There are three Old Testament allusions in Colossians of which many Christians are likely unaware.
Be Fruitful and Multiply
The first Old Testament allusion is in Colossians 1:6 and 1:10. Verse 6 says, “The gospel, which has come unto you, just as in all the world also it is constantly bearing fruit and increasing.” Similarly, verse 10 says believers are “to please [God] in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.” Both of these verses are allusions to Genesis 1:28: “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth.”1
At the least, Paul’s use of language from Genesis 1:28 about the beginning of the old creation is intended to indicate that a new creation has been inaugurated with believers because of their identification with Christ. Furthermore, Adam and Eve’s “being fruitful and multiplying and filling” the earth with literal children who would join Adam in reflecting God’s image and in exercising kingly dominion over the earth may also be in mind. In Christ, the last Adam, believers have begun to regain the image of God in spiritually “bearing fruit and increasing,” since Adam’s own “bearing fruit and increasing” would have had spiritual dimensions in that he was to bear children who were in God’s image and were to reflect God’s own spiritual attributes.2 Thus, in Christ we begin to fulfill the mandate of Genesis 1:28 as we “bear fruit in good works” and as we “increase in the knowledge of God” in His word of truth in the Bible.
Be Filled with Knowledge and Skill
A second Old Testament allusion occurs in Colossians 1:9, which is a reference to Exodus 31:3 and 35:31–32 (note the allusion italics): “We have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding.” The Exodus passages say that God filled Israelites (Bezalel, Oholiab, and others) with His Spirit to have skill in building the tabernacle (see Ex. 31:1–11). The focus of the allusion in Colossians. 1:9 is that Paul is petitioning that God would fill believers with the Spirit in order that they would build their spiritual lives skillfully, as verse 10 makes clear (“to walk, . . . bearing fruit in every good work”).
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By Matthew Barrett — 2 years ago
Tradition serves to correct our assumptions, expose our blind spots, and cultivate accountability in a garden we have turned into a wasteland. But most of all, she introduces us to creeds so that we do not gather as one but join the assembly of believers now and yesterday to praise the King of glory with one voice.
It is the democracy of the dead. Tradition refuses to submit to the small and arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking about.–G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy
Today we are experiencing a surge of renewed interest in retrieval. However encouraging that resurgence may be—and it certainly is reassuring—a lingering, even nagging hesitation remains among a remainder of theologians and pastors. Those reluctant are not identical with those alarmist fundamentalist “no creed but the Bible” types. Such an overt, frantic biblicism is conspicuous enough as a theological cancer. Instead, it stems from that type of theologian or pastor who appreciates the past, but nonetheless considers engagement with our Christian heritage as nothing more than a pragmatic recruitment of conversation cronies. At the end of the day, they are far more interested, so they say, in what the Bible says. Putting labels before that word “tradition”—whether it be “Great” or “Reformed”—is precarious business sure to distract from scripture or even overcome its message.
In a strange way, I almost prefer to battle with the overt, alarmist “no creed but the Bible” types than this second, more subtle biblicist. At least the former is honest. Disastrous no doubt, but honest. But the latter represents that quiet, almost indetectable cancer that is never caught by a doctor. Concealed, it infiltrates the blood system over years, even decades. When it’s finally identified for what it is everyone stares at the floor in defeat knowing it’s much too late. “You have three months to live,” says the helpless physician, conquered by a battle he never had the chance to help his patient fight.
Why is this more subtle form of biblicism so fatal to the health of the ecclesiastical body? It is so threatening because it preys on Christianity by means of a half-truth. It acts as if the past is important; it even encourages dialogue. Yet by the end of the day, its reason for doing so is quite secular: talking to the dead is merely pragmatic. If you find the Nicene Creed or a Calvin or an Augustine helpful, then by all means. That is, as long as they become nothing more than practical, mere aids to what really matters.
By Cole Newton — 1 year ago
The return of Christ ought to be our blessed hope that strengthens and encourages all that we do, yet the key is that there is still work to do before that end comes. Indeed, we should long for Christ to find us diligent in His service when He returns rather than metaphorically (or even literally!) staring up at the clouds in anticipation. Christ may very well return in our lifetime, just as the temple was destroyed during the apostles’ generation, or His coming may be still a thousand years or more away. Regardless of the timing, He may easily call us to Himself through war, earthquake, famine, or (as we will observer next week) outright persecution before that day. Therefore, let us be faithful to serve our King with whatever time He allots to us.
And as he came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher, what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!” And Jesus said to him, “Do you see these great buildings? There will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.”
And as he sat on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter and James and John and Andrew asked him privately, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign when all these things are about to be accomplished?” And Jesus began to say to them, “See that no one leads you astray. Many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he!’ and they will lead many astray. And when you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. This must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. These are but the beginning of the birth pains.
Mark 13:1-8 ESV
In regards to the end times, Christians can easily fall into two opposite reactions. The first is to become obsessed with the topic of eschatology. These Christians are always on the lookout for the “signs of the times” and are often absolutely positive that Jesus is coming soon. The summary of their argument is typically to appeal to how chaotic the world is becoming, which means that Jesus must be returning soon. The second is to avoid eschatology at nearly every opportunity, content to simply believe that Jesus is coming back at some point.
The one who obsesses over discerning the end can easily run into many problems. Indeed, like the disciples after Christ’s ascension, it can be all too easy to stare at the sky in wait for His return. Yet there are problems with the other stance as well. Treating the end as out-of-sight-out-of-mind is clearly not how the biblical authors expected us to live. Rather, the end of all things ought to be a matter of great comfort as well as sobriety.
I raise these viewpoints precisely because in chapter thirteen Mark records Jesus’ Olivet Discourse, which is the apocalyptic teaching found in the Synoptic Gospels. As we move through this chapter in the coming weeks, let us guard ourselves from both unhealthy stances.
Judgement Foretold // Verses 1-2
Our text begins with these important words: And as he came out of the temple… While it is right to see this teaching (the largest in Mark’s Gospel) as its own distinct section, it must not be divorced from the events of chapters eleven and twelve. Upon entering Jerusalem on a donkey, Jesus immediately went to the survey the temple. The next day He cleansed the temple of its moneychangers and merchants. The four questions from the religious leaders were all made in the temple, as well as the events that we studied last week. Thus, the setting of this chapter is Jesus exiting the temple following all those previous hostilities.
Along their way out, we are then told that one of Jesus’ disciples commented to Him: “Look, Teacher, what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!” This was certainly a true statement, for the temple of Jesus’ day was a wonder to behold. Throughout Israel’s history, there have been two temples. The first is often called Solomon’s temple because it was King Solomon who oversaw its construction and presided over its dedication. It was destroyed, however, by the Babylonians after Zedekiah rebelled against Nebuchadnezzar. The second temple was built by the exiles who were allowed to return under Cyrus of Persia. Its foundation was quickly laid but left unfinished for fifteen years because of threats from neighboring peoples. The prophets Haggai and Zechariah encouraged the people to finished building the temple, and they did so. Originally, the second temple was significantly smaller than Solomon’s, and Ezra records that when its foundation was laid many who remembered the first temple’s glory wept for their loss.
That changed whenever Herod the Great was given control over Judea by Rome. He began a lengthy building project that ended with the second temple being twice as large as Solomon’s temple. R. C. Sproul describes it for us:
The temple complex covered about thirty-five acres. The sanctuary stood one hundred and fifty feet high, as did the temple wall. The columns that held up the portico were so massive that three large men could barely encompass them by touching fingertip to fingertip. Josephus tells us that some of the stones that made up the temple were sixty feet long, eleven feet high, and eight feet deep, with each stone weighing more than a million pounds. Other historians of antiquity said Herod’s temple looked like a mountain of marble decorated with gold. The temple complex was architecturally stunning and must have looked strong enough to stand for a thousand years or more.
Thus, it would seem that this disciple was struck with the wonder of this sight. Of course, perhaps the disciples also intended to sort of cheer Jesus up, almost as if to say, “Things inside the temple might be pretty bad, but isn’t the building beautiful!”
I can imagine Jesus’ response knocking the wind out of his disciples: “Do you see these great buildings? There will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.” The temple, beautiful was it was, would be utterly destroyed because of the corruption that had taken root within its walls. J. C. Ryle makes this point:
Let us learn from this solemn saying, that the true glory of a church does not consist in its buildings for public worship, but in the faith and godliness of its members. The eyes of our Lord Jesus Christ could find no pleasure in looking at the very temple which contained the holy of holies, and the golden candlestick, and the altar of burnt offering. Much less, may we suppose, can he find pleasure in the most splendid of worship among professing Christians, if his Word and his Spirit are not honored in it.
Of course, I do not think there is much danger of us reveling in the beauty of our church buildings today (at least among more Reformed-leaning Protestants). In fact, I think that the pendulum has swung too far and that churches might benefit from a valuing architecture again. Yet his point may best apply if we think of a church service’s production value or perhaps the splendor of a multitude of programs, activities, and outreaches. Just as the beauty of the temple’s design could not cover up the corruption within, these outward displays cannot make up for a lack of faith and godliness of a church’s members. We also see this principle in Jesus’ message to the church of Ephesus, where He commended their outward faithfulness but warned them to repent of their lovelessness or their lampstand would be removed.
These Things // Verses 3-4
Moving into verse 3, we are told that Jesus sat down on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple. The Kidron Valley lays between the Mount of Olives and Mount Zion upon which Jerusalem sits, yet the Mount of Olives is taller, making its view of the temple spectacular. Jesus will return to the Mount of Olives in chapter fourteen to pray in a garden upon its slope, Gethsemane. We call the teaching of Jesus that begins properly in verse 5 the Olivet Discourse because it was given to His disciples upon the Mount of Olives.
Jesus clearly brought them to this location for the purpose of teaching them more about the temple’s destruction. After all, how could they have thought about anything else once Jesus told them that the greatest religious, cultural, and political structure within their world would be utterly ruined? Indeed, His intent in verse 2 was certainly to have His disciples ask the questions that they asked in verse 4: “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign when all these things are about to be accomplished?”
This is the guiding question for understanding the Olivet Discourse because this is the question that Jesus is explicitly answering. And the question contains two distinct parts: when will these things happen and what will be the signs that these things are about to be fulfilled. Yet the question is centered upon ‘these things,’ which are throwing down of the buildings and stones of the temple that Jesus predicted in verse 2. This means that the Olivet Discourse here in chapter thirteen is primarily about the destruction of the temple.
Now this chapter certainly is apocalyptic, and there are parts that clearly describe Christ’s second coming, for which we are still waiting with eager anticipation. Yet what we are about to read is not primarily about some time of tribulation still come; instead, it is about a horrendous period of tribulation that has already come to pass whenever Jerusalem and the temple were razed to the ground in AD 70 under the command of Titus the Roman.
We will describe this event in more detail in the coming weeks, but it is to this destruction that most of Jesus’ words here point. Of course, this chapter is still apocalyptic because it is unveiling things that were yet to come. And there are still certainly points of application for us today to draw upon as we read this passage, for we know that all Scripture is profitable to us (2 Timothy 3:16). Yet it is important for us to understand going into this study that Jesus is not primarily speaking about the end of the world as we imagine it; rather, He is mainly teaching His disciples about the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple that would occur within their lifetime.
By Jeffrey Stivason — 2 years ago
The Son, the good Shepherd, lays down His life for His sheep. The sheep for which He dies are His sheep. In fact, the Lord says that He knows His sheep and His sheep know Him, even as He knows His Father and His Father knows Him. That is incredible! How should we understand such a thing? Simply put, this is covenantal language. God is not admitting to know certain facts about us and us Him. No, the baseline of covenantal knowledge is that of intimacy; He loves us and He has enabled us to love Him. As a matter of fact, He loved us when we were yet sinners and unworthy of His love.
A theological earthquake shook my life over twenty years ago. I can still see the classroom lit by the afternoon sun. It was mostly quiet and peaceful that day with one exception. A classmate was standing in front of me trying for all he was worth to persuade me of definite or limited atonement. If the terminology is unfamiliar to you just remember that it is standard nomenclature used to describe the nature and the extent of Christ’s atonement. To flesh this out even further, a Calvinist believes that “God’s method of saving men is to set upon them in his almighty grace, to purchase them to himself by the precious blood of his Son, to visit them in the inmost core of their being by the creative operations of his Spirit, and himself, the Lord God Almighty, to save them.”[i]
My friend had an uphill battle to wage. But that day he did something very simple. He verbalized my own position. He said something that I believed and had said myself many times before. But that day when I heard him articulate my position back to me it sounded strange; it sounded wrong. What did he say, you ask? He said, “Jeff, according to your position Christ’s death only made salvation possible, which means that you must concede two hypothetical scenarios; the death of Christ could have saved everyone or no one.” Yes, that was what I had believed and what I had taught but on that day it sounded erroneous.
God had given to me a new set of ears. So, I went back to the Scripture and started asking a basic question; for whom did Christ die? It didn’t take long for me to find the answer. If you have a Bible handy grab it and turn to John 10.