Colossians for Beginners – #4 – Colossians 1:13-18a

Colossians for Beginners – #4 – Colossians 1:13-18a


Okay, book of Colossians, Colossians for
Beginners. This is lesson number four in this series and today we’re going to
cover chapter one, verse 13 to verse 18. Let’s begin with a bit of a review, as we
do each time. We said that Paul the Apostle was in a Roman prison somewhere
between 61 and 63 AD when he wrote several epistles. One of these epistles
was an epistle or a letter, if you wish, to the brethren at the church in Colossae.
Now this particular church was located about a hundred miles west of the
church in Ephesus. And I said that it was originally established by Epaphroditus
and Timothy, two workers, two preachers that worked with Paul the Apostle. This
particular congregation was being disturbed by teachers who were
proposing, what they insisted was, a more enlightened form of Christianity.
And their teachings were creating disturbances in the church at that time.
This new teaching, if you wish, this enlightened form of gospel, in reality was
simply a mixture of Greek philosophy and Jewish legalism, Jewish traditions,
which threatened to rob the Colossians of their freedom and their salvation in
Jesus Christ. And so this letter, this is the response to this problem in this
church. In response to the teachers, Paul reiterates the all-sufficiency of Jesus
Christ in every area of life, whether it be personal relationships, doctrine, or
ethical conduct. So in our last lesson we studied the first twelve verses of
chapter one. And in the first twelve verses Paul accomplished a
certain number of tasks, if you wish. Did several things in those verses. He,
first of all, established his authority as a teacher, an apostle of Jesus Christ.
And also the position of Jesus as the Lord. And then he offered a
prayer in which he reviews their history as a church, the Colossians, reviewing
their history as a church and he says about them that they’ve been a faithful
group. They’ve been a loving Church. He encourages them to remain this way and to
look to the future with hope. And in the passage he also reminds them of the
hope or the reward that awaits them if they remain faithful. And then he
finishes his prayer with an appeal to God to give these people a knowledge of
His will, to give them the ability to please Him, to increase their power so
that they can attain the virtues of patience and steadfastness. And also he
prays that they have the ability to remain joyful through the entire process.
Alright, so today we’re going to go, we’re going to pick up the last piece in verse 12,
where Paul is building a bridge to his next thought. So now we
move to the first big section – Christ preeminent in personal relationships,
chapter one, verse three to chapter two, verse seven. That’s the entire section. We
won’t cover all of that today, but that’s what the entire section entails. So after
finishing his prayer, Paul is going to move into his first main thought about
Jesus Christ. And that is that Jesus is preeminent in personal relationships. What
he means by that is that only Jesus has a relationship with God. See what I’m
saying? That’s what Paul is trying to get at, that Jesus
has the foremost, the preeminent relationships. Why? Because only He has a
relationship with God, only through Him can we have a relationship with God. And
only through Him can we be united in a meaningful and spiritual
and eternal way with God. That’s what he means about his
relationship is the foremost pre-eminent relationship. Now, to get to this thought
from his prayer, Paul finishes the prayer by giving thanks to God the Father for
giving the Colossians the opportunity to go to heaven. And this blessing, this going to heaven and experiencing eternal life, this particular blessing, he calls an inheritance of the saints of light. So
from this idea and this key word light, he’s going to build a bridge to the idea
that Jesus is the king of the kingdom of light, as opposed to the kingdom of
darkness, which infers a condition of lostness and ignorance and suffering. And so we read in verse 13 and 14, he says,
“For He,” meaning Jesus, “For He rescued us from the domain of darkness and
transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son.” I take that back, I mean the
Father. “For He, the Father, rescued us from the domain of darkness and transferred us
to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the
forgiveness of sins.” Let’s stop there. Several important concepts included in these
verses. First of which is rescue or deliverance. This word implies that they
were helpless to save themselves. He talks, he uses the word domain – the domain
of darkness, another word for power or authority. And the idea is that these
people were kept in the domain of darkness, purposefully, by a power that
was greater than themselves. They were slaves to sin, slaves to Satan. He used
the word transfer and he says that God Himself does the work of saving us and
uniting us to His Son. He chooses the Son and only the Son to do this work, right.
And then He uses the word kingdom. This word denotes a royal power or
sovereignty, the apex, if you wish, of power and rule. So in
essence, God, by His own will and choice, transferred us from one who was
stronger than we were to one who was stronger than the one who kept us
prisoner. To clarify our position, and as a reminder to the Colossians, Paul also
mentions the original gift that began the life that he prayed about at the beginning of the letter. So he says they were forgiven, they
received redemption. That’s the gift, all right. The others – rescued, domain,
transfer, kingdom – refer to the thing taking place, transferred from
one place to another, but what does all that entail? What does that result in?
What is the gift at the end of all of this activity? Well he says, forgiveness,
redemption. They’re forgiven by virtue of the fact that Jesus died to redeem their
sins. In other words, he paid the moral debt, made restitution. There’s so many
ways that you can, kind of, explain what it is that He did, but they all come back
to the same idea. And I like to use the term Jesus paid the moral debt for
our sins with His death on the cross. So this is the power that kept them in the
dark, the fact that they were sinners, and they were helpless to stop sinning,
and they were unable to atone for the sins that they did commit. That’s
what kept them prisoner to the strong one, the devil, Satan, even
though they knew that sin would be punished by death, that sin was wrong. Even
if they wanted not to sin, they were helpless, they were helpless to stop
sinning. And they could not pay the moral debt for the sins that they did commit.
That’s what he’s talking about. That’s what kept them bound. So they were
subject to Satan’s temptations and then they were cursed by the law to be
punished and condemned because they failed. So what happens at this point?
Well, this is the Gospel message: Jesus comes, the Son of God. He lives a
perfect life according to the law, resists every attack by Satan, and then
offers His perfect, sinless life on the cross to satisfy the demands for
restitution made by law. So now people trapped in sin and condemned
because of it, and helpless to change, now we have a way to deal with sin.
Not just – the old way is, we just keep piling on sin after sin after
sin, even if we know that this is going to end up condemning us. Now there’s a
way to deal with this. Satan is defeated, because now the law is
satisfied and sinners are released into the custody of Christ. And this custody,
this group Paul refers to as the kingdom, the church. So Satan is defeated because
Jesus takes away his power. What was his power? His power was to tempt us to sin
and then the law would condemn us because we sin. Well, Jesus takes
away His power. How does he do that? Well, by making restitution for our sins, our
sins no longer condemn us because He’s paid the price for those sins. And
because we received the Holy Spirit and we have the knowledge of the truth, we now
have tools, we now have an agency, we now have the power to deal with our sins,
to overcome our sins. That’s how He destroys the power of Satan. Of course,
the emphasis here is that Jesus is the one who sacrificed to make this happen, and
so, He is central to our salvation to begin with. Now, I want you to keep in
mind that this letter is written to counter the false teachers among the
Colossians. They taught that things other than Christ’s sacrifice were needed to
achieve or to maintain salvation. That’s a very important idea,
because it informs what Paul is talking about here. Why Paul is
talking about all this – the transfer from the king of darkness to light,
that Jesus is the one. And why is he going over this? Well, Paul
is responding to these false teachers by putting Christ and
His sacrifice as the only thing that produces salvation. Redemption equals
forgiveness. Nothing more, nothing less. So in verses 15 to 17 Paul will
address another of their teachings that concerned the worship of angels, for
example. And he responds to this idea by describing Christ’s true position in the
scheme of creation and the Godhead. So he responds to their idea – the false
teachers’ idea that there was something else you needed to do, you needed to
become a Jew, you need to be circumcised, you needed to do something else in order
to be saved, in order to be transferred into the kingdom of light. And
Paul responds, no. The sacrifice that Jesus made, this is the
complete thing. Nothing else is needed to effectively transfer lost sinner’s from
Satan’s binding into the kingdom of light. Alright, next, as I said, he’s going to
describe Jesus’ true position in the scheme of creation, to answer another of
the false teachers claims that in some way angels were part of
the equation. That they needed to worship angels or
recognize them or use them as intermediaries between themselves and
God. And so, in answer to this false notion, Paul is going to put forth
Jesus’ true position in regards to the Godhead and man. So with that in mind
let’s read verse 15, he says, “He,” meaning Jesus, “is the image of the invisible God,
the firstborn of all creation.” And so in verse 15 he makes two statements. First,
talking about Jesus, he says, He’s the image of the invisible God. Meaning, Jesus
is not a reflection of God, but of the same divine essence. And God is not seen
by human eyes, but Jesus is seen and He is the visible image of the invisible
God. Right? Didn’t Jesus say, if you’ve seen Me, you’ve seen the Father. So
it’s not just the body of Jesus, not like God has two arms and two
legs. When we see Jesus, we see the Word of God, the life of God, the Spirit
of God, the intention of God, the holiness of God, the love of God. We
see all of that in human form. And then he says, He’s the firstborn of
all creation. Doesn’t mean that he was the first thing created or somehow
emerged at the beginning of creation, as some religions teach. Firstborn refers to
His rank and His position in comparison to all of creation, including mankind.
Mankind was created, right? Mankind wasn’t born. Man wasn’t born, he was created. The
universe was created, not born. What Paul is saying here is that Jesus is first in
rank and position in both of His natures. He is divine, the very
image and essence of God. And He is human, the very essence and
perfection without sin or blemish, born of a virgin. I neglected to mention that
angels were created also, but Jesus is not created. He’s first. He has a rank. Then he says, the power of creation in
chapter one, verse 16, he says, “For by Him all things were created, both in the
heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or
rulers or authorities.” So now what is he saying? Well Paul goes
on to explain that in addition to His divine essence and rank,
Jesus is the power behind creation itself. This includes the visible
universe and it also includes the world of spirits which we do not see, but
exists nevertheless. And this certainly includes angels, who are being promoted
as objects of worship by these false teachers. So the inference that Paul is
making here is that we don’t need to worship angels, Christ is over them as
well. So we worship Christ and we do so correctly, because He’s over angels and
over the universe and over mankind. He has first rank. Then he talks about the
purpose of creation, verse 16b says, “All things have been created
through Him and for Him.” So Paul adds the point that not only
were all things created through the power of Christ, they were also created
for His purpose. In Ephesians chapter one, Paul explains in that particular
epistle that from the very beginning of time, God’s purpose was to bless the
people in Christ. Another way of saying the church, the kingdom. So from the
beginning of time, God’s purpose was to bless those in Christ with all the
blessings of heaven: forgiveness, resurrection, glorification, exaltation to
the right hand of God. So this is what he refers to here in Colossians, when he
says, for Him everything in creation, everything in history, in one way or
another, works in Christ’s ultimate plan to bless the church with these spiritual
gifts. When we say, what’s the endgame? What’s the point? What’s God
trying to get to with all of this? Well, we’re trying to – what God is attempting to
get to in all of this is that He has things that He wants to give those who
believe in Christ. And everything – He works everything in human history,
everything towards this end. So at the end, those who believe in Christ, those who
are in Christ, the church, the kingdom of light, all the different ways that are
used in the Bible to describe these people: the chosen ones, the pillar of
truth. All the various ways to describe the people of God, God has these
spiritual blessings that He wants to give to those people. And His plan has
been worked in such a way so that at the end of time, He will be able to do that.
Then he talks about a time before creation, in verse 17 he says, “He,” always
talking about Jesus, now, “He is before all things.” So Paul expands Christ’s role by
declaring that Christ is before all things, denoting His divinity, why? Because
only God is before all things. I mean, who is before time? Who is before creation?
Well, only God. And so when he says that Jesus is before all things, before time,
he’s referring to Jesus as God. In 17b he says, “And in Him all things hold
together.” So he also says that in Jesus all things hold together. In other words,
He not only is the agent through whom all things were created, but it is also
because of Him that all things continue to exist. He creates all things and in the
end when He returns, all things will cease to exist. Again, by His power. And
all things are sustained, why? Well, all things are sustained by His power,
because of God’s ultimate plan, which is what? Which is to deliver the spiritual
blessings of heaven to those who are in Christ. That’s why all things are
being held together. That’s why everything continues morning and day, day
and night, planting and harvest, and seasons, and it just keeps going. Are
there changes in the world? Is there like such a thing as climate change?
I always say, yeah, sure, climate change, and it started at the
flood. Climate started to change at the flood. And people change, and societies, and
there are wars, and there are earthquakes, and all kinds of things that are happening, but
the earth continues and will continue until Jesus returns, why? Because He is the
power that sustains it. Then he goes on in verse 18, he says, “He is also head
of the body, the church. So in this passage Paul gives not only the last
link in Christ’s chain of sovereignty, but he introduces a new idea to bridge
to the next section about the church, especially the church at Colossae. Remember, previously the idea was the kingdom of light and he used that as a
bridge to talk about the chain of authority or Christ’s
position. In the next section he’s going to talk about the church. So he finishes
this section with a reference to the church. He gives the church another name
here, using the term body, so as to fit the imagery of Christ as the head, the
head of the church, right. Metonymy. Remember we talked about that last time. So
Paul is going to go on to explain why Christ is the head of the church and the
significance of this for every member of the church. And we are going to continue
of course in this line of teaching and pick this up next time. In the end
the basic argument or false idea being put forth with the Colossians
was that in some way Jesus Christ was not enough to secure and maintain one
salvation with God. That was the thrust of the false
teaching. There needed to be ceremony, there needed to be a secret
worship of angels, there needed to be some form of law keeping of some kind,
there needed to be new teachers, because the old teachers, the Apostle Paul, they had not given them all of the information. And so Paul’s response
is to show that Christ’s chain of authority went from start to finish, from heaven, right, the image of the invisible God, all the way down to the
earth as the head of the church; from God to the creation, to the church, to the end
of time, and the end of God’s purpose. Christ, He’s every
link in the chain of authority. The only thing that mattered was Christ Himself,
because He was divine in nature, He was first in rank, He was before all things,
He created all things, He sustained all things, He uses all things
for His purpose, and He is head of the body, the church. Now, in the next section,
Paul will show how the church plays a central part in Christ’s purpose and
what that ultimate purpose is. For now, let’s see if we can draw some
lessons, even though Paul was indirectly responding to false teachers of
the first century, there are a lot of lessons that we can draw from this
passage for our lives as Christians today. One of the lessons is this: we must
have a relationship with Christ. I said that this section, verses
three all the way to chapter two verse seven, was about the preeminence of
Christ in relationships. When we see that everything is plugged into Christ in one
way or another, we realize that if we don’t have a relationship with Him, we
don’t have a relationship with God either, because He’s the Son of God.
That’s how we plug in to God. We’re plugged into Him. If we don’t have a
relationship with Him, we’re ignoring the person who is first in rank
in everything. If we don’t have a relationship with Him, we’re
ignorant and neglectful of praising the right person for everything in creation. It
is correct that various peoples and religions in the world praise and
give thanks for the creation and what they have. It is, however,
futile for them to do so to anyone other than Christ, because He’s
the one that’s plugged in to God. Not other prophets or other religious leaders.
And, of course, without a relationship with Christ, we’re not
part of His body and His ultimate plan for mankind, which is to bless the body
with all the spiritual gifts of heaven. So to reject Christ is to fail in all of
these other areas as well. So lesson number one, we need to have a
relationship with Christ. Lesson number two, when we have Christ, we have
everything. Paul does us a great favor here by exposing the vastness of
Christ’s authority and His power. Christianity is not a
Western religion. Christianity, it’s not a modern religion.
It’s not one of the great religions of history. Christianity is the heart and
soul of God’s plan for every soul ever born, regardless of place and time and
position. There is no other plan, there is no other Savior, there is no other Lord
than Jesus Christ who is over time, He’s over creation, He’s over heaven, and life,
and sin, and death, and the church, and eternity. Let’s face it, there’s nothing
left to be Lord over, once you’ve finished attributing to Christ all the
elements that He’s Lord over. There’s nothing left to be the Lord of, once you
count all the things that Jesus is Lord of. See what I’m saying? This is why the
confession, I believe that Jesus is the Son of God. This is why this confession
is the greatest, deepest, most insightful, life-changing declaration that
anyone could ever make. And then, of course, lesson three, when we pray, we pray
in Jesus’ name. Now, when Jesus told His disciples to ask or pray in His name,
that’s in John 14:14, He didn’t do this just to give us a habit, so that every
single prayer that we pray ends in the words in Jesus’ name, so that if you don’t
say in Jesus’ name, then the prayer is no good. He wasn’t giving us a formula
here. He gave this to remind us that everything we prayed about was His
concern, because it was all within His authority. Remember I said, He’s
the divine image, from the top in heaven all the way to the head of
the church on earth, and everything in between. So everything we pray about can
be about earthly things or spiritual things or heavenly things, He’s the Lord
over all those things. So life and death and food and weather and power and
spiritual strength, whatever, He’s the sovereign over everything in existence.
And he uses everything in existence for His purpose. Therefore, our prayers in His
name go to the only being who really understands and who really can answer
them. And when we say, in Jesus’ name, we’re merely remarking, we’re
merely underlining, confirming, that we understand and we believe that He is
over all these things, and our prayers are being offered to the right person. So
this should not only encourage us to direct our prayers towards Him, but also
give us confidence that our prayers are never in vain when they are in His name,
and should help us understand why we use this term in our
prayers. Okay, well that’s the lesson for this particular section, chapter 1:13-18a.
We’re going to pick it up next time and move on, as we
study the book of Colossians. Thank you for your attention, I appreciate it.

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