COLOSSIANS-SERIES NR 3
Theme: The truth about Christ (1 : 15-20)
Verses 15-20 is a song of praise about who the Lord Jesus Christ really is.
Of course, we should understand it against the background of what we explained in the first message.
If we keep in mind exactly what the false teaching was that the church in Colosse was exposed to, you can understand that the Apostle Paul wanted to bring an urgent correction.
In a very subtle way, the false preachers minimalized the Person and the work of the Lord Jesus Christ – presented it as less than what it truly is.
It is obvious that the Apostle wanted to help them to see the influence of the false teaching and to overcome it with the glorious knowledge of the apostolic truth (as the true Apostles received it from the Lord and taught it to the churches). In particular: Knowledge of the truth about who the Lord Jesus Christ really is. And how topical and timely it is for our day and time also!
Let us now listen with the greatest respect to these verses. It truly is holy ground. It is the supremacy of the Lord Jesus which is unfolding before our very eyes, and is revealed to us.
Paul was so full of the Lord Jesus. Truly the Holy Spirit lived and worked in him. It is when the Holy Spirit works, that Christ comes more to the fore in one’s life. The Holy Spirit never pushes Himself to the fore. But always the Lord Jesus. In a church where the Spirit is at work, the focus is never on the Spirit. The same in the case of an individual. Paul was controlled by the Spirit, that is why he overflowed with the Lord Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit always points to Christ!
The Apostle particularly places the focus on TWO aspects of the Lord Jesus Christ’s identity: 1 His true Divinity 2 His mediatorship
1Jesus’s true Divinity > Let us listen again how verses 15-17 put it:
The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by Him all things were created: things on heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.
This is an enormously profound description of who the Lord Jesus Christ truly is.
There is not only a visible world, but also one that is invisible. Because if something can not be seen, it does not mean that it does not exist. The “thrones, powers, rulers, authorities” refer to the invisible spiritual world. Most probably the world of the angels.
We erroneously think about angels as innocent little beings with wings and golden hair. In reality angels are very powerful beings and they have an order of authority. Some are kings and others are only rulers and authorities.
From Daniel 10 we know that there are angels who have authority over countries and even over the kings/presidents/government leaders of countries. It is not for us to concern ourselves with that. We cannot understand this spiritual world and we cannot, nor even try to influence it, through prayer or ny other means. But we have this comfort: Heb 1:14 makes it clear: All angels are ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation! Children of God are higher than angels in His view. Also higher than angel-rulers who are deployed in positions of power.
The point is that Jesus is the creator of it all. Everything is created BY Him and FOR Him. And before there was anything, He was already there. He comes out of eternity. He did not emerge. Indeed He was not always human, but He is, together with the Father and Spirit, part of the eternal Trinity.
Therefore He is exulted ABOVE the entire creation and constellations. The entire unfathomable universe is at His feet. He is the image of the invisible God. That means: If you look at the MAN Jesus, you see the unseen God! Jesus is truly God. He endues true and pure Divinity. And therefore He is worthy of all worship.
2His Mediatorship > Listen once more to verses 18-20:
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 supremacy. For God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in Him, 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.
Can you hear the jump that the Apostle is making now? He is shifting his focus!
First he is focussing on the entire universe (and Jesus’s position there) and then shift the focus to the church (and Jesus’s position there).
It is important that we keep the two apart like that, otherwise we are going to misunderstand Paul and think that – when he is saying that Jesus reconciled EVERYTHING in heaven and on earth to God, that He is talking about the “all” of the first paragraph – that is literally everything and everybody in the universe.
But no, he has moved his focus to the CHURCH. The “all” (people) that He reconciled to God, are therefore the “all” (people) who belong to the true church (those who are still on earth and those who are already with the Lord) and are therefore only the true believers in whom the Spirit lives! THEY are the “all” whom He reconciled with God on the cross.
If we do not see it like that, we can easily be deceived to think that the Apostle was teaching a kind off universalism, namely that Jesus reconciled ALL PEOPLE (all individuals who have ever lived since Adam) with God and that all people would therefore be saved and be in heaven in the end. The reconciliation that Jesus brought about was not a potential reconciliation but an ACTUAL reconciliation. If Jesus has indeed reconciled someone, it implies not an incomplete and unsuccessful work. No that person SHALL get into heaven. Christ’s work of salvation is always a success. That is why it is important to see that Paul is talking about the CHURCH in these verses. Jesus has reconciled to God everyone who would ever come to faith. That is the elect. It is those whom God had chosen and given to His Son even before creation (Eph 1:4; 2 Tim 1:9).
What exactly is Paul saying about this true church of Christ?
1It is His body. The church is the BODY of the Lord. The church is not an organization. It is a living body in whom the Lord lives by His Spirit. Awesome!
2Christ is the HEAD of the body. Without a head the body is dead. The head is the control-centre of the body. In the same way, Jesus is the head of His body. Not preachers or church-councils or synods or theologians or professors. Christ is the head.
3Jesus’ resurrection from the dead is the clear and distinct proof that He is the FIRST in the church and that He is the ORIGIN of the church. The church has not originated from a human, but finds her origin in the Lord Himself. A church may seem how unsuccessful and insignificant – it does not change anything about the truth of the origin of the church.
4Jesus is the Person in whom God the Father resides with His whole being. That is why the Father through Jesus could reconcile His people with Himself! Now they are included into that fullness that Christ has. Just think about that: If you and I have placed our faith-confidence on Christ, we are plugged into a living FULLNESS! We DO share in it. The fullness of God Himself!
5Reconciliation has taken place. What exactly does that mean? The blood of Jesus on the cross restored PEACE, says the Apostle. Peace had to be RESTORED, because it was broken. Because sin severed it. And God’s wrath and judgment had to set in.
The only way it could be set aside, was by something God worked Himself (without the assistance of man) successfully. His wrath struck JESUS in the place of the sinner. That is why Jesus’s blood flowed. His life ran out. Why? Because of the wrath and judgment of God. God’s wrath made His own Son’s blood flow.
But all the time Jesus took the place of His people as their substitute. In that way He restored peace and worked reconciliation. And every person who come to realize their sinfulness, and place his/her faith-confidence on this blood sacrifice on the cross, EXPERIENCE the reconciliation with God first-hand and in their everyday life! It is an awesome truth!
And Paul is expressing these truths in OPPOSITION to the messages of the false preachers that their teaching can offer EXTRA to give the believers a deeper life of spiritual fullness. The Apostle is saying: “No! You must take this truth about who the Lord Jesus truly is, and grow in knowledge and understanding therein. That is all that you need. Try to understand who/what God already made you IN CHRIST and live out of that with joy.
Translated by Marthie Wilson