< What I Learned Teaching Sunday School: Colossians 1:15-23

Monday, December 10, 2007

Colossians 1:15-23

Colossians 1:15-23 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ's physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation— if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant.

These are majestic verses. This is probably the most important passage in Colossians. It directly answers the false teachers who were saying Christ was just one of many spirits who comprised God’s fullness, like angels, and that all had to be worshipped and appeased.

Paul says Christ is the unique manifestation of God. An image in the New Testament is a true representation of the original. (Genesis 1:26-27) We were meant to be in His image too. When we look at Jesus, we not only see what God is like, we see what we were meant to be like too!

Verse 19 says, “In Him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell.” We see all of God in Him. There is nothing left out. (John 14:9)

These verses also remind us that Jesus came to earth to reconcile us to God. We need to remember that that reconciliation came from God. God’s attitude toward man was and is – always love. He was always reaching down to us and God sent Jesus because He loved us. (John 3:16)

Sometimes I think there’s an impression that we have this wrathful God up there and Jesus did something to keep us from His wrath. Kind of Good Cop, Bad Cop. But, it’s very important for us to know and think about the fact that God already loved us so much He sent His Son to die for us. He created the Garden of Eden and wanted to walk there and talk to His children, He sent prophets; He came to earth again during the Exodus and dwelt in the Holy of Holies. He was always the one reaching out to us. The cross is the final proof that there is no length to which the love of God will refuse to go, to win our hearts.

Note Paul says, not only man is being reconciled to God, but earth. In Romans 8:22 it says, “We know that the whole creation has been groaning to travail.” The earth is not what God meant for it to be either, but we are promised a new earth when Christ comes back. Also in this verse Paul says God is reconciling the Heavens to Himself. I’ve read several different thoughts about this, from just that heavens and the earth is kind of an all-encompassing phrase. To the fact that Satan was a fallen angel and that will all be reconciled in the end. I had a thought when reading this, that the angels kind of watch with interest everything going on. They know of course one of their own had fallen and is in combat with God and it’s a cosmic or spiritual battle that will be reconciled.

We see next that the aim of this reconciliation is holiness. Christ did all this to present us to God, unblemished. This means we have an obligation to be worthy of His great love.

There was at this time a group called Gnostics and this loosely means “the intelligent ones”. They thought Christianity was too simple and wanted to turn it into a philosophy. The Gnostics believed that all matter was evil and all spirit good, so God would not have come to earth, which is matter and therefore evil, as a human.

Paul said He did.

They believed that He didn’t create the world because He didn’t create evil. Paul said that Jesus, who is God in flesh, created the heavens and the earth.
They thought that since a good God would have nothing to do with evil He put forth all kinds of layers between the world and Himself: like spirits and angels. In fact both the Gnostics and the Jews had a highly developed and elaborate system of angels.
The Gnostics thought there were seven heavens between God and us. Thrones, lordships, powers and authorities were different grades of angels. Paul dismisses all this. He says Jesus wasn’t one of these spirits or levels. He created angels and everything else too.

And it was for Him that all things were created. Everything was created to be His and to give Him glory. The world was created that we might ultimately belong to Jesus Christ. (Philippians 2:10-11)

So Jesus created the beginning. He is the goal of creation in the end and he holds the world together in between. This saying means that all scientific laws, like gravity, are divine laws.

The Gnostics also refused to see Christ as the only way to salvation, saying that people could find God through some special and secret knowledge. Paul said Christ is the only way. He is the first-born of all creation and has all the authority of the first born. First born here doesn’t just mean He is God’s first Son. It was a common title of honor. Israel as a nation is the first-born Son of God. (Exodus 4:22)
This means Israel was the chosen, the most honored and favored child of God.
Also firstborn is the title of the Messiah. (Psalms 89:27) So when Paul wrote that Christ was the first born of all creation, it meant the highest honor which creation holds belongs to Him.

And when he said Christ is the first-born from among the dead, this is central to Christianity: His resurrection means everything to us! Because He lives, we know we will too.

Paul also says here that Jesus is the head of the church. He is the guiding, directing, dominating spirit of the church. Just like our bodies can’t do anything without our heads – every word and action of the church must be governed and directed by Him. We are the instruments through which Christ works.

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