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Colossians 1. 15-20: Mystery of Jesus

October 2, 2011 Series: Colossians

Topic: New Testament Passage: Colossians 1:15–1:16


This sermon is about Jesus.  And though every sermon should lead us to and from the cross, these six verses, in a way unlike others, provide a definitive answer to the question, WHO IS JESUS.  In 2Corinthians 11.4, Paul says there is “another Jesus”—suggesting that there were many wrong answers and only one right one.   The identity of Jesus is the most important truth we all must know before we die—when we die, it will be clear.

A wrong Jesus
Few will argue the existence of a man named Jesus who lived about 2,000 years ago in northern Israel, a poor Jewish carpenter, raised in the village of Nazareth (armpit of Galilee) who, after 30 years of obscurity, left home to preach, teach, and love the poor and needy only to be killed three years later at the hands of Rome because of the mouths of hyper-religious folks.   Whether religious or irreligious, there are billions who have acknowledged Jesus’ in his existence, millions who have respected Jesus for his teachings, and even many who have loved Jesus for his works whether you are Jew, Scientologist, Hippie, or Muslim. In other words, no one ignores Jesus of Nazareth…but most minimize him, and accept him for less than the Bible says He is; whether that is as a good man, or a solid teacher, or a humble servant, or even an important messenger from God.  Everyone loves Jesus…just not the same one…and certainly not the one in the Bible; if I believe that then he has ultimate authority in my life.  I am supreme in my life, so I’ll take the parts of Jesus that work, that are popular, or and add whatever person, teaching, or message I need or want.  Welcome to how-to-build a cult 101.

The right Jesus
Jesus once asked Peter, “Who do people say that I am?”  After telling him what “people” had been saying, Jesus then asked him what he thought.  He answered correctly: “Your the Son of the Living God” and Jesus blessed Him for his answer.  A few verses later, a blessed Peter is called Satan for pulling Jesus aside and privately “rebuking” the Son of Living God about his plan.  How easy it is to forget who Jesus is.   Like Peter, I’m afraid that some of us might have right Jesus but the wrong attitude.  We have the right theology, bible verses, and confessions about Jesus but the wrong disposition towards Him.  This week what disturbed me most was how flippant Christians are about Jesus.  We joke about Jesus being our homeboy, we emasculate Jesus, manimal-ize Jesus, politicize Jesus, and essentially dishonor our Lord and King.  It’s not that we reject Jesus entirely; no, we take him off the throne and treating him like a person we can use.  This is what is happening in Colossae.   

So following his greeting and prayer, Paul drills down on the heart of the problem—the false teachers don’t know and the Colossians have forgotten WHO JESUS IS.  And to affirm the true identity of Christ and to establish the Supremacy of Christ once and for all, Paul writes the most theologically rich Jesus song in the Bible. 

#1 Supreme as Image of God  
First, Jesus is the He is the image of the invisible God.  God is invisible, He is spirit, and we cannot see him. Like the wind, we can see, feel, and experience the impact of his presence, but essentially he remains hidden.   John1.18 says, “No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.”

It is true that Jesus is Godlike, but Jesus came to earth to show us that God is Christ-like—there is no UNCHRISTNESS about God.   In John 14, after telling his disciples the he is “the way, the truth, and the life”, the one and only way to the Father, a disciple named Philip asks Jesus to show them the Father. Jesus responds by saying, IF YOU HAVE SEEN ME, YOU HAVE SEEN the FATHER.  You’re looking at God.  In Jesus, every attitude, every word, every interaction, every tear, every rebuke, every action, every sacrifice, we see God the Father.  This is why the book of Hebrews describes Jesus as “the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. Heb. 1.3).” 

Jesus is not just the first rung in the ladder.  He is not a second-rate divine manifestation, a messenger from God among many, or even a New Testament “softer” version of God.  He shows us everything about God.  He possesses all of the perfections (love, goodness, wrath, wisdom, etc.) of the same God of Adam, Noah, Abraham, Issac, Jacob, and David.  More than he shows us everything about ourselves.  As we are also  made in the image of God, we see all that are meant to be in terms of character.  Jesus is supreme in his relationship to God the Father. 

#2 Supreme in importance
Second, Jesus is the firstborn of all creation.
  This verse is misunderstood by some to teach that Jesus was the first thing created.  Cults, like JW’s,  Mormons, are famous for using this verse to teach heretic doctrine first taught centuries ago by a man named Arius. In essence, they teach that Jesus is a created being.  Firstborn does not always have to mean, and quite often does not mean in the O.T., literally the first one born. In speaking of King David, and prophetically of Jesus, Psalm 89.27 says:   And I will make him the firstborn, the highest of the kings of the earth.  David was not the firstborn in his family, and he wasn’t the first King.  So firstborn can also the “first in rank”.  In this case, Jesus is the heir of all things from the Father—he has been exalted as King of Kings and Lord of Lords. His not just first, He is absolutely first, first in position, first in importance, first in dignity, first in rule.  Jesus is supreme in all creation, before any other created thing.

#3 Supreme as Creator
And we know that Jesus is supreme in and over all things because, Paul says thirdly, He is the creator of all things
.  We cannot forget that Paul is writing to a Colossian church being assaulted by false teachers who want to add something to Jesus. And everything they might add be is worship of creation or and above the creator be it religion, traditions, or angels.  And Paul comprehensively says Jesus created everything:  16 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. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. All of things visible (physical) or invisible (spiritual) were created by and for Jesus. That means that nothing in creation has come into being that Jesus did not will to exist.  In his gospel, John also speaks about this:  In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made (1.1-3).  When you consider the wonder of the universe we live in—Jesus did that. And not only did he make what we see like our bodies, stars, oceans, forests, but also the wisdom and talent to make what we make.  And more than that, he makes what we can’t see, time, wisdom, life, death, justice, invisible realms, heaven, hell, spiritual beings, angels, fallen angels, even Satan.  And not only is JESUS the creator of all things he is the SUSTAINER of all those things. We breathe, the earth rotates, atoms hold together, because they all things are held together every moment in Jesus. Nothing has existence, power, or perpetuation apart from Him.  Jesus is supreme over all of creation—it is his.

#4 Supreme as Head of Church The fourth thing Paul sings about is that Jesus is the head of the body, the church.  This might seem like a strange leap from CREATOR of all things.  Jesus is not only the LORD through whom all things were made, he is also the one through whom all things are REMADE. The Creation that God formed, was deformed by sin, and is reformed in Christ—blood of Jesus for the forgiveness of sin is what remakes what is made (Anything broken created thing is fixed by Jesus).

Jesus said, in Matthew 16.18 his mission was to build a church. And the church, having been entrusted with the gospel of Jesus, is the beginning of that new creation.   Jesus is the Lord of the universe, and He is the Lord of the church.  Like the creator world, the church is built through Jesus, is built for Jesus, and his held together by Jesus.  Without a head, a body cannot live, it cannot grow, it cannot continue to function.  WITHOUT JESUS there is no church body.  You can have gatherings.  You can have traditions.  You can have religion.  You can have buildings.  You can even have preachers, programs, and spiritual experiences.  But without Jesus it is all meaningless and it will one day begin to stink like a rotting corpse without a head.  There is no power, healing, no growth, no new life without Christ. When something other than Jesus is set up as LORD in the church, when your heart delights more in being part of a certain church, style of worship, a specific preacher, an amazing service project, even a particular theological position MORE than your heart is driven to worship Jesus—the church is dead.  The church can exist without all of that, but it cannot exist with the Jesus as supreme.

#5 Supreme Life Giver.
And Paul has already said in verse 14, that entrance into the church comes through the cross.  And that is because of the fifth thing Jesus is:  the beginning, the firstborn from the dead.  THIS IS THE 2nd FIRSTBORN and if read literally would say that death gave birth to Jesus.  In being the firstborn from the dead, the Bible is speaking about his resurrection.  But we know that Jesus was not the FIRST person to be resurrected from the dead—there are several including Lazarus who Jesus raised himself.  But, as it was with the firstborn in creation, he was the MOST IMPORTANT.  Every other person that was ever resurrected from the dead DIED again.  Not only did Jesus raise himself, He was the first to be resurrected with a glorified body, having conquered death, with the proven power and authority to give NEW LIFE now and in eternity. Without Jesus alive and well right now, I am hopeless and pitiful.  But with him, I have life :

  • ·         RESSURECTED JESUS gives me a life with a calling and purpose.
  • ·         RESSURECTED JESUS gives life satisfaction as I live
  • ·         RESSURECTED JESUS gives me a life of joy and peace when I fear or fail
  • ·         RESURRECTED JESUS gives me strength to endure life
  • ·         RESSURECTED JESUS gives me courage as I suffer in life
  • ·         RESURRECTED JESUS gives me hope when I die

#6 & #7 Supreme as Reconciler
And his final stanza of this Jesus song, Paul proclaims two final things about who Jesus is.  And what he says  Jesus in fact the only one who could be and do all these things.   He writes Jesus is the fullness of God in human flesh and, because he is fully man and fully God, He is the Supreme reconciler of all things.  Something happened in the relationship between men and God that made necessary reconciliation.  RECONCILIATION means “reestablishing, renewing, restoring, relationship.”  God didn’t do anything to break relation, but through Adam’s sinful rebellion, all mankind broke relationship with God.  And left to themselves, sinful men would not reconcile with God, because they wouldn’t reach out to him in our pride or we’d hide from him in our shame.  In other words, we either don’t believe we’ve done ANYTHING wrong or we believe we’ve done EVERYTHING wrong. 

So, as “spiritual” as things might look, sound, or feel, false religions, worldly philosophies, or any other attempt for men to make peace with God won’t work.  And accepting Jesus as a good teacher, respecting his moral example, or even acknowledging him as a messenger of God does nothing to make peace with God.   

The only way a holy God can express BOTH his holiness and not kill us and His love and not condone our sins, is to send a substitute—not just any substitute, a perfect sinless representative.. The ONLY solution to this problem was to provide a substitute.  Beginning with the Exodus, God shows how he will accept a divinely ordained substitute for the sinner, so that the substitute would receive the judgment and the sinner the pardon.  But God always had a plan to send Jesus as the ultimate substitute.  As Theologian Ed Clowney says, the moment he didn’t wipe us out in the garden of eden, ALL of history, life, and death point to Jesus. 

So God provides a particular substitute to save us and satisfy himself at the same time. Who is this substitute?  Jesus.  He has to be BOTH fully man AND FULLY GOD:  Only a REAL human being can pay the price for my REAL human sin, ONLY man SHOULD make payment his sins, since it is a MAN who has disobeyed.  A man must represent me, in fact, a sinless man must stand for all those he would save.  But he can’t just be a finite man because only infinite God COULD make the infinite payment required. In other words, only God can SAVE and SATISFY himself at the same time.  The only satisfying sacrifice for a perfect God would be a perfect sacrifice for ALL sins. In order to do this, he sacrificed and substituted himself for us.”  Jesus saves us by doing what we could not because of our sin 

This is the definitive answer to WHO JESUS IS.  BEFORE all things, CREATOR of all things, SUSTAINER of all things, and RESTORER of all things.  To make him any less is to make him nothing, and to look away from the creator and toward creation for meaning in life is foolish.  The reason Jesus is supreme is not because he is a more humble man, a more loving man, or a more moral man, it is because Jesus is more than a man, He is God. And only satisfactory response to him is worship Him as supreme and depend on Him as sufficient.

Don’t diminish Jesus into a friend, an example, or a solid moral compass.  HE IS LORD.  Some of us have a the wrong Jesus and worship him rightly (with all you are) , and some of us have the right Jesus but worship him wrongly.  Don’t listen to the SPIRIT of the COLOSSIAN HERETIC that makes Jesus less than He is—our creator. And let us never forget the lengths that our creator went to so that we would not find satisfaction in anything but him.  Our creator willingly entered into a sinful broken world, our creator was mocked and spit upon by mouths he made, our creator was nailed to a tree he planted, our creator died by the hands he made.   In every other religion, the founder or leader is a man sent to tell others how they can be saved.  But Jesus is God himself, who comes to do more than inform.  If we only needed information he would have sent another prophet.  Pray that you will come be covered by the blood of your God, come confess, come receive forgiveness, come repent, and come worship and experience the life that peace with him can bring.

Benediction: Romans 16.25-27