Title: The Pastor’s Passion – The Gospel
Text: Colossians 1.15-23
Introduction – The past week or so has seen to mass murders take place; both, on opposite sides of the country; both caused by individuals who appear to be on opposite sides of the ideological spectrum.
The moment something like this happens, people move to their corners and shore up their particular stance – whatever that might be. There are those who would like to take all forms of self-defense and remove them from our homes and our churches. They would like to legislate gun reform – that basically would abolish the 2nd amendment – the right of the people to keep and bear arms.
The problem isn’t guns. The problem is people. James Madison famously said, “What is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature?” If that is so, then our government is reflecting a degenerate human nature – and it is getting worse!
In these two instances of tragedy, one in Georgia and the other in Colorado, we see two individuals where the heart is the same – it’s just a different face. And that heart is reflected in a degenerate government that leads the people further and further away from God.
The USA Today had an article this week on why Oral Roberts University should not be in the NCAA Tournament. #15ORU knocked off #2Ohio State in a shocking surprise win. Then, they went on to upset #7 Florida Gators to advance to the Sweet 16 round. ORU is the Cinderella team for 2021. But, according to USA Today’s writer, Hemal Jhaveri, who appears to be transgender, preferring the pronouns she/her, thinks ORU should be ousted from the tournament for their Christian beliefs on marriage – that marriage is between one man and one woman. And further, that intimacy should be shared only within that context.
So, where am I going with this? I don’t want you to get mad or upset or spur you to write your congressman/woman. What we need isn’t government intervention! What we need is for a mighty move of the Holy Spirit bringing about a revival in this land. That can only happen as the Gospel is preached. I say that because that is the means by which God has chosen to perpetuate the faith.
Transition: That’s why preachers and pastors love the Gospel. It is life changing because it changes the heart of a person. Our text is all about the gospel and how it changes people, specifically, how it changed the Colossians.
The letter begins with a traditional or typical opening: This is Paul and Timothy, to the saints at… Grace & Peace to you; Thanksgiving and Prayer; often times Paul would express his theme within his prayer or somewhere in the opening of his letter. And really, that prayer of his is so in line with the theme of his letter. In Colossians, it all about their spiritual maturity.
So, it’s interesting how he gets there in this letter. The first bit of information he tackles is some of the deepest, richest theology of Christ we see in Scripture. This passage is actually recognized as an ancient hymn. If you have the CSB, you’ll note at how this is written out in poetic form or style. I notice none of the other translations do that. At least none that I have. The editors of the Greek Text have it in poetic form.
If I were to sing, “Amazing Grace how sweet the sound…” you could probably join in – without needing words on the screen or a hymnal. If I said, “Our father which art in heaven…” you could probably join in… without aids. So, it would be with these Colossians.
The hymn starts in v15 and goes through v20; You’ll note the Hebraic style in the Chiastic structure:
a. He is the image of God
b. The firstborn of all creation
c. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
c. He is the beginning
b. The firstborn from the dead
a. In him the fullness of God was pleased to dwell
The hymn brings out two important doctrines of Christ. 1) He is the Creator of all things and 2) He is the Head of the Church. So, what is the point of this hymn and Paul’s citing it here in the first part of this letter? I think it is simply this: Jesus Christ is God in the flesh, and he has absolute authority to accomplish whatever his heart desires. Paul quotes this hymn to demonstrate, first:
I. Christ in Relation to Creation: He is Lord. (15-17)
exp.: rd 15a; He is the image of the invisible God; This is a simple declaration that Jesus is God; It is reiterated in v 19; For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell; continuing in v 15; the firstborn of all creation; firstborn doesn’t mean the first one born; the word is means position; the common use would be the firstborn of the family.
ill.: According to the Law, all firstborn in Israel belong to God. So, the first-born animals were sacrificed as an offering to God. In some instances, such as firstborn sons, they could be redeemed by offering sacrifices in their stead. God was declaring the importance of position.
When an inheritance was to be given, the oldest, the first born got 2/3 of the estate; the final 1/3 was divided up between the rest of the boys. So, the etemology of the word leans toward people thinking that it has everything to do with birth position, but that isn’t it – that’s just the visible, popular use of the word. You need to know it means that Christ is preeminent in position of authority.
app.: He is the agent by which creation came into existence; he is the one who has authority over all of creation;
exp.: rd v16; For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. John 1.3 – 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.
πάντα διʼ αὐτοῦ ἐγένετο, καὶ χωρὶς αὐτοῦ ἐγένετο οὐδὲ ἕν. ὃ γέγονεν
All through him became, and without him became not one thing which became.
Without him, nothing was made that has been made. He created it all! rd v 16 again; For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.
Rd v 17; And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
- He is Creator.
- He is Sustainer. Not only did he speak all that there is into existence, but his power is what holds it together.
app.: That’s an incredible power. That’s the ultimate authority. So, Paul, still in the midst of this hymn, is quoting for these people – probably something they already know – reminding them of Christ’s Supreme Authority. And he continues… rd v 18
t.s.: Now, this Hymn brings out…
II. Christ in Relation to The Church: He is Head. (18-20)
exp.: cf.: Chiastic structure; Christ has all authority as creator, sustainer, but he is also the Supreme Authority over his church.
- He is the Head of this body, the church.
- Beginning (ruler)
- Firstborn (position) from the dead; the 1st to be resurrected
ill.: Others were raised from the dead, but they eventually died again; Christ is the first to be resurrected and still lives; And because of this, we have this hope of our resurrection and the resurrection of our loved ones; But this one act establishes Christ as the Supreme Authority over the Church. Remember, this again is about his position.
exp.: rd v 19-20; 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. 19 establishes once again that he is God in the flesh; vs 20 tells us why he did all that he did: to reconcile to himself all things. He has all authority. He could have just written the earth off and destroyed it, but instead, he brought us peace. And he did so through the shedding of his blood on the cross.
app.: I love a good hymn that has good theology and doctrine. This ancient hymn is rich in Christology – the Doctrine of Christ. But why is Paul quoting it here? At the beginning of his letter? Where is he going with this?
t.s.: well, let’s look as he points us to…
III. Christ in Relation to The Colossians: He is Redeemer (21-23)
exp.: rd v 21-22; alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds; it appears there are two pieces of evidence for their unregenerate lives: alienated – that is to say, separated from God and enemies (hostile in mind) – that is to say, at enmity with God. These two pieces of evidence were seen in their actions – doing evil deeds. Earlier Paul mentioned (10) bearing fruit in every good work – same word here as ‘deeds’; good deeds vs. evil deeds; but it isn’t that way anymore!
Now you are no longer alienated or at enmity, but rather you’ve been reconciled…(and here is the gospel) in his body of flesh by his death; this little statement is connected to v. 24; we’ll revisit it next week, but for now, it’s important to note that Jesus physically died on the cross for our sin, making it possible to have a relationship with him. We were enemies of God, doing evil deeds, but now, he has reconciled us, making us holy, blameless and above reproach before him.
Paul then makes this statement that might bring some confusion: rd v 23: 23 if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard… It sounds like you can lose your faith, but that isn’t the doctrine.
This is the doctrine: Continuation in the faith is evidence you’ve committed your life to Christ. For those who don’t continue in the faith, it is evidence that they haven’t committed their lives to Christ. This verse doesn’t mean that you can become a Christian and then lose your faith. Lots of folks start the journey and decide not to stick with it, for various reasons. When they choose to walk away from it, it means they never really were committed to it.
t.s.: The preeminence of Christ in all things establishes his authority in redemption history, reconciling the Colossians based on his atoning work and their continuation in the faith. And it is the same for us – All authority, in heaven and on earth, belongs to Christ. He is Preeminent in all things, including our redemption, if we stand firm in our faith.
Conclusion: I love the Gospel. I love that it changes lives.
She had been coming to our church for a few months. She was inquisitive and truly seeking. That was evident in her passion and pursuit of the truth. Her story relects the woman at the well – the Samaritan woman. When we met her, she had come through a nasty divorce. She and her little girl were trying to make a go of life in East Texas. She had gotten pregnant and had no intention of marrying the father of her 2nd child. A co-worker, actually a subordinate, invited her to our church. It was there she heard the gospel.
She attended for some time – months even. It was during this time that she got pregnant with her 3rd child. According to her own testimony, as she drove down the road, she was overcome by her own sin. She knew that living her life her way had made things incredibly difficult. She said she pulled off to the side of the road and just wept. It was there in her car on the side of the road, with tears streaming down that she committed her life to the Lord.
And boy did she. The Gospel got a hold of her life and transformed her. At first I was leery of her conversion. A lot of people start off like a falling star – bright and brilliant and full of energy at first, but then fall away into mediocrity. Not her! Jesus changed her and she has never been the same. I’ve watched her blossom into a passionate evangelist who has probably led more people to Christ than any other convert I’ve personally known!