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Chris Appleby Ministries

Chris Appleby Ministries

 

Christ, the Fullness of God

Colossians 1:15-23 audio (4MB)

Today we’re looking at chapter 1.vs15-23 of Paul’s letter to the Colossians and – today it’s all about getting back to basics.
It’s important that we do this.
I think it’s the same reason we take holidays
- Holidays give us an opportunity to get back to basics.
- Get back to nature – go to the beach, up to the mountains?
- Get back to enjoying the simple things in life
- When we come back from holidays we’re usually a little more relaxed and focussed
- A little more functional in our relationships with our family
- And a little more aware of what really matters in life, and what doesn’t actually matter that much, and maybe even the things that we need to cut out of our lives.

Well, we might like to think of today’s passage in Colossians as a little bit like getting away from the many distractions we have in the life of the church – and getting back to the basics of who Jesus is and what he’s done. So we’re going to spend some time this morning thinking about our journey with the Lord – how it has developed, over the years, and where it is right now.

 

- I wonder how many of you can remember when you first met Jesus?
- How did that happen for you?
- What have you learned about him since?
- Who do you believe he is?

- When I first met Jesus I was a very young child. I knew that he was a good guy who I could trust. I knew he had a beard and sandals, and that he healed sick people and loved the people that others disliked. I knew he was God and that he died for me.
- As I got older I began to understand more about suffering. I learned about his betrayal and crucifixion and I began to know that Jesus suffered for me, wept for me, bled for me.
- And then further down the track I started to grasp that he actually rose from the dead. That he defeated death.
- Further still along the journey I began to see that Jesus still has a way of turning up on earth, through the faith and ministry of his followers. I began to get that we are the body of Christ, and his spirit is with us.

But never … until I came to read passages like today’s reading from Colossians, did I ever think about who Jesus was before the beginning of the world. Why would you? None of us were there and nobody wrote about Jesus until he came into the world as a man (apart from the prophecies that didn’t make sense until that happened).

Paul is teaching the church in Colosse, that it matters a great deal who Jesus was before he became a man. Because if we don’t know who he always was, we won’t get what his death and resurrection really means. We’ve gotta know, that when the world saw Jesus it saw God. And therefore Jesus is these things:

- He is equal to the Father – v15
- He created us and everything else – v16
- Nothing works without him – v17
- And that includes the church – v18
- Fully God – v19

Usually the first things we learn about Jesus are that he was born of Mary on Christmas Day, that he died on the cross and rose again. And we think of being born as the start of the story, because, being born was how we all started out. But to know who Jesus the man on the cross is, we have to know who he always was. There’s a prologue we need to know about before we can move onto the next chapter of the story.

v15 - He is the image of the invisible God.

John 1:18 tells us that no one has ever seen God, but that Christ has made him known. Genesis tells us the reason that we don’t see God is because of the fall. After Adam and Eve sinned, the Lord was walking in the garden and calling out to them, and they hid from him … we became so separated from God by our sin that we couldn’t even see him anymore … So the first and most significant thing about Jesus’ saving work on earth, is that he enabled us to see God again – because he is the image of the invisible God.

v15 - The firstborn over all creation.

Just as traditionally in Jewish culture the firstborn would share in the Father’s rights and entitlements, Jesus has supreme ownership of this whole world and of heaven and everything and everyone that ever existed.

He’s equal to the Father.

v16 – by him all things were created

- the one who died for us, the Son of God, is actually also the one who created us.
- We tend to think of the Father as the creator, when in fact it was God who created the world, and Jesus is God, as much as the Father
- It means that when the world nailed Jesus to a cross, we in fact tried to kill our own creator – to take life from the one who gave us life

The first time that this struck me in a personal way (Jesus as Creator) was at my Grandfather’s funeral a couple of years ago. The funeral was at the little church in Mooroolbark where my father had first come to faith as a young man. Later my grandparents came to Christ and were baptised there. Dad met my Mum in this church, they were married there and I was baptised there. So when I walked into the church for the funeral I suddenly thought, “This is where it all began.” I thought I had returned to my spiritual home, if you like.  
But God taught me something that day. During the funeral a great gust of wind came blowing into the church, and blew open a window in the ceiling that had been sealed shut for many years. And God spoke into my heart … “You think this is your spiritual home? You think this family, this building, is where you belong? You belong with me. Your home is with me. I knew you even before your parents, when I formed you in secret in your mother’s womb. You belong with me. I made you, and I’m going to bring you home to me.”

- from that day I began to understand that Jesus was not only the man who walked this earth and died on a cross – he was my beginning – he is where I come from, and where I am going.
- In fact, as v17 tells us, he is the very source of all things – that means of my existence, as well as my salvation

v17 - he is before all things and in him all things hold together

- nothing works without him – without him everything would be chaos, just as it was in the beginning, before the creation of the world.

v18 – the head of the body, the church

So he is not only supreme on earth and in heaven, but also in the church

- the church can’t work without him either

- So, Paul has established now that Jesus is the creator, the very source of life itself. And only once he has done this, does he move onto the life of the church and the saving work of Christ, from v18 …

v18 – the firstborn from among the dead

Paul is referring here to Jesus having been the first to be resurrected from the dead. This means that he is not only supreme over the living on earth, but also over those who’ve died (not just me, but now, my Grandad too). Not only did he exist before the human race, but he also resurrected to life before any member of the human race will.

v19 – God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him

v20 – and through him to reconcile to himself all things … by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross

We know that God the Father, sent his Son into the world, to pay the price for our sin, through his death on the cross. In doing so he wasn’t only reconciling us back to the Father, but to himself – because he himself made us – he himself is fully God – God himself died for us on that cross – not only a portion of God

And this is the message that the church in Colosse and we ourselves have received.

v21-23 – once you were alienated from God … 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 you faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel …”

When we continue in faith we continue to hold firm to the basics of who Jesus is:

- He is equal to the Father – v15
- He created us and everything else – v16
- Nothing works without him – v17
- And that includes the church – v18
- Fully God – v19

Sometimes well-intending Christians begin to lose sight of these basics and when that happens, false teaching can easily creep in – and churches can become limited to human thinking that opposes the truth of the gospel. Let’s look at what some the opposing views of Christ are to that which we have in scripture:

- Jesus was no different to us, he just had a special connection with the Father (not the image of the invisible God - just a bit more spiritually advanced)
- Jesus didn’t exist until he became a man (and therefore not the creator of the world)
- He’s just a good example to live by
- The church is only a human institution, and Jesus isn’t really at work in it
- His true value was in the fullness of his humanity

It is teaching like this that leads to the kind of thing that Paul heard was happening in Colosse – people want to add a few extras ways to get close to God, other than Jesus: new religious rituals and laws, and some angels and saints to pray to.

Which takes us back to where we started – to consider how our relationship with Jesus is going. Do we really believe that he made us? Do we really believe that he’s saved us? How does our life show what we believe?

I know that I, sometimes with good intentions, lose my way. I need to get back to basics.

It starts out with good intentions – of wanting to glorify him. I’ll pray hard. I’ll study my bible every day. I’ll do volunteer work in the community. It can become a little bit of me trying to save myself or others – you know, as though I were responsible for every person who came to faith through my ministry. In fact, I don’t have a ministry, it is the ministry of Jesus. It is his saving work, his creation. Without him I have no words, no prayers, no existence.

I have to remember that place that my Grandfather’s going to; that place that I came from, that I belong with the one who made me. We all belong with him. None of us were made for this world, but to be with him in his kingdom.

And today, Paul’s saying, get back to the basic truth of the gospel – that Jesus alone saves us. And he is the way, the only way, to go home.

 

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Phone: 0422187127
 
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