Big God. Bold Faith (Colossians 1:15-22)

MOTIVATE

On most highways there exist guidelines and guardrails to help keep motorists on the correct course. Road markings outline the sides of the roads for drivers to stay in their line. In addition, a fairly recent addition has been rumble strips. The State & Federal Highway Administration places rumble strips on the side of the roads, and sometimes in center lanes to prevent inattentive or sleepy drivers from veering out of their lane into another and causing an accident. Further, many highways, especially curvy roads, have a guardrail in the event a vehicle does veer off road it can help minimize the chances of a vehicle from flipping or falling over a cliff. It’s quite possible that rumble strips and guardrails have saved countless lives. [Yes, I also briefly read of the negative consequences about rumble strips, but in many cases they are effective and the illustration serves its point :)]

In some sense, the book of Colossians is like a rumble strip. The apostle Paul had received delightful news that Epaphras had heard the gospel and did not hoard it but shared it with others in his hometown. A church was started in the city of Colossae and had spread to neighboring cities of Laodicea and Hierapolis. While Paul had received delightful news, he likely also heard disturbing news. From what we can tell, some in the Colossian church were either proclaiming or being persuaded incorrect views about Jesus. Like today, they were viewing a junior Jesus on par with diverse deities. The promoted a Jesus who was peripheral and not preeminent. Paul’s letter is like the road divot to alert individuals to stay on the path that leads to life in Jesus Christ and avoid the danger of straying away from a “Big Jesus” theology.

EXAMINE Colossians 1:15-22                  3 realities of a “Big Jesus” theology…

Jesus reveals.

“He is the image of the invisible God”

Paul makes two statements:

  1. God is invisible.
    – LORD told Moses, “you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.” (Ex 33:20)
    – Jesus said “God is Spirit” (Jn 4:24), and “You have never seen God’s form” (Jn 5:37).
    – Paul was blinded by God’s light, and later said, God is the “King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God” 1 Tim 1:17
    – John said, “No one has seen God at any time” 1 Jn 4:12
    – God’s people have always had faith in and followed a God they could not see (2 Cor 5:7; Heb 11:1).

Surrounding unbelievers have always sought the opposite – to worship what/who they see (Gen 3:6; Ps 115; Acts 17; Rom 1). Ironically, though God is unseen, His words/commands are not. While the false gods were visible, their expectations were unknown and so people performed all sorts of acts to appease them for circumstances (weather, natural disasters, personal suffering, aspired goals, etc.). The true God, though invisible, is incarnate through His word.

2. Jesus makes God visible.

The Father is God without skin; The Son is God with skin; and The Spirit is God that gets inside our skin.

The Father is God without skin; The Son is God with skin; and The Spirit is God that gets inside our skin. Jesus is the image (εικων / eikon = exact likeness) of God (cf. Jn 1:1-18; Heb 1:1-3). Jesus is not one of many gods but is “the” only revelation of God. Humanity is made in God’s image, but we are not a perfect likeness of God due to our freedom and fall to sin. Yet, Jesus perfectly images God and was born into humanity without a sin nature from the Virgin Birth. Jesus also returned to heaven so He could send the Holy Spirit to fill every believer. While a church building gives trace indication of God’s existence, the Holy Spirit gives tangible evidence of God’s presence and power in someone’s life with their transformed character and good works (Jn 16; Gal 5:16-22; Eph 2:8-10; etc.).  

Jesus is the “the firstborn of all creation” (Col 1:15) not in the sense of being created but in rank, contra Jehovah Witness who miss the passage context. The context communicates the relationship of creation to Jesus – Jesus created all things in heaven and earth – so, firstborn is more understood in the cultural terms of priority and sovereignty.[1]

> God/Christ is most revealed in His word. “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Rom 10:17). Revelation of God and from God comes by relationship with His word – reading and listening to the Bible. God will not often give direction without discovery; we must be in relationship with Him to seek His face and pursue His purpose. A most practical application for the revelation of Jesus is to read His words… which, a few weeks ago I gave a challenge for us to not only read a Gospel but read a Gospel with someone else. Have you started? What can I/we do to assist?

> Has God revealed something to you but you have refused to obey or rejected His messenger? When God speaks we have the choice to hear and heed or listen and decline. Whether the Spirit is whispering or shouting, we must remember that ignoring His voice can result in Him withdrawing His presence. I’m not saying that a person can lose their salvation, but perhaps a person can experience God’s grace but a turning point causes them the clarify their belief and commitment to God.

Jesus reigns.

Paul expresses another reality of Jesus, in that He reigns over heaven and earth. Not only did Jesus create all things, but all things were created “through Him and for Him” (Col 1:16). All creation exists to glorify God and worship the Savior. There is no throne, kingdom, or authority higher than Jesus.

Since Jesus reigns supreme, we exist to serve Him and obey His plans.

  • We do not believe in God as a means for our dreams come true; though faith does bring lasting joy.
  • We do not believe in God as a means to fix all our problems; though faith does provide perspective and guidance.

Faith in God is not our will be done but Thy will be done. We believe in God for Christ’s sake – for who He is and not what we want Him to be. Christianity is not believing in a God of our image but that we are made in His image and for His glory. Jesus became what we are in person so that we might become who He is in principle.

Jesus reigns not just over creation but the church. “And he is the head of the body, the church” (Col 1:18; cf. 2:10, 19; Eph 1:22; 4:15; 5:23). He is also the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything [or among all people] he might be preeminent.

The head is the controlling center of the body.

  • The head includes all the major senses of the body: eyes to see, ears to hear, nose to smell, mouth to taste, and the nerves to feel.
  • Enclosed in the head is the brain, which contains all the information, and interprets that information for the rest of the body to act and react.
  • Our brain is like a supercomputer with much power. But, if we input bad data or allow a negative virus to be installed, then it causes our brain to malfunction with slurred speech, blurred vision, delayed reaction, balance/coordination challenges, and memory impairment (even blackouts).

If Jesus is the head of creation, the church, and our life, then we must stay connected to Him. We decapitate ourselves when we are disobeying Jesus or disconnected from the church.

If Jesus is the head of creation, the church, and our life, then we must stay connected to Him. We decapitate ourselves when we are disobeying Jesus or disconnected from the church. Too often our Christian beliefs do not get out of our church buildings; our doctrine stays indoors because we have exchanged ourselves for Jesus as the head.

  • One of the most tangible displays that Jesus is reigning in your life is that you are meaningfully connected to a local church. As a pastor, I want to encourage those who regularly attend spbc to prayerfully consider taking a next step of becoming an official member at spbc.

    What is the benefit? 
    • Obedience to Jesus: whether it starts with baptism (Mt 28:19-20) or is sustained with church fellowship (Act 2:42-47; all NT). Obedience to Jesus is reason alone to become a church member.
    • Opportunity to serve: Serving others gives our life deep and delightful meaning. Our church tries to be flexible with this, but we seek to withhold some opportunities of service from those who are only committed members. How can a person be on a platform to lead in music (vocal/instrument) or to teach, or to lead a ministry but have a decided choice not to formally belong and be a member of that local church? If so, your service becomes more about you than it does for others.
      In addition to serving opportunities, you also are able to participate in the life and direction of our church. We are a congregational church, which means decisions are not just made by a few key leaders, but are also affirmed by every individual member of the church. Congregationalism is a distinct feature for many churches – especially if you come from other church backgrounds.
    • Opportunity to be shepherded: The church and its pastors are called to accountability with one another (Mt 16:18-19; 18:15-20; 1 Cor 5:12; 1 Thess 5:12-13; 1 Tim 5:17-22; Heb 13:17). Of course Christians and pastors pray for others generally, but there is a specific and direct call for a local church family to covenant together and care for one another. Church membership invites personal relationships that are centered on the Christian faith to be lived out in its fullest capacity.
    • Be different: Making a commitment makes a powerful statement in a low-commitment culture. Our culture is highly consumeristic with a take-it-or-leave-it attitude. But joining a church in such an environment makes a counter-cultural statement. It says, “My relationship with God and these people make a meaningful difference in my life.” Membership with a church guards us from isolationism and negative independence, reminding us we are part of something bigger than ourselves. In all, everyone can be critical of the local church, but Jesus is the only one who has the right to disown/dismember himself from the church. Thankfully, He never has and never will. The church is the bride of Christ with a profound and permanent love relationship. Therefore, we are called to move toward meaningful membership in a local church.
  • Another application of Jesus reigning is that “in him all things hold together” (Col 1:17). The source of creation is also the sustainer of creation. The One who spread the stars across the sky; who excavated earth for oceans to form; who created, collected, and constructed clay to form mountains and valleys; and who intricately formed and framed your body and breathed life into your flesh – is the same one who is working all things together in our world for His glory and our good.
    What is true in the universe is true in your life. Whether we look at life from a telescope or a microscope, there is no neglect or oversight from God. All things occur within the boundaries of His control and care.  As humans, we have the illusion of control. When chaos enters our circumstances, we begin to question God’s sovereignty or goodness. We must be mindful that He is working in ways we cannot always see or understand, but He is the glue holding us together.  

Jesus reconciles.

Completing this Christological summary, Paul affirms Jesus’ supreme deity in person and purpose. In the person of Jesus, we have the “fullness of God” (Colossians 1:19). In the purpose of Jesus, we have “reconciliation to God through the blood of his cross. Once you were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 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” (Colossians 1:20-22).

The faulty views in the Colossian church were that Jesus was just one of multiple expressions of God. So allegedly, Jesus’s teaching and tasks were one of many ways to experience salvation. Yet, it is important to understand Jesus is not just partly God nor partly human. If Jesus only partially represents God or humanity, then His purpose to reconcile creation and sinners from the curse of sin is incomplete. Thankfully, through the incarnation, Jesus is fully God and fully human, and the perfect manifestation of God to complete the mission of God.

Paul wants us to know the sure and single agent of creation and salvation is Jesus Christ. There is only one mediator between God and humanity (1 Tim 2:5).

Jesus. Jesus. Jesus.

Won’t you call upon Him today?

APPLY/THINK

Some scholars believe this passage of Scripture was perhaps a hymn or catechism/creed to teach Christians about the person and purpose of Jesus.[2] Regardless if these verses are sung or spoken from our lips, they must be settled in our life. Maybe you have been inattentive in the direction of your life or asleep at the spiritual driving seat.
I pray today’s message in God’s word has been a rumble strip to wake you up to stay on the course of life destined to meet our Maker – no longer invisible but face to face. Are you ready?


[1] O’Brien, P. T. Word Biblical Commentary: Colossians, Philemon (Vol. 44, p. 44).  

[2] O’Brien, P.T. Word Biblical Commentary: Colossians 1:15.

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