Sermon Notes • June 7

Acknowledging Jesus as Lord: Colossians 1:15-23

Read Colossians 1:15-23. The backdrop against which Paul’s letter to the Colossians was written was the rise of a philosophy known as Gnosticism. Gnosticism held that all matter was evil and that salvation from this life consisted in an escape from the physical into the realm of the spiritual. Gnosticism held in the reality of a spirit world and that all communication with God was through that spirit or angelic world. For the early Christians, that philosophy presented a challenge because the Bible teaches that not only is matter not evil, but God took upon Himself the form of man and was born in the flesh, that is, in matter. One with a Gnostic philosophy could not accept the idea that a good God could take on evil matter. 

With that issue before Paul, he wrote to the church in Colossi, quoting what scholars believe was the quoting of an early church hymn. Paul declared that Jesus, who was in every way the God and created matter, took upon Himself the form of man and lived in the flesh or matter. Paul further declared that the real, human Jesus died a real death and serves as head of the physical church here on this real earth. In presenting his argument to the Gnostics, Paul presented a powerful picture of the significance and supremacy or superiority of Jesus.  That makes this passage one of the most exciting in the New Testament, because nothing will impact us more than a deeper understanding of just how great our God and His Son, our Savior, are.

J. B. Phillips, in a book titled, “Your God is Too Small” argued that most of our spiritual problems stem from an inadequate view of just how great God is, just how much He loves us and just how magnificent our redemption really is. Phillips could not be more accurate in his understanding of our problem because all too often we find our faith failing simply because our understanding of God is too small. A. W. Tozer, in his book on the holiness of God, began with the declaration that the way we understand the nature of the holy God impacts every other area of our lives. He, too, is absolutely right. If our God is too small, everything else in our walk with Him will be too small. In contrast to the way we so often think of God and of our Savior, the hymn that Paul quoted in these verses presents a picture of Jesus in way that, if grasped, allows us to step back and gaze upon our Savior and declare, WOW, what a Savior we have. 

This ancient hymn, and while it may not appear as a hymn in our English translations, is written in the Greek in stanzas such as we would see in a hymn book today with all of the rhythm and linguistic skill of a hymn. This hymn, or passage of Scripture, presents a glorious picture of Jesus who is in every way God. It says, “he is the image of invisible God.” The Greek implies far more than He is merely a copy of God, like a photograph, but He is in every aspect of His essence God. The hymn goes on to declare He is, “the firstborn over all creation.” Being first in creation does not mean the first to be created, as some cults claim, but rather the one who is more marvelous than anything created and in complete authority over it. Not only was He not created Himself, but He was the one responsible in some way for all that was created.

How marvelous is this one who is God and can create so much that is so incredible? Everything owes its existence to Him. He created not only the world in which we live but the stars and galaxies out there and the spirit world that dwells therein. He is so marvelous that in reality any attempt on our part to comprehend Him or express His greatness will be too small. Yet as we contemplate Him our picture of Him will grow and He will become greater and more able to accomplish for us all that we need. Any time you are tempted to doubt, fear, wonder if in the end all will work out for His glory, consider how great a God and Savior we have. He is strong enough to help you overcome every temptation, loving enough to forgive every sin, significant enough to give meaning to every event of our lives. 

Paul wanted to communicate that the fullness of the provision that Jesus has made for us is seen in the redemption that He has provided through the shedding of His blood on our behalf. Re-read verse 21-22.  Those verses present our problem. Because of our sinful nature and our acts of sin we are alienated or separated from a holy God.  But, Paul wrote, we have been reconciled through the death of Christ on the Cross. Paul noted that, on the Cross, Jesus died for our sins and when we personally appropriate that death by faith, the separation or alienation is removed and we can have the fellowship with God that we were designed and created to have.

For too many Christians that is the end of the story. They think, “I’m saved and will spend eternity with God so now I can get on with my life.” That is not what God intends when He saves us. Becoming a Christian is only the first step.  Becoming a Christian allows God to work through our lives so that the world can come to know Him as Savior. We who were once alienated and are now reconciled. We are to be presented “holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation.” The reality of the risen Lord living within and transforming us into His likeness should permeate every activity of our lives.

The root meaning of the word holy, which is what God wants to produce in us, is that of being different. God is holy in that He is different than His creation. In time the idea of holiness focused on the righteousness of God, which is totally different from our sinfulness. By the time Paul used the word holy to describe us it had come to mean a righteousness that mirrors the holiness of God. 

The holiness spoken of by Paul takes on two dimensions. It is passive in that we have been made holy through the shed blood of Christ so that when God looks at us, He sees not our sin, but the righteousness of His Son imputed to us. Holiness is also active in the believer as we become like Jesus by allowing the Holy Spirit to transform us. The Bible describes that as allowing the Holy Spirit to produce in us the fruit of the Spirit. 

Paul went on to write we are to be blameless and without accusation. Blameless was a term from the sacrificial system that demanded an animal sacrificed to God be without fault. Lives that are being lived in sacrifice to God, or as Paul puts it in Romans 12 as “living sacrifices,” are to be pure. The only way we can be such is by a commitment to God that is total and, therefore, allowes Him to work His purity into our lives. The same idea is present in the phrase, “without accusation” We have been redeemed so that we can become all God created us to be. 

The hymn Paul quoted in this passage concluded the presentation of who Jesus is and what He came to do, with a challenge to share this great message with others. Why wouldn’t someone want to share this message? Consider again how marvelous Jesus is. He is very God of very God. He is the one in whom and for whom all exists. He is the one who loved us so much that He provided, at the expense of His life on the Cross, reconciliation with God from whom we were separated by our sinfulness. Allow Jesus, who can too easily become small in our minds, to be seen in the fullness of His splendor, the greatness of power, and the richness of His love. I guarantee we will never be the same nor will our commitment to Him ever be the same. The bigger we understand our God to be the greater our commitment will be. There is none that can compare to Him who is our Savior so why should we not let Him have the place He deserves in our lives?