THE MARKS OF THE FAITHFUL CHURCH (Colossians 2:2-7)
2:2-7 My struggle is that their hearts may be encouraged, that they may be united together in love, that they may come to all the wealth of the assured ability to take the right decision in any situation, to the knowledge of that truth which only God's own may know, I mean of Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and of knowledge.
I say this so that no one may lead you into error by false reasoning with persuasive arguments. For, even if I am absent from you in the body, I am with you in spirit, happy when I see you maintaining your ranks and the solid bulwark of your faith in Christ.
So, then, as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, live your life in him. Continue to remain firmly rooted, and go on being built up in him. Continue to be established more and more firmly in the faith, as you were taught it, and to overflow with thanksgiving.
Here is Paul's prayer for the Church, and in it we distinguish the great marks which should distinguish a living and faithful Church.
(i) It should be a Church of courageous hearts. Paul prays that their hearts may be encouraged. The word which he uses is parakalein (Greek #3870). Sometimes that word means to comfort, sometimes to exhort, but always at the back of it there is the idea of enabling a person to meet some difficult situation with confidence and with gallantry. One of the Greek historians uses it in a most interesting and suggestive way. There was a Greek regiment which had lost heart and was utterly dejected. The general sent a leader to talk to it to such purpose that courage was reborn and a body of dispirited men became fit again for heroic action. That is what parakalein (Greek #3870) means here. It is Paul's prayer that the Church may be filled with that courage which can cope with any situation.
(ii) It should be a Church in which the members are knit together in love. Without love there is no real Church. Methods of Church government and ritual are not what matter. These things change from time to time and from place to place. The one mark which distinguishes a true Church is love for God and for the brethren. When love dies, the Church dies.
(iii) It should be a church equipped with every kind of wisdom. Paul here uses three words for wisdom.
(a) In Colossians 2:2 he uses sunesis (Greek #4907), which the Revised Standard Version translates understandingly. We have already seen that sunesis (Greek #4907) is what we might call critical knowledge. it is the ability to assess any situation and decide what practical course of action is necessary within it. A real Church will have the practical knowledge of what to do whenever action is called for.
(b) He says that in Jesus are hid all the treasures of wisdom an knowledge. Wisdom is sophia (Greek #4678) and knowledge is gnosis (Greek #1108). These two words do not simply repeat each other; there is a difference between them. Gnosis (Greek #1108) is the power, almost intuitive and instinctive, to grasp the truth when we see it and hear it. But sophia (Greek #4678) is the power to confirm and to commend the truth with wise and intelligent argument, once it has been intuitively grasped. Gnosis (Greek #1108) is that by which a man grasps the truth; sophia (Greek #4678) is that by which a man is enabled to give a reason for the hope that is in him.
So, then, the real Church will have the clear-sighted wisdom which can act for the best in any given situation; the wisdom which can instinctively recognize and grasp the truth when it sees it; and the wisdom which can make the truth intelligible to the thinking mind, and persuasively commend it to others.
All this wisdom, says Paul, is hidden in Christ. The word he uses for hidden is apokruphos (Greek #614). His very use of that word is a blow aimed at the Gnostics. Apokruphos (Greek #614) means hidden from the common gaze, and therefore secret. We have seen that the Gnostics believed that a great mass of elaborate knowledge was necessary for salvation. That knowledge they set. down in their books which they called apokruphos (Greek #614) because they were barred to the ordinary man. By using this one word Paul is saying, "You Gnostics have your wisdom hidden from ordinary people; we too have our knowledge, but it is not hidden in unintelligible books; it is hidden in Christ and therefore open to all men everywhere." The truth of Christianity is not a secret which is hidden but a secret which is revealed.