Everyone for Everyone (1:28)
What is your responsibility to other believers with whom God brings you into contact and relationship? Have you yielded to the temptation to give them over to someone else to warn and admonish and instruct concerning Jesus? Do you read about the life and ministry of the apostle Paul and say to yourself: "Well, that's Paul. It certainly isn't me. I'm no apostle, that's for sure. I can't possibly read how he related to others and think that I should do the same."
If that's how you think, look more closely in Colossians 1:28 at Paul's description of his ministry among the saints - "Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ."
Allow me a brief aside. If one were to look closely at many churches today and assess the shape and form of ministry, v. 28 would likely need to be rewritten as follows: "Him we mention only in passing, lest we offend seekers or sound excessively religious. [Rather than warning and teaching . . .] We seek to please and entertain everyone so that they might feel good about themselves and be reassured that all is well in the world."
As cynical as that might sound, it is all too tragically true. We have abandoned admonishment and warning for it would require that we speak of "sin," a forbidden word in many congregations. To instruct or teach would require both that pastors study and prepare and that Christians listen and learn. But we live in an age where people refuse to "endure sound teaching" but with "itching ears" they "accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions" and they "turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths" (2 Timothy 4:3-4). Well, enough of that. Now back to Paul.
In v. 28 he describes ministry as consisting of two tasks: warning or admonishing other believers (concerning the dangers of sin and the need to repent) and instructing or teaching them, all of which in a wise and discerning way. Some say the admonishment is directed to unbelievers and consists of a warning concerning divine wrath for those who do not embrace the gospel. Teaching or instruction, on the other hand, focuses on believers. But there are numerous passages where Paul uses this Greek word translated "warning" that describe ministry to believers (see Acts 20:31; Romans 15:14; Eph. 6:4; Col. 3:16; 1 Thess. 5:12,14; 2 Thess. 3:15).
Note Paul's emphatic reference to "everyone" (three times in this one verse; literally, "all men"). As Murray Harris has said, "there is no special gospel or teaching for a spiritual or intellectual elite" (72). All the truth of God is for all the people of God, no exceptions allowed.
And to what end does Paul labor this way? So that he might "present" all men mature or complete or fully equipped in Christ on that final day of judgment.
"That's great for Paul," you might be inclined to say, "but I'm certainly not up to the task nor am I remotely gifted to do this myself." Oh really.
Look at what Paul says later in Colossians 3:16 about the responsibility of EVERY Christian – "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom . . ." In case you missed it, the very words that Paul uses in Colossians 1:28 to describe HIS apostolic ministry on behalf of all men is used in Colossians 3:16 to describe YOUR responsibility in ministry on behalf of others in the body of Christ! The words translated "teaching" and "admonishing" and "in all wisdom" in 3:16 are the same Greek terms found in 1:28!
The growth and maturity in Christ of every believer is, in a certain sense, the responsibility of every other believer in Christ. We must look not only to ourselves but to one another, passionately admonishing and wisely teaching so that we all might stand complete in Christ on that day.
Laboring for your maturity (and mine),