Jesus Christ is LORD and Saviour
Our hope is found in Christ alone
What is the church?
Glossary: reconciliation; church.
What are some things that you absolutely could not do without?
The Christians in Colossae received a letter from Paul which begins by reminding them of how they received the true message of the gospel and how their reputation of faith in Christ and love for one another was generated by that gospel. Paul’s prayer is for God’s will to be fulfilled in their lives now. That is, for continuing to grow in their knowledge of God and to live out good godly lives because they have been saved from darkness and into the kingdom of God. They have been saved, not by their own good works, but because of the Son of God. They have God the Father to thank for his blessing on them, they have the Spirit of God to thank as they learn from Him through the scriptures, and they have the Son of God, Jesus Christ, to thank for his great sacrifice for them. Jesus Christ is the subject of Paul’s letter in this lesson.
Read Colossians 1:15-23
15 The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. 19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.
21 Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. 22 But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation—23 if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant.
What did you see?
- The Son is first in the world (15-17)
- The Son is boss of the church (18-20)
- The Son is the object of our faith (21-23)
The Son is first in the world (15-17)
“The Son…” Colossians 1:3 helps us to link ‘the Son’ as Jesus Christ, the Son of God the Father. The bible teaches us that God is one but that the Father, the Son and the Spirit are all God and that all three are unique. Our God is three-in-one. Tri-unity – Trinity. That word does not appear in the bible but the truth behind that word is clearly taught in the scriptures.
“…is the image of the invisible God…” When we say that God is invisible, there’s no surprise there. We don’t see him but we see what he has created and we come to believe that the bible is his word. The concept of Jesus being the image of God is a statement like, ‘if you’ve seen Jesus, you’ve seen God.’ Mankind was described as created in the image of God (Genesis 1:25) which to men and women being something of a mirror reflecting the glory of God. We fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23) and have Paul presents Jesus as the perfect image of the invisible God. John 1:18 says, ‘No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.’ This is the same sentiment that Paul is describing.
“…the firstborn over all creation.” This phrase is not to be confused with any concept that the Son of God had a time when he was not. It does not mean that the Father gave birth to the Son. The Father and Son titles describe their relationship but not their origin. So too, ‘firstborn’ describes the position that the Son holds throughout eternity. There is no other Son other than this firstborn Son over all of creation. Before anything else was, the Son was there. Let’s refer again to John Chapter 1, ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. […] The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.’ (John 1:1-2, 14) Jesus is the heir of everything – not from the mercy of God but because he is God.
“For…” because. What follows in Verse 16 is an expansion and something of an explanation of Verse 15.
“…in him all things were created…” Everything and absolutely everything that is has come because of Jesus. Look out your window right now and you will not be able to find anything that is here apart from Jesus causing it to be. That brick house – thank Jesus. That sky – thank Jesus. That grass and those insects – thank Jesus. Paul makes sure we know that all things is all inclusive by his list: things in heaven and things on earth – things that you can see and things that you can’t even see – think of the most powerful thing or being or object in the universe and it is not more powerful that Jesus because he put it there! He is the first! Revelation 1:8; 21:6; 22:13 “I am the Alpha and the Omega”, says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.” Paul is saying that the Son is the Almighty God.
“…all things have been created through him and for him.” Not only is he the creator but he is also the reason that everything exists. It is all for him. That means that you and I have been created through him and for him. We exist for Jesus Christ! Whether you are a Christian or not, this is the reality. Sin is a three letter word for: I don’t care that this is all about Jesus ‘cause I choose to make it all about me! But Jesus is the boss of everything and everyone.
“He is before all things…” This speaks of Jesus’ eternal nature. He always has been and nothing in this universe is older than him. This is significant because we must not speak of ‘mother nature’ or ‘the universe speaking’ and phrases like that which push God out of the equation. Before anything was, Jesus was. He hinted at this himself in John 8:58, “Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!” This is saying more than that he is older than Abraham but he is picking up a phrase that Yahweh (the LORD) said to Moses in Exodus 3:14 – that HE IS! It’s a reference to his eternal attribute.
“…and in him all things hold together.” Paul takes this whole God-ness of Jesus to the next level! Not only is everything here because he put it here and because it is made for him – but it is all held together through Jesus too! The reason that we are here right now, still breathing, still standing, still reading words on a page/monitor – is because Jesus wills it! Our existence is due to him from beginning to end. And the fabric of the universe is in his hands. So, when we sing that childish song: he’s got the whole world in his hands – it is a figure of speech but it is not untrue!
As we close this section – thank God that you exist. Thank God that it is by his will that we exist and have our being. Revelation 4:11 says, “You are worthy our Lord and God to receive glory and honour and power for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.”
The Son is boss of the church (18-20)
“And he is the head of the body, the church…” Obviously the ‘he’ is referring to the Son of the Father who is Jesus Christ (Colossians 1:3). Having established his authority over all of humanity for all of time, now Paul focuses on the importance of Jesus to the Christian church. The word ‘church’ means gathering or assembly rather than a club, organisation or society. So, it refers to people who gather for a common reason. They are people who Jesus has assembled through faith in him. This gathering is described as a body which has Christ as the head! Without Christ, there is not church. The church is not a building – that is just a building. It is not a denomination either, although under God a good denomination will manage the people of God and their affairs faithfully. Christians believe and become members of one universal and spiritual church when they turn their lives to Christ. But the local church that you attend is a manifestation of the universal church. When people gather together in the name of Christ, they are gathering with Christ as the head and they are the body (Matthew 18:20). The head of the church is not a Pope or a Bishop or a Minister or a Pastor – the only head of the church is Christ. Paul described himself and Epaphras as servants of Christ. They will oversee and protect and teach a church but they are fellow servants like you and I but fulfilling their particular role as God has gifted them. It has been said that we don’t go to church – we are the church. And Christ is the chief.
“…he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead…” To clarify the meaning of ‘head’, Paul expands firstly that Christ is the starting point among the dead. The Christian faith is all about the resurrection – both Christ’s resurrection and the promise of our resurrection because of his. Being described as the beginning brings in the notion of being foundational. His resurrection comes first and stands before all resurrections that will follow because of his. So, the use of ‘firstborn’ here does not refer to his origin but to being the established one of the church.
“…so that in everything he might have the supremacy.” Paul uses words like ‘firstborn’, ‘beginning’, ‘head’, and ‘supremacy’ to describe the position and rank of Jesus in the world. He must not be our afterthought in life nor in religion.
“For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him…” This refers to God the Father and reminds us of his opening statement that ‘the Son is the image of the invisible God’ so that everything between Verses 15 and 19 have been describing the supremacy of Jesus over the universe and over eternal life. God the Father delights to have all of his character represented and present in the Lord Jesus.
“…and through him to reconcile to himself all things…” Paul is transitioning his comments from the WHO of Jesus to the WHAT of Christianity. All of humanity is at odds with God because of our innate refusal to serve him. Jesus Christ is the means of us being reconciled in relationship back to God. The Father is reconciled with us because the Father is pleased to make Jesus the mediator. Christ doesn’t force God to love us. God is pleased to make reconciliation happen by the means of the cross of Christ. When he says ‘all things’, he does not mean that everybody is reconciled, but that everything is put in the right place because of Christ. True order is set as all will see Jesus as Lord one day, willingly or unwillingly. But there is nothing or no-one outside the scope of God’s reconciliation. You are either made right or you remain un-right. Either way, it is through Christ that all things are reconciled. Think of a financial statement where everything is accounted for. Everything is reconciled and nothing is left overlooked. Whether for Christ or against him, this is how everything is reconciled.
“…by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.” This is the moment in all of history where things are set in order by God. No other event has the same level of impact as the crucifixion. Coming close are the moments of Creation and the moments when God promises to set things right. But the crucifixion is the watershed moment in all of history for everybody. By this one act, he has made peace. Colossians 2:13-15 describe this moment as the separation between death and life for everybody.
We bring this section to an end by admiring how supreme Christ is over all and are left with the question: ‘Is He Lord in my heart?’ Paul moves us to ponder this further in the next section – the resurrection and salvation will be real and established in you if you prove it by your perseverance. In other words, if you believe this, then you will hold tight to it!
The Son is the object of our faith (21-23)
“Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behaviour.” What a neat description of someone who is not a Christian. It is not about being a ‘bad’ or ‘wicked’ human being. It is about being alienated from God and about being on the opposing side to him in your mind. The most gentle and sweet human can still live life apart from God as their Lord. If they salute themselves, or Mother earth, or science, or family, and continue their lives apart from God, then they are not allied with him. Take up the two imageries here: 1) alienated – like you are not from the same planet or country as God and 2) enemies – you are not allied with Him and therefore you are on the wrong side. Paul lastly blames it on evil behaviour. True, there are evil behaviours like greed, sexual immorality, drunkardness, selfishness, anger, jealousy and so on which we can all shake our heads at as ungodly. But the very act of Adam and Eve eating fruit from a tree that God told them not to is regarded as evil because at the heart of their action is their disobedience to God. Romans 3:10-18 draws quotes from the Old Testament to conclude that everybody sins (Ecclesiastes 7:20). We are all guilty of excluding God from our lives, denying Jesus as head over us, and living self-centred lives while only pretending to be sacrificial in love and relationships.
“But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight…” How does God perform a magic trick where he views wicked enemies as his pure and holy friends? The cross of Christ is the answer. What Jesus did for us on the cross was to take the penalty of sin for us. His clean record is given to us while the punishment we deserve is dished out on the Son of God. And it happened at a real time and place in human history – on the cross at calvary. Christ did not wave a magic wand and make us pure. He took on the pain and physical misery to save us.
“…without blemish and free from accusation…” Paul expands on his description of ‘holy in his sight’. When we invite someone over for lunch, we may overlook some dirt on their trousers or some slightly crued manners so that we can enjoy the meal together. We look past things. But God does not look past sin. Rather, he changes our state. When he sees us, we are without blemish and with no residue of guilt. He does not ignore our sin. He transfers it from us and onto the Son he loves.
“…if you continue in your faith…” It seems like this might be the catch in the Christian faith. We have talked about grace and salvation by the works of Christ but now we see the IF statement. But this is perfectly right and to be expected! We are asked to do one thing – to believe with faith – to trust. This is an action word. We don’t simply hear the gospel and make a note of it in our diary and then forget it. Jesus becomes the object of our hope for the future. The proof of our conversion is that we continue in our faith. This is called perseverance. Paul will talk about this more in chapter 2.
“…established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel.” Being a Christian is like building a house that will stand forever. It begins with a good, firm, established foundation. This foundation is Christ crucified. Christ the head over everything. Christ the firstborn from the dead. Christ the substitute for my sins. My hope for the future begins with Christ. It is a strong conviction that is needed if we are going to continue on in the faith. If it is shallow or unresearched, then it will falter and fail when the storms of life hit it. Jesus told a parable of four soils that each heard the word of God but only one of the soils grew real fruit. Mark 4:1-20.
“This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven…” This does not mean that every ear on earth has heard this gospel but that there is no other gospel for this earth. When we talk about Firm Foundations of the Christian Faith, we are talking about the same gospel that has been laid down by Jesus Christ through the Apostles. There is only one way to be reconciled to God and it is through Christ. Being established and sure of our faith is the most important thing to do in life. It all comes down to knowing God in truth and trusting your future into Christ’s hands – always.
“…and of which I, Paul, have become a servant.” Paul was not born into a Christian family. When he was a young man, he was fiercely and violently opposed to the Christian faith. But when he encountered Jesus and was given a second chance to consider who Jesus is and what the gospel is, then he gave his life to Jesus Christ and the gospel. He describes himself as a servant of the gospel. Every part of his life is now in service to spreading the gospel. Paul was convicted of this truth and his prayer to the Colossians is that they would be established and firmly rooted in the gospel of Christ.
What did we learn?
When it comes down to who the most important person in the world ever was, the answer was and is and will always be Jesus Christ. He deserves our reverence because every single thing ever made was made because of him. And he deserves are dedication because only through him can we be made right with God. There is no human institution or club that you can follow to be right with God. But being sure of who Jesus is and deciding, forever, to follow him – to serve him – is the only right way to be blameless before God.
Topic A: Do you honour Jesus as king over everybody, whether they like it or not? Verses 15-17 establishes the truth that Jesus is Lord over everybody. When we see people walking down the street, we must remember that their boss is Jesus. But everybody begins as aliens and enemies of God until they see Christ for who he is and put their trust in him for salvation. Christianity is for everybody.
Topic B: Jesus is the head of the church. Preachers and teachers and ministers and pastors are all significant roles that God uses in the church (see Ephesians 4:11-13) but none of them are Jesus. They must give an account one day for their life and they must trust in the physical death of Jesus Christ on the cross for their salvation. Be sure that your involvement in church is as a fellow member serving Jesus Christ as the head. Our trust and hope is in him alone. We will discuss the concept and importance of church again in lesson 5. But right now and always, our faith and hope is in Jesus Christ.
Topic C: Our firm foundations. Verse 23 gave us the challenge to be established and firm and unmoving from our hope in the true gospel of grace through Jesus Christ. It’s a description of a tree that must be planted well for the long haul. We cannot meet this challenge unless we understand what a Christian is, who Jesus is, and how to grasp the gospel for ourselves. Ideally, a church will provide great resources for growing its members up in the faith. Things such as daily bible reading assistance, regular church services that preach the word of God and small groups that meet for Christian encouragement and training in bible reading. When a tree is left without water, without good soil, and perhaps even removed and dumped on the roadside, it will not stand. But firmly planted and established, the Christian can grow and mature in the right direction – the way that God meant for you to be.