Col 2:1-4 For I want you to know how great a struggle I have on your behalf and for those who are at Laodicea, and for all those who have not personally seen my face, (2) that their hearts may be encouraged, having been knit together in love, and attaining to all the wealth that comes from the full assurance of understanding, resulting in a true knowledge of God's mystery, that is, Christ Himself, (3) in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. (4) I say this so that no one will delude you with persuasive argument.
The passage before us for this study speaks about ‘wealth’ or ‘full riches’ and ‘hidden treasure’. What’s not to like? I must admit that I am a bit of a sucker for a treasure hunt. My favourite book as a wee nipper was Enid Blytons’ ‘The Treasure Hunters’ and my favourite movie was “MacKenna’s Gold” – where an old legend told of a hidden fortune of golden treasure waiting to be found among the mountains in Apache territory. So we might have a pattern emerging here and I may be a little biased on the importance of the passage before us! But who doesn’t like a story with hidden treasure to be found? So I’ve called this sermon ‘The Divine Treasure Hunt!’
Now I may have got a little carried away with this thought of hidden treasure but I’ve based this sermon around some simple questions that came to mind concerning this.
Is God in the habit of hiding precious things?
Why does God hide His treasure?
Does he give us a clue as to where to look for His treasure?
What might you find if you knew where to look?
But before we get there, we need to read and comment on the first verse and the background to this book.
Paul’s struggle for the Colossians
Col 2:1 I want you to know how great a struggle I have on your behalf and for those who are at Laodicea, and for all those who have not personally seen my face
Paul was struggling for those at Colossae as well as those at Laodicea. These cities were actually very close in location, with Colossae being only 10 miles to the east of Laodicea with both situated in modern day Turkey. In Old Testament times, Colossae was the main city of the two. John MacArthur writes that it was ‘situated at the junction of the main north-south and east-west trade routes. By Paul's day, however, the main road had been rerouted through nearby Laodicea, thus bypassing Colossae and leading to its decline and the rise of the neighbouring cities of Laodicea and Hierapolis.’
We know from this letter what Paul was struggling over those at Colossae about – People had come in that were claiming they had ‘superior hidden knowledge’ – They were the fore-runners of what later became known as Gnosticism. As mentioned previously, the word "Gnosticism" comes from the Greek word "gnosis" which means "knowledge". They were leading people away from the centrality of Jesus Christ and to their own fanciful and unbiblical tales based on ‘secret knowledge’ that only they, the initiated, had. Now we don’t get to find out what Paul was struggling about concerning Laodicea but being so close no doubt they were experiencing the same men and the same thoughts.1 Paul hadn’t gone to these churches himself as he mentions that they hadn’t seen his face, but it didn’t mean that he wasn’t concerned about them. Sometimes we may hear about things happening to churches, maybe in the persecuted world, and think that it is a long way away… what can we do? Paul didn’t think like that. He struggled over these churches even though, at the time, he was likely chained to a Roman guard in a Roman prison. So this shows us that whatever the situation we can still pray.
Do you have assurance?
Col 2:2 .…that their hearts may be encouraged, having been knit together in love, and attaining to all the wealth that comes from the full assurance of understanding, resulting in a true knowledge of God's mystery, that is, Christ Himself.’
Paul wanted the church to be encouraged, to be united in love, and to receive all the wealth and blessing of having a full assurance of understanding. There are so many who don’t have that full assurance today. Not of their salvation, not of their position in Christ, not of God’s promises or His faithfulness. The enemy is very efficient and effective in what he does - then and now. Paul wanted those at Colossae to walk in full assurance just as the Lord would want us to do today. But where is that assurance found? It says it here quite plainly: ‘In a true knowledge of God’s mystery, that is Christ Himself’. It is all tied up in a person and a true knowledge of that person!
Where is the source of all true treasure? And where would I look to find it?
Col 2:3 ‘in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.’
Now this is the verse that I wanted to explore and which led to the questions at the start. Can you remember them?
Is God in the habit of hiding precious things? Why does God hide His treasure? Does he give us a clue as to where to look for His treasure? What might you find if you knew where to look? Let’s explore these questions.
Q1: Is God in the habit of hiding precious things?
To answer this, we have to go back a wee bit in the Bible. Right back actually. Let’s start in Genesis.
Gen 2:10-12 ‘Now a river flowed out of Eden to water the garden; and from there it divided and became four rivers. (11) The name of the first is Pishon; it flows around the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold. (12) The gold of that land is good; the bdellium and the onyx stone are there.’
We see from that right from creation, God put gold and precious gems and stones in the land. But they weren’t just lying on the ground waiting for someone to walk around and pick them up now were they? No, God hid them within the ground and obviously it didn’t take too long before man was searching and finding this treasure. We’ll say more about this later. All we can say at the moment is that even in the natural, right from creation; God does seem to hide things for people to find. A few books on we come to this interesting verse…
Deut. 29:29 The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law.
The Bible says that there are things that are revealed to us. These are the things that we can openly know through His word. They are meant to be our possession and truth that we pass down to our children and their children after them. But the scripture also speaks of ‘secret things’ that belong to the Lord and are known only by Him. So yes, we can say that God does hide things.2 But there is also a third category I believe that is not mentioned in this verse. And that is the things God has hidden which He wants us to find!
Q2: Why does God hide His treasure? We will need to answer this for both a believer and an unbeliever as God has hidden His treasure for different reasons! Let’s start with the believer. God has hidden His treasure so that we can have the great joy of searching and being rewarded for our endeavours.
Pro 25:2 ‘It is the glory of God to conceal a matter; to search out a matter is the glory of kings’.
You may not be a king but if you are a born again then you are a child of the king so it is also to your glory to search for that which God conceals and hides! Why does God hide his treasure? God hides things so that only those that want to find them do so. And for the joy and reward of searching and finding such things! Remember – in creation, even from Genesis it spoke about how God had put gold and precious stones hidden within the earth. There was a joy and natural reward for those that diligently sought for such things. But God has done that with the even more important spiritual matters as well. And there is an even greater joy and reward for those who value such things!3
What about the unbeliever? Why does God hide His treasures from the unbeliever?
There is a scripture which tells us not to cast our pearls before swine. Why? Because it’s not likely that you have seen many pigs wearing pearl necklaces! You see swine have no concept of the value of pearls. They are just interested in the temporal – food, warmth, comfort and mud, glorious mud! They see, and have, no use for pearls. They simply trample them underfoot. This represents giving the pearls of God’s wisdom and truth to unbelievers. Unless their hearts are turning to God, they don’t see the worth in them. Their value is like pearls to a pig... worthless! This is why Jesus often spoke in parables. The parables revealed truths that had been hidden for ages past. Yet they revealed them only to those that had ears to hear.4
Mat 13:34-35…’these things Jesus spoke to the crowds in parables, and He did not speak to them without a parable.’ (35) This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet: "I WILL OPEN MY MOUTH IN PARABLES; I WILL UTTER THINGS HIDDEN SINCE THE FOUNDATION OF THE WORLD."
Mat 13:10-15…The disciples came to him and asked, "Why do you speak to the people in parables?" (11) He replied, "The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. (12) Whoever has will be given more, and he will have abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. (13) This is why I speak to them in parables: "though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand.’ (14) In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah: "You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving. (15) For this people's heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.”
Q3: Does he give us a clue where to look for the treasure? Well… yes… A big one actually!
Col 2:2-3 ‘attaining to all the wealth that comes from the full assurance of understanding, resulting in a true knowledge of God's mystery, that is, Christ Himself, (3) in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.’
God shouts from Heaven: “Look for Christ! All the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are in Him!” So if all the treasures are in Christ, why do even Christians focus on so many other things?5 We often become experts in focusing on the things God isn’t.6 We complicate our faith and get focused on so many non-essentials! We should be focused on a person. Jesus Christ. God gives us a whopping big clue concerning His treasures! He is shouting from Heaven “All His treasures are hidden in a person – they are in Jesus” so it makes sense to be focused on Him does it not? We should look for and to Him! Even those that study the Bible can easily miss the point! As I’ve quoted before, I’ve got a quote of C.S Lewis’ on my website which I like that says: ‘Most theologians devote their lives to answering questions most people aren’t asking!’
John 5:39-40 ‘You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, (40) yet you refuse to come to me to have life.’
Jesus said to them that “you diligently study the scriptures – great”. “But if you miss me in the word you’ve missed the point!” From start to finish the Bible is about Jesus Christ. And it should lead us to Him. So we should learn to look for Him. He is the treasure!7
Q4: What might you find if you know where to look?
God has given us a very big clue as to where to look for His treasure: It’s all in Christ! So what might you find when you know where to look? To quote C.S Lewis again, he said: “Look to yourself (that is try to find the answers in yourself), and you will find in the long run only hatred, loneliness, despair, rage, ruin, and decay. But look for Christ and you will find Him, and with Him everything else thrown in.”
So what might you find if you know where to look? Well, you might find something a little surprising. You might just find yourself. You might find your real identity, purpose, position, assurance and security; who you really are in Christ Jesus. For that too God has hidden with Christ. Many of these things are discussed further in Colossians and we will talk about them as we go on, but for now I’ll just draw your attention to the following passage:
Col 3:1-4 Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. (2) Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. (3) For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. (4) When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory. There God goes again... Still hiding things! If you are a born again Christian then the real ‘you’ has been hidden as well. Some things He has hidden with the intended purpose that we would search them out and find them. Some things hidden will only be revealed at the appointed time. And the return of Jesus Christ will not only reveal who He is, in glory, but it will reveal who you are as well.
Well, if you got nothing else from this study, at the very least I feel I have given you some great points that will hold you in good stead when you next find yourself down on the course golf ball hunting. And maybe, just maybe, you received something else to think about as well. Let’s just close with those four questions again and briefly note what we have found.
Is God in the habit of hiding precious things?
Yes He sure does. Both in the natural and in the spiritual.
Why does God hide His treasure?
For believers it is for the joy and reward of those that take the time to search and find that which is hidden.
Does he give us a clue as to where to look for His treasure?
Yes! Look for Jesus. All God’s good treasures are ‘in Him’.
What might you find if you knew where to look?
You may well find yourself – your security, your identity… all that God has done and plans to do for you ‘in Christ Jesus’.
1 Although we certainly do know though that Laodicea was increasing in wealth and by the time the book of Revelation was written, about 30 years later, we can plainly read the thoughts of Jesus concerning the Laodicean church… and it’s not the best report card! He didn’t have one good thing to say about that church!
2As some examples, God hid the knowledge of the Church in the Old Testament times. Christ himself is also called ‘a mystery’ (something previously hidden but now revealed) in Colossians 2:2. God has hidden the day of the return of Jesus Christ (despite many previous unsuccessful claims to the contrary!) Paul himself was once caught up into Heaven and heard things ‘that man is not permitted to speak about’. So there are the things revealed, which are ours and the things kept secret, which we cannot know – yet! But one day it will all be revealed!
3 My sisters little dog is called Lockie. When he comes over to my house he plays ‘Find it’. Not the most original name but the game it great; for him anyway. While he sits in the kitchen (having been told to ‘stay’) we hide little treats around the house. Then we yell ‘find it’ and he uses that God given sniffer of his to search for them and find them. He loves this game. He knows he is going to play it every time he comes and wags his little tail at mighty speeds in anticipation! Now, we could just give him a treat when he comes straight away and not make him look for it. We could… but it isn’t nearly as much fun for Lockie. It is so much more rewarding when he has to search it all out and finally find one! You know where I am going with this I’m sure. God could just lay out all his spiritual gems for us on a plate… but the reward is so much greater when we have to put in some effort and then find a gem!
4 I had a recent example of God keeping things hidden from an unbeliever. I was replying to an Atheist to who written into the website. He obviously didn’t believe that God exists – and didn’t even believe that Jesus existed! I gave some reasons why I believe and he wrote why he doesn’t. All in all, an exercise in futility! He wrote:
‘The Christian god of the bible is a horrible entity; if it existed, and I guarantee I would not worship that god…All who believe in God generally agree that their god is: All powerful, all loving, and all knowing. But yet if you read the Bible God is none of these things. He is none of what believers believe him to be based upon an honest reading of their own “holy book”. For example: All Powerful - Can God create a stone too heavy for Himself to move? If you answer yes – God is incapable of moving the stone. If you answer no, God is incapable of creating the stone. It is impossible to be “all powerful”. ‘
Now I must admit I was very tempted to write back saying: ‘Wow – you are right! You know, I’ve been thinking about it and I don’t think God can draw a round square either! I mean, there is what you’ve seen, and now the round square thing… that’s two things He can’t do… what else is He not telling us about?’ But I refrained – Sarcasm doesn’t normally win many over! He also made reference to other things like the Bible’s reference to ‘the four corners of the earth’ and how this proves that the Bible teaches ‘a flat earth’. Oh the wisdom of man that can reduce God to nothing! What does Romans 1 say? ‘Professing to wise they became fools’. No wonder Jesus spoke in a way that kept some things hidden from those who hate Him.
5 Major Ian Thomas (as quoted in Bob George’s book ‘Classic Christianity’) said ‘If an unbeliever were to walk into a Christian bookstore, he would see the shelves just blanketed with ‘how to’ books… everything from how to run a Christian business, to how to lead a Christian exercise class, to how to cook a Christian dinner. The unbeliever’s response would probably be ‘Don’t you Christians know how to do anything?’
6 As a way of illustration, a friend from church recently went to a Christian camp at a Bible College and found herself in a conversation with a Bible College staff member. I’ll put her comments in italics. He asked: So whatchurch do you go to?Living waters, we are a small fellowship but the word ofGod is preached. Ok. I go to a small fellowship as well. How many would you have at your church?Um, Just under 30and about 10 kids forSundayschoolifeveryone turns up. Wow!That is small. We have about 300. So do you have a pastor?No just a group of leaders and a few of the guyshave turns at preaching. We have worship and use an overhead. Really? So you don't use power point? No. Oh well what about a music team and a soundsystem?No sound system, just Athol on the guitar and Sarah plays the keyboard, they have turns and if they don’t come we just sing without them. Really? Well, do you have your ownbuilding? No. But we support some missionaries and missions.
Well, do you own any land? Nowe just rent a couple of classrooms at a School.
Wow! Really? So… so… so where do you see your church going? Um, Heaven!
To which he laughed and said ‘Good answer!’Priceless simplicity I thought! People love to focus on numbers, programs, buildings, power point presentations, and how-to manuals! It’s about the person and work of Jesus Christ.
7 Now I was thinking about this in the context of finding hidden treasure and the techniques that are used. But alas, though I would like to, I’ve never gone gold mining or the like. But I did have a misspent youth searching for something almost as precious – Golf ball hunting. My brother and I grew up just up the road from a golf course and spent a lot of time there. I still remember finding my first golf ball – I was about 6 years old searching on a bank when suddenly I saw it! It was in the distance so I ran and grabbed it! A brand spanking new, pearly white golf ball – no cuts, no scuffs. I couldn’t believe how easy it was find them. I was so happy. My first day looking for golf balls and I’d got one! Then I heard someone yell out – ‘Oi!’ ‘You put that back!’ Unfortunately you see, the ball that I found was ‘found’ in the middle of the fairway!
Now there is a point to this story. Well, not that story just gone. That didn’t have a point. Other than don’t take 5 and 6 year olds golf ball hunting. But there is a point to bringing up regarding golf ball hunting. As you get good at this you start to train your eye to see the treasure… you’re not just idly walking along hoping a ball turns up. You actually keep the thought and image of the ball in your mind as you look - and you actively look for that. You know what you are looking for. Sometimes you would see only the smallest fraction of a golf ball – it could be nearly totally buried, but because you are actively looking for it even the small glimpse is enough. And then you uncover it. It is similar when you read the word of God. Look for Jesus, the true treasure, in its pages. Look for that which points to Christ – who He is and what He would do! It may just start as the smallest glimpse. But keep meditating on it for it is the treasure that God has for us. And it’s not just in His word, but in creation, in His providence and His dealings with us – God is always trying to teach us more. Look for what He is trying to teach you through these different experiences.