Sermon for July 21, 2019

Readings: Genesis 18:1-10a • Psalm 15:1-5 • Colossians 1:15-28 • Luke 10:38-42

This week’s theme is The righteous (those who believe) will not be shaken. The Lord appears to Abraham, who asks if he has found favor. God replies and promises Abraham a son within a year. The Psalmist describes the behavior of the righteous who “will never be shaken.” In Luke, we read the story of Mary and Martha. Jesus says Mary “has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken from her” (Luke 10:42). This week’s sermon focuses on Colossians 1, reminding us that we live in righteousness because of our reconciliation with God, through Jesus.

Incomparable

Colossians 1:15-28

Introduction: Who is Jesus? Who do others say he is? Who do you say he is?

Suggestion: Encourage people to answer these questions with as many answers as possible. Start with “Who do others say he is?” Then move to “Who do you say he is?”

Do you believe that Jesus is God? Say it out loud with me: Jesus is God!

This is a fundamental truth. Yet throughout history—and we still hear the heresy today—false teachers have attacked this truth. They did so in the apostle Paul’s day, and they have never stopped.

This truth—that Jesus is God—is more than a tenet we believe or agree with; this is the truth we stand on—it is our foundation. It is also the truth that leads us to exultation, praise and worship as it did for Paul in his letter to the Colossians.

The New Testament authors wrote of the deity of Jesus to combat claims against him. But the truth they taught was also intended to prompt their hearers and readers to worship, praise and glorify our God and Savior, Jesus Christ. C.S. Lewis understood this when he wrote, “A man can’t be always defending the truth; there must be a time to feed on it” (Reflections on the Psalms, 7).

The attacks on the truth of the gospel have not let up. Sometimes we are so busy defending the gospel, we neglect letting the truth lead us to praise and worship. We can spend so much time arguing and debating with skeptics and atheists, that we don’t take the time to enjoy and delight in what we are defending—the truth that Jesus Christ is God.

It seems Paul wanted to remind believers in Colossae who it was they were defending. The Colossian church experienced numerous attacks from false teachers. The exact nature of the Colossian heresy (or heresies) is debated among scholars, but Paul wanted them to focus on proclaiming Jesus Christ and what he accomplished through his death and resurrection.

In Colossians 1:15–28, Paul wrote an amazing summary of who Christ is and what he accomplished. In doing so, he combatted the arguments of the false teachers, and gave the Colossian Christians, and us, even more reason to worship and follow Jesus Christ as God.

Let’s read the passage in Colossians:

The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation (Colossians 1:15).

Paul is not talking here of Christ’s physical appearance, but about his character and nature. Genesis 1 says God made humanity in his image (vv. 27–28), to reflect his character and nature to the world. But sin marred God’s intentions for humanity. While no one is able to perfectly reveal God, humanity started reflecting an image in contrast to who God is—an image focused on self, our wants and needs—rather than on God. Jesus restored this reflection when he entered the world. He perfectly revealed God’s character and glory. He fulfills the purposes God had intended both for himself and for humanity. This verse also emphasizes the relation of Jesus to humanity—he is the firstborn of all, and he reminds us what God is like.

If you want to know what God is like, look at Jesus. This prevents us from making God into our image. In our minds, we tend to fashion God after our own thoughts and desires. We try to squeeze him into a mold and project onto him something he is not. Jesus keeps our view of God in check.

For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. (Colossians 1:16-17)

When Paul wrote Jesus is “the firstborn of all creation,” he did not mean God created Jesus, as some claim today. Paul’s very next statement shows that Jesus is the source of all creation: “For by him all things were created.” So what did Paul mean? He likely had in mind Psalm 89, and the role of the Messianic King: “I will make him the firstborn, the highest of the kings of the earth” (Ps. 89:27). Jesus is not a created being; he is the Creator who reigns over all creation. All that exists, he created. All he created exists “for him.” Why is this important? Notice what Paul includes in the list of the things Jesus created: “whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities.” Paul wanted to make clear that all authorities in heaven and on earth are under Jesus Christ’s lordship and dominion. Jesus upholds, governs, sustains, and rules over all things. This is good news, and this good news is praiseworthy.

And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. (Colossians 1:19-20)

Not only is Christ over creation, he is also over the new creation—the church. He is the head of the universal church throughout the ages, which is made up of local groups, fellowships and congregations of believers who profess Jesus as Lord. Christ achieved this through his death and resurrection because he is “the firstborn from the dead.” He took the curse of creation upon himself (Gal. 3:13) to bring about a new creation, and to “reconcile all things to himself . . . making peace by the blood of his cross.”

Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation— if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant. (Colossians 1:21-23)

The false teachers in Colossae seemed to teach that something in addition to Jesus was required for salvation. Paul assured them Christ was sufficient—he is always enough. He is a perfect Savior. All we need to do is look to him and embrace the work he accomplished on our behalf. In his life, death and resurrection he has reconciled us to God.

Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church. I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness— the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the Lord’s people. To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. (Colossians 1:24-27)

It doesn’t matter what heresies people try to bring up, it doesn’t matter how many false teachers we deal with—we know who Christ is. He is the image of the Father, the one who created all things and took us in the midst of our guilt, sinfulness and filth and reconciled us to the Father. He is the one who gives love to those who believe they are unlovable; he forgives those who believe they are unforgiveable, and he gives hope to those who believe they have none. He is the one who gives that peace that surpasses understanding. He is the mystery who lives in us—Jesus in you, the hope of glory.

He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ. (Colossians 1:28)

Jesus Christ is God. Knowing who he is, what he accomplished, and the future he holds for us should put a song of worship in our hearts and on our lips. Jesus is incomparable. as John Piper said, “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.” Jesus Christ is infinitely satisfying.

The next time you hear false teachers proclaiming a false gospel, or you hear the latest heresy, know that you can stand firm knowing who Jesus is. May you find your satisfaction in him—enabling you to glorify his name in all things.


Small Group Discussion Questions

  • Paul includes in the list of what Jesus created: “whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities” (v.16). Paul wanted to make clear that all authorities in heaven and on earth are under Jesus Christ’s lordship and dominion. Jesus upholds, governs, sustains, and rules over all things, including the whole of our lives as we surrender it all to him. Are you trusting Christ with every area of your life? What are some things you are reluctant to completely surrender to him?
  • Do you find yourself relying on your own works and moral performance to get you in God’s good graces? Do you see that even in our mistakes and mess-ups he is sufficient? Why is resting in Christ hard for us?
  • Paul, in Colossians 1:28 says, “so that we may present everyone mature in Christ.” What do you think he meant by that?
  • How can our complete satisfaction in him bring him glory?
  • In the story of Mary and Martha in Luke 10, who do you find yourself identifying with and why?
  • Read Psalm 15 and discuss the listed attributes of the righteous. What in this Psalm speaks to you? Why?

Leave a Reply