Thursday, November 09, 2006
“The Supremacy of Jesus” Colossians 1:15-20Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: 16 For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: 17 And he is before all things, and by him all things consist. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence. 19 For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell; 20 And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven. 21 And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled 22 In the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight:
Seems to me, that everybody on this planet has either one or another problems with Jesus Christ. Some people doubt His supremacy. Others doubt His sufficiency. Those who doubt the supremacy of Christ are normally non-Christians. They may be atheistic. They may be religious. They may be members of another religion or than Christianity, but they doubt what Paul claims here about the supremacy of Christ. They may honor Christ as a great moral teacher or as a prophet, but they do not believe that He is the Lord over all as the Apostle Paul is going to argue today. Others, perhaps within the Church, within the Christian fold, may acknowledge Christ's supremacy with their tongues, they may give assent to the idea that He is supreme, but they have questions as to whether He is sufficient. They continue to try and supplement Christ in their Christian experience. They start with Christ, but they move on to other things. Sometimes they move to their own works, and they think that they can begin with Christ and yet if they are going to stay in fellowship with God, they must supplement it by meriting God's favor, by earning His favor in their obedience. Other times they think that there is some deeper spiritual principle. Sometimes they actually mix Christianity with other types of belief. They mix it with something as seemingly crazy as astrology, or something more profound like some other form of religion, whether it may be a New Age teaching or they mix Christ with some secular teaching which is on the market. But there are many Christians who doubt the sufficiency of Christ. They believe in Christ, they profess His name, and yet in their experience, and even in their belief, they think that in order to have fullness of life, they need to supplement what they have in Christ in something else. Paul is speaking precisely to those conditions today.
An army private on guard duty for the first time. He had orders not to admit anyone onto the base if they didn’t have a special windshield sticker. Around midnight an unmarked car approached the guard shack and the private stopped them. Inside was a four star general and his driver. When the sentry advised them they could not enter because they didn’t have the proper sticker, the general became angry and told the driver, “Don’t worry about it, just drive right on through.” When the private heard this he leaned through the window with his hand on his sidearm and said, “Excuse me sir, I’m new at this. Could you please tell me who I shoot first: You or the driver?” The sentry had conflicting instructions. In the same way, you have to decide which authority you’re going to listen to as you answer for yourself, “Who is Jesus Christ?” And the way you answer that question will determine the direction of your eternal destiny. “It would require much exotic calculation to deny that the single most powerful figure, not merely in these two millennia, but in all human history, has been Jesus of Nazareth. Not only is the prevalent system of denoting the years based on the date of his birth, but a serious argument can be made that no one else’s life has proved remotely as powerful and enduring as that of Jesus.” (Time Magazine, Dec. 6, 1999)
Christ is sufficient, Paul says, because He is supreme. He assumes that these Colossians, unlike the non-Christians that I spoke of a few moments ago, he assumes that these Colossians accept Christ's supremacy, that He is lord, that he knows that in their baptismal profession, they made a profession that Jesus is Lord. So he knows that they won't deny that He is Lord, but he wonders if they'll understand the implication of Christ being Lord, and Paul says the implication of Christ being Supreme, the implication of Christ being Lord, is that He Is sufficient. He's sufficient for everything that you need for salvation. You don't need to look anywhere else, because He is supreme. Notice that connection between the supremacy and the sufficiency of Christ.
Notice the connection between Christ as Creator and Christ as Redeemer. If we were to lay out this passage side by side and put verses 15, 16, and 17 in one column, and then verses 18, 19, and 20 in another column, we would see a beautiful parallel. In each of those passages, we would see Paul repeat 4 phrases. In verse 15 and in verse 18, he uses the phrase "who is" to open that section. In verses 15 and 18, he speaks of Christ as the first-born. In verse 15, he calls Christ the first-born of creation. In verse 18, he calls him the first-born of the dead. In verses 16 and 19, he speaks of the phrase "for in Him" in Christ, and in verses 16 through 20, he uses the phrase "in the heavens and on the earth." In each of those phrases, he parallels Christ's lordship in creation with Christ's lordship in redemption. And he sees those as going together, being inseparably connected. Christ's lordship in creation enables Him to be a Redeemer who can redeem us from any force, for if He created creation, and if He is the Lord Of creation, what is there in creation that He is not capable of redeeming us from, or of exercising dominion over? So Paul says Christ is both Creator and Redeemer.
1. JESUS IS THE CHURCH-OWNER
And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence.
“When it comes to the church, he organizes and holds it together, like a head does a body.” Colossians 1:18
Christ is the head of the Church, He is the authority. He is the only head. He is the only Lord of the Church. My friends, that is the charter of freedom for you as a Christian, that you know that no human being can make up for you rules or teaching in the sphere of your Christian faith which have not been ordained by your Lord. You are free to be who your Lord intends you to be, and no man, however spiritual, may add to the commands of the Lord for what you are to be. That is your charter of freedom. So many people feel like they're bound, and they're groaning under the load of having to obey the Bible. Oh, that's so untrue, my friends. The Bible frees you from the foolish and capricious commands of men, for who has the authority to tell another man's servant how to serve. Who has the authority to tell Christ's servants, yea, his brothers and sisters, how they are to live and serve? The answer is, no one. He is the Lord over the Church, and when anyone claims to be the head of the Church, other than Christ, they are committing blasphemy against Christ. Whether that person be a leader of a great church and denomination, or whether that person be a person in a local church setting who is claiming to add commandments for the behaving of the Christian life, that Christ himself has not inaugurated and initiated. We are set free from the commandments of men, because Christ is the Lord in His Church. He is also the head of His Church in the sense that he is the source of all spiritual life in the body. Paul says He is the source, He's the head, He's the fountainhead of all spiritual life in the body. If you have life today as a believer, it's because you are united to Christ by faith. If you have life today, it is evidence that the work of the head of the body of Christ is at work in you.
2. JESUS IS THE DEATH-BEATER
Colossians 1:18 And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence.
Woody Allen once quipped "Death dopesn't scare me, I just don't want to be there at the time."
Plato said "Oh that there were some sure certain word that would launch our hopes across this vast sea of death!"
There is a sure and certain word. that word is "Jesus!"
Jesus raised Jairus’ daughter, and the son of the Widow of Nain. And Lazarus was restored to life after being dead for four days. But none of those individuals were resurrected; they were simply resuscitated. They eventually died. But Jesus came forth from the grave and is alive forevermore. This world is littered with the graves of millions of people. You can travel to Medina and see the tomb of Mohammed. You can go to Sri Lanka and visit the Temple of the Tooth, where a tooth from the corpse of Buddha is enshrined. The pyramids in Egypt and the Taj Mahal in India are all just fancy tombs. I’ve stood in wonder as I gazed at the elaborate tombs of the Ming Emperors in China; each tomb taking up more than 100 acres. But when you visit a garden outside of Jerusalem–all you find is an empty tomb. Jesus was buried in a borrowed tomb, because He knew He wouldn’t need it long! Years ago in Russia, when Nikita Khrushchev died, they were looking for a place to bury him. By this time he was persona non grata in Russia. Khrushchev’s family even made a request of Golda Meier, the first prime minister of Israel. Her reply was priceless, “Yes, you may bury Mr. Khrushchev in Israel, but I must warn you that Israel has the highest resurrection rate of any nation on earth!” Before His death, Jesus claimed He would be resurrected from the dead. He pointed to His body and said, “Destroy this Temple and in three days I will build it back again.” (John 2:19) WHAT HAPPENED TO THE BODY OF JESUS? Where is the corpus delecti? For those who don’t believe Jesus rose from the dead, the theories fall into two categories: (1) The stolen body theory; and (2) the swoon theory. “Our preacher said that on Easter Jesus just swooned on the cross and that the disciples nursed him back to health. What do you think?” McGee replied, “Dear Sister, beat your preacher with a leather whip. Nail him to a cross. Hang him in the sun for six hours. Run a spear through his heart. Embalm him. Put him in an airless tomb for three days. Then you see what happens.”
The Lord Jesus Christ IS risen from the dead! Becasue He is risen, He gives you and I the prmosie of resurrection. He is our hope as we cross this vast sea of death!
He guarantees our resurrection! If you know this, then nothing can scare you in life, or in death!
3. JESUS IS THE FULNESS OF GOD
Colossians 1:19 For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell;
He knows that these Colossians believe in the supremacy of Christ, at least in theory, but they haven't understood its implications, and he turns to the implications of it in verses 19 and 20. So what, Christ is Lord? So what? Here's Paul's answer to that question: verse 19, for “it was the Father's good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him. It was the Father's good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him.” Paul is arguing that because Christ is supreme, in creation and in redemption, therefore, He is sufficient, His person is sufficient. The person of Christ is sufficient for our redemption, and he uses this glorious, this mysterious phrase, "it was the Father's good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him." Now, how do we interpret that? That's a hard passage to interpret. First of all, "the fullness" is a word that the false teachers in Colossae liked to use. They liked to talk about this fullness that believers could attain if they would go through the mystic rituals. Isn't it interesting that the Apostle Paul fires back by saying, ‘no, Christ is the fullness. You don't look somewhere else other than Christ for the fullness. You look in Christ for the fullness.’
Col2:9 For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.
There, the word "fullness" is stressing that in Christ is a fullness of divinity. He is fully divine. Now that may well be what Paul is driving at here in verse 19, but let me suggest something slightly different. Because in verse 19 it says, "it was the Father's good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in him," and because it says it was the Father's good pleasure, or the Father's will for this fullness to dwell in Him, I'm not sure that Paul is talking about the deity of Christ. Paul's already asserted that. There's no question that Paul is teaching the deity of Christ here, but Christ is divine not because the Father wills it, but because in His essence He is divine. The Father doesn't will the Son to be divine. The Son is divine. So what is it that the Father is willing, what is His good pleasure? What kind of fullness is this that it's the Father's will for Christ to have?
Paul is talking about the honor and the glory and the reward which is due to Christ alone because He has fulfilled all the responsibilities of His office as our Savior, as our Mediator, the Mediator of the Covenant of Grace. Paul is speaking of that fullness which God has been pleased to give to His Son, because He is pleased beyond measure with the perfection of our Saviour's obedience and sacrifice. That fullness is all found in Him. That fullness belongs to Him alone. In the words of Philippians 2, He is given "that name which is above every name” because He humbled Himself and because He took on the form of a servant, and because He died the death on the cross. And because He was raised again, He was exalted to that name above every name.
He has fulfilled everything He told the Father He would do on our behalf.
We are told that in Him we are more than conquerors. We are hyper-conquerors. And the Apostle Paul is saying, ‘You want the fullness?’ You've got the fullness in Christ. Don't look somewhere else. If you are in Christ, you will reign with Him in glory.
A chorus says it all,
He's all I need , He's all I need, Jesus is all I need.
If He is all youy need the the next kine fi that chorus should be your prayer:
I take Him Now I take Him Now I take Him for all that I need.
C.S. Lewis, summarized the issue in this way: “A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic—on the level with a man who says he is a poached egg—or he would be the devil of hell. You must take your choice. Either this was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.” (Mere Christianity, p. 30)
4. JESUS IS THE LIFE-FIXER
Colossians 1: 20 And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven. 21 And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled 22 In the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight:
Several years ago Woody Allen was interviewed by a French television station. In the hour-long interview, one of the reporters asked him a most unusual question, “Do you believe in God?” Allen responded, “No, I am an atheist” (one who does not believe in God). But, Allen went on to say, “In my better moments I am an agnostic” (one who admits there may be a God but if there is he does not know him). Then the reporter asked him an even more unusual question, “If there were a God and he could say one thing to you, what would you like to hear him say?” And Woody Allen responded, “You are forgiven.” Only God knows how many people there are in the world today who would love to hear those words, “You are forgiven.” They have sinned, they have done wrong, they have made mistakes, they have regrets, they wish they could change the past. If they could only hear the words, “You are forgiven,” life could be vastly different for them. If you are one of those people, I have good news for you. Christ can and will forgive your sins if you come to him. Once while dining at the home of a Pharisee named
Simon, Jesus was approached by a woman of the street, a prostitute, a hooker who fell at his feet in humility and tears.
Jesus’ host was incensed. If Jesus were really the Messiah, he would know this woman was a sinner and would have rebuked her. While Simon sat in judgment, condemning her for her past and unwilling to forgive her for what she had done, Jesus said, “... I say unto thee, her sins, which are many, are forgiven” (Luke 7:47). Note Jesus’ two statements about this woman’s sins sit side by side: “are many, are forgiven.” And that’s what he will say to you if you will call on him. The difference among men is not that some are sinners and others are not. The difference is in where they take their sins. Peter and Judas both failed the Lord miserably. Judas betrayed him and Peter denied him. They both were filled with guilt and remorse over what they had done. But Judas took his guilt to people who knew nothing of God’s grace: the scribes and Pharisees. They said, “You made your choice — live with it.” He couldn’t, and took his own life.
Peter took his sins and failures to Jesus. And Jesus did not throw them back on him. Jesus forgave him and restored him. And Peter went on to become one of the great pillars of the church.
His promise to us is, “... Him that cometh to me I will in no wise [i.e., under no circumstance] cast out” (John 6:37). You can come to him with every assurance of acceptance. He invites you to come just as you are. The scriptures say, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (I John 1:9). “... And, the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin” (I John 1:7). We sometimes sing,
What can wash away my sins? Nothing but the blood of Jesus. What can make me whole again?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus. O, precious is the flow, That makes me white as snow.
No other fount I know, Nothing but the blood of Jesus.
Some skeptic may ask, “How can blood wash away sin?” And I answer, “I don’t know.” But I ask you, “How can water quench our thirst?” “I don not know that either. But I know that it does.” And I’m not going to die of thirst trying to figure it out. I’m going to drink and live. Just so, I don’t know how the blood of Jesus cleanses sin, but I know that it does. And I’m going to trust it and be cleansed. In him there is forgiveness and cleansing. That’s the power of the gospel.
Christ is the Reconciler, the only Reconciler. Not only does he stress the supremacy of Christ in creation, not only does he stress the supremacy in the Church, not only does he stress the sufficiency of Christ's person, he stresses the sufficiency of Christ's work. He is the Reconciler. We can never leave out the Cross, because the cross tells us that we were already at enmity with God, and the cross tells us that God provided a way back into fellowship with Him, and there is no way back into fellowship with God apart from that cross.
Last week, we saw the cross at the centre of the universe in Creation. Tonight, you need to realise that the cross is at the centre of your universe personally in redemption. If you are going to experience forgiveness of sins, you must come to Him!
You see, that's what this church is about! Jesus is the head of the church. If you come to Him He will be the death beater for you! You must face death one day!
If you come to Him He will be the fullness of God that you need.
Why don't you come to Him tonight?
Its the sanest, most helpful thing you can do for yourself. Let Him be your Saviour tonight!