In His Letter to the Colossians (continued)
Good Tidings In An Emergency Situation (continued)
For example, supposing someone, with whom your life and heart are closely bound up, lies in a very serious and critical illness, and you call in medical help. You are under a great burden of anxiety: it matter very much to you which way it goes; and you wait for what seems an eternity for the doctor to come down and give you a report. When he comes down and says, "it is all right, you need not worry; things are going all right, they will come through", that is good news indeed. It has an edge on it, because your heart is bound up with this matter. If there is a great decision in the balances, which is going to affect your future, your career, your life, and a committee is setting on it, and you are waiting outside with your heart, as we say, in your mouth, feeling most anxious as to how it is going: when someone comes out and says, "All right, you have got the job, the appointment", that is good news. It brings to you an immense sense of relief. If there is a battle on, the issue of which will be serious for all concerned, and someone comes back from the scene of the fighting, and says, "It is going well, it is all right, we are going to get through!" - why, it is a tremendous relief. That is good tidings. It touches us, it means something to us. There has to be something in the nature of an emergency situation really to give point to good news.
The Emergency Situation at Colossae
Now, in the case of almost all Paul's letters, there was an emergency situation. Something had arisen in the nature of a threat to the Christian life of those with whom his heart was closely bound up; something had arisen which was causing many of those Christians real concern, worry and anxiety. They were in real difficulty; the future seemed to be in doubt. It was in order to meet such emergencies as these that Paul wrote his letters, and in them all he uses this word "gospel", or "good news" - good news for an emergency, good tidings for this critical situation.
In this letter to the Colossians it is peculiarly so. There was a real emergency on among the believers at Colossae. But it was the same emergency which takes different forms at different times - it is present today in its own form. What it amounted to was this: that there was certain people, considering themselves to be very knowledgeable, wise, intelligent, learned people, who had been dipping into a lot of mysterious stuff, and they were bringing their high-sounding ideas and theories to bear upon these Christians. It all had to do with the great magnitudes of life.
First of all, there was no less a matter in view than the very meaning of the created universe. Now that might be, of course, a realm for philosophical speculation; but you know that, in certain ways, that comes very near to the Christian heart. Is there a design for everything, or is everything either just taking a mechanical course, or being carried on by some mysterious powers which are inimical to human well-being? Is there any real design behind this created universe? To push that one step further: Is there a "purpose" in everything? Sooner or later, Christians come up against these questions. Under duress, trial, pressure and suffering, sometimes we do not know what to make of things. This seems to be a topsy-turvy universe, full of enigmas and contradictions and paradoxes, and we have a bad time over it. Is there a plain in it - is there really a Divine Providence for everything and in everything? - that is to say, is everything being made to work together according to design and purpose, and to work our toward a great, Divine, beneficent end?
Now, these people were arguing about that, and the Christians at Colossae were being greatly disturbed by it all.
(continued with # 33)