Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother,
May I suggest that before reading this blog, which is the start of my new series, that you take some time out to read Paul’s letter to the church at Colossae. Better known to us as the book of Colossians.
Over the past year I have been engrossed in, moved by and taught through Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians. I am also working my way through Ephesians on a Sunday in church. I have to admit that my heart has been renewed by devoting time to what Paul had to say to these churches, and being honest I yearn for more, so I am (with God’s help) going to look at the letter to the Colossians hoping that we can again learn together from Paul. So let’s start at the beginning!
How do you view scripture? By it’s relevance to you maybe? Do you underline in your Bible certain scriptures and maybe pass over some scriptures because you believe they just simply don’t apply to you.
So for example, here in verse one Paul introduces himself as “an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God” he also does so in Ephesians 1:1, 2 Timothy 1:1, I Corinthians 1:1 and Galatians 1:1.
Are these the kind of statements you ‘wiz’ by in order to get to the real meat or maybe do you think, “ I am not an apostle” therefore this doesn’t apply to me? Is your response, what possible relevance does a statement like that have for me? Before I answer that, let’s consider what Paul had in mind for himself.
This actually for Paul was very, very foundational. This was an expression of his entire theological perspective. He became a Christian “by the will of God.” His authority as an apostle was “by the will of God.” The power of his ministry, whether in teaching or healing the sick, was “by the will of God.” It is only “by God’s will” (Romans 15:32 that Paul would visit Rome). And whatever more he would achieve whilst he lived was “by the will of God.” Everything is by “ the will of God”
Also Paul needed to make clear to the Colossians (and so to us) that they (and us) had (have) a responsibility to listen to him. This not some weirdo with some wacky ideas. The Colossians were being led astray by false teachers, and we are not short of a few of these in our day.
So, Paul speaks with divine authority (as he does today).
If it is, “by the will of God” that Paul spoke in this letter then it is by “the will of God” that we should listen, learn and embrace all he says in it.
In short Paul didn’t push himself forward neither did he ask for or apply for the job. He was stopped (quite literally) by the grace of God on the road to Damascus. He was evidently, up to that point, quite content with his status as a respected Pharisee (Philippians 3:4-6). His apostolic gift did not come though promotion or by voting or the result of a human idea, it was by divine initiative and encounter, “by the will of God.”
So what does this have to do with you and me? Everything!
Here is why. It wasn’t simply Paul’s apostolic authority in the first century but all things, in all our lives, at every moment, today, tomorrow and all the days that lie ahead that must be attributed to the “will of God.” Paul said this to the church in Ephesus when he described God as the one “who works all things according to the counsel of his will” (Ephesians 1:11).
I implied earlier that maybe we should evaluate what we underline in our Bibles, maybe on this occasion we should underline these words “all things” Paul was an apostle “by the will of God” whereas some of you are school teachers “by the will of God.” Others are at home “by the will of God” while many others are nurses, doctors, lawyers, dentists, factory workers, students, volunteers and so on, “by the will of God.” God’s will extends to your life no less so than to Paul’s. You may never be an apostle, but your life is no less an expression of God’s enablement and calling than Paul’s or Peter’s or John’s or anyone to whom we attribute greatness.
Have you ever stopped to think about the fact that who you are is “by the will of God,” as well as what you do, where you live, how much you own and whatever you accomplish? That does not include sinful and rebellious behaviour, please don’t use that as your excuse to sin “it was in the will of God”. No we are told clearly to flee, abstain, leave, resist all forms of sin those are opposed to “the will of God.”
I can take comfort in knowing that my life and anything I may have achieved by my own effort, or opportunity, or gift are still “by the will of God.”
There is a sense of security in knowing this. The security is in the realisation that your or my life cannot extend beyond God’s grace or his ability to work all things for my good. If all is, “by the will of God” then I can celebrate his presence in my life and his hand on all that I seek to do in obedience to his Word. God’s “will” surrounds me, presses in on me, influences me and leads me to a righteous path according to my obedience. He is continually and consistently directing my ways.
So in times of difficulty, trials, sickness, suffering, hardship, knowing that such experiences are not serendipitous or chance happenings but are orchestrated “by the will of God” sustains us in the hour of testing. They will also help to lift up our eyes to see where our help comes from.
This business about “ the will of God” means that Paul’s apostolic gift and your and my life have value. God values who we are and what we do because it is the fruit of his will working within us. There is no second-rate job or inferior ministry or meaningless endeavor when all is “by the will of God.”
If you sweep the streets, change a nappy, are retired, still at school, or dependant, it is stunning to consider that what your are is “by the will of God.” As I am punching out these words on a key pad surrounded by three commentaries of people that are fare more intellectual and theologically aware than I ever will be I am doing this “by the will of God,” the fact that you and I are are breathing at all is “by the will of God.”
So, don’t ever think that because you aren’t an apostle or a pastor or a prophet or overseas serving some great missionary organisation that you are any less a product of God’s will or somehow on the outside
looking in on what he or she is doing and count yourself as lesser.
Lay your hand on your heart and the other hand on your head and repeat with me “everything that I am and will be is because of the wonderful Grace filled will of God”
Signing off “by the will of God”………Ha!