long. That was one day in a row, and he was very pleased with himself that he had done it “one day in a row.” Well, to walk with the Lord one day in a row is not going to be all that it takes. Paul said to spend time with the Lord, to take some discipline and to take some steadfastness, keeping on with it day by day, going on with the Lord.

No Shortcut to Maturity

This is an important thing to keep in mind. I have mentioned it already, but let me re-emphasize that what this verse is saying is that there is no shortcut to maturity. We live in a day in which people are searching for instant spiritual maturity. They are searching for instant fellowship with the Lord and with other people. There is no such shortcut. God has designed us after Himself. His pattern, and the pattern of His Word, and the pattern of us as human beings as He has made us, is that it takes time to develop fellowship with Himself. It takes time to develop a relationship. Many people feel that if they could just read the right book or hear the right tape or go to the right seminar, they would be instantly, spiritually mature. It doesn't work that way. It takes order and it takes steadfastness. Paul says, “I rejoice as I see that in you.”

Built upon that foundation (the foundation is not all there is) is the formula found in verses 6 and 7. There are two parts to the formula noted in verse 6:

Colossians 2

6As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him:
7Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving.

Notice the formula in verse 6:

Colossians 2

6As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him:

How do we grow to maturity? Here is a statement of a formula that is so simple it is easy to overlook it, which is many times the case with the wisdom of God. Many times the wisdom of God is stated in such a simple, understated way that it is easy to overlook. But notice this formula. There are two parts to it.

First, “As ye have received Christ Jesus the Lord.” This calls for us to reflect on how we received Christ Jesus the Lord, because the second part of the formula is, “in the same way, walk ye in Him.” The term walk in the Scripture is a reference to our daily lives–day after day, one step at a time, one day at a time, walking in the Lord.

Recognize the Need

Let's review very quickly how it is that we receive Christ Jesus the Lord because Paul says in the same way you receive Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in Him. I am going to refer to a number of verses, but since in most cases it will be only one verse in a passage, we are not going to take the time to turn to them. You might want to make a note of the references. Most of these, I think, you will be familiar with already. Think with me about receiving Jesus Christ as Savior. In receiving Christ Jesus the Lord, the first thing that we need to do is to recognize a need for Him. The first thing that we did in coming to Christ was to recognize the need. Romans, chapter 3, verse 23, states the case very clearly.

Romans 3

23For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;

You will never be saved until you recognize the truth of that verse. The man who thinks that he has not sinned, or the man who thinks he has only sinned a little bit, will never recognize his need for salvation. You must first recognize the need. “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God, including me,” you must say.

Then not only that, but we must recognize our lack of ability to meet the need. I think one of the clearest verses and one of the most realistic is Isaiah, chapter 64, verse 6:

Isaiah 64

6But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags…

I like that because there are many, many people who can point to specific righteousnesses in their lives, and they can say, “How can you say I don't measure up to God? Look at this I have done and that I have done.” And they can point to righteousnesses in their lives. But here the Word of God says, “Yes, there are righteousnesses, but all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags.” The rags referred to there are rags that are full of dirt. They have been used up. They have absorbed all the dirt and muck and whatever that they can absorb, and therefore they are not good for anything.

The Spirit of God is not saying through Isaiah that there is anything wrong with righteousnesses. It is just that as you contribute to the United Fund, or whatever they advertise on television, implying that you can get into Heaven by contributing to the United Fund, those good works that some people may think will get them into Heaven serve their purposes. They meet the needs of the poor people or whatever you are giving to. Those are good works, but the works accomplish their own purposes, and they are not for the purpose of getting into Heaven. “All our righteousnesses are as filthy rags.”

Titus, chapter 3, verse 5 says:

Titus 3

5Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us…

Receive His Provision

So we recognize our need. Secondly, we have to recognize that we cannot do anything about the need; and thirdly, we receive His provision for the need. II Corinthians, chapter 5, verse 21 says:

II Corinthians 5

21For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.

John, chapter 1, verse 12, tells us how we go about receiving that wonderful truth. And that is:

John 1

12But as many as received him, to them gave he power [or the authority] to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:

What does it mean to receive Christ? It means to believe all that He says about Himself, that He bore the penalty for our sins, that He is our Savior, that He is our sacrifice. That is how we receive Christ Jesus the Lord. We recognize the need. We recognize that it is a need that we cannot meet ourselves, and we receive God's provision for the need. In a very broad outline that is how we receive Christ Jesus the Lord.

Remember, we are talking about the formula, and the formula says, “As you receive Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in Him.” So let's think about the formula as we go back through it.

The Christian Walk

As you receive Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him. It is an interesting thing to notice that walking with the Lord follows the same basic pattern. First, as believers in Jesus Christ, we must recognize a need. That need is stated perhaps most clearly in Romans, chapter 7, verse 18, but you might look at the whole chapter when you have time. Romans, chapter 7, verse 18, says:

Romans 7

18For I know that in me [that is, in my flesh] dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.

Doesn't that characterize your life many times? I know it does mine. I know what I ought to do, but sometimes I just cannot find it in myself to do what I know is right. That is a need that we have. There are many frustrated believers who see that need and are frustrated because they recognize they have not the ability to meet that need. So that is the second thing in walking with the Lord. In coming to an understanding of the wealth that we have in Christ Jesus, we must recognize our lack of ability to meet the need.

Galatians, chapter 5, verse 17, says:

Galatians 5

17For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.

We need to recognize that. There are many Christians who are knocking themselves out, almost literally, trying to live the Christian life in their own strength. They know what they ought to do, and they are trying with their teeth gritted to do it, and they cannot do it. The explanation of that is here. We still have the flesh. We still have the sin nature. “The flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh, so that you cannot do the things that you would do.” You cannot do the things that you want to do–not just the things that you know you ought to do, but the things that you really have a desire to do to please God, you cannot do. Maturity comes when a person begins to recognize that lack of ability.

Growth Through Obedience

The third part of the formula of receiving Christ is to receive God's provision and the wonderful truth is that God has made provision for this aspect of the Christian life also. Galatians, chapter 5, verse 16, gives us this information:

Galatians 5

16This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.

There's God's provision. “Walk at the direction of the Holy Spirit.” We take in the information concerning God. The Holy Spirit teaches us His Word. That is why it is vital to study the Word of God. That's why we devote our services here at Abilene Bible Church to the studying and the teaching of the Word of God. It's not important what I have to say about any particular issue or what my Dad had to say or what any other teacher has to say about some issues of life. What is important is what the Word of God has to say about it. As we take in the Word of God, as the Holy Spirit opens our eyes to the truth of the Word of God, we have God's information.

The Scripture tells us in other places that the Holy Spirit then prompts us step by step as to the proper decision to make. Our responsibility, then, is to respond to the leadership of the Holy Spirit and walk at the direction of the Holy Spirit. Notice that it doesn't say to live at the direction of the Holy Spirit; it says specifically “walk.” That is significant because walking is a matter of one step after another, and that is the same truth in our spiritual growth and development. Obey the Holy Spirit in this decision.

Then we take another step and we come to another situation and we need God's wisdom. The Holy Spirit reminds us of God's Word that we have studied that relates to that decision, and we obey the Holy Spirit in that, and we take another step and we obey the Holy Spirit, or maybe we don't. We obey the Holy Spirit step by step, one situation at a time. We walk at the direction of the Holy Spirit. And that, Paul is saying to the Colossians, is how we come to know all that we have in Jesus Christ. That is how we attain unto all the riches of the wealth that we have in Jesus Christ.

Rooted In the Word of God

Go back to Colossians, chapter 2, and with this we are going to be through. Verse 7 summarizes the formula. Notice in Colossians, chapter 2, verse 7:

Colossians 2

7Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving.

We walk at the direction of the Holy Spirit, recognizing that we cannot please God in our own steps, recognizing that even though we want to, now having been saved, we're not able to; but we simply walk at the direction of the Holy Spirit for every decision of life as it comes along. The result will be that we will be rooted and built up in Him. The roots will go deeper, and our growth will be tall, just as in a plant. As our roots go deeper into the Word of God, and as our responses become more firm, our Christian stature grows. We're rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith.

How do you become established in the faith? The same way that a tree becomes established in the earth. By putting the roots down and by sending the super structure up. You cannot be established in the faith without putting the roots down in the Word of God. That is the message that Paul is giving to the Colossians. That is what verse 7 tells us, and that prepares us for the kinds of tests that are described in verse 8. This is a very practical subject for us today. Notice verse 8:

Colossians 2

8Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.

If we don't put the roots down and get the super structure up, we are going to be deceived. There is a lot of deceit going around, a lot of false teaching based on philosophy and vain deceit. Now this is not saying the study of philosophy in itself is sinful. What it is saying is that if you listen to these ideas, if you listen to men's traditions, you are very likely to be deceived.

So what we need as a preventative for that is to be rooted and built up within Him, and that comes from walking in the same way that we receive: recognize our need, recognize our lack of ability to meet the need, recognize that God has provided for that need, and receive God's provision.

Conclusion

Are you frustrated over your lack of ability to live the Christian life as you feel that you should? God doesn't want you and me to live that way, and He has provided the formula right here in the book of Colossians for that purpose. “As ye have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in Him.” God help us to apply the formula.


Home Contact Us Bible Studies Books King James
Abilene Bible Church Living Bible Studies
Dr. Daiqing Yuan Tim Temple Dr. Joe Temple
Some icons on this site used courtesy FatCow Web Hosting

www.livingbiblestudies.org