­­­Colossians Study – Session 4

CrossPointe Community Church – Denton, TX

February 3, 2013 - Larry Reynolds, Teacher

 

 

I.  The Supremacy of Christ (1:15—23) — This passage is the very heart of Colossians. As much as any other passage in the New Testament, this passage teaches who Christ is and what He came to do.  This passage gets at the very heart of Christian theology.  While there are many areas of theology and biblical interpretation over which God's people may legitimately differ, it is absolutely essential to our faith that we understand clearly who Jesus is and what He came to our world to  accomplish.  False teachings about Jesus abound in our culture:

·        Latter‑Day Saints (Mormons) ‑ Jesus was first spirit child born to God, the Heavenly Father and His Heavenly Wife, the Heavenly Mother...Satan was the spirit brother of Jesus and Jesus is spirit brother of  man...

·        Jehovah's Witnesses ‑ Jesus was the first created son of God...Jesus and God are not equal...before his  earthly state, Jesus was Michael, the archangel...became the Messiah at baptism...was not resurrected  physically but spiritually...

·        Unification Church (Moonies) ‑ Jesus was illegitimate  child of Zechariah and Mary...failed in His mission  as Messiah because did not marry and father children  of His own…first  Adam caused fall of humanity...second Adam (Jesus)  failed in redemptive His mission...third Adam (Reverend  Moon) will accomplish task...

·        Islam - Jesus was a prophet on the order of Moses but not as great as Muhammad…deny his deity…

·        Radical Secular Humanists ‑ Dismiss Jesus as being  product of someone's imagination...close their eyes  and minds to all the evidence and refuse to admit any basis in fact/history to support claims Christians make about Him...

And in world of such confusing messages, it is imperative that we understand the truth about Jesus.  In this session we have come to one of greatest NT statements about identity of Jesus.

 

1.  The scope of the supremacy of Christ (15-18)

 

(1)   In Relation to God: Christ is “the image of the invisible God” (15a) – The word image is eikon.  It carries a double meaning

 

a. Jesus is the exact, precise representation of God to man. He perfectly reveals God to man in a form which we can see and under­stand and know.  Eikon was used in the 1st century world to:

 

(a)  Denote a portrait. The word carries the idea of our word photograph. Jesus is the portrait of God.

 

(b)  Describe the chief characteristics and distinguishing marks of two people signing a legal contract. Paul is saying, “You know how if you enter a legal agreement there is an eikon, a description by which you may be recognized. Well, Jesus is the eikon of God. In Jesus you see nothing less than the personal characteristics and the distinguishing marks of God. If you want to see what God is like, look at Jesus.”

 

b. Jesus is the exact, precise representation of what man should be.  The word for image in the phrase “image of God” in the creation story is the same as eikon.  Paul is saying, “Look at Jesus. He shows you not only what God is, but he also shows you what man was meant to be. Here is manhood as God designed it. Jesus is the perfect manifestation of God and the perfect manifestation of man.”

 

(2)   In Relation to Creation:  Christ is “the first-born of all creation…” (15b-17) – The word translated first-born is protokos.  In English first-born would seem to indicate that Christ was the first production of God’s creation.  However, in Greek the word translated first-born had only an indirect relation to time.  The word was more a reference to rank that to chronology.  Our word protocol which comes from protokos gives us some hint to how the word is used here.  We use the word protocol to describe that which takes precedence, that which comes first in order of importance.  The word was used in in NT times as a title of honor and refers to the peculiar rights and privileges of the first-born in an ancient family. Paul is not saying that Jesus is the first created being (v. 16 contradicts that), instead he is saying that Christ is Lord over creation.

 

       In the verses that follow, four prepositional phrases are used to describe how Christ is “Lord over” creation:

a.     “by (en) Him” (16) – The heresy that was infecting the church at Colossae was an early form of a philosophy that came to be known Gnosticism.  One of the basic teachings of Gnosticism was that material things were inherently evil.  That being the case, how could a “good god” create evil matter?  The Gnostic answer was that the supreme or true God did not create the universe.  They taught that an elaborate system of god-beings existed, and only the lowest one of these made the world. They also taught that Christ was merely one of these beings. In contrast, Paul teaches that Christ made all things, whether visible or invisible (even their so called god-beings!!). Outside of His creative activity nothing was made. He is the Creator.  As a part of the Godhead, the Trinity, He was with God in the creative process (cf. John 1:1). 

b.     “through Him (16) –  In other words,  Jesus is the agent of creation.  It happened through His activity.

c.       “for Him” (16b) -  He is the goal and end of creation. Everything was made to be His and to give glory to Him.

d.      “in Him” (17) – The phrase “…in Him all things hold together…” is one of the great phrases of the Bible.  He is the One who keeps the cosmos from degenerating into chaos.  ...the Son is the agent of creation in the beginning and the goal of creation in the end and between the beginning and the end, during time as we know it, it is the Son who, as it were, holds the world together.  That is to say, all the laws by which the world is an order and not chaos are an expression of the mind of the Son.  Every law of science and nature is, in fact, an expression of the thought of God … It is by these laws and therefore by the mind of God that the universe holds together, and does not disintegrate into chaos … So then, the Son is the beginning of creation and the end of creation and the power that holds creation together.  He is the Creator, the Sustainer, and the Final Goal of the world.  (Wm. Barclay)

 

 

(3)   In Relation to the Church:  Christ is the “head of the body, the church…” (l:l8) - Three statements are made in verse 18 concerning the relationship between Christ and the church.

 

a.  He is the head of the church - Just as the physical body is powerless and dead without the head, so the church is powerless and dead and without direction apart from Christ.

b.  He is the beginning of the church - The word for beginning is arche, and it has a double meaning. It means first in the sense of time or order, i.e. ‘A” is the first letter in the alphabet. But it also means first in the sense of originating power or the source from which something comes. Christ began the church both in time and in originating power. The world is the creation of Christ and the church is the new creation of Christ.

c.  He is the first-born from the dead – To be consistent we must interpret the word “first-born” in that phrase in the same way we translated it in the phrase “the first-born of all creation” in v. 15.  The basic idea is not that Christ was the first person to be resurrected completely (even though He was!). The basic idea is that He is Lord over death, He has conquered man’s greatest enemy! Christ is not a dead hero or a past founder, He is a living person!

 

The last part of v.18 gives the result of Christ being “the image of the invisible God” (v.16a), “the first-born of all creation” (v.16b), and “the head of the body, the church” (v.18).  The purpose of Paul’s telling us all that about Christ is “…so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything…”  If He is indeed all that we claim He is, it makes perfect sense to give Him the absolute priority in our lives.  And that thought leads into the next section of this amazing paragraph.

                                                                                                                                             The result of these three statements is that in everything Christ

 

2.  The basis of the supremacy of Christ (19-20)                      

 

(1)   He is supreme because or who He is (19) - He is God! “For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him…”   The word translated fullness is pleroma.  This was the term the Gnostics used to describe the originating source from which all other gods came.  Paul makes a broad, sweeping claim here about Jesus.  In effect he says go as far back as you want, and it is Jesus all the way.  All there is of God is in Him.  And He is the full and final revelation of God, and nothing more is necessary.

 

(2)   He is supreme because of what He has done (20) - He has reconciled to himself all things.

 

“reconcile” – Means to return to the original owner or to bridge the gap. The initiative of reconciliation was with God. We have been reconciled to God, not vice versa. God never moved, humanity did!!

 

“all things” - Reconciliation extends not only to all persons, but to all creation, animate and inanimate. God’s love did something for every part of the universe. No doubt Paul was thinking of the Gnostics who were teaching that the world was incurably evil. The phrase does not mean that every person is reconciled (universalism), but the potential for reconciliation is available to all people.

 

“the blood of the cross” - It is the death of God’s Son on the  cross which brought us back to God. The cross is the proof that there is no length to which the love of God will refuse to go. 

 

 

“whether things in heaven or on earth” - Several different interpret­ations of this passage have been suggested.  Some say it:

·        Refers to the angels. Some say even angels need reconciling to God.

·        Refers specifically to Satan and his angels. Some say that in the end even these will be reconciled to God.

·        Does not mean anything definite or precise. A figure of speech to emphasize the complete adequacy of Christ’s reconciling work.

·        Refers to angels being reconciled but not to God, to men.

 

 

3.  The result of Christ’s supremacy (21-23)  These verses give the complete history of every believer.  They tell us what--

--we were in the past before Christ...


--we are in the present in Christ...

--we will be in the future because of Christ...

 

·        Our past condition (vs. 21) -  “...you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds...” is quite graphic...there are several significant things to note about the word translated “alienated”...

o   The word means to be “cut off, estranged, or separated”... it carries the idea of being so far from God that we have absolutely no use for Him...that we think we don’t need God in our lives...that our own abilities and strengths are all we will ever need...

o   The form of the verb “alienated” indicates a fixed state or condition... wasn’t an occasional estrangement/separation ...it’s not that we were apart from Him one day but close to Him the next... we were permanently, continually in a state of separation from God...

Verse 21 tells us this alienation from God manifested itself in two ways in our lives.

o   It made us “hostile in mind”...that is, it polluted our thought process...it made us incapable of understanding spiritual truth...you can’t reason on a spiritual level with a person who is alienated from God...their minds are not capable of understanding spiritual things...

o   Caused us to be “engaged in evil deeds”...wrong thinking invariably leads to wrong conduct...we’re not likely to do right it we don’t think right...

 

·        Our present condition (vs. 22a) – “…He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death…” - “reconciled” is one of the great word of the NT...it is one of five key words used in the NT to describe what it means to be saved...the other words are justified, redeemed, forgiven, and adopted...

o in justification the sinner stands before God guilty and is declared righteous...

o in redemption the sinner stands before God a slave and is granted freedom...

o in forgiveness the sinner stands before God a debtor and the debt is canceled...    

o in adoption the sinner stands before God a stranger and is made a child of God...

o in reconciliation a sinner stands before God an enemy and is made a friend...

          V.22 tells us two important things about our reconciliation—

o It is something Jesus did...the verse says “...He has now reconciled you...”...bridging the gap, overcoming the separation which existed between us and God is something we could not accomplish on our own...Christ did it for us...

o Our reconciliation was accomplished by the sacrificial death of Jesus...He did it the verse says “...in His fleshly body through death...”...this is a principle which occurs time and again in Scripture...the sacrificial death of Jesus on the cross made it possible for us to be reconciled to God...

 

·        Their future condition (vs. 22b) - …to  present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach…”  Paul makes them a wonderful promise...says time will come when you will be presented to God “...holy and blameless and beyond reproach...”...each of those were have special meaning…

o ”holy” means to be separated from sin and set apart for God...

o ”blameless” means without blemish...was used to describe animals acceptable for sacrifice in the OT and to describe Christ as the spotless Lamb of God in the NT...

o ”beyond reproach” means a charge cannot be brought against us that will stick...

No matter what a person may have done in the past...no matter what mistakes a person has made...no matter what the shortcomings may have been...when we stand before God He will see us as “holy, blameless, and beyond reproach”...and that is so, because when He looks at us, He sees His Son who became our substitute...Who paid the price for our sins...

 

 

Verse 23 describes the condition upon which our transformation by Christ rests…

     If indeed you continue in that faith…”

·         In most English translations, the first word in Colossians 1:23 is the word “if”...that can be a little misleading...it’s easy to read this verse as if it is saying that everything in vv.21-22 is true on the condition that you “continue in the faith” and there is a possibility that you will not continue...however, that is not at all what the verse is saying...

·        The grammatical construction of this statement is such that it assumes the condition being stated will be met...the phrase “if indeed you continue in the faith” is not intended to raise doubts about their continuing...rather, it is an expression of confidence that they will continue...the phrase can be translated, “assuming that you will...seeing that you will...because you will...continue in the faith...”...as one NT scholar put it, “The Greek indicates not an uncertain prospect but ... a certain assumption.  Paul is at once insistent and confident.  They must continue [in the faith], and he is sure they will.” [Radford, quoted in Vaughn, p.50]

·        The word “continue” is interesting...”epimeno”...another one of those compound words which are so frequently found in NT...”epi” is preposition meaning “on”...”meno” is verb meaning “to stay”...literally “epimeno” means to stay on course...keep going  right direction...to avoid being sidetracked...

“…firmly established and steadfast and not move away from the hope of the gospel…” - There is a graphic picture behind the way Paul worded this verse which would have had special meaning to the Christians in Colossae...Colossae was located in a region prone to earthquakes...several times in its history earthquakes had caused severe damage to the town...and in this verse Paul describes Christians as buildings strong enough to withstand the earthquakes...real Christians are—

·        ”established” - In the construction industry that word was used to describe a strong foundation...

·        ”steadfast” - In the construction industry that word was used to describe a solid structure...

·        ”not moved away” - And that phrase literally means “not earthquake stricken”...

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