We live in a land of diversity. There is a mixture of nationalities, a mixture of political persuasions, a mixture of tastes. With this diversity also comes a variety of religious beliefs. There is the influx of Eastern mysticism, the rise in popularity of the occult, a host of manmade gods, as well as the New Age movement which is a combination of all kinds of stuff. We are certainly living in religious times. But that is not the same as living in Christian times.
We are bombarded on every front with distortions and outright denials of the Christian faith. Many have responded to this diversity by watering down the truth of the Gospel. They have chosen to become “more inclusive”. They have minimized the areas of disagreement so that the emphasis can be on the things that are held in common. This may sound noble but is really a denial of the truth of Scripture.
In the city of Colosse the church was being infiltrated by those who had a distorted faith. They focused their attention on angels and the gaining of unique and special knowledge and blessings. They spent a great deal of time trying to distinguish between the physical and the spiritual realms. They urged a blending of all religions. They focused on man’s efforts. They proclaimed a very “secular” faith similar to what we are seeing in our own day.
Paul’s approach to this problem is very instructive. He does not attack the heresy but emphasizes the truth. We can learn a great deal from this approach. Many in our day know that there is a lot of wrong “out there” but they don’t know what the truth is. In our passage this morning Paul underlines the most important distinctive of our faith. In these verses he instructs us about the distinctiveness of Jesus. As you listen to these verses you will notice that the Jesus described by Scripture is quite different than the Jesus you usually hear talked about.
He is Unique
When I was younger my youth group took a trip to the B’hai temple in Wilmette, IL. At the time, we were exploring the beliefs of other religions. As we took the tour we walked into this one room where there were several pictures on the wall: Moses, Jesus, Mohammed, Buddha, Confucius and the founder of the B’hai faith. We were told that God has sent many prophets through the years. One of those prophets was Jesus. They had lots of nice things to say about our Lord. However, he was just one of the prophets. The latest prophet was the one the B’hai faith was built on. At the time, I knew what they were saying was wrong. However, I’m not so sure that everyone sees that today.
Paul tells us that Jesus was more than one of the prophets. He speaks in MUCH stronger terms: “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.” There are other places where similar statements are made:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made. (Jn. 1:1-3)
The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by His powerful word. (Hebrews 1:3)
The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. (2 Cor. 4:4)
Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, (Philippians 2:5,6)
The Bible claims that Jesus stands uniquely as the One who is God in human form. He reveals to us God’s image. He is the “image of the invisible God”.
Since God is invisible, this “image of God” doesn’t have anything to do with what God looks like. He is the image of God in the sense that He possess the nature and character of God. When you look at Jesus you “see” God.
He is also called the “firstborn over all creation.” This does not mean He was created, or that there would be others “born” after Him. (In fact, we’ll see that this is impossible because Paul goes on to tell us that Jesus is the one who DOES the creating.) This phrase “firstborn of creation” relates to priority, and importance, not birth order. Paul is referring to the fact that the highest honor belongs to Christ. He’s number one.
I know what you are thinking, “Is this about over?” But you may also be asking “So what?” To the first question I answer, “No” to the second I answer, “thank you for your question.”
This text shows us that any presentation of Jesus that is less than divine is a false presentation. Anyone who seeks to make Jesus merely a good man, a great teacher, or a prophet from God is teaching a lie. He is uniquely God who became like us to rescue us.
Second, many people conclude that they can never know God because He is invisible. They believe you can never have a relationship with God. This is not true, we can know God through Christ. We may never get to the mountains of Switzerland but we can get an idea of their majesty by looking at pictures or videos of those spots. You may not have seen the Grand Canyon but you can get an idea of its majesty by looking at pictures or reading a book. These things are the image of the Canyon. Jesus is the image of God. Granted, Jesus is much more than just a snapshot of God but I hope you get the idea: we can begin to grasp God’s nature and character by looking at Christ. If you want to begin the journey to experiencing God’s goodness in your life, the journey starts with Jesus.
He is Supreme
Paul does not stop by telling us that Jesus is uniquely God in human form. He goes on to emphasize his point.
He is the Creator
Listen to these words, “For by him all things were created.” Jesus was not one of the created . . . He was the Creator!
But notice that this creation includes not just the creation of the earth. He created all things “in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities.” Everything that exists comes from Him. He alone is Supreme. He alone is God. In Paul’s day there was a great fascination and worship of Angels. But our text reminds us that He made the angels! The worship of angels or any spiritual beings is to worship the created rather than the Creator.
Notice also that Jesus is not only the agent of Creation . . .He is the reason for Creation. Paul says, “all things were created by him and FOR him.” (V. 16) The purpose of creation was to bring praise and honor to the Son. In the book of Philippians we read,
God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Phil. 2:9-11)
Do you see the practical nature of these truths? Let me give you some practical implications,
- Since Christ created all things we owe our allegiance and our worship to Him
- Since Christ created all things, He understands us and the needs we have better than we do.
- Since Christ created all things, nothing can hurt us if we rest in Him. No power in the world is superior to His.
- Since Christ is the end of all things, only the person who is following Him is heading in the right direction.
He is the Sustainer
Jesus is not only “before all things” we are also told that “in him all things hold together.” Jesus did not create the world and then walk away. His leadership and Lordship over creation is essential for every moment of every day. Were He to take His hands off us for a minute we would fall apart. He is the one who keeps things going. He makes the sun to shine, the rain to fall, the earth to rotate, the seasons to come and go. He is the one who continues to grant life to our bodies. At any given moment He could withdraw His hand and we would be finished. The implications are simple:
- We ought to be humble. We are not “independent” in the fullest sense of the world. Without Him we could do nothing. Even the non-believer owes their life to the mercy of the Savior.
- We ought to be grateful. Every day we live is a gift from our Lord.
He is the Head of the Church
This should go without saying but it must be said. This is not my church, or your church . . . it’s His Church! He founded it, and He is in charge of it. In this day when more and more emphasis is on making the church more like a corporation with the Pastor as CEO it is important that we remember that the church is not a corporation . . . we are His body. We are to do His bidding. He is the one who is to call the shots. Do you know what this means?
- The Church is most effective when we trust His ways rather than our own. The healthy church spends much time in prayer seeking God’s direction.
- We must remember that no individual can change a human life . . . only God can. Our job is not to call people to an organization but to Christ.
He is the firstborn from the dead
What does this phrase mean? It means He is the one who knows the way from death to life. Jesus is the one who leads the way. He is the one who pioneered the path. If we want to find life beyond the grave we must follow Him. There is no other way of salvation.
Supreme Over all
The passage ends with these words, “so that in EVERYTHING he might have supremacy.” Jesus is Supreme. There is no one above Him, no one more important. He is to have first place in our
- our worship
- our work
- our families
- our leisure activities
- our time with our friends
- our use of our money
- our use of our time
- our relationships with others
- our ambitions
- our dreams
He is Sufficient
The final point Paul makes in our text is in verse 19-20 “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.” (19-20)
Paul tells us that everything that was necessary for our redemption was accomplished through Christ’s work on our behalf. There is nothing that needs to be added to His work. We don’t have to “look for God” – He has made Himself available to us in Christ. The way of salvation is this: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved.” That’s it. People want gimmicks, formulas, magic words. They want a list of things they need to do. It would be wrong for me to give you those things. The Bible says, “believe on the Lord Jesus and you will be saved.” I dare not go beyond the Word.
There are not many ways to salvation . . . there is only one. Jesus said, “I am THE way, the truth, and the life, NO ONE comes to the Father except through me.” We don’t need psychics, we don’t need formulas, we don’t need anything but Christ’s work on our behalf. He is the only way to eternal life. We cannot simply nod our heads when someone says, “After all, we’re all going in the same direction.” Because we are not. Any other way of salvation is a delusion.
The sufficiency of Christ is not only in terms of our salvation, but in every area of our lives.
- He is sufficient to fill the ache of loneliness.
- He is sufficient to give strength for the trials
- His Word is a sufficient guide for your life
- His provision is sufficient for you to survive and to enjoy life
- His sacrifice is sufficient to pay for your sin
- His wisdom is sufficient to overcome your confusion
The first priority of the Devil is to turn us away from Christ. If He can’t turn us away, He will seek to distort the true image of Christ so that we serve an illusion not reality. This is pervasive in our society.
Even our best television shows can lead us astray. The shows “Touched by an Angel” or “Promised Land” or “7th Heaven” are exemplary and touching dramas. They warm our hearts with their efforts to introduce people to the reality of God. However, don’t miss the fact that in order to be “politically correct” the show minimizes the uniqueness of Jesus. All faiths are equal. All roads lead to God. In this they lead us astray.
Society has become fascinated with the spiritual. People long for stories about the intervention of angels in our lives. But don’t mistake these things for the road to God. The road to Heaven leads through Christ.
So, what Christ do you serve? Is He a watered down version of the real thing? Are you serving the Christ of Scripture? Do you recognize Him as God? Do you acknowledge Him as Creator, Sustainer and the end of all there is? Do you recognize Him as the One who is sufficient for your every need? This is the true Jesus. This is the Jesus that saves. This is the Jesus that can transform your heart and life. Every other Jesus is a fraud. Which one are you following? The true Jesus asks you to follow Him; to rest in His arms and trust what He can do for you. Are you willing to do that today?
Do you see how important these truths are? If you understand how big and great our Savior is, you will see how small the things that bother us really are. Why were we so upset by difficulties since we belong to Him? Why do we worry when He is our provider? Why do we wait so long to seek Him when He has the answers we need? Why are we so afraid of death when He has promised to lead us home? Why are we so obsessed with the things of the world when He alone can satisfy our deepest longings? Why are we so reluctant to pray and worship when He loves us so?
You see, we may affirm all of the things we have said today. But the challenge for you and me is not only to learn these truths . . . but to believe them, and to build our lives on them. Following the real Jesus will not only keep you from compromising your faith, or falling into error. . . it will lead you to the life you’ve been longing for.