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Doubt or uncertainty isn't always bad. It can often be productive, by driving us into deeper study and investigation. If we are absolutely convinced about everything, beyond the shadow of a doubt, we face the even bigger problem of arrogance and pride. Doubt humbles. It reminds us that we are finite and that our knowledge is always subject to improvement and increase. But doubt can also be crippling in a way that undermines our relationship with God. If we are constantl...Read More

We've come to the conclusion of Paul's intercessory prayer in Colossians 2:1-3. But it's not simply a conclusion: it's more of the climax, the pinnacle, the ultimate aim, if you will, of all that Paul has prayed. Read these verses one more time: "For I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you and for those at Laodicea and for all who have not seen me face to face, that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of fu...Read More

How would you describe your faith? What characteristics would you attribute to it? Would you use adjectives like "passionate," "orthodox," "vibrant," "creative," or something similar? Or would you employ a theological or denominational tag to identify the nature of your relationship with Jesus? Perhaps you would describe yourself as being of the "Reformed" faith or as having "traditional" faith or maybe even "Word of Faith". Some, in a more vulnerable and honest moment...Read More

I desperately need the encouragement of this passage. My guess is that a lot of you do too. I need it because of what it tells me about my past and my present. Earlier in Colossians we noted how Paul emphasized our future, or the hope we have in Christ of inheriting and experiencing eternal and unchanging glory (see Col. 1:5,21-23,27). But here in Colossians 2:6-7 it is the past and present that concerns us. In order to see this we need to take note of how this passage ...Read More

So far in our study of Colossians I've avoided saying anything in depth about the problem that led Paul to write this letter in the first place. There is good reason for that. I long ago lost count of the number of theories concerning the essence of the so-called "Colossian heresy" (it probably consisted of an odd mix of gnosticism, asceticism, and an inordinate emphasis on the importance of angels; some have contended there was also a Judaizing element in it). But we c...Read More

The apostle Paul was many things, but "politically correct" wasn't one of them! He rarely shied away from using graphic and often gruesome language if he thought it effective in making a point. If he thought he could help people he wasn't averse to offending them to do it. How else does one account for the language of Colossians 2:11? There Paul declares that in Christ "you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by...Read More

Why do I believe that only believers should be baptized in water? Why am I a "credo-baptist" rather than a "paedo-baptist" (the term "credo" comes from the Latin which means "I believe," hence baptism for believers only; the term "paedo" comes from the Greek word for infant). Before I answer that question, it may be helpful to briefly explain why some Christians baptize their infants. The primary reason comes from their understanding of the relationship between Old Test...Read More

There is a fascinating phrase in Colossians 2:12 that few commentators mention. It concerns the focus of our faith. Here again is v. 12 as it is translated in the ESV – "having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead." I find it interesting that Paul says our faith is in the "powerful working" of God and not simply in God or even in Jesus Christ. Of course, t...Read More

"And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross" (Col. 2:13-14). Someone once said that before we get people saved we have to get them lost! There's a lot of truth in that statement. The fact is, our society has virtually lost any sense of sin. Wh...Read More

Most who are reading this are in some form of financial debt. Blessings to those of you who are not! But the majority of us owe money, either on a car or a home or a student loan, or something of the sort. Although it can be burdensome, most of us can at least see a light at the end of the tunnel. We are energized by the hope that one day it will be paid in full and we will receive from our creditors a piece of paper releasing us from any further obligation. But to be b...Read More

I believe in the existence and activity of demonic spirits. I believe that spiritual warfare is all too real, that we must be discerning when it comes to "the schemes of the devil" (Eph. 6:11) and diligent in our efforts to "put on the whole armor of God" as we "stand firm" (Eph. 6:13) in the battle with principalities and powers. We must take seriously Paul's reminder that our primary battle is not against "flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authoriti...Read More

What an incredibly encouraging passage this is! "He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him" (Colossians 2:15). Let's unpack it, word by word. We should begin by determining who the "He" is of v. 15 that is responsible for this remarkable triumph? Is the subject of this "disarming" God the Father or our Lord Jesus Christ or perhaps, in some sense, both of them? In vv. 13-14 God the Father was clearly the subject of ...Read More

This paragraph is probably the most difficult one in the book of Colossians to interpret. It is also difficult to apply, given the fact that the false teaching that provoked Paul to write what he did doesn't find a perfect counterpart in our day and time. But there are enough parallels between what the Colossians faced in the first century and what we face today to make our study of this text relevant and meaningful. Perhaps the best way to unpack this passage is to pro...Read More

There is a sense in which divine grace will always be a threat to human nature. Why a threat, you ask? Because grace undermines our efforts to justify ourselves. Grace runs counter to human pride and that impulse we all feel to boast in our own accomplishments. Grace requires that we defer all praise to God. Grace undermines our best efforts at establishing a list of requirements and prohibitions that we can impose on ourselves and others as the condition on which we gai...Read More

Coaches today, at all levels of athletic competition, will often deliberately get themselves kicked out of a game as a way of motivating their team. They may well have to pay a fine and perhaps lose the respect of certain fans, but they regard it as worth the price if it will serve to light a fire in the hearts of otherwise lethargic and apathetic players. When Paul tells the Colossian Christians, "Let no one disqualify you" (v. 18a), he used a word that in ancient time...Read More

Perhaps the most insidious form of legalism is asceticism. Not all asceticism is bad. Many in the church could do with a little self-discipline and self-restraint. We live in an overly indulgent society in which at times the only sin seems to be abstinence. Paul referred to godly asceticism when he spoke of buffeting his body and making it his slave, preparatory to running a race so that he might win (1 Cor. 9:24-27). Sinful asceticism, on the other hand, is the sort th...Read More

Regardless of where I go or where I speak I can always count on at least one constant reality, one common thread that unites all Christians and all denominations and all churches: they all struggle with the temptation to sin and want to know how to defeat it and break free of its paralyzing grip. I've said many times and written of it in my books that the church, to a large degree, has failed in its well-meant efforts to equip Christians to wage war against the world, t...Read More

Among the many incredible statements in Psalm 16, consider David's declaration in v. 2 – "I say to the LORD, 'You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you.'" I fear that if I were honest with myself I'd be forced to identify a number of things in life I consider "good" that bear no relation to Christ Jesus. I'm grieved by that. It's another way of saying that my life isn't nearly as Christocentric (now that's a word worth memorizing!) as it should be. This is wh...Read More

Gnosticism is an insidious evil. Whata-cism? Gnosticism. Indeed, few things are as great a threat to godly Christian living than the modern manifestations of this ancient heresy. Some of you may not be familiar with the term, so allow me to briefly explain the sense in which I use it here. One of the more fundamental elements in Gnosticism is its disdain for the material, earthly realm in favor of a spiritual or other-worldly orientation. This is because matter is inher...Read More

Introductory Issues Related to Divine Healing...Read More

My life is "hidden with Christ in God" (Colossians 3:3)! More than that, there is a sense in which it isn't even my life. It's Christ's (Colossians 3:4). It's true of you, too, if you believe in the Lord Jesus. What a powerful declaration! Let me catch my breath and I'll try to make sense of these stunning statements. First, though, we mustn't overlook the fact that your life is "hidden" only insofar as you are "with Christ." In other words, if you don't have Christ you...Read More

I. Healing in the Pentateuch   A. Jehovah Rapha   God is consistently referred to in the OT as Jehovah Rapha, "the God who heals." The Hebrew word rapha and its derivatives occur 86x in the OT. It means to restore a wrong, sick, broken or deficient condition to its original and proper state.   healing a sick body (2 Kings 20:5) repairing a broken down altar (1 Kings 18:30) restoring a dry, locust-eaten land (2 Chron. 7:14) making wholesome otherwi...Read More

I opened the previous meditation by saying, with Paul, that my life that is now hidden with Christ isn't even mine. It's his (Colossians 3:4). More than that, this life of Christ within me, though now somewhat concealed, will someday be fully revealed. Listen to Paul once again: "When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory" (Col. 3:4). What does it mean to say that Christ is our life? And what are we to expect when he finally appear...Read More

Healing and Old Testament Prophets and in Isaiah 53 (Is there Healing in the Atonement?) ...Read More

The Puritan theologian John Owen (d. 1683) once wrote, “Be killing sin, or it will be killing you” (Works, VI:9)! Good advice, or melodramatic overreaction? Sadly, many professing Christians opt for the latter, at least in terms of how they live. How radically different is Paul’s attitude toward sin from that of the world and, tragically, a great many in the church. In this age of seeker-sensitivity one does not often hear the word “sin” sp...Read More

1. Isaiah 35   It is widely argued that the description in Isa. 35 is of conditions that will prevail in the Messianic age to come. Premillennialists place the fulfillment of this text in the 1,000 year reign of Christ upon the earth following his second coming. Amillennialists believe it will be fulfilled in the New Heaven and New Earth of Rev. 21-22.   What is important to note, however, is that Jesus appealed to this passage as proof that He was the Mess...Read More

If I were asked to identify the two most dominant features of our society today, I may well opt for (1) unbridled sexual self-indulgence and (2) greed. If there is any justification in that selection, Colossians 3:5 is uniquely relevant for our day. In this passage Paul gives us the first of two lists of five sins that we are to slay (v. 5a) and strip away (v. 8; it is here that we find the second list). The ESV renders the verse as follows: “Put to death therefor...Read More

I.          Healing in the Psalms   "The psalms remind us again of the intimate connection in the Israelite mind between sin and sickness on the one hand, and divine favor and healing on the other hand, reflecting a worldview in which physical restoration is taken as an indication of spiritual reconciliation" (Brown, 119).   Those psalms generally recognized as dealing with sickness and healing include 6, 30, 38,...Read More

Where does one draw the line between a legitimate longing and covetousness? It’s not a razor’s edge, that’s for sure. The line is often fuzzy. The boundary between the two is not always as objectively discernible as we might wish. The problem is that we don’t always understand our own motivation. Why do I long to possess that new car? What accounts for my desire to have more than what I currently own? Would more “stuff” serve a utilit...Read More

(Mark 5:21-43; Mt. 9:18-26)     The best way to learn about the healing ministry of Jesus is to examine several instances in which he actually heals someone. Rather than begin with an abstract theological model of divine healing, I want to begin with the concrete activity of healing that emerged in the routine of his daily life.   Mark 5:21-43 (Mt. 9:18-26)   vv. 21-23   This "synagogue official" was a man of great importance who had bee...Read More

Among the many distortions of biblical truth in our world today, few are more egregious than that of Joel B. Green and Mark D. Baker in their horribly mis-titled and misleading book, “Recovering the Scandal of the Cross: Atonement in New Testament & Contemporary Contexts” (IVP, 2000). The focus of the book is their repudiation of Christ’s death on the cross as a penal substitutionary sacrifice. My primary concern in this lesson, however, is less wit...Read More

1.         Acts 3:1-4:12   Several important points are to be noted:   First, this man was born paralyzed (3:2) and had remained in that condition for 40 years (4:22).   Second, his healing was not a gradual restoration but instantaneous and complete (3:7-8).   Third, the man himself was not expecting to be healed. It appears to catch him totally by surprise. He anticipated a monetary gift, not a superna...Read More

“But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth” (Col. 3:8). O.K., Paul, we agree with you about slander and obscene talk. Those are verbal actions over which we can exercise a measure of control. We can choose not to speak ill of someone or to use inappropriate language. Whether or not we do so is up to us. We can just keep our mouths shut! But how can you tell us to put away anger and wrath and malice? ...Read More

Healing in the New Testament Epistles - Part I...Read More

Following the other sins of the tongue, and somewhat singled out from them, is this brief but crucial command: “Do not lie to one another” (Col. 3:9a). So easily written. So easily recited. So easily ignored.   I don’t want to commit another sin of the tongue by giving myself to overstatement, but it’s hard to imagine a more destructive force in the body of Christ (or in marriages or in routine relationships) than lying. Virtually everythi...Read More

Healing in the New Testament Epistles - Part II...Read More

Put to death sexual immorality. Avoid covetousness. Stop lying. Do this. Don’t do that. Taboos. Prohibitions. Commandments. Rules. Enough already! At least, that’s how some feel when they read Colossians 3. The fact is, Paul does provide in quite some detail a list of proscribed activities. Later in the chapter he will insist on a display of compassion and kindness and humility and any number of other moral virtues to govern our relationships with one anothe...Read More

Have you ever found yourself asking the question, “What is God doing in me, why is he doing it, and how?” Sadly, we often respond to that question with simplistic and unbiblical answers that cater to personal preferences and conform to what we want the Christian life to be. There are, in fact, a number of different but compatible images, models, and metaphors in the New Testament that account for and explain the Christian life: it’s a war, it’s a...Read More

What is Divine Election and Why is it so Controversial?...Read More

"All that Matters is You, O Lord!" (Colossians 3:11)...Read More

What does it mean to be “God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved” (Col. 3:12a)? We’ll get to that, but right now it may be more important and instructive to take note of the context in which these terms are found. Don’t think for a moment that Paul wasn’t keenly aware of what had preceded in chapter three and what would immediately follow. He’s been talking, rather forcefully and graphically, about our ethical responsibility, our mo...Read More

The Biblical Terminology of Election...Read More

A.            Authorship Romans claims to have been written by the apostle Paul (1:1), a claim to which there has never been a serious challenge. Paul, however, did employ an amanuensis, named Tertius (Rom. 16:22), the ancient equivalent of a modern-day secretary, who actually put pen to parchment. There are three possible roles for an amanuensis: 1)           ...Read More