We are heading into a section of Scripture that is packed full of truth about God. It is theology, and quite deep theology at that. Last week we had to face the theological term “redemption.” This week we will attempt to dissect what it means that Jesus is the image of the invisible God. Next week the difficult phrase “firstborn of all creation.” Then we have “by Him all things hold together.” “He is the head of the body” “He is the firstborn from the dead” “It was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fulness to dwell in Him” “Reconciliation” “Union with Christ”
Deep theology is not what most people get excited about. An ad for a church in this area said “Are you tired of the same old yadda, yadda, yadda? So are we! What if church dealt with relevant issues, real relationships, and a faith that enhances every aspect of daily life?”
There is certainly truth in what they are saying. Church needs to deal with relevant issues, real relationships, and a faith that enhances every aspect of daily life. Anyone who teaches or preaches truth has to put time and effort into crossing the application bridge to help bring the truth home for us. That is very true.
But here is what is frightening - for many people and even Christians today, topics like these in Colossians 1 would not fall into the category of “relevant issues,” but would actually land in the category of “the old yadda, yadda, yadda.” And as a result there is a huge amount of pressure on pastors in America today to cut back on the amount of truth that they dispense in their churches, or to cleverly conceal it. This is a frightening development for American Christianity. But it should not be a surprise, because II Tim. 4:3 “The time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires.”
1. Truth is relevant
· relevant means it has practical value
· Truth is not always comfortable or exciting. But that does not mean that it is not relevant. It is very dangerous to ignore portions of truth because you find them difficult or uncomfortable.
Ex: Suppose you are driving down the freeway 25 miles over the speed limit. And suddenly you have blue lights and a siren on your tail. Truth is that there is a cop requesting that you pull over so he can talk to you. However, you can choose to ignore that truth because it is uncomfortable. But that would not be a good decision. Eventually you will have 3 police cars surrounding you and forcing you off the road. It might be uncomfortable to face truth, but it is certainly relevant, and it will become increasingly relevant the longer you ignore it.
· Let’s take another illustration.
Topography sounds rather intimidating. Sounds like something that only a professor at a college somewhere would care about. But if you were going to go ride a 4-wheeler in an unfamiliar area of wilderness, a topographical map would probably be important. You might say “Don’t bore me with that topographical yadda yadda yadda, Just tell me how to make my 4-wheeler go faster.” I know of someone at a Christian camp in the mountains of Wyoming who drove their four-wheeler right off of a cliff and nearly killed themself. Truth – in the form of a topographical map – would have been much more relevant than they realized.
2. All truth about God is supremely relevant
There is nothing more relevant than truth about God. Today’s fashions will be tomorrows jokes; today’s hot new technology will be tomorrow’s old news; Today’s hot music will be tomorrow’s “classics” or “oldies.” There will be a new cool fashion; a new cool technology; a new cool music. What is very relevant today will soon be completely irrelevant. America actually forsakes what is really relevant in order to follow fads. But truth about God is never irrelevant. It is always supremely relevant.
You see a church can only deal with relevant issues, real relationships, and a faith that enhances every aspect of daily life as it teaches and preaches and lives out truth about God. And not just a few select truths; not just the truths that we like; not just the easy truths; but all truth. All Scripture.
3. Our commitment to truth about God is a reflection of our commitment to God Himself.
Let me quote from a modern-day pastor on the other side of that fence:
“Our concern with truth is an inevitable expression of our concern with God. If God exists, then he is the measure of all things, and what He thinks about all things is the measure of what we should think. Not to care about truth is not to care about God. To love God passionately is to love truth passionately. Being God-centered in life means being truth-driven in ministry. Indifference to the truth is indifference to the mind of God. Our concern with truth is simply an echo of our concern with God.”
Truth matters as much as God matters. He is truth. In loving truth you love and worship God.
John 4 the Father seeks people who will worship him in truth
John 8 If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; 32 And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.
John 17 Jesus prays that the Father would sanctify us with truth
I Cor. 13 love rejoices in truth
III John 4 I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth
Christians must be characterized by a passionate desire to hear and learn not what they want to hear and learn, but what is true.
At Grace Bible Church we must be relevant; we must be practical; lives must be changing here. But we will not seek to find relevance in the fads of culture. We will find relevance by passionately pursuing the knowledge and application of truth, especially truth about God. And we will endure sound doctrine; and we will love all of God’s truth from beginning to end, whether it is comfortable or exciting or not.
Now to today’s text:
It is interesting that these truths in Colossians 1 are much more practical than most people realize. Look at our text in verse 15:
· He is in the image of God; all humans are in the image of God, we have similarities to God; and so Jesus isn’t God he’s just in the image of God like all the rest of us
· He is the firstborn of all creation; if he was firstborn, that means that he was the first thing created; but he was still created like us. So he is the most important created being, but he’s not God. Because he’s created just like you and me.
· So Jesus is in the image of God just like all the rest of us; He’s created just like all the rest of us, and He’s not God.
· If He’s not God, he couldn’t die for your sins. So you aren’t saved, because you’ve been putting your trust in Jesus and now we know that he can’t really help you since He’s not God. If He is not God then he is blasphemer, and you are a great idolater because you have been worshipping a blasphemer. And to quote J. Oswald Sanders, “the whole superstructure of Christianity crashes to the ground.”
Of course that is a very weak interpretation of this text, and it does not hold up under scrutiny. But it helps us to see just how practical hard truths really are.
What does it mean that Jesus is “the image of the invisible God?” There are two main things that the word “image” can communicate, and I think both of them are in view here.
- Can mean representation:
1. Illust: a penny has the image of Abraham Lincoln on it – the representation
2. All humans are made in the image of God (Gen. 1:26-27) · ILLUST: PENNY – this is the likeness of Abraham Lincoln. But how much like Him is it? Was Abe bronze? Did he only have half of a head? This is a very imperfect likeness, but it is still the image or likeness of Abraham Lincoln. You and I were made in the image of God; we were created that way. We are kind of like God. We can love, and God loves. We can think, and God thinks. We can choose, and God chooses. We can give gifts, and God can give gifts. We are like God. But we are only a little bit like God. God loves perfectly, we love very imperfectly. God thinks perfectly, we think very imperfectly. God gives perfect gifts every time, we can only try. We are only a little bit like God.
3. Does that mean Jesus isn’t God? No, there’s a key difference here. · Hebrews 1:3 “The express (EXACT) image of his (God’s) person”; Jesus is the “exact likeness” of God. ILLUST: What if I had to exact representation/image of George Bush in front of you today? I would have to have him here! There is no difference, except that Jesus came and took a body. Jesus is the exact likeness of God, and so… Jesus must be God! How can you be exactly like God and not God!?
4. So does being in the image of God, being a representation of God, mean that Jesus isn’t God? No, because He is the perfect exact image of God; we were made in the image of God, and are very imperfect.
- Can mean manifestation:
1. Manifest = to show something; to make something clear or plain
An image can be something that makes something else clear or plain
2. So let’s substitute that meaning in Col. 1:15 “Jesus is the manifestation of the invisible God.” Now, this helps us understand why the phrase “invisible God” is so important. We need someone to show Him to us! We need someone to make Him clear, because we can’t see Him! He is infinitely different from us. So when Jesus comes and takes on humanity he shows us God in a way that we can understand. He manifests the invisible God to us.
3. John 14:6-9
a. Jesus says: “If you know me, you know the Father.”
b. Peter says: “Jesus, just show us the Father and we’ll be happy.”
c. Jesus just said “If you know me, you know the Father.”
d. So Jesus replies, “Peter, have you been with me all this time, and you haven’t figured this out yet?” Haven’t you figured out yet that I AM GOD, and if you see me you see God?
e. Then Jesus just says it: “He that hath seen me hath seen the Father.” So is Jesus God? ABSOLUTELY! If you’ve seen Him, you’ve seen God!
4. So Jesus is the “image of the invisible God.” When you see Him, you see God. Why? Because He is God.
The perfect representation
The perfect manifestation
Ramifications of Christ’s deity. There are so many that we could spend literally years of sermons discussing all of the significance of Christ’s deity. But let me just give you a couple of thoughts to get you going, and I hope this will fill your thoughts this week.
1. The wonder of the incarnation and the depth of God’s love
That little tiny baby in Mary’s womb was God. God in Christ humbled himself all the way to being a tiny baby in a womb. That is the exactly claim of the New Testament. How much did God love you? Enough that God Himself became a tiny child in a normal woman’s womb. What kind of love is that?
2. The horror of sin and the crucifixion
Is. 53 He was wounded for our transgressions - and He = God! Your sin and my sin is so great that that death of God in Christ is required to satisfy the penalty. That was God dying on that cross – that too is exactly the claim of the New Testament.
· this is the catching point for so many people – to admit that my sin could be that bad. At one point in our Christmas drama my character says “To say my life is not enough to merit God’s favor is impossible. I have tried so hard – too hard to imagine now that I could be a common sinner.” Kristalyn’s character says “begging your pardon, but that’s not what Jesus said.” That was God who died on the cross for my sin.
3. The power of salvation and the security of the believer
You have been saved by God. If God took on flesh as a man to save you; if it was God in flesh who died on that cross to save you; if it is God who promised salvation to those who would repent and trust Christ – then how great is your salvation. How secure is your salvation? You aren’t following a good man, a nice religious teacher. You’re not even following a great prophet. When Jesus says “He that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out” that is God saying “I will not cast you out.”
4. The comfort and assistance for the believer
When Jesus says “Come to me and I will give you rest” it is God offering rest.
When we are told that Jesus eagerly comes to the aid of those who are tempted, that is God coming to your aid.
When Jesus says in John 15 “No longer do I call you slaves, but I have called you friends” that is God speaking.
What a friend! What a help!
William Walsham How was an English pastor in the 1800s. He was a practical man known for his work among the poor (and maybe prisoners). But he knew the majesty of Christ, and He was a thoughtful and careful man who wrote several hymns. The text to three verses of one of them is on the back of your Christmas announcements. “Who Is This?”
Who is this so weak and helpless, child of lowly Hebrew maid,
Rudely in a stable sheltered, coldly in a manger laid?
‘Tis the Lord of all creation, who this wondrous path hath trod;
Christ our God from everlasting, and to everlasting God.
Who is this, a man of sorrows, walking sadly life’s hard way,
Homeless, weary, sighing, weeping over sin and Satan’s sway?
‘Tis our God, our glorious Savior, who above the starry sky
Now for us a place prepareth, where no tear can dim the eye.
Who is this that hangeth dying while the rude world scoffs and scorns,
Numbered with the malefactors, torn with nails, and crowned with thorns?
‘Tis the God who ever liveth ‘mid the shining ones on high,
God in the glorious golden city, reigning everlastingly.
There is another song by Graham Kendrick called “Meekness and Majesty” that also tries to capture the wonder that that man was God. And I love the conclusion the chorus of that song makes about Jesus: “Oh what a mystery! Meekness and majesty - bow down and worship Him – this is your God!”
You night be here today and you have never turned from your sin and trusted Christ alone for forgiveness and salvation. I want you to know today that just accepting the deity of Christ will not save you. Unbelieving poet Lord Byron “If ever a man was God, or God was a man, Jesus Christ was both.” Ruthless and proud Napoleon said “I know men, and I tell you, Jesus was not a man. In every other existence but that of Christ, how many imperfections.” Recognizing that fact that Christ was God will not save you if you have never turned from your sin and rebellion against God and trusted Christ alone for forgiveness and salvation. If you decide that you are a good enough person, and you don’t need Christ’s forgiveness, Christ will be your judge someday. He will have to judge you for your sin. If you turn from your sin and trust Christ for salvation, He will be your Savior from your sin, instead of judging you for your sin.
We have a great Christ, a great God. Church is not first a place to find practical help for everyday living – it is a place to come together with God’s people and worship your great God for all that He is in Christ. There aren’t many of us – we aren’t spectacular voices – we don’t have a great choir. But God doesn’t require any of those things. He wants us to come and worship – worship in truth and worship with our hearts.