Sometimes in a service—and I’m not sure which service it is in—I say something and think, “Hey, that was good. I should write that down.” I have friends who are excellent preachers and are disciplined enough to manuscript their sermons. I have manuscripted a few sermons, but the bulk of them are–how shall we say–not that (supply whatever you need in place of “not that”).
Allow me to explain . . .We read in Colossians 1:28 this:
Him we proclaim. Warning everyone and teaching everyone—with all wisdom—that we might present everyone mature in Christ.
That’s a lot of everyones; but just turn the thinking part of your brain on for a moment. Paul did not preach to everyone. In fact, it would be fair to say that Paul preached to far fewer people than existed at the time. So how on earth could he make such a claim?
I got to thinking about his missionary journeys. Paul takes three journeys (well, he and a bunch of other people with him). Each journey he sets out, preaches, ministers, and sees how to respond to the work God’s Spirit does. The second journey interests me—specifically one part. “And they went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia. And when they had come to Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them” (Acts 16:6-7). Why on earth would the Spirit—who exists in part to make Jesus known (John 16:14)—forbid preaching about Jesus?!?!?!!
Enter the Macedonian Call.
And a vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing there, urging him and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” And when Paul had seen the vision, immediately, we sought to go into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them. (Acts 16:9-10)
The Spirit, forbidding Paul and his comrades from preaching in Asia, brought him to Macedonia. It is there that churches like the ones in Philippi and in Thessalonica begin. And it all starts by listening closely enough to the Spirit so as to know when not to preach.
However, in Paul’s Third Journey, he spends significant time in Ephesus, which is—you guessed it—in Asia. In fact, Paul spends years in Asia and teaches about Jesus in the Hall of Tyrannus “for two years, so that all the residents of Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks” (Acts 19:10).
Name a city that was in that region. Give up? I’ll tell you. Colossae. Name a resident of Colossae. Give up? I’ll tell you. Epaphras. Name a person who is a resident of Colossae who likely heard the gospel (perhaps from a man preaching in Ephesus) and went and started the Colossian church. You guessed it. Epaphras (Col 1:7; 4:12).
A place where the Spirit prohibited Paul to preach became a place where that same Spirit dwelled amongst many. And it started with a “No.”
So how can Paul say to the Colossians—people he has not met—that he proclaimed Jesus to everyone? Because he listened to the Spirit and obediently proclaimed Jesus to everyone Jesus led him to—large groups, small groups, men, women, and possessed people. Everyone. He listened, he obeyed, he proclaimed.
So again, I ask you: who is your everyone?