Category Archives: Bible

Colossians 1:18b; Brief Thoughts

18 … He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent.

In verses 15 through 17 Paul established Jesus as the priority of all creation, the purpose for life, and the creator and sustainer of that life. Prior to Jesus’ life on earth, crucifixion, and resurrection, Jesus’ primary claim to headship over His church was in His priority. The second claim Paul makes to Jesus’ priority is revealed in verses 18-19: His resurrection.

Jesus has been resurrected from the dead, never to suffer death again. He is resurrected into an eternal, physical state and has overcome death.

He is the beginning. The beginning of life, real life. The life that does not end. Full, abundant life (John 10:10)! This is an important truth for the Christian to grapple with. Life begins with Jesus. Anything lived without Him is death. All of mankind is born into a state of death, unable to commune with the creator and sustainer of all life. Romans 1-3 explains that all are sinful and are born into sin. Further, Ephesians 2:1-3 explains that all are dead in their sins. Man is in need of resurrection from the dead. Man needs a beginning. Jesus is that beginning. He is the start to life. Life begins with Him.

He establishes Himself as the beginning because He is resurrected from the dead. He is the first to be resurrected from the dead permanently. Others have been resurrected, but only to suffer death a second time. Jesus, on the other hand, was the only one who was resurrected, never to die again. In Jesus, death is defeated and life begins.

Life begins in Jesus. Life does not begin at birth. Life begins at new-birth. As Jesus discussed with Nicodemus in John 3, life begins when we are born from above! Before faith in Christ, we remain dead in our sins. After faith in Christ, we come to life. So it is with those who trust in Christ. We are resurrected to a new life. This is why a Christian who does not walk a holy life is so tragic. It is as if a child has been born and then decided to never see, hear, or grow. Christianity is the beginning of life for people. It is a birth! It is an explosion into life that necessitates growth and sensory development. When a person trusts in Jesus for salvation, that person is granted life.

Jesus is not only the beginning, He is also the first to be resurrected permanently. He is the first among many (c.f. Romans 8:29)! Just as Jesus was resurrected from the dead, never to die again, so shall those who trust in Him (Romans 6:1-5). Indeed, victory over death is a certainty for believers. It is assured that Christians who die, will be resurrected to new life in the last day. That new life will be a physical resurrection for those who trust in Christ (c.f. 1 Corinthians 15).

Paul offers Jesus’ resurrection as the second proof that He is worthy of all worship and praise. His resurrection secures life for those who trust in Him. Thus, He is preeminent over all things!

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Colossians 1:18a; Brief Thoughts

18 And he is the head of the body, the church.

The Church is the collection of people who have united around the common faith that Jesus Christ is Savior and Lord. That is to say, Christianity is based on the truth that Jesus is the one who died for the sins of the world and who rules over all things. Here in the center of his hymn of praise to Jesus, having already asserted Jesus’ primacy in priority and time, Paul proclaims Jesus’ headship over the church.

Jesus is the head of the church. He is the first in priority over all creation, as such, He is the first in priority over the Church. He is before all creation and by Him, all things are created, likewise, the Church has existed because He called it into existence. He is the sustainer of all things and He is the purpose for all things, in the same way, the Church is sustained and derives its purpose from Him. Christ is the chief authority over the Church. It is His Church, He created it, He leads it, He is in charge.

In modern churches, the question of authority is often met with convoluted answers. When the question is asked, “Who is in charge at your church?” the answer usually asserts some sort of pastor, committee, deacon body, or leadership board. Seldom is the answer, “Jesus” or “God’s word.”  Yet, the truth remains – Jesus is the head of the Church. The direction of the Church is not determined by leadership or ecclesiastical polity. The direction of the church is established by Jesus Christ and His word. In general, churches have lost the fundamental understanding of authority. Many modern churches do not know how to answer the question of authority. Paul reminds his readers that Christ is the head of the church. The head of the Church is not a pastor or a deacon body or even an elder board. The head of the Church is Christ.  Though much of the Western Church has forgotten this simple truth, it remains true, nonetheless. Local churches must reeducate the congregations to understand this truth.

Re-education starts with a biblical ecclesiastical structure. In order to re-orient our churches, leadership must model submission to Christ through the word of God. Local churches must determine their leadership structure and function from the Scripture. (If you’re searching 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus are good places to start.) Instructions to the congregation must be unambiguously directed from Scripture. Further, any engagement or discipleship of a believer within the community must be rooted in Scripture. Leaders must submit to Christ, recognizing that they have no authority apart from Him.

The local church and church leaders must also establish the Scripture as the central authority within their congregation. If Christ is the head of the Church, then His word must be placed at the forefront. Every congregation member must understand that they have equal spiritual authority to every other member, including the leaders. While there may be a pragmatic and structural leadership that is in place for the purpose of effective church ministry, the one supreme and primary authority is His word. The elders, deacons, pastors, committees, and directors have no more spiritual authority than any other member. They may have greater responsibility, but they share equal submission to the Word of the Lord.

Finally, the church must prize surrender. People, in general, do not value surrender. We often place a high premium on self-reliance, yet Christ models surrender. Surrender to Christ’s precepts and to the authority of Scripture must be seen as a high value. Surrender to Him as the head must be praised and acknowledged. In exalting surrender, the church will diminish pride and self-righteousness. In doing so, the church will lead the congregation to a fuller understanding of Christ’s headship.

Leaders, model Philippians 2 for your flock. Christ is the head… act like it.

Colossians 1:17: Brief thoughts

17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

Before the light burst forth into the void, before the waters that covered the earth laid their torrent upon the land, before the land rose to peaks and habitable pastures, and before the earth existed, Jesus, the Christ, existed. He was there before time. He was there before the fall of man that so grievously broke the communion of creation with Creator. He was present before the first leaf blossomed and directed the unfolding of all creation. His tender hand saw fit to mold the earth in the beauty of His love. Every blade of grass, every creeping animal, and every aspect of creation came into existence by His voice.

Jesus is before all things. He existed before time could measure existence. Further, He created all things and “In Him all things hold together” (v.17). In the beginning, God created an earth that was filled with beauty and was perfect. Mankind’s sin fractured and damaged that creation to the point of continuous slow decay. As a result, death entered the world and now death rules. However, Jesus’ grace upon creation has not ceased. So great was the sin of man that all of creation could have been justifiably obliterated. Yet, God saw fit to redeem His creation and in love worked to sustain that creation. In spite of man’s willful rejection of God, God acts in grace, even before Christ came to the cross. Jesus holds all things together, maintaining His creation. It is because of grace that the world does not spin out of control.

In saying that Jesus “holds all things together,” Paul is recognizing a kind of common grace to all mankind. God, in His infinite grace, allows wicked men to persist in living. He patiently waits for those who will repent and believe. His restraining hand holds back the effects of sin. In Romans 1:18-32, Paul repeats that God “gave [men] over” to their sin. In this simple phrase, Paul explains that God is restraining evil to the extent of restraining the consequences on the heart of men. So it is that common grace exists. This common grace is the grace to breathe air and live. This common grace is found in the ability to exist. It is called grace, because no one actually deserves life. The result of sin is death. The patience of God is common grace that does not demand immediate remittance of that debt. Man has rejected God. Still, Jesus holds all things together: this is grace.

Not only is Jesus sustaining life, He also makes sense of all things. In one sense He holds all things together, literally sustaining life. In another sense He holds all things together in that life has purpose and reason in Him. Jesus holds all things together because He is the purpose of creation. Creation exists to glorify God. In Jesus man is given the ability to glorify God. Thus, Jesus holds, within Himself, purpose. It is in knowing Him that trials and joys make sense. Without Him, nothing makes sense and all is meaningless. The life of a man is a vapor (James 4:14). In Jesus, life is eternal and has significance beyond the grave. Without Him, life is a meaningless mist that is here for a moment and is quickly dispelled by the winds of death. A man can either, delight in Jesus and live a meaningful life that extends beyond the momentary vapor of this temporal existence, or he can deny the truth of Christ and waste the vapor.

The glorious God of all creation has come to make Himself known to you. He is before all things. He has seen your every failing and rejection of Him. He has patiently waited for you to know Him. He holds you together. Further, He calls you to purpose. He has granted you some semblance of reason to your life. Praise God!

Colossians 1:16; Brief thoughts

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.

Jesus is God. He is not a created being, nor is He dependent on anything for existence. He is God and by definition, He has life within Himself. All life stems from Christ, for “by Him all things were created” (v.16). It is for this reason that we understand “firstborn” in verse 15 to be referring to primacy and priority rather than temporality. For indeed, Jesus is the creator and it is by Him that all things are made.

The extent of His creation does not simply end with what the eye can see. Rather, Jesus created everything! That which is visible: the trees, land, humanity, and the like; and that which is invisible: the spiritual realms, air, and those things which are intangible. Consider for a moment the breadth of this creation. Jesus has made that which mankind interacts with on a daily basis, both the known and visible parts of creation as well as the unknown and invisible parts. There is no thing in existence, no power that prevails on earth or heaven, and no being that has been that He did not create. Jesus has created all things.

So, Jesus created the dictator. He created the wicked politician. He created the spirits that manifest themselves in depression. He created the spirits that try to rule over humanity in His place. Jesus created these. It is difficult for any compassionate Christian to accept that Jesus created the Hitlers of this world. Yet here it stands in verse 16. Jesus created the thrones and dominions and authorities. There is no distinction of morality in this list. The only distinction made is that some are invisible while others are visible. Yet, this is the power of Jesus Christ in creation. He has created all things. Not only the things that accept His lordship and authority but also those that war against the King of Glory. He is creator over all. In this way, Jesus exemplifies an incredible benevolent love. He creates beings that will in no way accept Him as their creator and then allows them to persist. The fact that Jesus allows wicked politicians to take a breath in this life should astound the most reasonable of people. His love and patience are so great that He has created beings that exist to prove His patience. Romans 9 puts this thought in beautiful perspective when it speaks of men as clay in the potter’s hands, espousing that God has the right to create both righteous and wicked.

Not only does Jesus have the right to create whatever He pleases, He does so with an expressed purpose. All of creation has been drawn into existence “for Him” (v.16). There is a tremendous purpose for creation. It is the purpose of salvation to exalt the name of Jesus. Creation exists to show God’s character and to display His glory. All of creation, both that which is seen and unseen, exists to glorify Jesus.

Humanity, in general, denies this truth. Humanity attempts to place man at the center of creation as first priority (c.f. Romans 1:23). Yet, Jesus is patient. It is the denial of the truth of Jesus’ infinite worth and priority that causes so many of the problems within the western church. When churches focus their activity around the preferences of human agents and not around the exaltation of Christ, then the church becomes ineffective and worthless. It is the role of all creation to glorify Jesus. It is the role of the church to model how to do that.

Colossians 1:15; brief thoughts

15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.

Sin blinded the eyes of mankind so that no man could see God. The very image of God was marred and broken by the fall of man. In the beginning, God created mankind in the image of God and commissioned man and woman to spread His image and glory across the world (Genesis 1:26-28). Yet, Adam sinned and as a result, the image of God was shattered (C.f. Romans 5). As history has progressed, God’s image has become more and more depraved through the work and sin of man. Indeed, so great is the fall of man, that man no longer resembles the image of God.

The loss of this image is the loss of communion with God. God’s creation has been severed from Him by sin: the willful rejection of God by the beings that are supposed to reflect Him. God began His work with the intention of spreading His own image across the earth. His mission has not changed. Christ comes as the image of God. He is the perfect reflection of the glory and character of God. Being God, Himself, Christ is God. Thus, when you have seen Christ, you have seen the Father (John 14:9). That severed communion is re-created and restored in Jesus Christ. In knowing Jesus, we can know God.

The image of God is the son of God. He is the heir to all that God has. Jesus, being one with God, is also distinct as the second person of the Trinity. He is the Son. He is the image of God and bears the same essence as God, yet remains uniquely individual. His position in the Trinity is best understood in human terms as, Son. In this way, we can understand that He inherits all the wealth of God. This is what is meant by “firstborn.” This is not to say that Jesus was a created being. He was not created. He has been God from the beginning (c.f. John 1:1-5). He was not created but born. The terminology of birth here is specifically addressing priority. Jesus is firstborn of creation in the sense that He is the first in priority.[1]

Jesus is the image of God, and the firstborn. Consider for a moment the implications of such truth. In Jesus, men can see what is invisible. The invisible God of all creation is made visible in Jesus Christ. Further, He is the One on whom priority in all things rest. He is the first to be worthy. He is the first to be recognized. He is the first to be worshiped. He is the first to receive glory. He is the first to be honored. He is the first to speak. He is the first to whom one should listen. He is the first in authority. He is first in position. He is first in majesty. He is first in mankind’s affections. He is the first to work. He is the first! He is first. There are too many things and people to which western Christianity ascribes priority. Too many things take the place of first priority over following and knowing Jesus. Yet, Jesus remains first. If anything else stands in front of Him, then truth is lost.

Jesus is not granted the priority based on man’s acceptance of that order. Rather, Jesus is given priority because that priority is the truth. Jesus being firstborn does not depend on man’s opinion of His position or authority. He simply is firstborn. He is the Son of God. This is truth and it needs no validation from humanity. All the earth could reject Jesus Christ and still, He remains: the image of God, firstborn.

 

[1] For a fuller examination of this I recommend John MacArthur’s commentary on Colossians.

Who is My Neighbor

A few weeks ago a hurricane decided to park just north of where I live and gave graphics departments the world over a tremendous opportunity to develop creative ways to display the trillions of gallons of water that fell from the sky, overflowing our rivers, and flooding our communities. As we have begun to restore our neighbors, we have found ourselves beaten and worn by the work of mucking houses and attempting to salvage some life from the devastation. Often people are broken and hurting as you carry yet another ruined priceless treasure from their home. Sometimes, we find ourselves shamefully rationalizing. Asking, “Who is my neighbor, anyway? Surely not that guy who has always been so rude to my family. Do I have to labor to love this particular one, or can I recuse myself in the face of their pain… because they’re not nice to me?” As I have struggled to hurt with hurting people and labor alongside people who have lost everything, I have been drawn back time and time again to the story of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-37. As Christians, we must live this story of the Good Samaritan.

Good Samaritan“Who is my neighbor?” The lawyer asks the Messiah who his neighbor is so that he can excuse himself from the laborious task of love. Yet the Lord of all creation responds with such a parable that it rocks society to the core. You see, order to fully appreciate this story you must first understand how the Jewish people saw Samaritans in the ancient near east. Samaritans were looked on by Jews as a lesser race. Indeed, often they were seen as traitors who had rejected the purity of Abraham’s lineage in favor of selfish desire. Such willful rejection of God would make them even less worthy than a Gentile! This is part of the reason that the disciples of Christ are so awkward when they find Jesus speaking to a Samaritan woman by a well in John 4 and why John and James, the disciples, asked if they could call down fire to destroy Samaria in Luke 9:54. There was a deep seeded hatred for the half-breeds of Samaria. Racism was so prevalent that Jews would often walk for miles out of the way to avoid walking through Samaria for fear that they would defile themselves.

So as Jesus unfolds the story he lays a Jewish man who, one can assume, hates Samaritans on the side of the road, beaten and in need. This man would have felt perfectly justified in hating the Samaritans. He was a Jew, pure bread and clean. Only now he was in need. Jesus parades a priest and a Levite, the cream of the crop of Jewish religious society, past the poor beaten man. In the effort to keep themselves clean, these men avoid their poor brother. One could speculate their justification, but Jesus does not elaborate: These men just ignore the need and avoid any inconvenience that they may have to undertake. Then enters the hero of the story: the hated and despised Samaritan! (Imagine the gasps of a room full of neo-Nazis who have been told the hero is a black Jewish man, or the gasps of a left-wing radical democrat who is told it’s a white conservative Republican, or any polarized group in our modern society for that matter.) It is this hated man, the traitor, who has compassion. He shows the love of God to the Jew who hates him. Notice the words Jesus uses to bring the story to life. The Samaritan “saw him,” “had compassion,” and “went to him.” He goes out of his way. He then overpays the innkeeper and offers more financial support. He shows the love of God. According to Jesus, we are to do likewise.

Think about this illustration. This Jewish man who is rescued by the Samaritan may or may not have been grateful. He might have been mad that a Samaritan would dare touch him! Racism is insidious that way. It is also not unique to modern western society. This Jewish man could have despised the care he received, and it is highly likely he did. The Samaritan could have been cursed by this man or praised. Fortunately for us, Jesus doesn’t care to explain the object of the mercy, only the giver. Jesus is concerned that His hearers see the one who gives mercy and do likewise.

So, who is my neighbor? The one who spits on me when I serve him. Hurting people hurt people. Don’t know where I heard that, but it is true. When you live like Jesus and love people who are hurting, chances are they’re going to hurt you sometimes. But if Jesus is our example we must love anyway, even at great cost.

Who is my neighbor? The one who hates me. It is easy to love someone you hate… much harder to love someone who hates you. When someone hates you or wrongs you, it is easier to just leave or ignore them. Yet, Jesus’ command is to love this way. Recklessly following the example of a hated man. A man who overlooks the racist garbage to love another human being.

Who is my neighbor? The one who holds opposite political views from me. That jerk-faced guy who rejects my version of the truth in favor of his own fabrication! That one who seems to defy all logic and thinks I’m the problem with America. I’m supposed to love that guy. (please take note, both sides of every argument has a “that guy!”)

Who is my neighbor? Lastly, my neighbor is the one whose path I cross. “God put you in my way.” (Four Feathers -2002 I know it’s a movie quote… and I’m only allowed to use the Bible… forgive me.) My neighbors are the ones who God puts in my way. Remember the command at the end of Matthew? “As you go, make disciples!” (Mt. 28:19) Every person who has been put in your path… that is your neighbor.

Do you love this way? Do you love those who hate you? Do you love those who hate what you stand for? Do you love those in your path? Love well those in your path, that you may leave a wake of love and mercy in this world and people may see Jesus.

Colossians 1:15-20; Brief Thoughts

15 He 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. [1]

The worthy Christian life is made possible through the work of Jesus Christ. It is only fitting, therefore, that Paul should expound on the glorious nature of Jesus. In verses 15-20 Paul composes some of the most profound prose about Christ in Christian history.

First, read all the way through and see the structure. The hymn follows what is called a chiastic structure, meaning that it highlights the central phrase.

  1. He is the image of the invisible God
  2. First born of all creation
  3. All things were created by him and for Him
  4. He is before all things and holds all things together

 

  1. He is the beginning
  2. First born from the dead
  3. That he might be preeminent and the fullness of God dwells in him
  4. He reconciles all things to Himself, making peace

He is the head of the body, the church

The starting line is that Jesus is God. He is the perfect image of God and He is God. Echoing John 1:1-3, Paul asserts the deity of Jesus as well as His humanity. He is the image of God, not marred by sin, but pure and perfect. Further, He is the beginning. He is God. Second, He is the first born. He is first born in priority and preeminence. He is the most important being in existence. This is what it means by “first born of all creation.” He then is the first born from the dead: the most important resurrected being on earth, for by His resurrection all believers are resurrected. In adition to these basic truths He also created everything, so that all things would be to the praise of His glory and He manifests within Himself the fullness of God, establishing Himself as the chief object of worship. Finally He holds all of creation together in a literal sense. Everything exists by His strength and power and is maintained by His constant watch care. Further, He holds all things together spiritually, uniting that which was fractured by sin.

At the center of the structure is the phrase, “He is the head of the body, the church.” Jesus is the Lord of the church. He is the object of worship. He is the leader of the church. He is the King, authority, master, etc… There is no other leader of the church. There is no other head. Christ alone holds that position. Pastors, elders, leaders, deacons, committees, and the like must submit to Christ’s leadership.

Often in the modern church, pastors begin to think that they are the head of the church. Leaders and deacons posture to make power plays and make sure their agendas are met. Committees politic and deceive in an effort to accomplish their own means. Yet, even in all the foolishness of modern wickedness, Jesus still is the head of the church. Jesus remains the Lord over His believers. Though the institutionalized church may forget such truth, the truth is consistent and remains unchanged.

The church does not have to remain so hobbled by the sinful ambitions of people. Leaders of western churches must surrender their authority to the effort to follow Christ and Christ alone.

How is this done? First it must be modeled that the chief authority in the church is Scripture. Everyone shares this authority. Where Scripture speaks, so everyone in the church must listen. The lowest member of the congregation bares the same coverage as all other members of the church. With the authority of Scripture, each person is equally equipped to address every other person in the church. It doesn’t matter what title is given. Pastors, elders, committee members, and deacons all must submit to Scripture and thereby mutually to every other member of the congregation who submits to Scripture.

After the leaders model this mutual submission, the church must structure itself according to scripture. The church must restructure to follow the precepts and designs of the New Testament church. In doing so the church will act in accordance with the directions and lead of the Word of God.

Finally, the church must submit itself to holiness in pursuit of justice on this earth and righteousness in individuals. In pursuit of Christ, and His kingdom, the church will find the victorious life intended by Christ.

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Col 1:15–20). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.