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.

JESUS CHRIST, INTERCESSOR

You may attempt to fix your bad situation yourself, but there is a much easier way, which involves much less effort.

“intercessor, advocate and pray” are each words that have taken on religious meanings quite apart from their original intent. Nonetheless, Jesus fulfills every aspect of each of them. Learn how these words are used and it may change the way you view your trials.


If you prefer to listen to a podcast of this message, you can click here for this and other messages.


If you prefer to read, then here is the text.

Our Scripture Lesson this morning adds some thoughts to what we observed last time.

Last time we saw that what Jesus did, He did once for all—for all time, for all sin, for all people.

Now we come to a more specialized aspect of that work. Even though His work was for all people, there is still a place of each individual coming to a recognition of that reality.

And for those who have gained that revelation, they have a powerful representative working for them. [Heb 9:24 ESV] For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf.

This verse simply says that Jesus appears on our behalf, but it doesn’t say WHY. Why does He appear on our behalf? Is there something that we need? Would we be in trouble if He weren’t there on our behalf?

In our country of the United States, we have representatives who are in D.C. in the halls of congress. They are there on our behalf. They are supposed to speak for us.

We won’t go into how well they do that. Just know that their purpose, their job, is to speak for us, for you, for me.

In that sense, they are interceding for us.

However, the word “intercede” has taken on a different meaning than simply “speaking for.” It now has the connotation of helping me out of any trouble I might be in.

That is the way most people now understand the word.

That is due to our use and understanding of the word “advocate”, which we take to mean ‘lawyer.’ [1Jo 2:1 ESV] My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.

This verse has been used to show that Jesus is our lawyer when we are accused of sin.

Many fanciful stories have been concocted about Satan coming before the throne of God to bring accusation against us. But, then we are told to not worry, because Jesus is there to defend us.

It is kind of like there is this cosmic war going on in heaven before God’s throne.

It makes for great story-telling, and has been used for sermonizing, but it does not stack up with what the Bible says.

This is why you still see many believers worried about their salvation. They are trying hard to believe something which is not true.

The devil is not constantly before God’s throne trying to get a piece of you, but Jesus keeps pushing him away. [Rom 8:34 ESV] Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died–more than that, who was raised–who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.

Paul specifically argues against this idea that there is anyone who can condemn us. Yes, there may be those who try, but when we know the truth, we are free from believing those lies.

In this verse, we have the word ‘interceding’ and in the previous verse, we have the word ‘advocate.’

What I am saying is that both of these have been misunderstood, because we have defined them from our modern thoughts and usage rather than from their originally intended meaning.

ADVOCATE translates the word ‘paraclete’. You’ve heard that term before, haven’t you? PARACLETE?

It is another term for the Holy Spirit.

Paraclete is the Anglicized form, of the Greek and means “one who is called alongside.” And we have added the thought that the calling is for the purpose of helping, which is not too much of a stretch.

INTERCEDE, in its original English sense, carried the idea of conversation. The Greek word from which it is translated also originally had this idea.

Our idea of intercession is something akin to “a struggle on behalf of another.”

If it is the idea of ‘conversation’, then what is Jesus talking with the Father about?

As we try to wrap our minds around this, let’s not forget that we are trying to explain supernaturally eternal things with a limited natural vocabulary.

The reality is that we do not know about that conversation. We are simply told that it is. That is how we have gotten our misunderstandings. We have assumed things based on the supposed meanings of words and developed stories around those meanings.

However, we are told some specific aspects of this intercession on our behalf. [Rom 8:26ESV] Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.

The first thing to notice here is that it is about our prayers.

We may often find ourselves in the place of not knowing how to pray for something. That has been true for me. Has it ever been true for you?

What is the reality of prayer? We have talked a little about this a couple of weeks ago.

When Jesus spent all night in prayer, do you suppose that His prayer request list was that long? Not hardly.

Our word “PRAY” has taken on a religious sense, but that was not its original idea. Remember, much of what we understand came from the KJV, which was written in Elizabethan English—the language of Shakespeare.

Here are just two different lines from a couple of his plays.

I pray thee, gentle mortal, sing again. (Mid-Summer’s Night Dream)

And I pray thee, tell me, for which of my bad parts didst thou first fall in love with me? (Much Ado About Nothing)

Do you get the sense of anything religious or spiritual here? No. It is simply an old English word for ‘ask’ as in “I ask you, please.” Or, as Aunt Susie might have said a couple of decades ago—“What, pray tell, is that supposed to be?!?”

When we see the word ‘pray’ in the NT, then, we should think more about the idea of asking God something during conversation. Prayer is having conversation with God, not just running down a list of things to ask for.

And when we don’t know what to say, the Spirit takes over the conversation. I’ve been around important people, and I didn’t know what to say or to ask. It would’ve helped if I had someone to come alongside to speak for me.

A representative, an INTERCESSOR—as we saw in the beginning—would be a great benefit.

We may not how to pray the right way, to say what needs to be said as a human being before the throne of Almighty God; but Jesus does.

Acting as our high priest for things spiritual, acting as our lawyer for things legal, acting as our representative for whatever is on our mind, Jesus is the best you could ask for. Wouldn’t you agree? [Heb 7:25 ESV] Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.

“Save to the uttermost” means much more than just our eternity.

The word ‘save’ extends to every aspect of our life, not just our spirit. He is able to completely bring us to wholeness in mind, body and spirit, because He has been there and done that. [Heb 4:15 ESV] For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.

Our intercessor, our advocate, our representative knows what we are made of. He has experienced everything we have or will experience. There is nothing that is hidden from Him or foreign to Him.

You cannot do anything to take Him by surprise, to catch Him off-guard. The devil cannot do anything to you that will catch Jesus off-guard.

Therefore, all we should do is—RELAX. GOD’S GOT THIS.


THE RAPTURE OF THE CHURCH

Have you noticed that the Rapture is once again gaining the forefront of people’s thinking today? As we observe all that is going on in the world today, how do you answer people who want to know about God’s plan?

What does the Bible say about this important event?

What do YOU believe about this end-of-the-age report?

Find out in my article RE-THINKING THE RAPTURE.
You can get it here.