Friday, July 25, 2008

Colossians 1:15-20

Day 4

"He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities-- all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. He is also head of the body, the church; and he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything. For it was the Father's good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or in heaven."

A few verses ago, Paul urged the Colossians to “walk in a manner worthy of the Lord.” He explained that we have been transferred into the kingdom of light, and that darkness has no place in our lives anymore. This is the kingdom of God’s beloved Son. Now Paul takes a paragraph to give the Colossians a better picture of that Son, Jesus. They needed this information because of the heresy being taught within their community.

To understand why Paul emphasized what he did, we need to take a look at the false doctrines that were being taught. The bad teaching going on in the first century church was the precursor to the later second century philosophical teaching known as Gnosticism. The main thrusts of this heresy were these:

  • Gnosticism’s roots were in Judaism. Its proponents taught that the Old Testament Law must be observed. Paul taught that we are no longer under that Law but now live under grace (Galatians 3:24-26).
  • The philosophical part of Gnosticism stressed a “deeper knowledge” only given to a select few.
  • This idea of “a select few” bred the idea of exclusivity. The Gnostics believed it was a privileged, small, exclusive group who actually possessed this.
  • Angels were believed to be deity and were thus worshipped.
  • The deity of Christ was denied.

As an answer to that last pillar of this false teaching, the denial of the deity of Christ, Paul writes a portrayal of Jesus Christ that can only describe one who is fully God. Take a minute and read through today’s passage again and make a list of all of the things that make Jesus fully God.

Finished?? Here is what I came up with:
1. He is the image of God.
An image is something visible. God, a omnipresent, invisible spirit, became visible to mankind in the person of Jesus. Hebrews 1:3 tells us Jesus is the exact representation of God’s being.

2. He is the firstborn of all creation.
Firstborn here does not mean created first, because that would contradict other Scripture that tells us that created creatures are not to be worshipped (Exodus 20:4-5) yet the angels worship Christ (Hebrews 1:6). Christ was not created, He is eternal just as God the Father is eternal. If Paul meant “first created,” he would have used a different Greek word-- but He called Christ “firstborn” instead.

Instead, Paul used “firstborn” to indicate a position. Christ was BEFORE all creation, and He is SOVEREIGN over creation. The term "firstborn" would have had that nuance of meaning for Paul’s readers because of what it meant to be a firstborn in the ancient world. Remember Jacob and Esau and all of the strife over the birthright? Being a firstborn son gave privileges and wealth that the other siblings would never share. It also made you head of the family. This is what Paul is referring to here.

3. He is creator of all things.
Notice the word ALL. Paul follows this by giving an all-encompassing sweep of things that are created: in the heavens, on the earth, visible and invisible, and man’s domain. All of this was created THROUGH Him and FOR Him. John 1:3 echoes this thought: “All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.”

4. He is the sustainer of all things.
I once asked my secular physical science teacher why the nucleus of an atom holds together. It is comprised of tiny particles called protons that repel each other, being of the same electrical charge. Yet the force that is needed to split the nucleus of an atom is considerable. He answered, “It is nuclear energy that holds it together.” When I questioned what that was or where it came from, he didn’t have an answer. “We’re not sure,” he apologized. “It is just something that we assume and is always present.”

I know what holds the nucleus of an atom together. Jesus, the creator, continues to sustain what was created. He is actively involved with His creation to this present day.

5. He is head of the body.
Christ is the head of the church. The church is often called the Body of Christ (1 Corinthians 4:12, Ephesians 4:12). The head contains the brain, without which the body ceases to function. Christ gave life to the church by dying to save it. He continues to provide life to the body and retains His position of authority over it.

6. He is the firstborn of the dead.
Paul wrote the Corinthians: “If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain, your faith is also in vain. . . if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless . . . and we are of all men most to be pitied” (1 Corinthians 15:14-19) Christ proved we can be resurrected from the dead by blazing the trail before us. If He couldn’t raise Himself, how could we trust Him to raise us? His resurrection proves that God is able to save us as well.

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Put all of the above together, and Christ cannot be anything but deity. Paul ensured his readers would understand this truth in spite of the teaching that had been circulating contrary to this fact.

Meditate on these attributes Paul teaches us about Christ’s deity. Think of the ways the “fullness of God” dwelled in Jesus. Spend some time in prayer praising Him for all of the ways He demonstrates He is God.

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