Colossians 1:15-19

September 10, 1994 Colossians 1:15-19

- Paul turned his attention to a different facet of his prayer concerning
  the Colossians.
    - verses 3-8 explained what he thanked God for regarding this church.
    - verses 9-14 explain what he asked God for regarding this church.
    - This was "Paul's prayer requests for a local church."

- One of the main points we drew from these verses was the fact that we
  ought to be regularly praying for other churches and ministries

     - our missionaries
     - our sister churches
     - Christian schools and camps

- What specifically should we include in our prayers for these believers?
- That they would...

I. Be Filled With The Knowledge of His Will
   - "Filled" means to be controlled by.
   - His directive will, God's will for our everyday lives, the way He
     wants us to live.
II. Walk Worthy of the Lord In A Way That Pleases Him
    - this is a favorite phrase of the apostle Paul's.
       - cf. I Thes. 2;12, Eph. 4:1, Phil. 1:27
    - "Walking" -- gradual, can be observed by others
III. Be Strengthened With His Might
IV. Give Thanks Unto The Father
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Today, let's turn our attention to the next set of verses, 15-19
In this section Paul takes aim at the heart of the heresy that had
infiltrated the Colossian church.

(Read vv. 15-19)

INPUT:  What have we said is the theme of the book of Colossians?
        (the preeminence of Christ)

- "The whole Bible is supremely the book about Jesus Christ." (MacArthur,
  p. 43)

    - Old Testament: preparation for His coming
    - Gospels: He is God in the flesh, come to save sinners
    - Acts: Salvation in Christ begins to be spread in the world
    - Epistles: Details of Christ's work and Body, the church
    - Revelation: Presents Christ on the throne, King of kings and Lord
      and lords.

 

  - All of Scripture testifies of Christ

      - Lk. 24:27 "And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he
        expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning
        himself."

      - John 5:39 "Search the scriptures...and they are they which
        testify of me."

- Col. 1:15-19 perhaps the most important of any other in scripture.
- It leaves no doubt as to Who Jesus is.

INPUT: Why was this message needed in Colosse?
       (because of the heresy which had infiltrated the church.
        This heresy centered on the Person of Christ.)

INPUT:  What were some of the elements of this heresy?

        - Gnosticism, which held that...

          - Christ was one of many lesser "emanations" from God.
              cf. ripples in a pond.
          - Matter was inherently evil, thus a good emanation like Christ
            could never take on a body of evil matter.
          - God could never become a man, thus denying Christ's deity
          - A secret, mystical knowledge was necessary for salvation
            beyond the gospel of Christ

        - Judaism, which held that

          - ceremonial laws had to be kept in order to be saved.
          - asceticism: all pleasure is wrong.  If it tastes good, spit
            it out.

- Most serious charge of the Colossian heresy was that Christ was not
God, i.e. (that is) the rejection of His deity.

- In our text today, vv. 15-19, Paul aggressively defends the deity of
  Jesus Christ against this heresy.
- Instead of outlining in detail all the aspects of the Colossian heresy,
  he holds forth unashamedly the truth of Christ's deity.

INPUT: What should we learn from his example in our dealings with
       cultists today?  (discuss the deity of Christ with them)

- We know that Jesus Christ is God because of...

I. His Relation to God   (read v. 15)

   A. He is the image of the invisible God.

      1. "image" (eikon) -- likeness or image.  We get our word "icon"
         from this word.
         a. Man created in the image of God (Gen. 1:26,27).
            - we have mind, wills, and emotion
            - we were given dominion over the earth
            - but man fell into sin
            - the image of God was marred
            - ours is an IMPERFECT image of God.
            - we do not possess omnipotence, omniscience, omnipresence

         b. Christ is the perfect image of God.
            - never became the image of God, but
            - has always been the image of God for all eternity

(cf. =       cf. Heb. 1:3 "Who [Christ] being the brightness of his
cross ref-      [God's] glory, and the express image [exact
ence)           representation NASB] of his [God's] person [nature]."

                 "express image" -- engraving tool or stamp
                 - the exact likeness of God's nature, i.e. He is God.

             cf. Phil. 2:6 NASB "Who although He existed in the form of
                 God, did not regard equality with god a thing to be
                 grasped."

             cf. John 14:9 "He that hath seen me hath seen the Father."

             cf. John 1:14 "And we beheld his glory, the glory as of the
                 only begotten of the Father."

   B. He is the firstborn of all creation.

(e.g.=        INPUT: Does anyone know how some (e.g. 1st century Arians,
for example)  present-day Jehovah's Witnesses) interpret "firstborn"?

      - first "created being"
      - therefore he cannot be God

      - However, that cannot be the interpretation of "firstborn" for
        many reasons:

      1. Refers to rank or position. i.e. Christ is first in rank or
         position.
         - prototokos in Greek
         - can refer to firstborn chronologically
         - Luke 2:7 "And she [Mary] brought forth her firstborn son."
         - Primarily prototokos refers to rank or position

         a. Israel is called God's firstborn.  Ex. 4:22; Jer. 31:9
            - not first people born
            - nor first ones to follow God (e.g.  Adam, Seth, Noah)

         b. Jesus is called the firstborn of the dead.  Rev. 1:5
            - though not the first person chronologically to be
              resurrected

            INPUT: Other examples?
                   - Elijah raised the widow's son in I Kings 17
                   - Jesus raised Lazarus in John 11

      2. Jesus cannot be firstborn chronologically and be the "only
         begotten" Son of God.

         a. "Only begotten" - monogenes, means unique.  (John 3:16,18)
         b. Early church father Theodoret:
            "If Christ was only-begotten, could He be first-begotten?
            And how, if he were first-begotten, could he be only-
            begotten?  How could He be the first of many in His class,
            and at the same time the only member of His class?"

            - such is the confusion if "firstborn" is made to mean "first
              created".

      3. Greek has its own word for "first created": protoktistos.

      4. Fights the context
         a. General context - book written to combat heresy.
            - If Paul were saying Christ was first created being, he
              would be agreeing with the heresy which taught Christ was
              the highest "emanation" from God, a created emanation by
              God.
         b. Immediate context -
            - Paul had just said that Christ was the "image of the
              invisible God."
            - The perfect and complete image of God

      5. Christ is said to be the Creator of all things in v. 16.
         - How then could He Himself be created?
         - Could he have created Himself?
           - obviously not

*ILLUS.  Jehovah's Witnesses who came to my door one year when I was home
         from college
         - wanted to talk to me so I listened
         - asked them about Jesus Christ
         - "first created being then he created everything else"
         - Not what the Bible says.  Bible says "all things were made by
           him." Could He have made Himself?
         -"That's your Bible."
         - Their Bible, a perversion in many ways, maintained similar
           wording in that passage (John 1:1-2).
         - They had no answer. Hopefully made them think.

- So Paul delivers the most damaging blow at this heresy and its false
  teachers by declaring boldly that Jesus Christ is the exact
  representation of deity, He is God.

- We know Jesus Christ is God first of all because of His relation to God
  and secondly because of...

II. His Relation to the Universe

    - Paul gives three reasons for Christ's primacy over creation:

    A. He is the Creator.

       - The false teachers viewed as the first and most important of the
         "emanations" from God.

       - Yet they believed a lower emanation was responsible for creating
         the physical universe because a good emanation like Christ could
         not have made matter which was evil.

       - But Paul writes "For by him were all things created, that are in
         heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible...ALL
         THINGS WERE CREATED BY HIM AND FOR HIM."

       INPUT: What about the person who asks, "Wasn't the Triune God --
              Father, Son and Holy Spirit involved in the creation, and
              not Jesus Christ alone?"  How would you answer that?

              - Hendrickson, p. 73
                "The Apostle's very emphasis in this letter is that the
                Son, too, is fully divine.  In him all the fullness of the
                godhead dwells bodily (Col.  2:9). Hence, it is entirely
                reasonable for him to say that the Son is not only the
                One to whom all things owe their origin, as the divine
                Agent in the creation, but is also the Goal of their
                existence."

       INPUT: What are some things about the creation that make you think
              how great Jesus Christ is to have created it all?

              - The size of the sun
                   - Diameter of 864,000 miles
                   - enough space to hold 1.3 million Earths
              - The star Betelgeuse has a diameter of 100 million miles
                   - larger than the Earth's orbit around the sun.

              - At 186,000 miles per second, it still takes sunlight more
                than 4 years to reach the nearest star, Alpha Centauri,
                which is 24 trillion miles from earth.

              - Max Planck ("Planck's Constant"), one of the founders of
                modern physics and winner of the Novel Prize, wrote,
                   "According to everything taught by the exact sciences
                   about the immense realm of nature, a certain order
                   prevails-one independent of the human mind...this
                   order can be formulated in terms of purposeful
                   activity.  There is evidence of an intelligent order
                   of the universe to which both man and nature are
                   subservient" (MacArthur, p.  48).

              - cf. II Pet. 3:5 "For this they willingly are ignorant of,
                that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the
                earth standing out of the water and in the water."

    B. He is before all things.

       - Jesus Christ, the Son of God, existed before creation.

          cf. John 1:1-2 "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was
              with God, and the Word was God. All things were made by
              Him."

          cf. Micah 5:2 "But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be
              little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall
              he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose
              goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting."

          cf. Rev. 22:13 "I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the
              end, the first and the last."

       - Anyone existing before the creation of time is eternal. And only
         God is eternal.

    C. In Him all things consist (hold together).

       - Jesus Christ created the universe and He sustains it.
       - He is the One behind all the energy in the universe.
       - He keeps the planets in their places.

       INPUT: Who or what does the world say is behind what happens on
              earth?

              - Mother nature.  And nothing could be further from the
                truth.  The One behind the weather is not "Mother Nature"
                His name is JESUS CHRIST AND HE IS THE CREATOR.

              *ILLUS. Song about "energy" at Walt Disney's EPCOT Center
               "Energy, you make the world go 'round and 'round, you make
               the world go round."

              *ILLUS. Tour of Mark Twain Cave in Hannibal, Missouri with
              my cousin and her boyfriend.  "This cave was formed over 50
              million years ago."  I wanted to shout, "No it wasn't!  My
              God made this and everything else." But rest assured, I
              didn't.  (My unsaved cousin and her boyfriend might not
              have wanted to hear about Jesus after something like that.)

We know Jesus Christ is God because of His relation to God, His relation
to the universe, and thirdly, because of...

III. His Relation to the Unseen World

     - v. 16b "thrones, dominions, principalities (rulers) or powers
       (authorities)"

     - refers to the various ranks of angels.

     - Gnosticism held that Christ as an angel, an emanation from God.
       Christ was no more than the highest of these "angels" who emanated
       from God.  They did not believe that He was a man (matter is evil)
       nor that He was God (He was only an emanation).

     - Paul refutes the teaching that Christ was only an angel by
       demonstrating that...

     A. He is distinct from angels.
        cf. Heb. 1:7,8 "And of the angels he saith, Who maketh his angels
            spirits, and his ministers a flame of fire.  But unto the Son
            he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre
            of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom."
        cf. Eph. 1:21; Phil. 1:21; I Pet. 3:22

        - Quite to the contrary...

     B. He created the angels.
        (v. 16b)

We know Jesus Christ is God because of His relation to God, His relation
to the universe, His relation to the unseen world, and finally because
of...

IV. His Relation to the Church

    A. Christ is the Head of the church.

       - The body is a Biblical metaphor uniquely used of the church.
       - Not in the sense of the "head of a company."
       - Rather, as a living organism.
          - He controls every part of the body.
          - He coordinates the diversity within the body, diverse gifts
            and ministries.

       INPUT:  Why is it so important that we always remember that Jesus
               Christ is the Head of the church?
               - Avoid putting people on a pedestal.
               - He never lets us down.
               - So that His word will be our guide and standard.

    B. Christ is the Source of the church

       - Arche: beginning or source.
       - The church has its origins in Jesus Christ.
       - It was His idea.  He began it.  His death and resurrection gave
         us new life.

 

       INPUT:  What does this mean for the person who "attends" church by
               watching religious programs on television or settles for
               some other substitute for the church?

               (He thinks his way is better than Christ's.)

    C. Christ is the Firstborn from the dead

       - Same word used in v. 15, prototokos.
       - Of all who have been or will be raised from the dead, Christ is
         the highest in rank or position.

    D. Christ is the Pre-eminent One

       - "that in all things he might have the preeminence."

       - "that" is a purpose word, hina, meaning "in order that" and is
         directly connected to preceding statement "the firstborn from
         the dead."

       - Christ's death and resurrection exalted Him more than anything
         else to a position of supremacy and infinite prominence in the
         universe.

       cf. Phil. 2:8-11 "And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled
           himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the
           cross.  Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given
           him a name which is above every name:  That at the name of
           Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things
           in earth, and things under the earth, and that every tongue
           should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God
           the Father."

       - There is no question that Jesus Christ is the preeminent One in
         all the universe.

       INPUT:  What question should we be asking?

               - Is He preeminent in my life?
               - What sinful habits do I need to be putting off and
                 replacing with righteous ones so that He may be more
                 preeminent in my life?
               - How do I need to change?

- Paul confronted the Gnostic/Judaistic heresy of that day by teaching
  the deity of Jesus Christ.

INPUT: As God crosses our paths with cultists', what should we keep in
       mind?

       - Follow Paul's example in Colossians
       - Lovingly discuss the deity of Jesus Christ and passages that
         teach it.
       - Pray that they will be saved.
       - Demonstrate the love of Christ to them, the chief way of which
         is to tell them the truth of Who Jesus Christ is

- W. Graham Scroggie in his overview of Colossians makes this statement:

   "A true Christology is the final answer to every heresy that ever has
   been, or ever will be."

- May God help us to keep this truth in mind as we seek to be remain
  Biblically pure in our doctrine and growing in our Lord Jesus Christ.