The Centrality of Christ and Evangelism
One reason God has put you in ministry—making you shepherds is because He has given you eyes to see, and ears to hear. By His grace He has given you spiritual sight and vision—the ability by His Spirit and His Word to see beyond the horizon of this world—to fix your gaze upon things above so as to behold the majesty of Christ.
He has called you to proclaim the Savior and His Kingdom to many people who have little or no spiritual sight—whose eyes are closed to eternal things. Whose spiritual sleepiness conceals both the brevity of life and the endlessness of the existence to come.
Your sermons are spiritual alarm clocks—designed to stir from slumber. God has made you master communicators describing a scene, a reality, in great detail to blind men and women.
Christ is Lord of all—kiss the Son while there is time—fall at the feet of the rightful Ruler of the universe—a day is coming soon in which His glory will fill the universe. Flee the wrath to come. Christ, crucified for sinners will receive you.
Like the response of Lot’s family to the angels who warned—many of your hearers will be unmoved—maybe even assuming that you are jesting, or not in your right mind.
Apart from regenerating, sovereign grace—people have limited restricted spiritual vision. They sit in their circumstances as in a wooden barrel and only see the sides of the barrel. You must be their eyes—praying that God will give them sight.
You must display Christ preeminent to them—your own vision must be acute to do so. Strive to see Jesus better and better each day—until you are staggered at His majesty and supremacy—until you are lost in awe at Who God is toward you in Christ.
To see in this manner is better than being the richest man in the world. To have this kind of sight makes you a steward of what you see (you can’t keep it to yourself). Like Moses with an eagle eye able to see all the promised land from the summit of Nebo—you have milk and honey to speak of concerning the Savior (to craving souls).
Your sermons must present a complete portrait of Christ in all His offices—His Kingship and worthiness to be King—the King of Kings who will soon judge this world and crush every rebellion.
How necessary this is—we live in an age of endless marketing and consumption. Religion is treated like a product. In today’s world, the benefits of salvation are more and more being separated from the Savior—as if forgiveness and eternal life can be acquired like a commodity (I heard a professing believer the other day refer to his salvation as having his ticket punched—as if he had his boarding pass to heaven).
It is irreverent and dangerous to separate the benefits of salvation from the Savior. No earthly cleric or minister ever distributed the benefits of salvation. Christ as Mediator of the new covenant is completely sovereign over the benefits He purchased at the cross.
Saving faith unites a man to Christ—to Him who is supreme and preeminent—who is Alpha and Omega—who has the keys of death and hell—who has all authority and power—who is above every name that is named. We have salvation only because we have Christ and are joined to Him. Thus, to be united to Christ is to be joined to Him who fills all in all—and by this union, all the benefits of His Person are communicated to you (from His life, death, resurrection, priesthood, advocacy).
The world is blind to Christ’s identity; God is made known by the revelation of Jesus Christ to the sinner. God’s wisdom and power are resident in Christ and made known in the cross. How God saves is the greatest revelation of who God is. How God saves—by the cross of Christ is contrary to human pride and wisdom. But the wisdom of God in the cross is exposing all natural wisdom as foolishness.
God will judge all carnal wisdom and display it on the gallows forever as folly, shame, vanity, and wickedness. The darkened, rebellious intellect of man peers at the cross and puzzles for but a moment. Though God is accessible by the cross—His mercy and righteousness revealed—the sinner is offended that only sovereign pity can save him. He is insulted that the only possible remedy for his ruin is the death of his Creator in his place.
Therefore the unbelieving sinner chooses to remain an enemy of God and the cross. But God is penetrating this thick darkness of heart. He is making friends out of enemies. He is conquering sinners by His love. He is blasting into their bondage, ignorance, and pollution—to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.
It is salvation by revelation. It is God’s glory reflected in the Savior’s passion. It is God’s Spirit showing the sinner that the cruel implement of execution is a work of substitution. It is God in our nature—His divinity hidden—His glory obscured—drinking the cup of wrath meant for us. It is Jesus draining the cup—it is dying love that can conquer the most stubborn transgressor.
Apart from the Spirit’s penetrating light—no sinner can say ‘Jesus is Lord’. No sinner really understands that the One who hung on the cross on that darkened day in Judea is the Holy Creator of the universe—who left His throne and the worship of angels to taste death and wrath for guilty rebels.
When by the Spirit the quickened sinner comes to understand his own desperate condition—his ruin—his ill desert—and the wrath of Almighty God whom he has offended—the Spirit at that time brings several insights together. For the Gospel reveals the Character of God; the character of the sinner; and only then the perfect suitability of the Savior.
Now to see Him in His majesty—as supreme—as Lord of all requires the gift of saving faith. To see by faith the Risen Lord is the result of a gift of faith bestowed by God’s grace. The last view the world had of Christ was a hideous scene of abject weakness; victimization, shame and ignominy—flies, dust, spittle—hollow eyes, complete isolation. Christ’s supremacy and centrality were completely hidden in His atoning death. When Christ arose—He subsequently only appeared to believers.
Because Christ is central and preeminent—His work on behalf of sinners is all sufficient. If His sufficiency were had not been attacked so soon after His ascension; many of the N.T. epistles would not have been written. But praise God they were written. Let this be a lesson to us—in every age of church history there is a tendency to lose sight of the majesty of Christ.
So infinite is the gap between Holy God and sinful man (that defiled creature of clay) that only Christ the God-man in His supremacy can bring us all the way to God. He is Lord of All, cosmic King; preeminent in all things is perfectly fit to reconcile us to God and to bring us from dust to glory. This is the great theme of Colossians.
Colossians is pure Christology. Paul is exhibiting Christ as preeminent in all things, all-sufficient Redeemer, sovereign Lord, and God very God. As God-man and Redeemer, Christ entirely fills the infinite gap between God and sinful man.
Consider how expansive this chasm is between the self-existent, transcendent, holy God of the universe, and sinful, feeble, defiled humans made of dust (the gap is infinite cosmically, morally, and ontologically).
The human race is created with a spiritual longing for the transcendent (Ecclesiastes 3:11). But carnal reasoning leads men away from Christ to religious philosophies of human invention (Col 2:8).
When Christ’s supremacy is preached; it beats down man-made religion into the rubbish heaps where it belongs. But the moment Christ’s centrality and supremacy are out of view; the human heart goes about trying to supply beams for a bridge to God.
Brothers, if sinful man lays even one plank in the bridge to God; it will not bear your weight. As creatures made in God’s image—only Christ the perfect image of God can conduct you safely into the presence of Him who is thrice holy.
Your task as pastors is to proclaim Christ in His centrality and preeminence—for only then will ruined sinners trust Him as all-sufficient to save. And only then do sinners understand that salvation has been taken out of ma’s hands and into God’s own hands.
Paul has written Colossians to combat the errors that are troubling the churches of the Lycus valley in Asia Minor (modern day Turkey). The false teachers had introduced doctrines and practices that proved to be an indirect attack upon the preeminence and sufficiency of Christ.
(The Colossians were attracted to the Greco-Roman dualism taught by the philosophers of the day. Dualism taught that spirit was good and matter was evil, therefore they reasoned that God must have utilized a host of intermediaries (angels) to do His bidding (including creation) so that God would not be “contaminated” by coming in contact with corrupt physical matter.
Mixed with the error of dualism was a legalistic, perhaps Essene, version of Judaism that thought highly of asceticism (severe treatment of the body in order to promote spirituality). Both dualism and legalistic Judaism had an almost worshipful admiration for angelic beings or intermediaries.)
The Colossians were in desperate need of instruction regarding the Person and work of Christ. Human “wisdom” was corrupting their understanding of Christ and the Gospel.
When sinful man leans upon his reason in order to attempt to partially bridge the gap between God and man, he always comes up with an “ism.” The book of Colossians destroys these dangerous “isms” by exalting Christ as all-sufficient and preeminent.
Legalism, asceticism, ceremonialism, mysticism, sacramentalism, subjectivism, antinomianism, and Gnosticism are all refuted by the powerful Christology of Colossians which declares the absolute preeminence and perfect sufficiency of Christ.
The dangerous “isms” prove to be nothing more than will worship – that is man asserting his fallen will, telling God how he will approach Him and be commended by Him. (When we preach Colossians today we ought to address the human tendency to add our own “building material” in an attempt to partially bridge the gap between us and God.)
A little over 500 years ago, before the Protestant Reformation, sacramentalism (or sacerdotalism), had a strangle hold upon the Church. Through the Protestant Reformers, the blessed truth of the Gospel of free grace in Christ was recovered through the study of the Scriptures.
So also in first century in the region of Colossae, incipient Gnosticism was harassing the churches seeking for a stranglehold. Paul exposed the false premises of his opponents. Paul thunders out in the book of Colossians, Christ completely fills the entire gap between holy God and sinful man! He is all and all. All the fullness of the Godhead dwells in Him. The believer is complete in Him!
Everything in relation to God needed by the believer is to be found in Christ. In Christ the believer finds acceptance, favor, sonship, status, right standing, power, purpose, destiny, bold access, wisdom and knowledge. Our entire life is upheld and provided by Christ – none of our spiritual needs are provided by us. This is death to the “isms!”
(EX. Recently a Jehovah’s Witness woman came to my door; she was training another woman. I quickly challenged her as why the founders of her cult had changed the N.T. so as to make Christ a creation of God instead of God the Son. She answered back, “Then how do you explain Jesus praying to God as His Father?” I said to her as respectfully as I could, “Madam, if you could answer that question, you’d be a saved person.” The point is Christ lived the perfect life of a human believer and disciple for our sakes. His life as God incarnate completely filled the gap between God and man. His praying to the Father is an argument FOR the Trinity, not against the Trinity.)
We study Christ’s supremacy to learn more of His sufficiency
He is Creator and Redeemer. Christ the Agent of creation; the Origin and source of creation; the Upholder of creation; the Goal of creation. He is the Head of the new creation. He has first place in everything; He is cosmic King. He is supreme and preeminent over all creation. He is the consummation of all things—every knee will bow to Him acknowledging His rightful sovereign rule over all. Christ has unshared authority in every sphere.
Every act and suffering of that glorious Person confronts the case of every sinner. If I see Him who is the atonement to be God-man, then I see an offering so vast, and so extensive in its applications, that every crevice of the conscience must be reached.
The perfect sufficiency of Christ (2:8-10)
V.8 – Paul exhorts the Colossians to stay anchored in the bedrock of Christ—for His is a ‘continent’ of rock; our stronghold and fortress. Stay firmly anchored in Him because false teachers are seeking to carry off many ‘captives.’ You must understand that the conventional religious wisdom of this world wants to make a captive out of you. But this spurious wisdom is exposed by the Word of Christ; the Word of God; the Word of the Cross. The supremacy of Christ exposes false doctrine—because false doctrine inevitably proves to be an attempt to partially or completely bridge the gap between God and man.
So be careful of these spiritual tricksters who come to plunder you and spoil you. These false teachers lean upon the intellect of man; they trust profitless speculations. Their religious insights are nothing more than the inventions of men’s brains. They mind external things—things such as religious ceremonies and ritual practices (or promote religious methods which promise earthly power, health, wealth). They teach spurious doctrines that can capture those who are unaware.
You must remember that you were rescued by Christ. You are His sheep—and you know what the protective wall is around Christ’s sheepfold. It is the pure gospel—that is our protective wall. The Gospel proclaims Christ as central and preeminent—majestic and awesome—and all sufficient to save His people. The church is not protected from its enemies by physical walls of stone; it is protected by the gospel.
V. 9 – The world’s elements and philosophies are not according to Christ—they do to comport with the doctrine of Christ. All and everything that men add to religion constitute an attack upon the nature of Christ. The religious inventions of men are not neutral—they are attacks upon the Person of Christ; attacks which charge Him with imperfection and insufficiency.
The sum is that God has manifested Himself fully and perfectly in Christ. God is wholly communicated to us in Christ (see 1 John 2:23). The Son of God is the only Mediator between God and man.
Like the false teachers of our day; the false teachers of Paul’s day were sinning against the doctrine of Christ’s Headship and sufficiency by doing two things: a.) They were proposing angels to be mediators between God and man; and b.) they were teaching rituals and ascetic observances as the basis of their moral teaching (rather than the all sufficient, finished work of Christ).
Paul’s charge against them was that they were in effect distributing the source of spiritual benefits over a number of practices rather than consolidating all in Christ as source of all light; life; favor; forgiveness; reconciliation; and blessedness.
V. 10 – The only begotten Son of God—the eternal Word of God has possessed the fullness of the Godhead from all eternity. But since His incarnation; His deity has had a human abode. For sinners; true life before God is only possible by union with Christ. Your fullness; your completeness is from His fullness. All of the Christian’s graces and energies are communicated from Him. He is the source of all our life and spiritual energies.
By union with Him; we participate in His life (Jn 1:16). By union with Him; we are on the receiving end of all of the benefits. In his divinity and perfect humanity; He is our perfect complement. For all we need to be—He is (Heb 7:25-27).
Therefore He has become our Perfecter. He is conforming us to His own image—by reason of our union with Him. From His own Person; He fills us with the resources necessary to be perfected.
In order to correct heresy Paul brought the true doctrine of Christ. One cannot have Orthodox Christianity without accurate Christology. Paul’s exquisite portrait of Christ centers upon the relation of Christ’s Person and work to eternal salvation.
V. 13 – Salvation words describe “a birth, an release, an adoption, a deliverance, an engagement, a verdict;” but here salvation is a transfer. A transfer from one kingdom to another—out of the kingdom or authority of darkness and into the kingdom of light—the realm of the Son of God.
Kingdom Citizenship is procured for us by the purchase of Christ. Redemption in Him – (as in Rom 3:24) weaves together the ideas of redemption and the believer’s position in Christ. This identification with Christ is the crux of the issue for the believer.
V. 14 – The uniqueness of Christ’s all-sufficiency was a central issue for Paul. Any theological error that undermines the all-sufficiency of Christ instantly jeopardizes redemption in Him. To lessen Christ and His power is to lessen His role in salvation.
“In whom, in Him, in Christ. . .” Emphasizes living organic union with the Son of God. So that every spiritual blessing that we enjoy—our status, favor, sonship, security, significance, supply, source, life, promise, covenant, destiny, future – ALL RESULT FROM our union with Christ.
The Father contemplates us in the Son -- should we not contemplate ourselves in the Son? Redemption is the price of our release; the price of our forgiveness. Can God forgive without a ransom; atonement; redeeming price? Forgiveness of sins is in Christ – in Him. The benefits of Christ’s death are inseparable from His Person.
V. 15 – Christ is the eikon of God – meaning not only likeness; but includes the ideas of representation and manifestation. This echoes Christ’s words in John 14:9, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father.” See also Hebrews 1:3 and 2 Corinthians 4:4-6;’ and Phil 2:6.
As the “image of God” Christ is the great and final theophany; or literal manifestation of God. He is the projection of God onto the canvas of our humanity and the embodiment of the divine in the world of men.
“First-born” suggests supremacy, not temporality. Israel was designated as God’s firstborn (Ex 4:22) – even though many nations existed prior to Israel. She was chosen to be supreme over the nations – “I will make him My first-born the highest of the kings of the earth” (Ps 89:27). Christ as First born is is the Heir and Ruler over all. (See also Heb 1:6 – Christ as the protokos.)
V. 16 – This verse unfolds the meaning of Christ in creation. All things created in Him means that creation not only finds its origin in Christ; but it is centered in Christ. Christ is the embodiment of reality (whether of creation; or the redemption of mankind). Christ was the location from whom all came into being and in whom all creation is contained. (This idea is also suggested in verse 18, “He is the beginning.”) (See worldview notes on Christ as the LOGOS – the rationality of the universe.)
All laws and purposes which guide creation and govern the universe (to the furthest galaxy) reside in Him. Christ’s creative work is all-encompassing, for it includes all created things “in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible.” He is not in all things (pantheism); but all things are in Him. His majesty and might and transcendence uphold the universe; all things find their source, sustenance, purpose, destiny, and order in Him. All things are created for Him – they abide forever to that end.
Christ is preeminent above all creation; above every creature. Christ is the point of reference of all things and all creatures. The Son is the goal of the existence of all things. The region they occupy makes no difference—it is still true! Whether heaven or earth—even angels have no power apart from Christ.
Paul boldly affirmed that everything – physical and spiritual (visible and invisible) is part of the creation that is in Christ – contained in Him and by Him. (Thus nothing in creation is worthy of worship—Christ having created angels, makes angel worship illegitimate and heretical – 2:18.)
The supremacy of Christ is both arenas of reality (heavenly/invisible and earthly/visible—stands in direct contrast to every false teaching (all glory belongs to Christ alone).
The phrase all things created for Him means every aspect of creation exists for Him. Everything has its being for His sake. He shall realize every purpose of His heart—He is the Ruler of creation and the goal of creation.
All creation is unstoppably moving toward this goal. Someday the world will fully recognize the preeminence and sovereignty of Christ (1 Cor 15:25; Phil 2:10-11; Rev 19:16).
V. 17 – He is before all things; there never was a time when He did not exist. All things are held together in Him. All is unified by Him. All coheres by Him; stands together by Him, stand in relation to Him. All things are defined in relation to Him. The Creator of all things maintains all things—the unity in nature; the order of all things; the flow of history—is all traced to Christ—Creator, Sustainer, Upholder.
The reason the world is a cosmos and not a chaos is because of Him. This world is a system with a plan because of Him. From the smallest living cell to the blue whale the monarch butterfly—each creature occupies its appointed ecological niche due to God’s guiding hand in Christ. Christ is the cause of creation and He upholds creation—being the very bond that holds creation together (His power is exerted in doing so – Heb 1:3).
What an encouragement for Christians since, “He is not their Cause only, in an initial sense; He forever their Bond, their Order, their Law, the ultimate secret which makes the whole universe, seen and unseen, a cosmos, not a chaos.”
CHRIST IN REDEMPTION:
V. 18 – Christ is first in all things material and spiritual. All religious philosophies that depart from the Gospel are ultimately hostile to Christ preeminent. How we need to constantly consider the dignity of the Person who took our iniquities and infirmities upon Himself.
Christ is Firstborn; Point of reference; Agent of creation; Goal of creation; Forerunner; Governor; Head of the Body; the Beginning of the creation of God; Firstborn from the dead; first in the realm of the visible and the invisible—He had the right to the title preeminent. His divine sovereignty is over all things.
He is the “beginning” the origin of creation; and also by His death on the cross He established a new beginning – the beginning of redemption for mankind. His death and resurrection signaled the dawning of an age in which individuals would enjoy a closer more personal relationship to Him than ever before.
As first-born from the dead; He possesses authority and dominion over yet another aspect of this world. As the “first-born over all creation” (v. 15), He is supreme over the created world; and as “first-born from the dead,” He is supreme over death. Having conquered death by His resurrection, He now holds “the keys of death” (Rev 1:18).
Paul pointed out the purpose of all of this—that “Christ would have first place in everything” (v. 18). In the church, in creation, in salvation, and even in death, Christ holds the title and privileges of the Firstborn. He is preeminent over all.
V. 19 – “For” – God the Father’s design is that He should reveal himself in Christ. And that He would reveal Himself in Christ by executing all of His purposes by Him.
In Christ is the fullness of saving grace and power reside (the totality of divine attributes and might. This is by divine design—every aspect of Christ’s suitability to be our perfect Savior has been thought through by the Godhead.
All the fullness of salvation dwells in Christ. “For in Him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell.” The Father was pleased to have all redemptive power dwell in Christ who is the Agent for and goal for reconciliation (v. 20).
v. 20 – To reconcile (apokatallacia) – means to exchange hostility for friendship. The prefix conveys the idea of complete reconciliation. God’s reconciling of man to Himself is necessary because of the enmity of sinners toward God in their natural mind (Rom 5:8-11; 8:5-7). Man’s corruption is an effrontery to God; the fact and existence of corruption requires reconciliation before relations can be restored.
In what sense does Christ reconcile all things to Himself? (All things reconciled by His blood cannot mean universal salvation.) The reconciliation in this verse points to the Great White Throne judgment at the end of the millennium when every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of the Father (Phil 2:10; Rom 14:11).
“Having made peace.” The participle is inserted to indicate the reconciliation is not a cosmic miracle in which the universe is changed outside of man. BUT that reconciliation is primarily concerned with relationships that are restored. Peace here is not primarily defined in the negative—that is by erasing or canceling out hostilities—but reconciliation points to positive content with positive blessings—spiritual blessings impacting the prosperity of the whole man.
At present, heaven and earth are not now united. Kingdoms are in conflict; sin brought the universe into a state of corruption; decay; deterioration. Sin destroyed harmony (see Romans 8 and also the four separations caused by sin.
Through the blood of His cross the sin principle is conquered—the curse is borne; the law satisfied; peace is made and restored. Through Christ and His cross the universe is brought back to its proper relation to God.
As a just reward for His obedience; Christ is exalted to God’s right hand—from this position of exaltation, glory, and power—He rules the universe.
What He accomplished at the cross; He will consummate at the second advent when He formally and militantly takes back the title deed to the earth.
Through Christ; all intelligent beings—both obedient and disobedient, and both human and angelic will acknowledge the sovereignty of God manifest in the Lordship of Christ who is over all.
The vastness of Christ’s Person is seen in His cosmic Kingship. Thus His cross affects not only mankind; but the entire cosmos. Also a distinction needs to be made between reconciliation and salvation.
Reconciliation removes the barrier between God and man and opens the potential for a new type of relationship between the two. But the barrier removed does not mean that reconciliation has been appropriated.
The act of reconciliation in Christ’s death does not itself immediately effect reconciliation for the individual—people by nature do not desire to take advantage of this situation of their own accord. This does not detract from the reconciling work of the Father—for it had to take place for salvation to be in accord with God’s nature.
All the redeemed and unredeemed will acknowledge His sovereignty; AND in that sense there will be reconciliation. But this does NOT mean the unredeemed will be given salvation. (Christ’s vicarious death on the cross paid the price necessary to make possible this peace.)
As cosmic Lord, when God in reconciling all things prepares to put creation itself under His authority and rule, through the administrative reign of Jesus Christ—then when Christ is inaugurated as the cosmic Potentate at the beginning of the eternal state, the earth will have its day of reckoning and redemption, and will be transformed (2 Pet 3:10; Rev 21:1).
Present spiritual warfare in this life takes place between the believer and satanic powers (Eph 6:10-18). But Christ at the right hand of the Father possesses authority over the angelic realm, though at the present time that realm has not come under final judgment.
In spite of their present limited power; the angelic realm will be subject to God’s work of reconciliation. Christ will be exalted and every knee will bow (Phil 2:10).
Paul highlights all the aspects of the believer’s former alienation in the bulk of Eph 2.
Now the believer’s present condition as reconciled (Col 1:22) emphasizes life; and blamelessness free of reproach. The purpose of the reconciliation is to present each believer before Him holy, blameless, and beyond reproach.
The intended goal of reconciliation is reached BECAUSE Christ’s incarnation allowed Him to die a real death in our place. The prepositions Paul uses to support our being in Christ. By identification, believers are positionally holy, blameless, and beyond reproach. And they are to manifest these qualities in the Christian walk.
The “Christ hymn” of 1:15-20 is a powerful statement about the Person of Christ and His work. Christ’s supremacy is seen at every turn. The first portion focuses on His preeminent role in creation, while the second emphasizes His work as Redeemer. For any who are confused or fuzzy about Christ’s role in the world—these six verses testify to Christ’s absolute authority—not shared with any angel; person; or demon.
Christ’s authority in every sphere is UNSHARED!
The vastness of His Person gives us insight into the marvelous dimensions of His work—we gaze in awe at His supremacy to learn more of the sufficiency of His redemptive work.
The sufficiency of Christ refutes the Colossian heresy as well as all false religion
Paul thunders out three points which overturn the doctrinal heresies that were plaguing Colossae. Those points are:
Paul’s affirmation that the believer is complete in Christ (2:10-14) is significant in light of the Colossian error that identification with Christ is not sufficient for the Christian life.