Colossians 1:27-29 27 To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. 28 Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus. 29 To this end I also labor, striving according to His working which works in me mightily.
In the passage above we see that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is a 3-fold message. Each part is essential to bring about godly sorrow, which works repentance, leading to salvation (II Corinthians 7:10).
As I read this passage, while walking to work the other day, verse 28 drew my attention. Especially where it declares, “Him we preach, warning every man…”. I believe that “warning every man” may be the most missing third of the gospel message.
Most of our evangelism, in our day, can be distilled down to the generic refrain of “God loves you, and proved this by dying for your sins. Say this prayer, be forgiving, and get to a good church”. Although, there is truth in this line of preaching, it is dumbed down, as not to be offensive, or appear judgmental.
When we minister in this fashion, we forget that the Gospel is an offense to men, apart from Christ, and that will never change. It is not until men have a profound sense of the fear of the LORD, that they will begin to see a need for the Gospel, because the fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge (Proverbs 1:7).
Before we explore what we are warning men from and encouraging them to receive in the message of the Gospel, let us first handle “Him we preach”.
WE PREACH HIM
Paul’s primary message was to preach Christ and Him crucified. Now in preaching Him, we must proclaim who He is and always will be, why He was begotten, and how we receive that which Jesus Christ secured for us.
From our passage we understand that in preaching Christ we are preaching the mystery, which was hidden in the ages before Christ, but is now revealed in those He has saved… us! That mystery is Christ came to do a work, whereby we were not only able to be in His presence, but ultimately that the Messiah would live in and through us; which is Christ in us the hope of glory.
In preaching Him, it is important to proclaim His eternal nature as the word of God, who became flesh (John 1:1-5, 14) and how (Psalm 2:7; Isaiah 7:14, 9:1-7). It is important to share that the Christ is the Son of God, equal to God, who for love, laid aside His prerogative as God (for a time), to express His glory, unless instructed to by the Holy Spirit.
Philippians 2:5-11 5 Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, 7 but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. 9 Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, 11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
In revealing how He came, we must reveal why He came. This is where we must expressly proclaim the sinfulness of man and the penalty for unforgiven sin (Romans 3:20-23, 6:23). In revealing why He came, we then are blessed to share the beauty of how Christ dealt with sin, through His cross (the Atonement) and His resurrection.
Isaiah 53:5-6 5 But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed. 6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.
The Lord Jesus Christ accomplished this by becoming our substitutionary atonement, as the Father made Christ who knew no sin, to be our sin, that we could become righteous in Him (II Corinthians 5:21). Our sin, we literally placed into His body, as He went to and hung to death on the cross.
In addition, we understand that our sin was contained in a list of charges, or an indictment that was against us, and demanded justice against us, on God’s behalf. Colossians 2:14-15 declare that God took this handwriting of charges against us, out of the way, nailing it to the cross, yet there was no paper with ink written charges on the cross. Therefore, we understand the Gospel of Christ, to mean Christ Himself, was our indictment nailed to the tree, as our sin was written into His body through torture.
This is the love of God on display for the undeserving.
Romans 5:8-11 8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. 10 For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. 11 And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.
To receive this grace, we must repent of our sin and life apart from God. This means we must turn from it, forsaking all to follow Christ (Luke 9:23-26, 63, 14:33). In addition, as an act of repentance, we then walk in faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ, which is the faith that saves us.
This combination of repentance and faith in Christ, is also sorely lacking as the church presents the Gospel in Western Christianity. Observe Paul’s message to the Ephesian elders about what he preached and taught them to preach in Acts 20:21-22 “how I kept back nothing that was helpful, but proclaimed it to you, and taught you publicly and from house to house, 21 testifying to Jews, and also to Greeks, repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ”.
We must always understand that necessity of both repentance and faith, understanding that repentance is much more than confessing sin, it is renouncing it and walking away from it.
2 Corinthians 7:10 10 For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death.
Interestingly, we find that God is not willing that any would perish, but all would come to repentance (II Peter 3:9). How interesting that the word does not say “that all would be saved”, but “… that all would come to repentance”. This is because without repentance, there is no ability to walk in faith, being that the person has not left their old life behind. Therefore, without repentance, there is no forgiveness, or reconciliation.
Paul’s call to the Athenians to understand this reality, leads to the second part of the Gospel, the warning.
Acts 17:30-31 30 Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, 31 because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.”
WARNING EVERY MAN WHAT AWAITS THE UNREPENTANT
In this section we will investigate the least preached third of the Gospel, “warning every man”. What is it we are warning them of? Well, simply put, everlasting judgement. I grow tired of religious idiots, who mock “hell-fire and brimstone preachers”. To these mockers and scoffers, Christ Himself would be relegated to the dung pile of irrelevance, because He preached more on the reality of eternal judgement for the unrepentant, than He did on the eternal reward of those who walk in faith.
Consider the passage most often taken out of context in the entire New Testament.
John 3:16 6 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
This is a wonderful passage, for sure, but it was spoken in the midst of a massive warning to the Pharisee Nicodemus.
John 3:17-20 17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.18 “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. 19 And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. 20 For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed.
We must remember that the word “belief” in the Greek was not one of mental assent only to a body of truth, but to assent to the truth to the degree that you change your life accordingly. This cannot be understated, because “unbelief”, as defined in Hebrews 3:6-14, is to declare I believe or assent to the truth about God, yet deny that assent or confession with my choices. This is seen in the example of Israel in that passage.
In fact, in returning to the end of John 3 we have John the Baptist, “warning every man” in verse 36 “He who believes in the Son, has everlasting life; and he who does not believe on the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on Him”. This wrath of God is referred to as everlasting condemnation in John 5:28-29.
The Lord Jesus Christ refers to the judgment on those who refuse to repent and express faith towards Him, as everlasting outer darkness in Matthew 8:12, which deals with the relational distance between the lost and God, who is Light and salvation. This is reiterated in II Thessalonians 1:9, where the word of God declares “These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power”.
In the same epistle, only a few lines earlier, we see that Christ will take “vengeance” on those not obeying the Gospel “in flaming fire”. This fits the most revealed characteristic concerning the judgment to come, which is relational, but also a literal place away from God forever in torment.
Revelation 20:14-15 This is the second death. 15 And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.
We see this reality of judgment, which is the basis of our “warning every man” in several other New Testament passages, which include but are not limited to Matthew 5:27-30, 25:41 and Revelation 14:11.
The love of God without the justice of God, in His wrath, upon those who are unrepentant, is not love at all. If we are not saved from something terrible, by Christ’s atonement on our behalf, then why care about salvation?
Truth be told, we Christians need to accept that much of our evangelism to “warn every man” to the degree that they begin to fear the LORD, so that they will gladly repent. Remember that the fear of the LORD is wisdom.
WHAT WE ARE SAVED FOR AND TO
Lastly, we must preach that we are saved to something everlasting, and it is not to live independent from God, in an eternal state of bliss. You may find this a silly thing to say, but we have made everlasting life about our own mansion on a hilltop so much, we miss that eternity begins the moment we are forgiven, and our hope of being with Christ, is our only hope in this life.
In the first place, we preach “as many as receive Him”, so He gave them the right to become the children of God, to those who believe in His name. This is our wonderful blessing now and forever.
1 John 3:1-3 1 Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. 2 Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. 3 And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.
In the first place, we find that we are saved to be children of God right now. This implies that our Father is always with us to lead, guide, empower with provision, and correct when needed (Romans 8:14-17; Hebrews 12:5-12).
Secondly, we are also saved to be transformed now for “everyone who has this hope in him, purifies Himself, just as He is pure”. The hope is the blessed Hope, the great and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, when we shall see Him as He is (Titus 2:14). It is this hope which compels us to live godly and be sanctified in Christ (II Peter 3:11-12), because those in Christ are supernaturally transformed and transforming new creations (II Corinthians 5:17).
Thirdly, we find that we are called to an eternal state that is even more awesome than we can imagine “and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is”. This does not mean we will become infinite creatures, but glorified by His power, with a new physical, spiritual life.
1 Corinthians 15:50-53 50 Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption. 51 Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed— 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. 53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.
Our hope is not in all these wonderful blessings but to see the Christ face to face, the one who gave us the escape from judgment—the one who calls us to repentance and faith to avoid the wrath of God—the one who guarantees our eternity with Him.
Let us preach all three parts of the Gospel, without shame and in great boldness of faith!