- Psalm 2
- Colossians 1:12-23
My dear brothers and sisters in the Lord,
When we began our series from the letter to the Colossians, we first looked at the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We moved on to the next, Growing in the knowledge of the Gospel. I preach the Word of God to you under the heading “The Christ of the Gospel.”
I suppose something of the Gnostics we learned about last week, might still be in your minds. Gnosticism was, and is, an almost undefined idea, something one might search for without really knowing what knowledge is and where to find it. Gnosticism is esoteric, mystic, hidden in the mist of something untouchable. It distinguishes between soul, spirit and body, the body is merely the tomb of the spirit and is of no use. If man finds knowledge he/she becomes godlike and can look forward to eternity because knowledge set him/her free.
Are we today in a much different situation?
I don’t want to wander too widely, but it will help us when we understand that some of the so-called New Age ideas indeed find its origin in Gnosticism.
Let’s see how we got to where we are today.
First, there was the age of faith. Man had a Biblical understanding of knowledge, but knowledge had nothing to do with salvation. Faith in Christ saves. The Reformation reawakened this faith. It led to the age of Enlightenment.
The Age of Reason came after the Enlightenment. Man’s mind was the ultimate yardstick for knowledge. Everything had to be scientifically proven before it was worthwhile talking about.
The period of Modernism followed. Modernism questioned science as man moved into the centre of his world. Individualism and consumerism appeared on the scene. Man took from science what he preferred.
We are going a bit quickly here. We now arrive at the age of post-modernism, which is just the logical next step: because everything is questioned, and man is his yardstick of what he wants to believe, we now live in a world without any objective truth or standards. We can believe nothing, but it is just possible that we can believe something. The logical way out is so-called tolerance. I tolerate your view, which might be right or wrong, but you have to tolerate mine because I might be right or wrong. The rule is that there are no rules.
In this whole mess we ended up with esotericism, presupposing that, although we might try to explain things rationally and scientifically, there are hidden forces that transcend ordinary sensory experience and analytic thinking. Although scientific research proves otherwise, we live by widespread consensus, which in itself has no basis.
Now we live by rules that no-one wrote down, it cannot be tested, but it should not be disobeyed. Political correctness is one branch of this. We need to strive by way of unknown principles to overcome traditional institutional structures to set up an invisible fellowship of global village citizens. Everything of with a whiff of conventional religion is suspicious and rejected, but the end-goal is nothing less than a new religion where Mother Earth is worshipped according to old age gnostic principles. The rigidity of traditional faith must be vanquished, to make way for the fantasy of manmade eternal salvation.
These ideas more or less formed the philosophical background of the time in which Paul wrote to the Colossians. Some wise guys took what they already believed regarding Gnosticism and mixed it with elements of Bible teaching, but reinterpreted essential concepts with Gnostic ideas. The main two ideas were that man cannot know God, and that man can only be saved if he strives hard to be elevated from the mundane world to the godly.
Do we live in a much different world? Moreover, Christians are looked down upon because we still believe in an outdated book which teaches about absolute truth and infallible teachings.
Can we know God? Yes! We know him through his creation, we know Him through the Gospel, the Bible. We know Him through Jesus Christ. Where does it leave us? We go back to Colossians 1:12-14
… [we] give thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light. He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins. (Colossians 1:12–14, NKJV)
This Gospel is the Gospel we know; about this gospel, we need to know more and more as we immerse ourselves in the study of the Bible, at every opportunity, as often s possible. This Gospel is the sword with which we go into the battle of our souls. We need to know how to handle it, or we will not survive!
Who is the Christ of the Gospel?
For most of the world, Jesus is the baby in a crib. For most the story of Christmas does not go any further and the nativity scene of the family of Christ in Bethlehem. There is infinitely more to know about Jesus Christ.
Keep in mind Paul writes to the Colossians to help them stand up against the error of Gnosticism. What is the essence of the Gospel?
Before the creation of time and space, God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit existed supremely, without the aid of anything, the need of anything, ever glorious and omnipotent, never in lack of praise and honour. However, then, if we think about it in human terms, God determined to create the universe. God the Father spoke to Jesus Christ, his Son. We read about it in Psalm 2 this morning.
“You are my Son, today I have become your Father. Ask of me and I will make the nations Your possession, the ends of the earth your inheritance. You will rule them with an iron sceptre; you will dash them to pieces like pottery.”
To his Son, God gave a title, the Christ. He is the Redeemer, the Saviour, the Blessed One of the Father. Here we ended the sermon last week. Colossians 1:13-14 reads:
For He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son He loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. (Colossians 1:13-14)
God’s Crown Prince
Why can we believe in Christ?
He is the image of the invisible God (Colossians 1:15). The word for “image” here is our word for “icon”, a living manifestation of God, as a visible display of the invisible Person of God. The invisible God becomes visible to men in the “Son of his love”. Jesus declared, “He that has seen me, has seen the Father”. (John 14:9) John sings about the glory of Christ: “We have seen his glory, the glory as of the Father.” (John 1:14)
He is the first-born of the Father and therefore He shares the same substance and nature of God. Man was created, not born of the Father. We are from dust; Christ is from the eternity God. He is before all things. He was there before all things were created, He is also superior over all things created. Of God’s creation, He is the beginning, the centre, and the end. That’s why the Bible then says, “In Him all things hold together.”
It is not possible to think about creation without thinking about Christ. Without Christ, no creation would be possible. Darwinian Evolution, as well as the Kingship of Jesus Christ over all creation, is an impossibility. No Christ, no creation; no creation, no Christ!
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made.” (John 1:1-3)
This teaching has profound implications for the way we think about Jesus Christ. In general, the Gospel is narrowed down to the salvation in Christ, which becomes even narrower if this salvation is purely the personal salvation of the individual Christian. This Gospel is not the Christian and Biblical worldview. The message of the Church is then confined to the walls of the Church, which becomes a trap with unbelieving politicians demand of the Church to keep Christianity out of politics. Educators and scientists require of us to stay in our corner and mind the souls of the unhappy pursuers of eternal bliss.
However, this is not what the Bible teaches about Christ. To the unbelieving scientist it might come as a surprise: what he or she is researching is the work of God through Jesus Christ. It belongs to Him, it exists because of Him and holds together because of Him. Without Christ, no scientific research is possible, because without Him there would be nothing to research.
To the humanistic sociologist and psychologist, and even the historicist this might also come as a surprise. The study of their field is possible because of Christ, even if they don’t believe it. Also, like me when I try to fix my lawn mover without the technical knowledge and the instruction manual issued by the manufacturers, without the knowledge of Him through whom God created the universe, fixing and fully understanding it will remain a pipe dream.
God’s agent of Creation: the ruler of all creation
The Father wanted to give to his Son everything He created. In this sense, Jesus Christ became the agent of God through whom He created the world. So, everything in heaven and on earth, all things visible and invisible, thrones and powers or rulers or authorities were created by Him and for Him. There is no kingdom, no king, no ruler, nothing visible or invisible which is not under the feet of our Saviour.
The political leaders of our day will do well to heed the advice of the Word of God.
“Serve the Lord with fear and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son lest He be angry, and you be destroyed in your way, for his wrath can flare up in a moment. Blessed are all who take refuge I Him.” (Psalm 2:12)
Jesus Christ is God’s Crown Prince. All areas of life, all spheres of thinking, must be under the Headship of Christ. Even if people don’t believe in Him – He still is the first-born of the universe, the image of God, the agent of God’s creation, the One in whom all things hold together.
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)
This truth drives our missionary work; it drives our efforts in the Lord with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, it helps us to not cringe before the pressures of kings and rulers.
Do you perhaps only of Jesus Christ as the One whose only mission is to fix your problems and you may live well? Is He merely a remedy for your depression or unhappiness? Alternatively, is He the One before whom you bow in adoration and worship?
For some people, Christ is nothing short of an idea. He becomes a mystical concept. People go away for weekends to connect with God and experience Him. They come back with great feelings about Him, but the only thing they do better now is meditating, perhaps sitting in a specific posture. This form of worship of Christ does not differ much from so-called the New Age worship of concepts and ideas.
No, Jesus Christ is King of the universe, known by the works of his hands and to Him, all thoughts must be made captive. The apostle Paul writes:
We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. (2 Corinthians 10:5)
Christ is Head of the Church
There was a price attached when God decided to give an inheritance to his Son. God ordained to send his Son into this sinful world to redeem it through his blood. Jesus Christ had to buy back for God what sin destroyed and stole from God. Jesus was the One through whom God would reconcile the world to Himself. The word is in need of this reconciliation because it is the only peace possible. Without Jesus Christ, there is no peace possible between God and the sinful world.
Verse 21 describes our hostility towards God. We were alienated from God and enemies of God. Born in darkness, we were at war with Him. When our first parents were driven from the presence of God out of Paradise, He gave them a promise of hope: One day they would be reconciled to Him through the eternal sacrifice of the Son of his Love.
Christ’s physical body was nailed to the tree of Calvary. His blood was shed. Moreover, He died on that cross to present us holy to the Father. He reconciled us with the Father (Colossians 1:22). His sinless life now becomes our sinless life by faith. We are united to him by faith!
Such is the Headship of Christ over his Church. He qualified us to be counted amongst the saints washed in his blood, dressed in white robes, which are the righteous deeds in Christ. He conveyed us from darkness into light, carrying us over the chasm between the holy God and sinners, and He brought us into the kingdom of light belonging to his Son, now possible because we are washed clean in his blood. We have received the forgiveness of sins.
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— (Colossians 1:22, NIV)
There is a warning in this chapter if we do not stand firm if we are not determined to engage in the battle and run the race to the end. This can easily happen if I regard Christ as nothing more than the Saviour of my personal world, and not the King of the word and the King of the church. Listen to the verse:
… if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard… (Colossians 1:23)
For this reason, then does the apostle makes this statement in verse 28:
We proclaim Him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ. (Colossians 1:28)
Don’t give up. Always remember: Christ is supreme over all creation, He is our Head and Master, the One who reconciled us to God, the One who is conquering over all enemies. AMEN.
Sermon preached by Rev D. Rudi Schwartz in Sunday 2 September 2018