Altin Zefi, church planter of Evangelical Church of Tirana and a dear friend, asked me if I would give the sermon at their church on Saturday. I was thankful for the opportunity to share the things God has been laying on my heart lately. So, hopefully in total dependance on the Spirit, I gave the sermon on the verse Colossians 3:17. Altin translated for me in Albanian so that all present could understand, and I am pretty sure he didn’t say too many bad things about me while translating (I hope so anyway 🙂 ). The rest of this post will be the sermon I gave Saturday evening. If you are interested, read on! If not, just move on to the next blog. I won’t hold it against you!
Col 3:17 – Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.
The focus of this sermon will only be on the first half of this verse. The second half of this verse is another study altogether. You’ll notice the notes provided (I gave the audience notes with blanks for them to fill in) follow the who, what, when, where, how and why of the verse with the context listed after the who. I think it is important when studying any section of scripture, we understand as much about the verse as possible before trying to draw out application. I have listed the who before the context, because I think knowing to whom the book is written will help us understand the scope of the verse.
From Colossians 1:1-2 we know the book of Colossians was written by the Apostle Paul to the saints and faithful brethren in Christ at Colossae. The Apostle Paul is a fantastic study if you ever get the chance but we don’t have time for that here. The word “saints” in Greek is “hagios” which means “holy ones.” The term “faithful brethren” is used in the New Testament only of believers. So we stand with the interpretation passed down by our church fathers that the book of Colossians was written to believers and believers would be wise to take heed of its words.
The book of Colossians is broken out as follows (this is taken from MacArthur’s Study Bible):
Personal Matters (Col 1:1-14)
Paul’s Greeting (Col 1:1-2)
Paul’s Thankfulness (Col 1:3-8)
Paul’s Prayer (Col 1:9-14)
Christ’s Diety (Col 1:15-23)
Paul’s Ministry (Col 1:24-2:7)
False Philosophy (Col 2:8-23)
Christian Conduct (Col 3:1-17)
Christian Households (Col 3:18-4:1)
Christian Speech (Col 4:2-6)
Christian Friends (Col 4:7-18)
The purpose of showing all of this to you is two fold: (1) Like many of Paul’s writings it follows an important pattern. After an introduction, Paul gives a series of indicatives (truths) about Christ and Christ’s work. This is then followed by a series of imperatives (commands) that stem from the truths. So in essense, because of the truths of Christ and Christ’s work, we, the believers, should act in such and such a way. (2) The passage we are looking at is the last verse of the “Christian Conduct” section. As you look at this section, the verse we are looking at is the crescendo or climax of this section. This verse is the summary of how a Christian man or woman is supposed to behave and it is, therefore, important we know what it is saying and how we are to do it.
The part of this verse that we are looking at today, “Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus…” begs the question, “What does it mean to do all in the name of the Lord Jesus?” There are at least six things I think we must understand about what that means.
(1) Believers are to do all through the name and office of Christ as Mediator. Christ is our Mediator. It is through Christ that we pray and have access to God. We should continually be giving thanks to God the Father through our Lord Jesus Christ. We have much to be thankful for. Psalm 40:5 shows us that the number of wonders God has done and the number of thoughts God has toward us are too numerable to count. We should be praising God, through Christ, in everything we do. And our works of service should be done through Christ, too. Do you realize that if we could do everything from this day forward for God, if we could somehow give all of our prayers, praise and service to God, and yet we did not do so through Christ as our Mediator, it is all worthless? It would be too tainted by sin for God to accept such an offering. It is only through our Lord Jesus Christ and His mediation that the works of my sinful hands could ever be worthy of such a holy and righteous God. Are your prayers, praises and service to God done through Christ and covered in His righteous blood or are they done by you, unoffered through the One who mediates on our behalf?
(2) Believers are to do all under the authority of Christ our King. Do you realize Christ has given us the authority to do or not to do? When the Scripture says “do not do”, the body of Christ should draw a line in the sand and say, “Regardless of the consequences or whatever the world will throw at me, I will not do it.” We have many examples of this in the Word. Did Daniel obey the decree of King Darius or did he believe that it did not matter what the kings of this world said, if he did not have the authority from the Lord our God to do it, he would not? The consequence of a sure death did not matter! And what about Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego? What did they tell Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel 3:16-18 but, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to give you an answer concerning this matter. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image which you have set up.” It didn’t matter if the furnace was turned up seven times hotter! The King of Kings and Lord of Lords had said “No!” and they wouldn’t bow.
When the act is not forbidden by the scripture but only the traditions of men, we will not submit ourselves to false religion or pretend holiness. Where Christ has not forbidden it, we will not allow ourselves to become Pharisees, but we will stand in our authority of freedom. It is too easy to fall into this temptation.
When the Scripture demands that we do something, we do it. If it is difficult, we do it with perseverance. If it is impossible, we wait on our Lord who moves mountains. When the Word of God tells us to do it, we do it! When the Lord God made the sun, he told it where to go and he told it not to move, and it does so without fail. Could you imagine if the church would do the same? How different would it look?
Understand how freeing it is to be working under the authority of the King. Think of a businessman who is sent far away to conduct the affairs of the company. If he goes and follows out his commands to the best of his ability, buying whatever he was told with all his effort, then if their is a resulting failing from his purchase, he does not have to worry about being to blame. The businessman did so under the authority of the company. It is the responsibility of the boss for the purchase. Think of the freedom for the worker who works diligently for his boss.
And for those who have special callings in the church like pastors, teachers, elders, etc., think of the security you have. For example, if a man was drowning outside in a pool, we would all do our best to go outside and save him. But if one of you was a lifeguard, you have a special calling. You have been trained and given the authority to go out and save him. So when the crowd rushes out to the pool, the lifeguard pushes ahead to the front of the pack. It doesn’t matter if the people running out get mad at you for pushing ahead. It doesn’t matter if they say, “Hey! Who do you think you are, pushing ahead? Do you think you are better than us?” Take heart in this leaders. It doesn’t matter what the people say because if you are doing so under the authority of the King, it is He who judges the hearts of men and it is He whom we serve. There is great freedom in operating within the authority of Christ our King!
(3) Believers are to do all under the sanction of Christ our Exemplar. In the US we have “WWJD,” which is for the phrase “What Would Jesus Do?” The Word of God has given us the example of Christ’s life for us to follow. In life, we don’t pursue that which is fashionable. Rom 12:1 has told us we are not to be conformed to this world! We don’t pursue that which is profitable or we may fall in the danger of becoming like Balaam in Numbers 22, consumed by the pursuit of gain. We don’t do that which is cultural. Eph 2:2 has told us who the prince of the power of the air is. We don’t even follow our leaders any further they follow Christ. It is Christ alone whom we follow and it will be no other.
(4) Believers are to do everything to the glory of Christ our Lord. Ah, this one is tough. It is so easy for the sin of pride to creep up in our lives isn’t it. When the Spanish Mariners found land, whether great or small, the immediately declared the land for Ferdinand and Isabella and the nation of Spain. The Mariners went throughout the land and made Ferdinand and Isabella’s names known. Imagine with me a church, that went throughout the land, declaring to all nations the great name of our Lord Jesus Christ, and declaring to them the need to give their hearts to Him, as if it was of first importance in their lives! We are failing. All for Jesus! No glory of our own!
(5) Believers are to do everything in the strength of Christ our Helper. Look at John 15:5 with me: “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.” Do you believe that or was Jesus wrong? We say we do, but do we? “Apart from me you can do nothing.” Too large a portion of the church has decided they only need Jesus for the big stuff. For the rest of it though, we don’t really need Jesus on this one, we got it. I am afraid that for too many pastors it is much the same. For those of you who are pastors and leaders, do not fall into this temptation on sermon #1000 that you have this down now, and no longer need to be completely carried by the strength of Christ. And don’t get me wrong, either, those of us who are in the pews. How many times have we come to church without having first spent time begging our Lord to give us ears to hear the sermon and for the Holy Spirit to change us. No, no, no. We don’t have the time for it and really we don’t have much need for it, for that matter. Especially the more experienced Christians, please do not fall into this trap. It is a rare church where the pastor and the congregation have prayed and begged God to give them the strength to give them the words to speak and ears to hear and to flat refuse to go to church unless Christ would be with them giving them the strength they need to be changed!
(6) Christ should be the element in which we live! Do you know it was said about the Greeks that you could never find them with a sad look on their face? Even if you found a beggar in the street who was just hit by somebody they would not allow themselves to look poorly. They made it who they are. That is how Christ should be for us. You have heard it said that when you squeeze a lemon, you get lemon juice. Should not it be the same with Christians? When we are squeezed by tribulations of this world, what comes out?
Consider with me also, the man John James Audobon. He was the first man to successfully chronicle and paint every bird in America, which he finished in the early 1800’s. He dedicated his entire life to that book. It wasn’t like transportation around America was easy. He braved the harsh cold and terrible heat. Making the book didn’t make him money, so he painted pictures of birds or did whatever manual labor he could to feed his family. It was all for the chase of getting his bird book done though. He braved many trials, fought hunger, worked whatever hours it took, so that he could finish his book. I hope you see the irony of such a story. How is it that a man could completely dedicate every aspect of his life to a book, but God’s people won’t do the same for the One True Great and Living God? Is Christ not the pearl of great price? If I showed you the book today, you would scarcely think a thing of it unless you were a very enthusiastic bird lover. And yet God’s people scarcely show a portion of the same interest in the very Word of God! The Word of God became flesh and dwelt among men and is now living inside of us. Live Him!
That’s enough of the “what” and we are running out of time. As for the when, the operative verb in the sentence “Whatever you do” in the Greek is “poieo.” It is in the present continuous tense, which you could probably already figure out. Whatever you do is inherently also whenever you do it. Which leads us to the where. The Greek transliteration of “Whatever you do” is “hos pas poieo.” “Pas” means “all” and the sentence would be “what all do.” “All” is pretty all-encompassing and although it takes little study to realize this but “Whatever you do” includes wherever you do it and whenever you do it.
The how of this verse takes us to another passage of Scripture in my opinion. The truest “how” comes to us from Romans 12:1-2. Although I have no time to properly explain this passage, if Altin will ever let me come back (which seems less and less likely the longer I preach), I will expound on these two verses. But for the time know this: we can only do this if the Spirit of God, through the Word of God, is transforming us through the renewing of our mind. If I had more time I would explain more of that but for the time being if you want to find out more about that, study those two verses with great effort. They are so important to our Christian lives.
Lastly, why are we to do, “Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus…” This is easy to answer, but is going to take us to a few different passages. Let’s look at the glory of Christ in Revelation 19:11-21.
And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war. His eyes are a flame of fire, and on His head are many diadems; and He has a name written on Him which no one knows except Himself. He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies which are in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, were following Him on white horses. From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations, and He will rule
them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty. And on His robe and on His thigh He has a name written, “KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.” Then I saw an angel standing in the sun, and he cried out with a loud voice, saying to all the birds which fly in midheaven, “Come, assemble for the great supper of God, so that you may eat the flesh of kings and the flesh of commanders and the flesh of mighty men and the flesh of
horses and of those who sit on them and the flesh of all men, both free men and slaves, and small and great.” And I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies assembled to make war against Him who sat on the horse and against His army. And the beast was seized, and with him the false prophet who performed the signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image; these two were
thrown alive into the lake of fire which burns with brimstone. And the rest were killed with the sword which came from the mouth of Him who sat on the horse, and all the birds were filled with their flesh.
Do you see the glory of our Savior? What was supposed to be the greatest fight of all time is the most anti-climatic. Jesus just says the word and they all die. Do you see the glory of Christ throughout this passage?
Let’s look at Christ’s power now. Turn back to Colossians in chapter one verses 16-17:
For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.
I have told this story before in the states (and for those of you reading this now and have heard it, feel free to skip it), but I heard a pastor on the radio talk about this article written by this secular scientist. Scientists at one point thought the atom was the smallest thing in the universe. Although this is all over my head (I am far from a moleculur scientist), the preacher read from the scientist’s report that when they discovered subatomic particles. It revolutionized the way science views atomic structure. The preacher read something along the lines of, “The atom is not supposed to be able to stay together the way it is structured. Everything in the universe should never have come together and even if it had, it should have immediately fell apart. If there is a God, He is relentlessly and tirelessly holding every atom of the entire universe together. Do you not understand what I am saying? If God were to let go, even for a second, everything in the universe would collapse or explode.”
Do you see the power of God? He holds everything in the unverse together at all times!
One more thing to see and we will be done: turn to Philippians 2:5-11 and we’ll see Christ’s love.
Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
So let’s put this all together. Christ, the glorious King of Kings and Lord of Lords of Revelations 19, the Almighty God who holds all things together in His hands, emptied himself and made himself a bondservant. The God who holds all things together took the form of a baby that could not clean or feed Himself. He made Himself obedient to sinful parents who daily sinned directly against Him. Until He died a despised death nailed to a cross. And He did so for you! He did it so that His wretched enemy, who hated the Light and loved the darkness, namely you, could be freed of sin and guilt and shame, and spend eternity with Him! What kind of love is this?!? The love of our great Savior could never possibly be compared to anything we could ever do in return! Why do we do all in the name of the Lord Jesus? Because there is no other worthy response to such a gracious Lord!
How sad it is that some of us were baptized into the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit and have never done a single other thing in His name since! Our great Savior made Himself a slave for our sake and now, in His name, we make ourselves slaves. That whatever we do in word or deed, we do it all in the name of our Lord Jesus. May we never cease to make that our rally cry! Amen.
Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bondservant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:5-11, NASB)