When Tiger Woods steps onto a golf course, he is instantly surrounded by masses of people. When golfers prepare for a tournament on the driving range, a few people will be there, but when Tiger steps onto the driving range, a large crowd of people and media personnel come to watch. At a tournament a handful of people will follow all the other golfers, but a massive crowd follows Tiger. According to wins and money earned, Woods is the best golfer in the world. This year he has earned over 5 million playing in tournaments. Because of that success, companies have paid him about ten times that in endorsements. Success attracts attention. Famous people are known and admired.
On Sunday morning in most churches, the front pews are empty and in some cases large churches are practically empty. Sometimes as Christians we whisper the name of Jesus because we don’t want people to know that we know Him. Is there something wrong with that picture?
The passage we will look at this morning encourages us that the one we have come to worship is much greater than Tiger Woods or anyone else and we have reason to flock to Him with a much greater enthusiasm and passion. This morning as we look at Colossians 1:15-23, I invite you to look at Jesus and worship Him and love Him.
Perhaps the problem begins because of all the lies which are told about Jesus. I asked the internet, “Who is Jesus” and got some interesting answers.
One man is using the name Jesus and has his picture on the web site and he looks like pictures of Jesus. His web site is for the purpose of meeting women.
A group called the Jesus Seminar has met several times for a number of years to try to discover the historical Jesus. They deny the resurrection and the miracles of Jesus and argue about which words in the gospels were really Jesus’ words.
Jehovah Witnesses translate John 1:1, “In the beginning was the word and the word was with God and the word was a god.” They do not accept the divinity of Jesus.
Mormons seem to have a strong identity with Jesus, but they do not acknowledge that the death of Jesus on the cross was sufficient to pay for our sins. Their definition of the atonement is significantly weakened.
A lot of people, if asked, would probably see Jesus as a good man, but that doesn’t stop many of those same people from using his name as a curse word.
As people who say we are “Christians” that is people who are Christ- ones, we need to know the truth about Jesus and allow that knowledge to move us to love Him, to worship Him and to obey Him. This morning, we will examine the truth about Jesus and think about how we respond to that truth.
I. God Revealer vs. 15a
Someone told me about a young person they had had in a Sunday School class many years ago. The fellow was very active and although he had a good heart, he was always getting in trouble. The teacher lost touch with this person for many years but recently while at a gathering, she saw a young fellow running around and was reminded about this fellow she’d had in Sunday School because he looked and acted exactly like him. Upon inquiring, she discovered that he was the son of the person she had taught. Like father like son.
The Bible tells us that Jesus is “the image of the invisible God” or as The Message says, “We look at this Son and see the God who cannot be seen.”
Although God himself cannot be seen, Jesus, the Son, shows us exactly what God, the Father, is like. Jesus is not a shadow of God to give us a shadowlike image. He is not a mirror image which is reversed and can be distorted. He isn’t even a painted picture which represents God with some interpretation thrown in. Jesus is the true and living representation of God himself because He is God.
Because this is true, we can never say that God has hidden himself. We can’t say that God is obscure and unknowable. God came to earth in the person of his Son, Jesus Christ, to show us exactly what He is like.
Have you ever thought how amazing and powerful that is? God, the creator of the universe, the holy King of all creation, the Sovereign Lord above all else has come into this world as a person and as a person has made himself known to us.
When we look at Jesus, what do we learn about God? We learn that God loves us very much. He is not uninvolved or careless about his relationship with the people he has created. We see a God who wants to be involved with his people and wants to do the best for his people. Such a condescension is a powerful expression of love. We also see holiness - God who never does anything wrong. We also see that although he is angry at sin, he is very patient with sinners and very patient with those who repent of sin. We see one who forgives sin rather than casting the first stone. He is one who cares when people are sick and die and wants to heal and raise them from the dead. We see one who has compassion on those who are lost.
When we see the image of God in the person of Jesus Christ, we are brought to our knees in worship and adoration.
II. Creator vs. 15b, 16
If you have your Bibles opened, take a look at the number of times the word all appears in this passage. It occurs 8 times - at least once in every verse between verses 15-20. The use of this word “all” is important because it demonstrates the comprehensive power, authority and position of Jesus. That comprehensive position of Jesus over all is focused in verses 15b and 16 when we read that Jesus is the “firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created.”
The words “firstborn over all creation” might suggest that Jesus was the first one created, but we need to understand the word “firstborn.” It is probably not the best translation and NIV has tried to overcome the difficulty of translating it by saying “firstborn over all creation” which gives us the true sense. Jesus is first in rank over all the things that have been created.
There is a lot of interest in demonic powers today and many people have come to fear all the powers at work in the world. There are many different powers in the world. There are the powers of the evil one, but there are also other powers. Money, which was created by Jesus for His glory has become a power in our lives which threatens to turn us away from God. Sex, which Jesus has created as a blessing for husband and wife has become a power which destroys relationships. The Bible warns us about the many powers in our world which we have to wrestle against. How important to know that Jesus is first in rank over all creation and therefore is above all of these things. We do not need to fear the powers that are in the world or be defeated by them. Later in Colossians 2:15 we will see that Jesus has triumphed over the powers through the cross and therefore, we can have victory over the powers because Jesus is first.
The next line indicates that he is the creator of all things. We often think of God as creator and Jesus as the one who came to earth to reveal God to us, but we need to also know that Jesus is the creator of all things.
If Jesus, our Saviour and Lord, is the creator of all things, what are the implications of that? When David Balzer spoke a few weeks ago, he challenged us not to separate the world into spiritual and secular and not to see the spiritual as good and the secular as bad. If Jesus is the creator, then creation is good and we need to rejoice in the goodness of creation. I believe that it is in this kind of an understanding that we find reason, as Christians, to be concerned to be stewards of the world and to be concerned about the environment. If you borrow a book or a tool from a friend, you take care of the property of your friend because you value your friendship. If our world is a good creation of God, then we need to take care of it because we value our relationship with God. Being care takers of our world is a part of our worship of the one who created it.
How do you worship Jesus, the one who is over all and has created all things?
III. Exalted Lord vs. 17
This overarching supremacy of Christ is further described in verse 17 where we read in The Message, “He was there before any of it came into existence and holds it all together right up to this moment.” What this tells us is that Jesus is Lord and God above all. Everything that exists does so only because He holds it together.
If Jesus is the one who is over all things, then we need to be very careful that we don’t make anything else a god. Anything that takes the place of God in our life is out of order. If Jesus is over all and holds all things together, then nothing has any right to be where He ought to be.
We often criticize communism because it has boldly rejected God and is known as atheistic communism. But are we really that much better in the west? Many have thought that the free market economy is the best way to run the world and have made it a god. Have you ever thought that the only reason our economic system works is because it is based on the assumption that all people are greedy. How distorted to make a god out of something so evil! As Christians, we need to build our world around the understanding that Jesus is over all and holds all things together. What are the implications of that for the way in which we become involved in politics? What are the implications of that for the way in which we participate in the economy?
Jesus Christ is Lord of all and we dare not allow anything - personal or economic or political take His rightful place as Lord. Instead, we ought to worship Him and change our life with that understanding.
IV. Head Of The Church vs. 18a
The first part of this passage has presented Jesus as the Lord of creation. Jesus is creator and is over all of creation. The second part of the passage beginning in verse 18 presents Jesus as the one who is over the re-creation of the universe.
In the setting of a world in which Jesus is over all, we learn now that He is the head of His body the church. This is a most amazing truth for it places us as the people of God in a totally different place than we often see ourselves in the world.
If Jesus, the one who is creator and is over all creation is the head of His body, the church, which is us, what does that mean for us as members of His body? What does that mean for the church in its place in all of human history. It is not some obscure group of people who struggle to keep an institution going. It is not the weakest of society grasping for a place in society. It is not some body of people who mean nothing and are nothing, meeting to console each other. The church becomes the one institution in all of human history which will survive beyond human history and will be there for all eternity. It is the one institution which is connected most closely to the one who is over all. It gives us an exalted place among all the people and organizations of the world and the most important role in all that is happening in the world.
If the creator of the universe who is over all creation is the head of his body, is the head of this church and is the head of the members of this church, then we had better stop running the church with our ideas and power and begin to let the Lord of the church run the church and we had better stop running our lives and let the Lord of His body lead the members of His body.
G. Campbell Morgan wrote, “The Church of God apart from the Person of Christ is a useless structure. However ornate it may be in its organization, however perfect in all its arrangements, however rich and increased with goods, if the Church is not revealing the Person, lifting Him to the height where all men can see Him, then the Church becomes an impertinence and a sham, a blasphemy and a fraud, and the sooner the world is rid of it, the better.”
V. Firstborn From The Dead vs. 18b
The second part of verse 18 reminds us that Jesus is the first one who has gone through death and come out on the other side alive. He is the “firstborn from the dead.”
This again wows us with the understanding of the first place of Jesus. As the first one resurrected, He is over all and therefore is to be glorified above all else.
The word “firstborn,” however, also encourages us that Jesus is the first one to rise from the dead, which means that there will be others. So we rejoice that He is alive and that because He is alive, we also will live.
VI. Fully God 19
Verse 19 continues this exalted praise of Jesus when it says, as The Message puts it, “From beginning to end he’s there, towering far above everything, everyone. So spacious is he, so roomy, that everything of God finds its proper place in him without crowding.”
Although God might be accepted by many people in the world, Jesus is seen as Lord only by those who are Christians, but God declares that all His fullness is in Jesus. Such a perspective encourages us to rejoice that we know the Lord of all. It moves us to the task of evangelism - to proclaim that Jesus is already Lord. It challenges us to live under the reality that Jesus is Lord.
VII. Reconciler vs. 20-23
The pinnacle of this amazing passage is that this Jesus who is above all of creation, who is in fact the one who created all things, is also the one who is Lord of God’s work of re-creation. Erasmus said, “By a Carpenter mankind was made, and only by that Carpenter can mankind be remade.” God has given to Him the task of reconciling all things to Himself.
Once we were alienated from God. We were enemies in our minds, filled with evil behaviour. Who of us does not know that? Every time lust gathers in our heart, every time greed suggests itself to us, every time hatred gathers a head of steam, every time we doubt that God could possibly have good intentions towards us - we know that we are at enmity with the one who created us.
But now, we are in a totally different place. Whereas once he called us enemy, now, God calls us friend. Whereas once he looked at us from afar, now He has brought us near. Whereas once we were wallowing in sin, now we luxuriate in purity.
How did this radical change come to be? It is through the one God has declared as being the representation of His fullness, the one who is creator and is over all things by the authority of God, it is through Jesus.
Jesus has accomplished it by His blood. In Jesus, God himself went to the cross, not to die a failure, not to show us how to have courage in suffering, not even to die a martyr’s death, but to die in our place so that our sins could be forgiven.
As a result, Jesus will present us as a holy people to the Holy God of all the universe. We will be presented to God as people who have no blemish and can be accused of nothing.
So many times I have tried to encourage those who doubt their salvation. They know that they are not pure and are afraid that this impurity in them will result in their salvation being taken away. That cannot happen, because our purity, our being presented without blemish and free from accusation before God does not depend on our having lived up to what we were redeemed from. It depends entirely on Christ’s death on the cross. Until we grasp the comprehensiveness and wholeness of the amazing power of Christ’s death on the cross, we will not worship and serve our creator Christ as we ought.
But someone will say, “isn’t the next line a conditional sentence?” It is, but notice the expectations of that condition? Is it following a whole bunch of laws or living entirely without sin? The condition to being presented pure in the presence of God is to “continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel.” It is simply to continue to know and understand that our eternal hope, our purification, our blamelessness is completely dependent on the work of Christ on the cross and our holding onto His purity and His sacrifice in hope.
Does this mean that we can sin as we want? That is not the question here. That question is dealt with later on. To begin with we must grasp that our acceptance with God is entirely dependent on the death of Christ on the cross. It is when we have fully grasped the power of Christ’s sacrifice and His supreme place over all creation and over our salvation that we can begin to follow Him in love and obedience as a response to His finished work.
You see, it is all about Jesus. Do we know Him? Do we understand who He is and what He has done? If we do, we will love Him, and follow Him, and rejoice in Him, and know our place before God in Him, and know our place in the world because of Him.
If Shakespeare should come into this room, we would all rise; but if Jesus Christ should come in, we would all kneel. Charles Lamb
May Jesus Christ be praised!