Jesus is not simply a historical figure who lived some 2000 years ago. He is the exact representation of God. Anything you believe about God must be found in Jesus, or it is a faulty concept.
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Paul wrote his letter to the Colossians to combat Gnosticism, which was beginning to creep into the churches which had more of a Greek-type population instead of a Jewish background.
Judaism was the problem with the Galatian churches, where teachers were trying to bring people under some form of Jewish law in order to be saved.
GNOSTICISM was a prominent heretical movement of the 2nd-century Christian Church, partly of pre-Christian origin.
Gnostic doctrine taught that the world was created and ruled by a lesser divinity, they called the demiurge, and that Christ was an emissary of the remote supreme divine being.
They believed that only an esoteric knowledge of Jesus could enable the redemption of anyone.
It is that esoteric aspect which is the foundation of almost every cult.
Esoteric is a word not in our common everyday language. A good synonym might be “mysterious”.
intended for or likely to be understood by only a small number of people
with a specialized knowledge or interest.
For me, Einstein’s theories are esoteric—mysterious.
However, in reference to Christianity, the esoteric knowledge of Christ taught by the Gnostics was, and still is, dangerous to the faith.
I say “still is” because I have encountered this form of knowledge many times in my almost six decades of serving the Lord.
So, Paul wrote this letter which has been preserved for us by the Holy Spirit to give us a clear picture of who Christ is, what He did, and how our salvation is brought about.
Colossians 1:13-22 is such a powerful section of scripture that I am going to do something different today.
We are going through the entire section and highlight the thoughts Paul leaves with us, instead of my normal jumping around through many different verses of scripture.
He has delivered us from the domain of darkness
and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son,
in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
I Have written on this previously, and I tried to show you that our salvation—from beginning to end—is done by God alone.
We have nothing to do with it.
I am not going to belabor that point again, although it does show up again a little later on in this section.
He delivered us and He transferred us.
We didn’t change kingdom allegiance on our own.
He then explains what redemption means—the forgiveness of sins.
Our sins have been forgiven, and you will not see anywhere in this section the necessity of our repentance for that to happen.
He is the image of the invisible God,
the firstborn of all creation.
Paul begins here to combat one of the basic tenets of the gnostic heresy, which is that Jesus is just a lesser emanation of God.
NO. Jesus is the image of the invisible God.
We see this stated more forcefully by the writer of the letter to the Hebrews.
He is the radiance of the glory of God
and the exact imprint of his nature, …
I love the way this is translated by the various Bible translations.
KJV Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person,
NLT The Son radiates God’s own glory and expresses the very character of God,
NIV The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being,
CSB The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact expression of his nature
NET The Son is the radiance of his glory and the representation of his essence
RSV He reflects the glory of God and bears the very stamp of his nature,
Jesus shows us everything we need to know about God.
If our understanding of God is not seen in Jesus, we are looking at a faulty image.
Recall that Jesus said to Philip, “When you have seen me, you have seen the Father.”
As we continue with Paul’s exaltation of Jesus
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.
The Gnostics believed that because of the holiness and purity of God, there was no way He could have directly created this earth in the unwholesome condition it is in.
They taught that only spiritual things were good and that material things were bad.
But, here Paul reveals their lie and says that absolutely everything was created by God through Jesus.
Everything—both the invisible or spiritual and the visible or material.
And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
Gnosticism taught that since the world was created apart from God’s direct involvement, that after it was created, He simply let go of any and all concern.
This is what Paul is attacking here by saying that all things are held together in Christ.
It is difficult to imagine the chaos that would be in this world if God did not have His hand on us.
Self-destruction would have occurred long ago.
And now Paul begins to add a different angle to the reality of Christ.
And he is the head of the body, the church.
He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead,
that in everything he might be preeminent.
We see that Jesus is the head of the body, and that body is the church.
He is also the firstborn from the dead.
This phrase often causes concern for people, because they are thinking of at least two instances before Christ’s resurrection of men who were raised from the dead.
One was when a dead man was thrown into a grave with the bones of Elisha. There was still so much life left in just Elisha’s bones, that the dead man jumped up out of the grave and ran away. (2 Kings 13:21)
A more famous resurrection would be that of Lazarus, the friend of Jesus whom He called forth from the grave. (John 11:14ff)
With these in mind, the question becomes how can Jesus be the firstborn from the dead.
Jesus still lives.
All the others lived again to die again.
For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell,
This is why Christ is preeminent in all things.
All the fulness of God was pleased to dwell in Him.
We do not have that option.
We each carry aspects of God and His fulness, but we do not contain all His fulness.
As stated earlier in this section, everything we can know about God is revealed in Jesus.
If it is not in Him, then it is a faulty concept.
and through him to reconcile to himself all things,
whether on earth or in heaven,
making peace by the blood of his cross.
If you would take this verse and meditate on its meaning and ramifications for a few days, much of your theology could possibly be challenged.
Through the work of Jesus when He was on earth, God reconciled all things to Himself.
We have been taught a backward application of the cross.
We have been told that because of the cross, we now have the opportunity to become reconciled to God.
We need to do this because God is mad at us, but He will quit being angry if we will admit our sin and accept Jesus.
That is not what is stated here.
That reconciliation is a done deal. Peace has been declared.
God is not angry with us.
And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds,
Those of you who have been listening to me for a while know that I have taught unless God initiates the action, there is nothing we can do towards our understanding of Him and His ways.
This verse is a prime example for me.
I taught for years about our being enemies of God.
We were alienated from the things of God and hostile to the things of God.
At least that is the way it appeared to us.
A careful reading of this verse, though, shows that were only alienated in our minds.
It was because of the way we thought about what God required of us.
We only thought that we were separated from God.
But, we weren’t.
Never have been.
Once again, it is due to a faulty understanding of a single verse of Scripture.
but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God,
and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear.
We have taken this to mean that God removes Himself from us due to our sin.
Let’s consider the first sin ever committed.
Of course, I am talking about Adam and Eve in the Garden.
When they ate of the forbidden fruit, what happened?
And he said,
“I heard the sound of you in the garden,
and I was afraid,
because I was naked,
and I hid myself.”
Adam did the hiding, not God.
God came looking for Adam.
He comes looking for us, because we have separated in our minds by our faulty thinking.
But that is not the end of the story. Paul continues
he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death,
in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him,
There is that word “reconcile” again.
And again, it is what God has done for us and to us without any effort on our part.
This is explained more fully and plainly in Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians.
All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself
and gave us the ministry of reconciliation;
that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself,
not counting their trespasses against them,
and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.
What I have been declaring to you today cannot be stated more plainly than Paul does here.
It is all from God through Christ.
We have been reconciled to God.
Because He does not count our sins against us.
All that remains is for you to accept that reconciliation by saying “Thank You.”
Let go of your fear of hell, your fear of displeasing the Father.
Accept the fact that there is nothing you can do to make God any happier with you just the way you are.
He loves you.
There is nothing else to say.