Creation to Redemption: In Him, Through Him, and For Him – Part 2 (Col. 1:15-23)Written by admin on Apr 01, 2013 in - No Comments
(Due to technical issues there is no sermon audio for this week’s sermon)
Last week I announced that we would spend two weeks on Colossians 1:15–20. I mentioned that the need for this was based on the importance of these verses with regard to understanding the person, the nature, and the work of Jesus Christ.
As I explained last Sunday: My aim in these two sermons will be to show that there is no part of creation that was not created by Jesus Christ and that there is no part of creation that will not be redeemed by Jesus Christ.
In the previous sermon we looked at Jesus as the Lord of Creation. And showed that there is indeed no part of creation that was not created in, through, and for Jesus Christ. Last week in verse 16 we read the statements: “For by (or in) him all things were created” and “all things were created through him and for him.” So Jesus is the Lord of Creation.
This week we will look at Jesus as the Lord of Redemption. Again, we will see today that there is no part of creation that will not be redeemed by Jesus Christ.
And this is a very important concept for us today. We live in a world that is constantly confronting us with the painful reality of death. The reality is that death is coming and there is nothing we can do about it. Men and women have tried for years to defeat death through medicine and through discovering the fountain of youth. We have surgeries today to hide the visible reminders on our faces and on our bodies that death is approaching ever so slowly. And this helps us to ignore it and not think about it. But no matter how much we try to ignore it the reality of it is still there. One day it will be us in the casket at the funeral home. One day it will be us they are lowering into the ground. For all ages, death has been the great enemy of humankind.
But there is a remedy for death. And that remedy is revealed in our passage for today which comes from Colossians 1:15–23. A passage that presents Jesus as both the Lord of Creation and the Lord of Redemption. Please follow along with me as I read it.
15 He [Jesus] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 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. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 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. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. 21 And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22 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, 23 if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister. (Colossians 1:15–23 ESV)
To begin the sermon last week I asked the question: “Why was it important for Paul to establish that Jesus is the Lord over all of Creation?” And I answered that question by saying that Paul’s need for establishing this was related to the specifics of the false teaching that was spreading in city of Colossae. And we proceeded to look at that closely.
And this week I want to begin with another very similar question. This week I need to ask: “Why was it important for Paul to establish that Jesus is Lord over all Redemption?”
Well as we have discussed many times so far in this sermon series, the false teaching in Colossae brought into question the sufficiency of Jesus Christ and his death on the cross to secure our salvation and our own victory over death. The false teachers were requiring a range of other things in addition to faith in Jesus Christ as requirements for being reconciled to God. Things like the worship of angels and participation in various rituals and obtaining a certain secret knowledge. All things in contradiction to the gospel Paul proclaimed to Epaphras and the gospel Epaphras originally taught the Colossians. And there was evidently a lot of confusion making its way into the church regarding this all important question: “How am I made right with God?”
So it was necessary for Paul to establish Jesus as the Lord of Redemption. And by redemption I mean our deliverance from being slaves to sin and from being under a sentence of death because of that sin. You see the reality is that we are under a death sentence because of sin. The Apostle Paul tells us elsewhere that the wages of sin is death. And the good news of Easter is that we were redeemed from this death sentence by the payment of Jesus’ death on the cross. We have been released through the payment of a ransom and that ransom price was the blood of Jesus Christ. This is why the Apostle Paul can say to us in 1 Corinthians 6:19–20: “You are not your own, for you were bought with a price.”
And so in our passage for today, Paul aims to establish the fact that Jesus Christ is indeed the Lord of Redemption—the one who has freed us from being slaves to sin who were hopelessly facing death. And when studying this passage, I came to the following conclusion regarding what it teaches us. Namely that Because Jesus is the Lord of Redemption, we must recognize him as our Ruler in the church, our Remedy to death, and our Reconciliation to God.
The first thing we see in this passage is that
Because Jesus is the Lord of Redemption, we must recognize him as our ruler in the church (18a).
Look with me at the first part of verse 18 which reads “And he is the head of the body, the church.” The Apostle Paul was fond of using the body as a metaphor for the church.
In 1 Corinthians 12 Paul says that as members of the church of Jesus Christ, we are all part of a body. And just like our physical bodies have many parts (arms, legs, hands, feet, mouths, ears, eyes, etc…) the church is made up of many parts and those many parts are you and me. And just like the parts of our physical bodies have a role to play, we too have a role to play in the life of the church.
But here Paul takes this metaphor a step further. Here he says that Christ is the head of the body, meaning he is the head of the church. And just to stick with this metaphor for a little bit, let me ask a question: “What happens to a body when the head is removed from it?” That’s right, it dies. That is why this is such a good picture for us.
Though a church who has removed Jesus as the head might squirm around for a while like a snake whose head has been removed by a shovel or a church might run around for a while making a mess of things like a chicken with its head cut off, once the head is removed, the church is as good as dead. That is true with physical bodies and that is true with church bodies.
So let’s not remove Christ as the head of the church and replace him with some other “head.” Let’s always remember that this is Jesus Christ’s church. The church is a living body with Christ as our head guiding us, directing us, and controlling us. We are no longer slaves to sin needing to be redeemed. We have been redeemed and we are now slaves to Jesus Christ who is the head of the body, the church. If we replace Jesus as the head of this church, we can be certain of one thing: It will die. So let’s remain committed first and foremost, in everything we do, to Jesus Christ. He is the head of THE church. And He is the head of THIS church. He is our leader. But not only that, he is our life source. And He gives us power to accomplish the mission he has called us to.
A mission that includes sharing the gospel message with others. A message that contains the answer to the problem of death we are faced with today. Jesus, my friends, is the answer to this problem. We see in the second part of verse 18 that:
Because Jesus is the Lord of Redemption, we must recognize him as our remedy to death (18b).
Let me reread the second part of verse 18 to us. It says that “[Jesus] is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent (or first).”
If you remember we talked about the word “firstborn” last week. Verse 15 says Jesus is the firstborn of all creation. And I explained that the word “firstborn” in this context meant that Jesus has all the rights, privileges, status, rank, and position of the “firstborn” heir in a kingdom. I reminded us that it is always the “firstborn” son who takes the throne and that is what was meant by the word “firstborn.” Yes he existed before all other things were created, but the point is that he reigns over all creation in terms of authority and rank.
And here it really has that same sense. In verse 18 it says that Jesus is the “firstborn from the dead” and what Paul is speaking about here is the resurrection of the dead. Of those who are going to be resurrected from the dead, Jesus is not only the first in terms of the order (which he was), but he is first in terms of, like we have already discussed, being first and greatest and most prominent. His resurrection was not only the first of many, but it is the most important of many. Again, like the heir to a throne, Jesus is the firstborn in the family. Again, not in terms of birth order, but in terms of status. He is the first heir in the royal line.
And so, because Jesus is the firstborn in all creation and the firstborn of the “new creation” so to speak, Paul is able to say at the end of verse 18, that Jesus is preeminent in everything or first in everything or as one translation puts it “towering far above everything and everyone” else in a great parade.
The fact is that Jesus, having been dead and placed in a tomb for three days, and then through the power of the Holy Spirit being raised from the dead, defeated death not only for himself but also for all of us who would believe in him. Thus, as I have already said, Jesus is our remedy to death. Jesus said in John 11:
25 I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in Me, even if he dies, will live. 26 Everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die—ever. (John 11:25–26 HCSB)
And this is because, in the same way Jesus was raised from the grave, we too will be raised and given a body that will never die.
In John 6:40 Jesus tells us:
Everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. (John 6:40 ESV)
Friends, this is why Easter is such good news for us. We celebrate Easter not only for what Jesus did on the cross which was to pay the debt for our sin we could never pay, but because in his being raised from the dead on that first Easter morning over two thousand years ago, he defeated death not only for himself but also for all of those who will believe this to be true.
So believe this good news. Easter is not about the Easter Bunny, it is about Jesus’ defeat of sin on the cross and his defeat of death in the resurrection. It is about his bringing in of a new age with a new humanity who make up the church. And he is the firstborn or the founder of that new humanity. If you are looking to defeat death, don’t look to doctors, don’t look to miracle vitamins, don’t look for the fountain of youth. Instead place your faith in the one who said, “Everyone who believes in Me will never, ever die.” And you can trust in him, because he has actually defeated death himself and he has promised he will do the same for you. You can face death confidently knowing that when you die you will be with him and that one day your body will also be raised and remade into a glorious body that will never be sick and will never die.
And all this is true because Jesus has undone what Adam did when he ate from the forbidden tree bringing death into the world. Jesus, through his death, brought reconciliation between humankind and God. And so, we see in the remaining verses of our passage for today, that
Because Jesus is the Lord of Redemption, we must recognize him as our reconciliation to God (19–23).
And these remaining five verses tell us four facts about this reconciliation.
The first thing we see is that…
Our Reconciliation Was Accomplished on the Cross (19–20, 22a).
Verse 19 repeats the foundational truth that we learned last week. That truth is that Jesus is God. It says that in Jesus, all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell. Notice that “in him” phrase again. So in Jesus all the fullness of God dwells, meaning he is God. And in verses 20 and 22, we see that through the death of Jesus God has reconciled all things to himself (or for himself). And so in these two verses we have the “in him”, “through him”, and “for him” phrases repeated again. Hence the title of these two sermons, “Creation to Redemption: In Him, Through Him, and For Him.”
But notice how this redemption and reconciliation was accomplished through Jesus. We see this at the conclusion of verse 20, it says that Jesus made peace, peace between God and humankind. How? By the blood of the cross. The spilt blood of Jesus flowed like a peace-bringing stream bringing reconciliation to all things.
Now you might have noticed that this verse says that Jesus has “reconciled to himself all things.” And so we need to ask the question “What does Paul mean by ”all things”? Is Paul suggesting that everyone will be saved regardless?
You will hear me say this over and over again, but this is an example of why we have to interpret Scripture with Scripture. Because Scripture plainly teaches in so many places that some people will reject God and thus be rejected by God.
So what does Paul mean by “all things”? Well let me read the verses we covered last week again and I think that will help clear this up.
15 He [Jesus] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 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. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
Now it is a little clearer isn’t it? When Paul says all things what he means is all creation. Remember last week we said that Jesus made all things and sustains all things and by that we meant all creation. Well what happened after Jesus created all things? Adam and Eve sinned and threw the world into a state of chaos and corruption. And the story of the Bible is the story of God returning things to their original order which will culminate with the New Heavens and the New Earth. And so when Paul says in verse 18 that Jesus is reconciling all things, that means that Jesus’ work on the cross is the key part of setting creation back to its original divinely created order. Jesus is putting an end to the sin caused chaos of this world.
And so the reconciliation of all things was accomplished by Jesus Christ on the cross.
The second thing we see about reconciliation in these five verses is that the beneficiaries of this reconciliation were…
God’s Enemies and Evildoers (21).
In verses 21–23, Paul is moving away from the global effects of this reconciliation and bringing it to a personal level with the Colossians. He says very emphatically, “AND YOU, who were once alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds,” even you have been reconciled.
There is a lot of talk in our day about illegal aliens or undocumented aliens (depending on your political persuasion). Now, these are not aliens from space, but these are people from other countries who have come to our country for better jobs and better opportunities. And there is a lot of debate around the idea of amnesty versus kicking them all out of the country and sending them back home. Well, I have an opinion on that… but I am not going to share it with you. (That was just a little trick to grab your attention.) Instead I am just going to use this situation as an illustration to say that at one point we were all aliens or foreigners with regard to the kingdom of God. Instead of being citizens of God’s heavenly kingdom, we were citizens of an earthly kingdom ruled by Satan who the Bible calls the ruler of this world.
And verse 21, says that the Colossians (and us by implication) were not only foreigners without citizenship in the kingdom of God, but they were hostile toward God and his kingdom, both in thought and deed. And yet, God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners, while we were still his enemies, while we were hostile toward him in thought and in our actions, Christ came and died for us.
And there are two applications for us here. First, no matter how much you have been at odds with God, Jesus’ death is still sufficient for you. He can still make you right with God. And second, as a Christian we can never look at someone and say, “There is no hope for them. They are too far gone.” The Apostle Paul himself is an example of that. Paul was a man who went from being the greatest persecutor of the church to the greatest missionary and theologian the church has ever known.
So the reconciliation through Christ is for all people, even those who are hostile toward God in thought and deed. Even these can be reconciled to God if they will trust in Jesus Christ.
And this is true because of the third thing we see about reconciliation in these verses. The second half of verse 22 teaches us that…
Reconciliation leads to being holy, blameless, and above reproach (22b).
For the sake of time I won’t say much about this. But the fact is that Jesus HAS made us holy, blameless, and above reproach in God’s eyes. And yet, he IS still making us holy, blameless, and above reproach. And on the day of our resurrection he WILL finally present us holy, blameless, and above reproach as perfect human beings, recreated the way we were intended to be all along.
So suffice it to say, that one purpose of our reconciliation with God is to make us holy, blameless, and above reproach in the eyes of God. And Jesus, has done this, is doing this, and will do this.
And we can know for certain this process has begun by looking at our lives and examining them closely. That is the fourth fact from these verses I wanted to point out about our reconciliation. You see, our…
Reconciliation is proven when we remain firmly committed to the faith (23).
You prove your faith in Christ is genuine when, as Paul says in verse 23, “you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard.”
The fact is, that from a human perspective, it is difficult to determine whether someone’s faith is genuine. And counterfeit faith can look very real for a long time. So real that it is nearly impossible for us to distinguish between it and the real thing. The way Paul says we know that faith is real is by watching it persevere. By watching it remain focused on the hope set before it year after year. Paul says elsewhere that “he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”
So there is no losing your salvation, there are no conditions on this promise that when God begins a good work in you that he will bring it to completion. He doesn’t begin a good work and let us get in the way and mess it up. Though if he removed his hand from us we most certainly would. As the old song says, we are prone to wander, and prone to leave the God we love. But God holds us tightly, he sees to it that the work he began in us reaches its conclusion.
And so, genuine faith, is faith that over the long haul remains steadfast and sure. That doesn’t mean we don’t wander from time to time. That doesn’t mean we don’t slip and fall and make a mess of things. But it does mean than when the dust has settled, that God has picked us back up, put us back on our feet, and set us back on the path that he started us on. A path that will one day lead to our own resurrection and to our shouting with the Apostle Paul: “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”
Friends, Jesus Christ is the Lord of Creation and he is the Lord of Redemption. There is no part of creation that was not created by Jesus Christ and that there is no part of creation that will not be redeemed by Jesus Christ. All things were made in him, through him, and for him. And all things are redeemed in him, through him, and for him.
In a world where we are constantly confronted with the painful reality of death, knowing that there is a way to have victory over that death is really good news. I hope it has been made clear to you this morning that victory over death is found only in Jesus Christ who rose from the grave some two thousand years ago, defeating death once and for all for those who will place their faith in him. Make sure you have done that today. There is no better day for that than Easter.