Series on Colossians #2
Some people who claim they do not believe there is a God use the reasoning that if God cannot be seen, there is no proof He exists.
Interestingly, that reasoning can be debunked by thinking of other things we know exist, though we cannot see them.
How about the wind? Wind cannot be seen, but the effect of wind is certainly evident. We feel it. We see branches and leaves move. For those hit by recent hurricanes in Texas, Florida, and the Caribbean, downed power lines and damaged cars and missing roofs are evidence wind exists, even though we cannot see it.
Listen to this that someone wrote about electricity. “I have never seen electricity, but each month, I pay my electric bill, and I see the results of electricity. My appliances run. My lights turn on. I depend on electricity even though I have never seen it.”
It is the same with God. No, we have not and cannot see Him, but think of all the ways He impacts life - air and breath, flowers and crops, peace and comfort for the soul.
There is a God. There is one true God. And guess what. He provided another evidence of His existence. He provided His only Son Jesus, who came to earth about 2000 years ago to live with people and teach people and then to die to pay the price for sins committed by people so people could have blessings here and then be in Heaven.
And guess what else. Jesus did not just suddenly come into being 2000 years ago. He has always existed, which is the gist of the first part of a section in chapter 1 of the New Testament Book of Colossians. A section that begins with verse 15.
We are in the beginning stages of a series of messages on the Book of Colossians, the purpose being to help us learn both the historical and spiritual importance of what the apostle Paul wrote to the Christians in the city of Colossae.
The series began last Sunday with the first 14 verses of chapter 1. Verses in which Paul complimented the Colossian Christians, calling them saints and faithful brethren, stating how pleased he was to hear of their faith, love, and hope, and commending them for bearing spiritual fruit.
One of the challenges last week was that we strive to be described the same ways.
In verses 1-14, Paul also assured the Christians in Colossae of his prayers for them. Prayers that they would grow in wisdom and knowledge so they could lead lives worthy of the Lord. Those prayers can be extended to us as well.
In today’s part of the Book of Colossians - verses 15 through 23 of chapter 1 - Paul continues his letter by reminding people of the greatness of Jesus.
Let’s go verse by verse to cover all Paul wrote about Jesus, and again, what he wrote were reminders. The Christians in Colossae already knew these things. Paul was simply reminding them what they knew.
Verse 15. Paul wrote, “Jesus is the image of the invisible God. Jesus is the first-born of all creation.”
Remember the comment that God cannot be seen? That is true physically, but it is not totally true because, Paul taught, by seeing Jesus, who is the image of God [image in this context means being a copy of ], we see God.
Of course, you and I have not seen Jesus physically either, but we know He was on earth. We know because of the Bible, which tells us about Him.
Paul wrote, “You know about Jesus. “That is even more the case now. At least it can be even more the case since we have the Bible. You - we - know about Jesus. Therefore, we know about God.
And back to Jesus, He was - He is - “the first-born of all creation.” First-born, in this passage, does not refer to physical birth. Instead, in this context, as thought of in both Jewish and Greek cultures, it refers to being the most-honored or most-favored of anyone. A position given to Jesus by God.
Verse 16. “For in Jesus all things were created, in Heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or authorities.”
This might be a good time to mention the reason for this section of Colossians. Last week it was said that in the Book of Colossians, there were some negative things Paul needed to address. He began the letter by complimenting the Colossian Christians, but one of the purposes of the compliments was to get the people ready to accept Paul’s corrections.
Here is one of the corrections. It seems there were some false teachers in the Colossian congregation. Teachers who were trying to convince people that more than Jesus was needed for salvation. Some taught there were rules that needed to be followed. They were more than happy to set the rules. Some taught intellectual knowledge was needed, which I guess would limit salvation to those who are smart. Some taught that other things, such as angels - as in thrones or dominions or principalities or authorities, which were, in Greek thought, different grades or levels of angels - were needed to be spiritually complete.
See the point concerning angels? Paul corrected the false teachers by claiming it was Jesus who created all things, including angels. Therefore, it was not and is not angels who are to be relied upon, but Jesus, who created them.
Paul repeated the claim. “All things were created through Jesus.” And listen. “All things were created for Him,” which is another way of saying Jesus is the one to be honored and praised.
Verse 17. “Jesus was before anything and everything that was created.” But not only was He part of creating. Listen to this. “In Him all things hold together.”
Isn’t that amazing? Of course we know, for instance, about gravity, but gravity, according to Paul, is the creation of Jesus. And it is not just on earth that He holds things together. That happens throughout the universe.
Remember a few weeks ago when we talked about the solar eclipse? How amazing it is that there is order in the universe. That the sun and the moon and the stars follow the paths given to them at creation. There is no variation. Why? Not by chance, but rather because of Jesus, who holds all things together.
That, by the way, is way beyond my mind’s ability to comprehend, but I take it as fact, which is what Paul wanted the Christians in Colossae to do.
Jesus’ power over creation is amazing. It is one of the proofs Paul listed of Jesus being enough. That nothing else and no one else but Jesus are needed for spiritual completeness. But He is also enough on a smaller scale.
Verse 18. “Jesus is the head of the body.”
The body is the church. It is an important vessel through which God works on earth, which means God needs the church. However, the body needs a head. The head of the church needs to be Jesus.
Remember the problem Paul was addressing was the false teaching that more than Jesus was needed. Here Paul continued to argue against that false teaching. Jesus is to be the head of the church. Not angels, not knowledge, not anything else nor anyone else. Jesus is the head of the church.
He became the head of the church when He became ”the first-born from the dead,” which refers to when He rose from death. Death caused by His crucifixion.
It was that death - death He allowed to happen so He could become the sacrifice for sin - that causes Him to be “pre-eminent.” Supreme over all, which again addressed the fact Jesus is enough. Nothing else is as important - no one else is as important - as Him. Jesus is pre-eminent. He is the first-born from the dead. He is the head of the church.
Verse 19. In Jesus “all the fulness of God was pleased to dwell.” Why? Verse 20. So “through Him all things could be reconciled to God.”
Notice it was God who wanted and still does want reconciliation. Reconciliation needed because of sin, which causes separation from God. It was God who begins the process of reconciliation. A joining together with God that comes by accepting, not knowledge or angels, but Jesus as the one and only Savior. The one who became the Savior by dieing on the cross of crucifixion.
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Jesus is the image of God. He is the one who created everything and holds everything together. He is the head of the body, which is the church. Because of that, He is to be the most-honored of all.
All that was taught by Paul in verses 15 through 20 of Colossians 1. However, just knowing all that is not the end. That knowledge needs to be applied. Verses 21 through 23.
Again, remember Paul began his letter to the Colossian Christians by complimenting them. The fact they were worthy of being complimented did not change, especially as they would turn away from the false teachers among them. However, before they had accepted Jesus, things had been different, described this way by Paul. “You once were estranged and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds.”
I will admit to wanting to know the bad things done by the Colossians. A little case of nosiness, I guess. However, nothing is mentioned, so it is only conjecture what they did.
However, human nature being what it is, I would suspect there might have been some arrogance or arguing or some moral failures. In general there must have been a desire to follow their wants rather than what God wants.
That is the way the Colossians used to be, but that had changed when they had become Christians. In them, the work of reconciliation had been done. They had been “reconciled” to God by Jesus’ death.
That was important. It was needed so they could be presented to God “holy, blameless, and irreproachable before God.”
Holy. Different. As in the world continuing with arrogance and arguing and moral failures and continuing to satisfy personal wants rather than what God wants, but those who are Christians being different, as in being subservient to God and doing their best to get along with others and living in ways that are pure, striving to know and do God’s will.
Blameless. Without spot. Innocent of any and all wrong-doing.
When thinking about that, I recall the Old Testament report of Daniel. Remember him? He was a Jewish captive in a foreign kingdom. A captive who, favored by God, rose to an important position in the foreign kingdom.
Some others became jealous of Daniel. They wanted to find something about which they could complain concerning him. Remember? As it is worded, his enemies could “find no ground for complaint.” They could find no fault because Daniel was “blameless.”
Blameless is what Paul called the Colossian Christians. That and holy. That is how we, too, are to be described. Along with being irreproachable before God. Irreproachable. Without flaw.
Remember the people to whom Paul wrote had once been estranged from God, hostile in mind, and doers of evil, but that had changed when they had accepted Jesus as Savior. When they had, by Jesus’ death, been reconciled to God, the advantages were, at that time, them being holy, blameless, and irreproachable.
Characteristics they would maintain if they would, Paul wrote, “continue in the faith.” If they would continue to rely on Jesus and Jesus alone. If they would stand strong and firm against any and all teachers who were falsely teaching that something or someone other than Jesus had to be included to gain spiritual wholeness.
“Continue in the faith,” Paul wrote. “Be stable and steadfast. Do not shift away from the hope of the Gospel which you heard. The Gospel is the truth that the only way to have blessings now and Heaven later is through Jesus. Truth Paul had taught them. Truth they had believed. Truth Paul preached everywhere he went. Truth which had been and has been “preached to every creature under Heaven.”
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Jesus is the image of God. He is the one who created everything and holds everything together. He is the head of the body. He is to be the most-honored of all.
Knowing all that, may we do what the Colossian Christians were challenged to do. May we strive to be holy, blameless, and irreproachable before God. May we be firm, stable, and steadfast in our Christian faith.
With those teachings of Paul in mind, here are two stories, the first one dealing with the idea of reconciliation.
There is an ancient door on display in St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin, Ireland. The door has a rectangular hole hacked out of its center. It is called the Door of Reconciliation. The door became known when two Irish families who were feuding finally made peace.
Here is what happened. In the late 1400’s, Sir James Butler, Earl of the Ormonds, took refuge in the cathedral. Several weeks later, Sir Gerald Fitzgerald, Earl of the Kildares, decided he wanted to end the feud.
Sir Gerald went to the cathedral and requested entry. He promised he would do no harm, but Sir James was suspicious and refused him entry.
Sir Gerald took his spear. Not to attack, but to hack through the wooden cathedral door, making a hole just big enough to put his arm through. Which he did, offering his hand as a gesture of peace.
I can think of a whole lot of things that could have gone wrong with that gesture, but James took the hand and shook it. The two men were reconciled and the feud ended.
Think of the risk Jesus took when He attempted reconciliation by dieing on the cross. What if people tried to hurt Him by continuing to laugh at Him, not only on the cross, but afterward? What if people forgot Him after He was buried? What if they ignored all His teachings about how to live?
Jesus risked everything to reconcile people to God. Unfortunately, some do laugh and some have forgotten what He did and some do ignore Him, even now. But others - are you one of the others - others have taken His hand, doing that by accepting Him as Savior. For those of us who have done that, there is reconciliation. For us, the feud with God caused by sin has ended.
Those of us in that category are to rejoice. Any not in that category, will you change that? Today you can be reconciled to God, which happens by accepting Jesus, who is the one and only thing you need. Accept Jesus, who is the image of the invisible God. Do that today. Today, in prayer, confess any sin that may be in your life. Today, be reconciled to God.
And this story. A woman was taking a class in photography. For one assignment, she chose her daughter as her subject. The mother asked her daughter to pose on a hillside to be photographed.
Also on the hillside, close to where the daughter was, there was an apple tree in full bloom. The woman could not resist. She gave the tree a prominent place in the picture.
The woman was pleased with the photo. However, her teacher was not. He said there was a problem with the picture. The problem was that the tree distracted from the woman’s primary focus, which was to be her daughter. “See how the tree catches the eye?” the instructor asked. “The tree competes with your subject. You need to choose one subject and leave the other out.”
That comment applies to more than photography. It applies spiritually as well. As disciples of Jesus, we must center our attention only on Him. Not on anything or anyone else. Whatever distracts us from Jesus has to go. He must be the single focus of our lives.
Of course we have many interests. For instance, the football season has started and the playoffs and World Series in baseball are drawing close and we like to take vacations and we watch the news and some have school studying to do and we have hobbies and families to take care of.
But our attention must always be on Jesus, who is the only one who can reconcile us to God. The only one who can make all our other activities pleasing to God. The only one who can make us holy and blameless and irreproachable in all we do.
It is Jesus who is first-born and pre-eminent. May we do what Paul encouraged the Colossian Christians to do. May we rely on Jesus and Him alone.
As we sing today’s closing song, make sure you are reconciled to God. That you are reconciled to God because you have accepted Jesus. And if not, do so.
Then make sure you have your focus on only one thing, that being Jesus. And if not, ask God for that focus so that together we can all live lives worthy of the Lord.
Do not dally. The closing song is just one verse of a hymn, but be right with God and have your focus on Jesus this day.
Verse 1 of I’ll Live for Him.
My life, my love I give to Thee,
Thou Lamb of God who died for me;
O may I ever faithful be,
My Savior and my God!
I’ll live for Him who died for me,
How happy then my life shall be!
I’ll live for Him who died for me,
My Savior and my God!
We are to be holy, blameless, and irreproachable. We are to be firm, stable, and steadfast in our Christian faith. We are to rely only on Jesus, guarding against false teachings that something or someone else is needed. Let’s think about that, even today. Amen.