Gospel Logic and Our Work - Colossians 3:23-24

September 11, 2022 Preacher: Rev. Stacey Severance Series: Gospel Logic

Scripture: Colossians 3:23–24

How much of your life, daily and weekly, is spent working? Probably a lot. It seems to never end, doesn’t it? I read that an old farmer once stated, “The hardest thing about milking cows is that they never stay milked." Work is repetitive; there’s always more of it. It can feel mundane or ineffectual. But we need to work. We have to work to live.

The Scriptures indicate that humans were made to work. In Genesis we see that God put the first man and woman in the garden and gave them the task of managing the garden. Pastor Stuart Briscoe writes, “Paradise wasn’t a vacation – it was a vocation.” Adam and Eve were assigned God-ordained work for God’s glory and their joy.

However, the arrival of sin introduced toil to work. Work became painful and frustrating. And not only was work made difficult, but sin infected how we approach work. Sin affects how we think about work, how we see work. It affects why and how we work. God-centeredness was displaced by man-centeredness. Sin warped our view.

But as in all areas of life, Jesus Christ restores what sin destroys. Through Jesus our approach to our work can be transformed.

But how can that happen, when you still have to go to work tomorrow, and face the troubling people and situations, and endure what are the unfulfilling or uninspiring aspects of your job? 

The end of Colossians 3 gives us some essential guidance. In these sermons, we are exploring why Who and What is How: how we change is by looking to the person and work of Jesus. Who Jesus is and what He has done changes everything for those who are born again. This is the “logic of the gospel” that Dr. Sinclair Ferguson speaks of in his teaching on John 14. 

And Colossians 3:23-24 helps us understand how to apply gospel logic in our work. The passage teaches us about the God-ordained work of Jesus Christ; specifically, three things that you can see listed on page 6 in the WG: Jesus performed His God-ordained work:

  • with an undivided desire for the Father's acceptance,

  • an undistracted focus on the Father's reward, 

  • and an unwavering submission to the Father's authority.

Jesus performed His work as man was intended to in the beginning. In multiple places in the NT, the apostle Paul refers to Jesus as “the second Adam.” Jesus succeeded where Adam failed. This includes His God-ordained work. And if we would have a God-centered approach to our work, if we would pursue the transformation in our work that Jesus provides, we must look always to Him. So let’s do that now.

Notice verse [23] once more. “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.” Paul was speaking here to bondservants in the church – those who had become Christians and were servants. Servitude was common in the Roman Empire in the first century. Many people were indentured servants.

As the gospel spread, masters and servants were coming to faith in Jesus. In some cases, only a master or only a servant. In some cases, both master and servant. And though this unique relationship existed between master and servant, the truths of the gospel must be applied by believers. Christ must be honored.

But while that is the immediate context of these verses, the principles communicated here are relevant in every age because they speak to why and how we work. Whether or not you have a boss, we must all work for the Lord.

Your work is God-ordained, whether you see it that way or not. Whatever job you have, God gave you that job. He gave you the opportunity and the ability. And His glory is the ultimate purpose of the work. Therefore, our ultimate desire should be that God is pleased with our performance. Our ultimate longing should be that God will accept our work as honoring to Him.

Verse 23 could also be translated, “Whatever you do, put your soul into the work, as for the Lord, not for men.” Now you might say, “My job is not important” or “I don’t like my job.” Your job is important to someone, and as far as liking it, you may need to change jobs, but until you do change, you must put your heart into the job you have for the glory of God.

Now, who hasn’t lost sight of God’s acceptance and worked only for the acceptance of man? Who hasn’t reduced work to its earthly temporal value, forgetting the plans and purpose of God? Who hasn’t been torn between pleasing God and pleasing people? Only Jesus. He performed His God-ordained work with an undivided desire for the Father's acceptance. 

Jesus was a worthy Savior for many, many reasons, including the fact that He did not forsake pleasing God in order to please man. In John 8, Jesus says, “I always do the things that are pleasing to Him.” When we look to Jesus, we look to the One and Only worker to ever walk this planet who did the work God gave Him with an undivided heart. When we worship Jesus, we bow before the most devoted Servant to ever live. 

Is the work you do – the effort you give and the character you display – worthy of your calling in Christ Jesus? Would you say you put your heart into to please your heavenly Master? The command of verse 23 is absolute. If you’re doing it, whatever it is, you must aimto do a job pleasing to God. 

That is a tall order. We all will struggle and we will fail. But as we look to Jesus – as we repent of our sin, renew our faith, and rest in His grace – He will transform the quality of our work into something that brings increasing glory to God. This is the good news for our work. The resurrected vitality of the living Christ lives in us. He will unite your divided heart to desire God’s acceptance above all others. 

Now notice these next words, verse [24]: “knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward.” It is the heirs who receive the inheritance. Adoption through Christ is in view. We saw this last week also. The gospel tells us that we were bitter enemies of God, but now we are beloved family. We are His sons and daughters in and through Jesus. And our eternal inheritance in Christ should not be far from our minds as we work.

It’s not uncommon for a person to think, “I’m not working harder unless they pay me more.”Do you think you deserve a raise? Perhaps you do. But remember ultimately why you work. Remember, in the end, Who you serve. Followers of Jesus Christ work for the glory of Him who gave us the opportunity and the ability. Verse 24 tells us that our eternal inheritance in Christ, kept secure for us with God in heaven, is more than enough compensation for the God-ordained work that we do in this life.

This builds on the previous command. You may think, “I have to put my whole soul into it? Is there a pay raise with that? What are the benefits for giving my whole heart?” Well, it may sound cliche, but for the person who is born again, the benefits are out of this world. If words on paper could fully describe the glory that awaits the people of God in eternity, you would gladly sign that contract no matter what the work entailed during your earthly life. And with that reward in view, you would work as for the Lord, not for people.

But we easily lose sight of that eternal reward. We need our pay; we enjoy success. We have goals and deadlines and expectations. There are things we want to buy and be able to do. We have bills to pay; we need to save for the future. And of course, right now, money does not go as far as did even in the recent past. It’s not hard to lose sight of our true and lasting compensation in Jesus. 

And so, naturally, to keep it in view, we must look to Him. You see, when you look to Jesus and His finished work, you see that He performed His God-ordained work with an undistracted focus on the Father's reward. He is the true heir of God. He is the righteous Son worthy of the estate. He fulfilled the covenant promises of God. He is the deserving inheritor. We are heirs in Him; not by works or by birth, but by faith in Him. He performed His work with undistracted focus. 

In John 4, when the disciples of Jesus offered Him something to eat, Jesus replied, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work.” He had just had his famous conversation with the Samaritan woman at the well. There was no sarcasm in His response; they were not hollow words. Such was His focus.

Focus is so essential in work, isn’t it? Do you know what it’s like when you need to get things done but you can’t focus? It’s frustrating. But when you get that focus - when you’re able to push everything else aside and zero in on the task at hand, it’s a beautiful thing. You find out what you can accomplish.

The writer of the NT book of Hebrews said to the church, “Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus.” The Greek wording here is interesting. One scholar notes that this word describes “turning the eyes away from other things to fix them on something.” If we would work wholeheartedly for Jesus, we must look only to Him. 

And the Hebrews author then says that Jesus is “the founder and perfecter of our faith.”Not just our example; He is our replacement. He ran the race in our place, so that reborn in Him, and undergirded by His grace, we may fix our eyes on our eternal reward.

Now look finally at the second part of verse 24. Paul says, “You are serving the Lord Christ.” Like I said, the context of this passage to the church in Colossae is instruction for bondservants. There was a master-servant relationship for some of the people at that time. But while they had earthly masters who they needed to sincerely obey, those are temporary masters as life on this earth is temporary. 

And it’s important to know that the word we translate as “master” in v.22 and later in ch.4 v.1 we translate as “Lord” here in v.24. Servants obeyed masters. Obviously the terms of employment have changed today. You can leave your job at any time. Maybe you have some kind of contract with a time frame. But still, you must do what the boss tells you to do. You must “obey” although that probably isn’t the word you would use. “Follow directions” perhaps. “Do what you’re told. It is still obedience. It is still submission to authority. 

And as you work, though you comply with management, work that glorifies God must submit to His ultimate authority. So we should desire the acceptance of our heavenly Father and remained focused on the reward He bestows on His children, but we should not lose sight of the fact that God is our ultimate authority. 

Parents, I’m sure in your parenting at some point in time, though you try to give reasons 

for the things you tell your children to do, at some point you pulled out this old saying: “Because I said so.” Probably not the most effective parenting strategy! More like an exasperated last resort. “Because I said so, that’s why!” But it rings true.

In 1 Peter 2, the apostle Peter gives some fascinating instruction to the churches about submission to authority. He writes, [13] Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, [14] or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. [15] For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. [16] Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God.

God gives us reasons for obeying Him. We have so much guidance in His Word coupled with the counseling and discernment that the Holy Spirit provided. But we absolutely should serve God in obedience because He said so. Believers should serve the Most High God with unwavering submission.

We fall short of this also in our God-ordained work – but Jesus performed His God-ordained work with an unwavering submission to the Father's authority. In John 6, Jesus says, “I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of Him who sent me.”

As we go to the table this morning, we observe the supper of our Master. But at His Table He reminds us and continues to teach us that He does not only say, “Because I said so.” Jesus also says, “Because I did so.” All authority on heaven and earth have been given to Him. And He paid the price for our sins. 

Have you repented and put your trust in Him? He transforms our whole lives, including how and why we do the work God has ordained for us.