- Colossians 2: Love and Insight
- Colossians 1: God’s Communication- Jesus (College Central Teaching)
- Colossians 1: God’s Communication- Jesus (Main Central Teaching)
Colossians 1: God’s Communication- Jesus (College Central Teaching)
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Writing to correct perceived problems
One thing we may want to keep in mind about this letter is that Paul did not know these people. The Church had been planted by another worker. So these were strangers to Paul.
How would you write a letter to strangers? What tone would you have? Would you be direct and straightforward? etc. etc.
What makes matters more interesting is that he seems to be writing the Colossians because of a falsehood in their Church. There were some teaching false doctrine. And the falsehood that was circulating wasn’t just a matter of getting communion in those little cups versus a large goblet. It wasn’t just a matter of whether you sprinkle water in baptism or actuall imerse them. The controversy which had sprung up in Colossae was related to the identity of Christ himself. They were confused on this issue. And there were other problems just as serious.
So Paul isn’t just writing a newsletter to let them know how the mission is going. There is a little tension in the air. He has to refute a doctrine, hoping they don’t just write him off in the process. “Who is the Paul character anyway?”
So he writes a letter. Yet it’s a small letter. And it is mild, a nice letter.
I think in light of the grave consequences of error in these matters, and the fact that he had never met these people, he is really putting a lot of trust in the power of a letter.
And that is exactly the point I want to make here. Paul believed that instruction, straightforward, to-the-point instruction would change people’s lives. He believed this because he was dealing with Christians, who had God’s Spirit in them. And Paul knew that he could say something, and God’s Spirit would drive it home.
He didn’t have to belabor it. He didn’t have to say it harshly. He didn’t have to write 5 letters (at least that we know of). He simply instructed them and counted on the Spirit of God to come through and teach.
I believe this is one of the marks of experience. I believe those who are the most experienced with God and his power to change us know how little we have to do. We need to remind each-other of God’s powerful word–God’s powerful perspective.
Example: I remember a few years back I was reading a book with an older Christian about being a worker for the Lord. The chapter we were discussing was on the topic of “the need to be a lover of all types of people.” He simply said, “I wonder of you’re that way?” I assured him that the book had been writen about me and there was nothing to worry about . . . But both of us knew full well that I was a very exclusive person, still am to a lesser extent. And that comment is absolutely unforgetable! It continually comes to my mind in various situations. Now I would have been tempted to handle things a little different. When I am aware that someone has a problem with a certain area, my tendency is to give that person a huge book list, and a long sermon . . .
How many comments and viewpoints from older brothers and sisters in the Lord do you still have circulating in your head? I’ve got a whole bunch.
Now, I don’t want to downplay the significance of developing our own persuasive abilities. But I want to emphasize God’s incredible abilities in this area. And I want to give us an appreciation for what his word can do. It tends to stick.
This is what we’re going to see with Paul here as we continue in Colossians. Let’s read beginning in vs. 13 . . .
The main concern here is the second person of the Trinity, Jesus Christ. He pops up here in vs.13, “the beloved son.” And now, Paul is going into a long discussion of who he is and what he is all about.
Paul has just finished talking about God the Father. And now he is talking about the Son. I know this is a confusing teaching of Christianity. But let me put it this way: I think it is fair to distinguish between someone’s nature and someone’s personality . . . What we are saying about God is that there are three people, sharing in that nature.
Since we are “Christians” . . .
I suppose this is good that we have passages in the Bible like this, since we are Christians. The term Christian is supposed to mean “Christ’s person.”
So it’s good that we have a description of him like this.
Image of God
I want to start with vs. 15 because this is where Paul really gets into an explanation of who this Jesus character is.
He says he is the image of the invisible God. And by this he means that Christ is the physical representation of God to us. Now this is an important concept because, as John says, no one has seen God, and yet Christ is God, and he comes to explain to us as much as we can understand about himself.
This whole idea of God coming to reveal himself is tied to the Christian concept that we have a personal God. That is, we have a God who is a person, like you and me. Not a human, a person.
And we share this concept only with a couple other religions, Judaism and Islam. And all three religions spring out of the same bed of the ancient Jewish scriptures we now call the “Old Testament.”
Here the idea of a personal God who acts in history is recorded through the writings of the prophets, who claimed to have direct revelation from him.
We have personality
Francis Schaeffer, in his two books, The God who is There, and He is There and He is Not Silent, makes the case that we are more than a thing. We are more than a animal or beast. But we have that elusive element called “personhood” or “soul.”
And I find he is not unique in thinking this way. I find most people do, in fact, think this way. Most would agree . . .
Well, then, it makes sense to assume that there is a cause for that non-material, elusive element called “person.” And that cause must be of the same kind of stuff.
So, the argument goes, if you agree that there is an original cause, called God, or whatever, then it is reasonable to assume that God is a personal God because at one point in his creation he injected something. At one point he left a signature that is distinctive: the human being.
Now, I know you may not even agree that there is such a thing as an original cause, call him God or whatever. If that is the case, I’m sure you will have the intellectual integrity to investigate why so many people do hold that, at the same time as their sanity . . .
If you agree you are a person, that is, more than plain old stuff, it is hard to imagine a sufficient cause for that outside of a personal God.
And this is exactly what Gen. 1, 2 insist. God has left his stamp on the creation . . .
Well, it is hard to nail down what it is that makes us unique as persons. Anthropologists have struggled with this question for quite some time now.
But one thing, I think that is more or less agreed upon is that whatever we are going to isolate and call “person” will be found in our communication. That is what we can observe.
It is through your communication that you express your personality. It is through your communication that you express your will, your emotion, your original thought.
So, from the outside, it has been communication, in its various forms, that has served as a means of identifying “people.” It is essential to being a person.
If God is a person, it is not outrageous to think he would communicate. In fact, it seems unreasonable to think that he would not. That’s what people do. They communicate.
So the question is, “has God communicated to the beings he supposedly created?” And, “If so, where?”
Well, for one, the Christians and Jews agree that he has communicated through men, prophets, and composed a body of text we call the Bible.
By the way, the three texts I mentioned are the only ones which claim the position of scripture revealed from God.
And secondly, what this passage is drawing attention to is that Christ has also come to communicate personally what he is like.
This term is easily deceptive because it is not a term we use anymore. In the ancient world it was an idiom used to describe the one who benefits, the one who all this is for. And it obviously stems from the very firm traditions of primogeniture: that the one who is first born inherits the ranch.
So to be called “firstborn” doesn’t tell us something about his origin, that he was “born” at some point. It tells us something about the fact that he is the one in charge . . .
Example: There are instances of God himself being called “firstborn” in Jewish literature.
This is drawn out in the next verse, as Paul goes on to explain that he was the agent of creation . . .
“All things have been created by him and for him” is precisely the same idea as being the “firstborn.”
Before all things . . . all thing hold together
He goes on and reiterates that Christ was before all things. And he now adds the idea that Christ is the ground of things, even now. That even now, all things hold together because of him.
Well, OK. Paul is trying as clearly as he can to describe God to us. The one who was before any caused thing. The one who defines and sustains the world we live in.
But, you see, the striking thing is, this guy came and lived among mankind. Some how or another, he was able to confine himself to a human body, and as fully as possible, represent himself.
Shedds a new light on Christ
This sheds an incredible amount of light on Jesus Christ. But even more importantly for us, it sheds a whole new light on the accounts of his life, the historical records we know as Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.
I know there is the tendency to think, “You know, that Jesus character was something else! What a guy!” And some of the stories he told are fascinating. And we’re taken back by his cleverness at times.
But what Paul is saying here is taht those records reveal the words, actions, humor, cleverness, and responses of God! What would God do if . . .?
How many have seen it this way?
I really wonder how many people have seen things this way as far as the gospel records. And if you haven’t, I challenge you to read those books with that in mind. Read those books, asking yourself, “could it be that this character really is who he claimed to be? God himself?”
And I want to tell you, that experience alone has been enough to turn many skeptics into Christians.
And what’s more, those books are not difficult to understand. They aren’t like a mysterious saying.
Example: Read from Hindu scriptures.
Rig Veda 10:129 – Then there was not non-existence nor existence. There was no realm of air, nor sky beyond it. What covered it? And where? And what gave shelter? Was water there? Unfathomed depth of water? Death was not then, nor was there ought-imortal. No sign was there. The days and nights’ divider. That one thing, breathless, breathed by it’s own nature. Apart from it was nothing whatsoever. Darkness, there was. At first concealed in darkness the all was undiferentiated chaos. All that existed was void and formless. By the great power of warmth was born that one.
Thereafter rose desire in the beginning. Desire, that primal and germ of spirit. Sages who search with hearts’ thought, discovered that existence’s kinship was non-existence. Transversley was their serving line extended. What was above then? And what below it?
Now I don’t want to belittle another religious view just because their writings are difficult. Nor do I want to say that the truthfulness of a view is somehow related to how easy it is to read. Nor do I want to pretend that there aren’t any things in the Bible that are hard to understand. There are.
But I’m dealing with a perception here. I think most people have a perception of the Bible or of “scriptures” that they are difficult and downright confusing. And even if you did take the time to muddle through them, you wouldn’t benefit.
That is so untrue, especially when it comes to the life of Christ revealed to us in these four historical books. They are understandable, intriguing, and I am convinced you have never read anything like them before.
Example: Here’s a selection from the book of John. And I think that the book of John is a great one to read, by the way. (read from John 8).
What a great story! This one is usually good enough to even make it in the movies about Jesus. And there are lots of stories like that. And there are lots of things Christ said that just make your head spin.
Example: Luke 6:39-45 Here’s a pack of great sayings. Have you ever wondered why religious types bother you so much? Well, they bothered Jesus Christ too. They bother God. And Christ is offering what I consider to be powerful insight on why. For one he says, “they’re like blind guides. They’re just the same as you and me. And if we have a problem, don’t think the know-it-all religious type has it together any more than you.”
And he goes on to cement that. “It’s like saying, `here, let me help you with that speck in your eye.'” And you’ve got some huge thing sticking out of your eye.
And then he lays down the real insight: The problem with religious people is that they think smacking someone’s wrists cures their heart. They think a band-aid cures cancer. They think they can clean up the outside and it changes the way they are one the inside!
Wrong. And of course Christ’s solution is that God needs to actually come and do a gradual, but thorough renewal of our very character. And it’s nothing to get prideful about because it’s him. And it’s nothing to get religious about either, as we’ll see in a moment.
But this kind of great stuff is typical of Jesus Christ. And I think you can understand why, if you realize this is no ordinary character. This is God. What great insight into the way God thinks.
But there is more than simply coming to communicate
But going back to Colossians 1, I want to note taht there was more to Jesus Christ than simply communicating to us about God and revealing to us the way God is.
You see, the crux of Jesus’ mission was to do much more than just reveal himself to us. He came to make peace. As Paul says, he came to reconcile.
Now I know you may be saying to yourself, “well, he didn’t have to do that really, I feel OK about God. I mean, I don’t feel particularly bad about him. Sure, we can have peace.”
But you see, the problem was on his part. And it is called “God’s justice.” You see, as Paul says here, there are these things called “evil deeds” and there is even a problem with a hostile set of thoughts. God has a problem with the way we even think.
Some don’t feel “evil” or “hostile
Now, before you get offended by that, remember one thing, you do to. There are types of actions that offend your sense of justice. And there are ways of thinking that you thing are wrong. And you may say to yourself, “well, but I leave people alone to do whatever they want.” That’s because you’re not God. If you were God, I think you would have a little more right to not only be offended by the things people do and think, but act on that.
Now I also know that it’s this kind of talk that gets people riled up about the Bible. It seems so un-civil to refer to people as commiting “evil deeds” or “hostile in mind.” This is especially hard when you don’t feel like you are evil or hostile.
But I think we have to face the fact, that none of us are truly objective or fair when it comes to ourselves. Everything we do has a “good reason” if you’re like me.
Example: I don’t just go around hating people. I only hate people who are really foolish and deserve it!
Example: Here was a guy I watched yesterday who came up to a check-out counter from the opposite side. I was going through on the one side, and he came up from the other. And he had an item in his hand he had just grabbed from in the store. So he said, “I just want to ask a question.” The clerk didn’t notice him. So, he turned around and walked out of the store, with the item. And I know what he was thinking, “If they’re too busy for my question, then they need to be punished!”
Now if you asked a person like that, or me when I hate someone, “Do you think God would judge you for that?” What do you think the answer would be? “Of course not! They deserved it!”
So we rationalize everything. Even when it comes to screw-ups that aren’t “someone else’s fault,” we rationalize them too.
Example: If someone goes out and comits adultery on his wife, what’s the reaction? “I was wrong! I really did a bad thing!?” Not at all. The typical reaction is, “I guess I’m only human!”
What is that supposed to mean? It means, “I couldn’t help myself, so get off my case!” We instantly absolve ourselves of any moral responsibility.
But God is all good
But the fact is, God is the one who’s sense of justice will prevail in the universe. And the thing about him is, he’s not only human. He’s God.
When he is wronged, he forgives and loves that person anyway.
The thought of hurting another person is abhorrent to him, even if they do deserve it.
In area after area, where we think it’s no big deal, and that we have everything explained, God thinks it is a big deal. And as the founder of the universe, he has that right.
But God forgives instead of judging
But you know, this is where the real surprise of Christ’s life comes in. Because instead of just being offended by what we do. Instead of just acting on his sense of justice. God came to make peace. God came personally to reconcile.
And he did so by taking the judgment we deserved upon himself at the cross. This is what Paul means when he says, in verse 20, “having made peace through the blood of the cross.” He exacted judgment on the things we do. But he did it on a substitute–himself.
And the result is, as it says in vs. 22, we can be seen as “holy and blameless.” Now I know that some of those words are outdated. But the idea is understandable. God doesn’t want the things we do to come between us and him. So he comes and removes them.
Example: What did Christ intend to do about that dark picture he painted of human nature? Very simple, he intended to remove it as an obstacle by paying for it. God’s justice is satisfied.
Now the Bible tells us we can come to God in faith that Christ’s death applies to us, and we can accept his free gift of forgiveness. We can be seen, as Paul says here, as blameless.
If you haven’t done this . . .