THE PRE-EMINENCE OF CHRIST

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.

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.

NOTE—For a video of this message, click here.

NOTE—For a podcast of this message, click here.

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”.

ESOTERIC
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.
Col 1:13-14

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.
Col 1:15

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, …
Heb 1:3

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.
Col 1:16

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.

Continuing now

And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
Col 1:17

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.
Col 1:18

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,
Col 1:19

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.
Col 1:20

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.

All things.

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.

Paul continues

And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds,
Col 1:21

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.
Isa 59:2

We have taken this to mean that God removes Himself from us due to our sin.

Not true.

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.”
Gen 3:10

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,
Col 1:22

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.
2Co 5:18-19

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.

OUR BLESSINGS IN CHRIST (Part 1)

What or where are the heavenly places that Paul wrote about?

WE ARE BLESSED

Paul’s letter to the Ephesian church is one of the most exciting books of the NT, because in it he lays out the full mystery of the Gospel. In this first section Paul gives what might be considered a summation of the Gospel before he goes into specific details about certain aspects of our salvation.

Let’s read Eph. 1:3-14 (ESV)—

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, 8 which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight 9 making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. 11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, 12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. 13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

In that long passage we are given 8 reasons to praise God—8 things that He has done for us or given us for which we should be grateful—

  1. We have been blessed with every spiritual blessing (v. 3)
  2. He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world (v. 4)
  3. He predestined us for adoption as sons (v. 5)
  4. Redemption through His blood (v.7)
  5. The forgiveness of our trespasses (v.7)
  6. Made known to us the mystery of His will (v. 9)
  7. We have obtained an inheritance (v. 11)
  8. Sealed with the Holy Spirit (v. 13)

That’s quite a list! Have you ever taken the time to just meditate on each of these, thinking about the depth, the grandeur of the blessings we have in Christ?

NUMBER ONE—God has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.

Every spiritual blessing. What does that mean? What are those blessings? They are not enumerated for us. We are just told that we have them.

Peter gives us a little better insight in his 2nd letter — (2Pe 1:3 ESV) 3 His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence,

We have been given ALL things that pertain to life and godliness. The word “life” refers to the quality of life, not just the ability to take a breath, eat and play. It means the fulness of life that we have in God.

That fact that you are alive is a gift from God. And everything you need to make that life the best it can be has been given you by God. Now, maybe you have not yet accessed the fulness of that gift. Maybe you are not living life as full as you would want; but that is not God’s fault. He has placed everything you need within you. It is up to you to use it. The gifts are there. There are probably some you have yet to open.

Everything you need to live a godly life has also been given to you. What is godliness? What does it mean to be godly? Well, what does it mean to be manly? It means to be like a man. What does it mean to be womanly? It means to be like a woman. Godly means to be like God.

Godliness is a Godward orientation of life that is expressed in thoughts, feelings, attitudes, speech, and action. Godliness should characterize our lives as believers.

We have been blessed with every possible spiritual blessing. We have been given everything we need to live a godly life on this planet. Each of us is different, so each of us has different gifts for our different purposes; but each of us has everything we need. There is no shortage of anything in God

Eph 1:3 …blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places

The verse in Ephesians goes also says that we are blessed with these blessings in heavenly places. Okay. Whoopee. What does that mean? Does that mean all these blessings are stored up in heaven somewhere waiting for me to get them when I die?

Not even close. We have already seen that these blessings are for this life that we are now living. So being in the heavenly places cannot be some place removed from here for some future time.

The English word “heavenly” occurs 32x in the English Standard Version; 23x in the KJV. It is used to refer to things in heaven as we understand it. It is also used to refer to God as in when Jesus says many times, “heavenly Father.” It refers to the natural heavens above us which contain the sun, moon and stars. But, it also refers to our minds.

Your thinker is one of the heavenly places mentioned in scripture. It is not plainly stated as such, though. This only comes by revelation, so come along with me on this.

[Eph 6:12 ESV] 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

Where does most of your warfare take place? With what are you wrestling? Is it not your thoughts? Are your challenges not first encountered within your mind? You begin to think about something and pretty soon you are going down a dark path.

Is this not what Paul referred to when he talked about not being able to do what he wanted? He ended up doing that which he did not want to do. There is warfare in our minds.

Where do you find worry? In your mind, right? Where do you find doubt? In your mind. What about confusion, depression, anger and feelings of condemnation? These all occur in the mind. Each of these—all of these—are attacks on the mind.

So, where are the “spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places?” They are in the mind.

For too long we have been trying to do battle with a devil “out there” somewhere, when the reality is that the battle is happening between our ears. Consider 2 Cor. 10:3-5—

3 For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. 4 For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. 5 We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ,

Yes. We have been given every spiritual blessing we need to be successful in the Christian life. We lack nothing—except maybe a correct understanding of all that is involved.

I will close by showing you two of the weapons of our warfare of which Paul spoke.

[Psa 19:14 ESV] 14 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.

Let this become your prayer. Meditate on the thought. Do this daily, and in less time than you realize things will begin to change for you. While you are at it, meditate on this verse also. —

[Phl 4:8 ESV] 8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

PRAYER
Lord, my Peace-bringer, my mind is often far from peaceful and in great turmoil as if controlled by someone else. You have said that you would keep us in perfect peace as we keep our minds on you. I know that I need to be tethered to You for my flesh not to have control. Please help me engage with Your Word and keep my mind fixed on You. I need the promised perfect peace that only You can give. Help me to take control of my mind so that I can experience Your peace. Amen.