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Friday
May112018

The Identity of Jesus

Colossians 1:15-20.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on May 6, 2018.

We have been looking at the book of Colossians.  Paul in the verses before this section has focused on how thankful Christians should be.  The apex of this is to be thankful that we are in “the Kingdom of the Son of His love.”  Though the world of darkness is still around us, believers are part of the Kingdom of Jesus and need not fear the darkness.

In verses 15-20, Paul expands on just who this Jesus is for whom he says we should be thankful.  What Jesus did for us ultimately hinges upon who He is.  Both are important.  So who is this Jesus who has redeemed us to God by His blood at the cross (see verse 14)? 

We are in the Kingdom of the Son of His Love

All kingdoms have a king and Jesus is the King of all believers.  However, he is far more than this.  The Colossians had been influenced by several different views about Jesus.  Some who had a Jewish background saw Jesus as something to be added to the law.  Thus they promoted circumcision and the prohibition of certain foods etc.  Some, who had a Greek background-especially Gnostic ideologies- had difficulty mentally accepting that Jesus could be both fully God and fully human.   Thus you would run various ideas that made Jesus less than the Apostles had taught.  Paul here reminds the Colossians just who Jesus is.

The first point we run into is that Jesus is the image of the invisible God.  This is an important concept because in Genesis we are told that mankind was created in God’s image.  We have the ability to reflect attributes of the God who created us.    This is different than being God, but is important nonetheless.  The fall in the Garden of Eden impacted the ability of people to reflect God’s attributes.  The interference of that ancient serpent, the devil, led mankind to experience sin and its death.  Since the Garden no human has perfectly reflected God’s image nor even come close.  This is compounded by the fact that sin separates us from God.  Jesus in his totality is the image of the invisible God in its totality.  He is the only way we have to truly understand what the invisible God is like.  To see One of them is to have seen the other.  Hebrews 1:3 makes this even clearer by saying that Jesus is the “express image” or “the exact imprint” of the Father.

For everyone who has ever wanted God to come down out of the heavens and show Himself, God sends Jesus.  Jesus doesn’t just look like the Father, but He is the manifestation that the Father has given to us so that we may know exactly what He looks like, how He thinks, and just exactly what His plan is.  This is why it is important for us to take the time to find out what God’s Word says about Jesus, not just what people in their wisdom are saying about Him.  Sure we need the help of those who are mature in the faith to get insight into the Word.  But we can never abdicate our responsibility to find out just who Jesus is for ourselves.  Do you want to know what God is like?  Take time to read the Bible, but also spiritually ask God to open your eyes to what the Word is saying about just who Jesus is.  Thus there is a natural part and a spiritual part that go hand in hand.

Next we are told that Jesus is the firstborn of all creation.  Some have tried to make this mean that Jesus is part of the creation and is merely the first created thing.  To them Jesus is not divine in the sense that He is the same essence of the Father.  Rather they would call him divine in the same way that we call angels divine (i.e. that which comes from God).  The problem with this is that this is not what the phrase is emphasizing.  To call Jesus the firstborn is not a way of removing distinctions between Him and creation, but rather inserting one.  If we are talking literally, the firstborn is just as human as his brothers.  But this is clearly a metaphorical use.  The firstborn is not just another brother.  He not only receives a double-portion of the inheritance, but He will be the patriarch when the Father dies.  Thus the firstborn is distinct from his younger brothers.  To say that Jesus is the firstborn of creation emphasizes His authority and place over all of creation.  He is heir to all that belongs to the Father, that is, all of creation.

Now the following words go on to make the last point obvious.  Notice that the creation, both heavenly and earthly, was created by Jesus.  This is made even more explicit in John 1:3.  “All things were made through Him [The Word who is Jesus], and without Him nothing was made that was made.”  Thus Jesus stands outside of the created order, or all things that were made, as The One through who all created things were made.  The logic of these verses makes it impossible to see Jesus as a part of the creation, except for the human form that He took upon Himself at a particular point in time.

Thus the firstborn is used to present the man Jesus in a category that is different than all of creation.  He is the heir and the one who is Lord over all of creation, even though he looked like a man.  In fact in verse 16 three prepositional phrases are used to expound the relationship between Jesus and creation.  Creation was created “by Him.”  This means He is the active agent of its existence.  Next we are told that creation was created “through Him.”  This is not to contradict the prior statement, but instead to add to the meaning.  Jesus is the means by which God the Father brought all things into existence.  Lastly, creation was created “for Him.”  The purpose of creation is found in Jesus.  All things exist because He has a purpose in bringing them all into existence.  It is important for all humans to look to Jesus as their Lord, source of being, and source of purpose.  Without Jesus we will continually bump up against the reality of this as we try all manner of our own purposes for living.

Verse 17 reminds us that Christ is “before all things.”  Before anything existed that has been created, Jesus existed in a relationship with the Father.  At this time He did not have a human body, but was as the Father is.  This is similar to the functioning of Genesis 1:1.  Here we find that before anything was brought into existence, God was already in a state of being.  John emphasizes this in his gospel (John 1:1) by referring to Jesus in His pre-creation state as “The Word.”  This preexistence of Jesus was hard for the religious leaders of His day to swallow (read John 8).  However, to the apostles and those who experienced the powerful words and wonderful acts of Jesus, it was proven in every way and was the only logical explanation (not to imply that they determined this through human reasoning).

Verse 17 also says that in Jesus “all things hold together.”  The idea is that in Jesus all things have been set in relation to each other.  Another way to see this is to look deeper at the word translated here.  The word is translated as “consist” in some translations.  We can compare the word “consist” with the word “exist.”  Existence emphasizes the individual thing has being.  It exists.  However, consistence or to say that something consists is to emphasize its being in relation to everything around it.  Thus even the phrase “all things holds together” falls short of the full spectrum of this word.  Our existence and we fit into all the systems of this creation, whether natural or spiritual, are His doing.

Verse 18 says that Jesus is the head of the body [or Church].  Body is a reference to the Church being the “body of Christ.”  Head refers to the authority, but even more importantly it points to a vital influence that it cannot be without.  Jesus isn’t just the head authority of the Church, but just as a body cannot live without connection to a brain, so the Church has no existence without Christ who is its head.  Thus the image of the headwaters of a river could be used.   The vitality of the Church depends upon its connection to Christ who is our head.  He is the source of our relationship to all of creation (including Father God), but also the source of our purpose and function within it.

The phrase that “He is the beginning” most likely goes with the next phrase that Jesus is the firstborn from the dead.  However it can just be another way of saying He created all things.  So let’s deal with this second firstborn phrase.  Again, the firstborn is intended to set Jesus apart from all that have died.  He alone of all who have died has firstborn status.  This is important because typically if the firstborn dies, someone else has to take his place.  However, Jesus is such a being that his firstborn status is not overcome by death.  Just as He is the firstborn of the living, so He is to those who have died.  This is proven in that He is the only one to enter into death and come back by His own power.  John 10:18 says, “No one takes it [his life] from Me, but I lay it down of Myself.  I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again.  This command I have received from my Father.”  Thus, those who are dead have not “missed out” on Jesus.  They are included in His authority and as such will be given the right to one day take up their bodily life again, as He has.  In Jesus an emptying of the grave is begun. Throughout history all of humanity has come into being, lived, and then died.  This cycle is overcome and brought to an end in Jesus.  In fact 1 Corinthians 15:22 uses the phrase that Christ is “the firstfruits of those who have died.”  His resurrection is a signal that a greater resurrection is coming and for which we can hope.

Verse 18 ends with the statement that it is God’s purpose that Jesus should have first place in all things.  All spiritual beings, such as angels and cherubim, and all physical beings, such as mankind, are to look up to Christ as the One who has first place and authority over them.  John 5:22-23 says, “For the Father judges no one, but has committed all judgment to the Son, that all should honor the Son just as they honor the Father.  He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him.”  Also Philippians 2:9-11 says it this way, “Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

Verse 19 states that, it is the Father’s pleasure that in Jesus all the fullness dwells.  “The Fullness” is a phrase that was used at the time to refer to the totality of divine powers and attributes.  This is important for those Greek thinking peoples who had the concept of hybrid beings that were only partially divine.  Jesus wasn’t just full of the Holy Spirit, although that is true.  He embodies the totality of the divine powers and attributes.  Thus He is the source of all that we need and could ever ask for.  When one is in right relationship with “The Fullness” then one never needs to worry.  The Lord is my shepherd I shall not want.

As we end this section, Paul points out that it is through Jesus that all things are reconciled to God.  Jesus started the process of reconciling the creation back to The Father.  The chaos of individual choices and sin, whether in the heavenly beings or earthly, has put all of creation out of whack and proper order.  But the work of Jesus at the cross was the place where this reconciliation process was made possible and began.  How about you today?  Are you in right relationship with the Father and His Son, Jesus?  Has your life been reconciled to God by Christ?  Let Jesus become the Lord of your life and He will help you set all things in proper order before the Father as you walk with Him.  How can you say “No” to such an amazing savior?  Trust Jesus as Lord today!

Identity of Jesus Audio