Lesson from Colossians—The All-Sufficient Christ!

“Without a father, there is no loving.  Without a way, there is no going.  Without the truth, there is no knowing.  Without life, there is no living.  Follow Me because I am the way, the truth, the life, and the bridge to our heavenly Father.”  Someone else made this accurate observation: “To tie Jesus Christ to the very best human system is to tie a star, light years distant, to a dead horse here on earth.  Neither the star nor the Messiah will be bound” (Bayly).  But some false teachers would soon be trying to depreciate Christ and tie the Christians of Colosse to their own human system.

Let's get some quick background to the letter that Paul wrote to the members at Colosse.  Colosse was not a very big city, and it was sort of off the beaten path.  When Paul was preaching in Ephesus, he switched from using the synagogue as a base of operation to using a school, and with good results said Dr. Luke in Acts 19:10: “And this continued for two years, so that all who dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks.”  One of Paul's disciples at this time was a man named Epaphras, and Paul gives him credit in 1:7 for the founding of the congregation in Colosse.  In fact, Paul says that the members of the church in Colosse have never met him (2:1), but he prays for them and writes to them to encourage them to remain true to what they have been taught and to warn them against false teachers.  If Paul was teaching in Ephesus around 53 AD and if he wrote this letter around 62 AD while a prisoner in Rome, we see that the church in Colosse was not even a decade old; its converts from paganism certainly needed to be grounded in their faith and urged to continue as followers of Christ towards maturity.  In fact, this is exactly what Paul does.   Paul begins the letter in 1:9-12 by praying for this group's spiritual growth. Then notice what he says in 1:28: “Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus.”  For the goal of the future glory mentioned in verse 27, Paul says that he warns and teaches all that we might present every person perfect, or mature, or complete in Christ Jesus!  And Paul notes also at the close of the book that Epaphras is seeking the same thing for this group in 4:12: “Epaphras, who is one of you, a bond-servant of Christ, greets you, always laboring fervently in prayers, that you may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God.”  We have seen how the theme of Revelation was “Be victorious!”  And the theme of Mark was “Be evangelistic!”  In Colossians, the theme is “Be mature!”

With that background, let's move now to another passage, which will introduce for us the topic of today's sermon.  Let's go to 2:4: “Now this I say lest anyone should deceive you with persuasive words.  For though I am absent in the flesh, yet I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good order and the steadfastness of your faith in Christ.”  Paul doesn't want these steadfast members at Colosse to be deceived and led astray.  “As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving.”  When you were converted and made Jesus the Lord of your lives, continue to follow and to walk in His commands; remain rooted in Him and strengthened by Him.  Keep to what you have been taught, and continue to be thankful for God's grace.  “Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the traditions of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and NOT ACCORDING TO CHRIST!” Don't let anyone lead you astray with their human system and tie you to worldly wisdom based on men's traditions or the world's regulations.  They are depreciating, dethroning, and downplaying Christ when they do this!  “For in Him [Jesus] dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power.”  Jesus is divine—all the fullness—doesn't sound like anything is lacking—of God and the Spirit can be seen in His earthly life.  And you can be complete or mature in Him; you don't need anyone or anything else.  The all-sufficient Christ is a major theme in this book.  One scholar states: “... you will not be able to miss Paul's primary emphasis on the absolute supremacy of Christ over all things. ... Paul argues that Christ is the key to everything they need.  All that God is ever going to do in and for the world has happened in and through Him” (Fee 361).  Another writer said it like this: “The answer to the heresy lay not in extended argument, but in a positive presentation of the person of Christ.  Paul pointed out that all philosophies, spiritual powers, ceremonial observances, and worldly restrictions were secondary to the preeminence of Christ” (Tenney 323).  What is it that makes Christ all-sufficient, supreme, and preeminent?  The apostle Paul goes to great lengths to spell this out in this letter because he wants these brethren to understand without the shadow of a doubt that Christ should be the supreme focal point of their lives.  Let's look quickly this morning at 8 descriptions that Paul gives concerning Him.

First of all, let's go to 1:15-16 where we see a description of Christ as Creator: “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.  For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers.  All things were created through Him and for Him.”  The false teachers were going to try “to remove Jesus Christ from the topmost niche and to despoil him of His uniqueness” (Barclay 57), but Paul takes the approach of showing Christ in all His splendor!  “... to call Jesus the image of God is to say that Jesus is the perfect portrait of God.  If you wish to see what God looks like, look at Jesus” (Barclay).  “... when Jesus Christ is called the firstborn of all creation, it does not mean that he was the first created person to be born; [it means] that to Him God has assigned the first place, the lordship, the sovereignty of all creation” (Barclay 59).  “... Christ [was] God's agent in creating all that [exists]” (Weed 48).  “[Paul] first uses the Jewish concept of the heavens and the earth and then uses the Greek concept of the visible and invisible ... [to show] that everything [was] created [by] Christ” (Weed 49).  “For Paul, the [dominions, principalities and] 'powers' were unseen [evil] forces working in the world through pagan religion, or astrology, or magic, or ... oppressive systems [to tyrannize] human beings” (Wright 72), and his point was that “Christ [created] the very beings which the [false teachers would be trying to get the Christians at Colosse to worship]” (Weed 49).  “Fair is the sunshine, fairer still the moonlight and all the twinkling starry hosts. Jesus shines brighter, Jesus shine purer than all the angels heaven can boast (Willis)!” Christ—the Creator!

Now let's read the next verse: “And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist.” Six hundred years before Christ, there was a Grecian philosopher in Ephesus named Heraclitus who saw that the world was in a continual state of flux.  He taught that you could never step into the same river twice because things were constantly changing. Yet, he also observed that nature had a reliability about it—the four seasons followed a predictable sequence, the sun always rises in the east, every species gives birth to the same species.  So besides the principle of flux, there was also the principle of stability, which he called the Logos, signifying divinity, or a Divine Mind.  Paul affirmed: “Yes, Jesus is that mind of God!” Jesus did not set the world going and then leave it to its own devices (Barclay 62).  “In effect, Paul designates Christ as the principle of cohesion which presently upholds the universe and gives it order and design.  The universe is continually being sustained by Christ as the One who causes it to be '[a] cosmos and not [a] chaos'” (Weed 51).  This truth also shows us that behind the universe, there is not a cynical power that mocks men, but a benevolent power that often mourns for men.  It also shows us that “No creature is autonomous.  All are [Christ's] dependents” (Wright 73)!  “Lord of all being throned afar, Thy glory flames from sun and star.  Center and soul of every sphere, yet to each loving heart how near” (Holmes)!  Christ—the Sustainer!

Now let's read verse 18: “And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence!”  Having shown Christ's relationship to the old creation—the world, [Paul] then shows His relationship to the new creation—the church (Weed 51).  The pronoun “He” is in an emphatic position.  Precisely, HE who is over the cosmos also rules over the church (Weed 51)!  Jesus not only unites the universe but also people as well because the church is the only place where [people] of all classes and conditions [can] meet together (Barclay 64).  The word “head” indicates rule and authority over all others; “Paul continues to destroy any possible understanding of Christ's role in God's plan which would allow room for other mediators” (Weed 53).  “To be in Christ is to be at the same time incorporated into His body, the church,” and this also shows Christ's strength to empower His followers [with] new life” (Weed 52).  This new life is based on His resurrection; both a new age and new hope has dawned (Wright 74)!  The word “firstborn” guarantees us that more children will be raised from the dead one day!  Because of His obedience to endure the cross, Christ now sits at God's right hand with a name above all names (Phil. 2:9)!  He is the preeminent One reigning over all rivals!  “Crown Him the Lord of life, who triumphed o'er the grave, who rose victorious in the strife for those He came to save” (Trhing)! Christ—the Ruler.

Now let's read verses 19-23: “For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross. And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight—if indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard, which was preached to every creature under heaven, of which I, Paul, became a minister.”  Behind the resurrection stands a divine purpose, and that purpose is then explained as reconciliation (Wright 75).  The fullness of divinity dwells in Christ, but so does the fullness of humanity.  Thus, He is the perfect reconciler and mediator between God and man.  Christ, as God's perfect sacrificial lamb, shed His blood in order to bring peace once again between God and man.  Notice how Paul describes the members of Colosse before their conversions in verse 21: alienated, enemies, full of wicked works.  Then we have those two great words—YET NOW—which shows that God's new covenant went into effect at Jesus' death, and through the body of His flesh (not the body of His church), the members at Colosse were reconciled to God.  God's friendship with people was renewed because their sins no longer separated them from Him!  In fact, notice how Jesus' reconciliation caused the members at Colosse to be seen by God as holy, blameless, and above reproach!  The Colossian brethren enjoyed that righteousness when Paul wrote!  Paul was not talking about some future righteousness.  They were already acceptable to God if they would be steadfast in the faith and not be moved away by false teaching.  Paul then continues that it is through the Gospel's message preached to all that God continues to reconcile the world to Himself!  “Have your affections been nailed to the cross?  Do you count all things for Jesus but loss?  Is your heart right with God, washed in the crimson flood, cleansed and made holy, humble and lowly, right in the sight of God” (Hoffman)?  Christ—the Reconciler.

Now let's read 2:11-13: “In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.  And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven all your trespasses.”  The word “circumcision” may make us feel somewhat uncomfortable since it is so graphic, but Paul is affirming something very important.  The brethren at Colosse had not experienced physical circumcision, but a spiritual circumcision.  Their foreskins had not been cut off, but Christ had cut off the sins of their flesh! You see, when a person becomes a Christian, some radical surgery takes place, and all of one's old sins are forever separated from him!  Well, when does that occur?  Paul says at baptism.  Christ was buried and resurrected, and the same thing happens to us at baptism.  We are dead in our trespasses, but then we are buried with Jesus, and we are made alive together with Him by God's power, and our trespasses are forgiven!  That word “forgiven” means that the debt that we owed God has been cancelled or remitted.  Jesus not only performs surgery but also pays our debts! That's the ultimate bail out!  One commentator correctly notes the following about baptism: “The man [to be baptized] had made a tremendous and momentous decision.  He had stepped out of paganism into Christianity. ... to enter the church was the biggest decision a man could make” (Barclay 90).  “... it was a thrilling moment.  He descended into the water; it closed over him; it was like a symbolic burial.  He emerged from the water; he saw the light again; it was like a new life. ... he felt that he had shared the very death and resurrection of his Lord” (Barclay 91)!  “He took my burdens all away up to a brighter day.  He gave me a song to sing about; He lifted me from sin and doubt!  Oh praise His name; He is our King!  A wonderful song He is to me! Christ—the Creator, Sustainer, Ruler Reconciler, Savior!

Now let's read 2:14: “Having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us.  And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.”  What could accuse the Jews of their sinfulness?  It was the Law, wasn't it?  But notice what Christ has also done.  “Ancient ink was very black, and it lasted for a very long time; but in it there was no acid; it therefore did not at all bite into the paper.  It did not need to be erased, to be rubbed or scraped off; it could be sponged off; and so part of the scribe's equipment was a sponge with which he simply wiped off the paper that which he wished to delete or correct.  This is the word that Paul uses.  The [requirements of the Law] that stood against us [were] sponged away and obliterated” (Barclay 79).  In the ancient world, “... when a decree became obsolete and ... was no longer operative [or] cancelled, it was fixed to a public notice board and a nail was driven through it to show that it no longer had any force. ... the accusing record [was] crucified [too with Christ and] ... its reign and its demands are ended” (Barclay 80)!  That which could accuse the Jews has now been removed!  “A wonderful Savior is Jesus My Lord; He takes my burden away.  He holds me up and shall not be moved; He gives me strength as my day” (Crosby)!  Christ—the Remover!

Now let's read verse 15: “Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it.”  What could accuse the Gentiles for their sinfulness?  It was all the evil forces that influenced them, wasn't it?  But notice again what Christ has done.  “When the 'powers' had done their worst, crucifying the Lord of glory [behind the scene] on the charge of blasphemy and rebellion, they had overreached themselves.  He, neither blasphemer nor rebel, was in fact their rightful Sovereign. They thereby exposed themselves for what they were—usurpers of the authority which was properly His.  The cross therefore becomes the source of hope for all who had been held captive under their rule, enslaved in fear and mutual suspicion.  Christ breaks the last hold that the 'powers' had over His people by dying on their behalf” (Wright 116), and He leads these defeated enemies before the world now as a victorious general (Weed 75)!  That which could have accused the Gentiles has been exposed!  “Bearing shame and scoffing rude, in my place condemned He stood, sealed my pardon with His blood!  Hallelujah!  What a Savior!”  Christ—the Conqueror!

Now let's read 3:1-4: “If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God.  Set your mind on the things above, not on things on the earth.  For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you will appear with Him in glory.”  “Paul has just drawn out the implications of [having died] with Christ (2:20-23); ... Now he draws out the implications of also [having] risen with Christ” (Wright 130).  This passage shows us that the Christians' lives are eternal looking, peaceful looking, upward looking, and forward looking.  Christians view life from an eternal perspective and know that those things which are truly lasting are those things associated with heaven; this outlook helps us to keep our priorities on earth straight.  With the sovereign Jesus now reigning over all the universe, the Christians look with confidence to the future because they know that He is in control. Christians keep their eyes upward and do not focus so much on this world that their thoughts, ambitions, and plans become absorbed by it; they seek the heavenly over the earthly. Jesus' return keeps Christians looking forward because when He returns their existence will be changed and become glorified like Christ's existence!  “After pain and anguish, after toil and care, thru the endless ages joy and blessing share.  We shall see the King some day; we will shout and sing some day.  Gathered around His throne when He shall call His own, we shall see the King someday” (Jones)!  Christ—the Transformer!

Someone tells how a visitor to a great art gallery saw one of the cleaners at work polishing the floor.  “Good morning,” he said, “there are some very wonderful pictures in this gallery.”  “I suppose there are,” the cleaner answered, “if a body had the time to look up.”  Surrounded by beauty, she was so busy with the floor that she never looked up.  That's a parable for us as well. Surrounded by business, have we really stopped to contemplate the beauty of Christ?  Paul did, and he wanted the believers at Colosse to do the same.  He describes for them the all-sufficient Christ who is above all rivals—the Creator, the Sustainer, the Ruler, the Reconciler, the Savior, the Remover, the Conqueror, the Transformer!  God has given Him the supremacy, but have you?  Is Jesus your Lord?  Have your sins been cut off and forgiven through your burial and resurrection with Him in baptism?  Has He brought transformation to your life so that you have that eternal, peaceful, upward, and forward looking perspective for life?