Monday, June 15, 2009

Colossians - How awesome is Christ!

I was reminded that I hadn't updated my blog in a little while, so I thought I'd put up the talk that I gave from the verses I last posted. It's still not quite how it should be, and definitely lands with a bump, but I'd thought I'd share it anyway! It is a talk aimed at women, from Colossians 1v15-20, given at a girls' talk group.

Piper describes these verses as “a litany of amazing truths about Jesus Christ that are probably the most concentrated description of the glories of Jesus in the New Testament”, and to me these are such amazing verses that I wanted to have a 2 point talk with 23 subpoints, but discovered this would leave me talking for well over 2 hours, so I have cut it down considerably! Instead we will look at four key points of who/what Christ is: 1) Christ is creator of all things, 2) Christ is the sustainer of all things, 3) Christ is the dwelling place of all things of God and 4) Christ is the reconciler of all things.

First; Christ is the creator of all things. V15-16 and 18. “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities – all things were created through him and for him…”

Paul is continuing from verse 14, where he was talking about the beloved Son. After this, Paul is so excited that he launches into this brilliant 5 verse description. He describes Christ as “the firstborn of all creation”. Before we go on, let me just talk about what this doesn’t mean. This verse has often been misinterpreted to show that Christ is part of the creation, a particular heresy of the 3rd century, where a man called Arius stated that “there was a time when Christ was not” – i.e. that Christ was created, and thus not as fully God as God the Father. Verse 17 tells us that Christ exists before all things, he pre-dates everything except himself – so there is no time when he was not – as otherwise there would be something that predated him. Verse 19 also makes it pretty clear that Christ is fully God, and we will return to this when we talk about Christ being the dwelling place of all things of God. Here Paul’s point is more about the role and privileges of a firstborn son. He describes what this means for Christ – end of v16 “all things were created through him and for him”. As the firstborn and only Son of God, Christ inherits all things – all things are created by him and for him.

But what are these “all things”? – Paul explains, v16 “For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities – all things were created through him and for him.” Quite literally everything created – both the things we can see and the things we can’t. Nothing created is there just by chance or because it felt like it, no, everything is created by Christ, through Christ, for Christ, so that the glory may go to Him! This was particularly pertinent to the Colossians, who we will see in chapter two, were being led astray to worship other spirits and to submit to “Christ plus” philosophies – such as, 2v18 (for your notes) where Paul urges the Colossians not to be pulled astray to also worship angels or by those who insist on asceticism. So, in v15-20 Paul reminds the Colossian Christians how they do not need anything other than Christ, He is the one who is head over creation – all things are for him and created through him, something none of the false teachers could truthfully claim. Why bother worshipping angels when you can worship the one who created them.

Aren’t we tempted to do similar things today? But, why worship Obama and believe he is the answer the world’s problems, when you can worship the one who created Obama and the world? Why trust in money, and worry about the current financial climate when you can trust in the one who creates food and money and creates all that we need? For Christ created ALL thrones, dominions, rulers and authorities, even the bad ones, even the evil super-powers, so that His glory would be seen, and all things were created through Him and for Him. Christ is head even over the false teachers – nothing, visible or invisible, in heaven or earth, is outside of his jurisdiction. This is a great reassurance too for us. All thrones and dominions and rulers and authorities are created through Christ and for Christ, and over all of them He is pre-eminent, meaning he is the top – the head over everything. Over Gaza, Zimbabwe, even over President Obama, whatever we may think of him. And how much more amazing Christ is – consider the humble beetle. God made thousands of beetles, every single one is unique. Beetles have also been made by Volkwagen, sadly all their beetles are pretty much the same, and they had to use materials already created. The beetles made by Christ were made from nothing. Christ is the Creator of all things.

This brings us onto the second point, Christ sustains all things, v17&18. “And He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead,” Everything created is kept going by Christ’s almighty hand. Everything is kept held together by Christ. The tense of the verb for “hold together” cannot be translated well into the English language, and gives the sense of something that is a continuous action – so Christ held the universe together once and goes on holding the universe. Every single second of every day. All things – once again, the all things, everything – everything “in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities – all things”. Every person, every animal, every angel, every spirit, every star and every planet is constantly being held together by Christ. That includes atheists, Richard Dawkins, the sponsors of the atheist bus adverts, anyone and everyone, whether they admit it or not, is being held together, given life and breath by Christ. Even the breath to speak against him, the strength to write blasphemous words, all things are held together and kept together by Christ.

For the Christian, this should be a cause for great joy – it further shows that nothing is going on in the world that is not under Christ’s rule. All things continue only because Christ keeps them together. Nothing has suddenly escaped from his power and run amok, but ALL things are held together by him. For the Christian too, he is more than just the day-to-day sustainer, he is also the sustainer and head of the church – the body, holding it together and ruling over it as the head. Even more, he is our assurance that we too will rise from the dead and dwell with Him. “He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be pre-eminent” We can be assured as Christians, dwelling as Christ’s body, following in His lead, that we too will rise from the dead, and dwell with Him in the New Creation. In both this creation and the new one, He is pre-eminent.
meaning he is the top – the head over everything.

And so to our third point, Christ is All things of the fullness of God. Verse 15, “he is the image of the invisible God” and verse 19, “For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell” I apologise for the slightly strange grammar of this point, but it helps us see the continuing theme through these five verses, of Christ’s relationship to all things. The word translated “all” in verse 19 is the same word that has been previously translated “all things” in previous verses. Christ is fully God. All of God dwells in Christ. Christ is not “a little bit of God squeezed into a human” – Christ is all of God, in all of His glory and splendour, all His fullness. He is God that we can see. Image can make us think of pictures, or paintings, representations of God, but that’s not what Christ is – He is not a picture of God, He is God, in all His fullness, the manifestation, rather than just the representation of God. This means that He has all of God’s attributes, some of which Paul lists here as examples; his power, part of which we saw in verse 16, as the creator of all, also his eternity; being before all things; his role as sustainer and as the ruler, He is in every way God.

As such, the Colossians, and we, need to realise that He is the only One worth worshipping, the only One we can fully trust and the only One worth loving with heart, mind, soul or strength. He is God, and so we do not need “Christ plus” – because He is all we need, all the fullness of God, dwelling in Him. Christ is all things of the fullness of God.

And what is it that God dwelling in man does – He reconciles all things to himself. Our fourth and final point – Christ reconciles all things to himself. Verse 19 “For in him all the fullness of god was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.” Verse 20 is a tricky verse, as we are told all things are reconciled to God through Christ, by the blood of his cross, yet we know from elsewhere in the Bible (for your notes; Mark 16v15&16 and Luke 8v10-18), that Christ does not save all people, but only those who believe and trust in Him for their salvation, John 3v18 says, “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” So we can see that Paul is not telling us here that everyone is atoned for by Christ’s blood, but there is some sense in which all things are reconciled to God. From Genesis 3, all things were thrown into turmoil, first by the reversal of the creation order and the entrance of Sin into the otherwise good world, then by the curse that resulted. Because of His holiness, God cannot dwell with sinful man, or spoiled creation, because he is so perfect and holy, but because of Christ’s death on the cross there is a sense of what is known as “common grace” extended to all things. This doctrine is different to special, or saving grace, which is the grace by which Christians are saved. Peter O’Brien, a senior research fellow at Moore Theological college states that whilst those opposed to God, who seem not to be reconciled to him or to his people, continue to exist, “they cannot finally harm the person who is in Christ and their overthrow in the future is assured”. Whether willing or not, they will one day bow the knee to Christ. All thing are or will be reconciled to Christ, but not all through the same way – the Christian is reconciled and saved, by Christ’s blood. The unbeliever is not destroyed before he exists, but is borne with in order that he may bring Christ the greatest glory. It is not us who can ever try to make peace with God, but instead, Christ makes peace with us, by the blood of His Cross. We can bring nothing to this awesome relationship, it is solely by grace. Christ reconciles all things to himself

How then do we apply these verses? There is no specific command Paul gives, but the verses remind us of all these awesome things, the only way we can respond is to fall in worship before the great and awesome Christ, who is over and above all things. It is natural to want to erupt in praise at the reminder of our great Saviour – as Paul does here, overflowing with love of Christ. We must too express our amazing gratitude, desiring to live lives worthy of the one who created us through Him and for Him. In every area of our lives we must not cease to strive to live for Him. But we cannot do this thinking this will bring us favour, for it is our purpose. If a vacuum cleaner gets our carpet clean, we do not (normally) sit there and praise it for being so clever to do that, we accept that that is what it is made for and go on with it, praising Mr Hoover for being so clever to invent such a devise for making carpets clean. And so in the Christian life, we strive to bring glory to God, for that is our purpose – to bring glory to the one who is creator of all things, the one through whom and for whom all things were made, the sustainer of all, the one who keeps us going, the one who is the fullness of God, who reconciled us to Him. To Him be the glory forever!

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