Col. 1:15-20 - Jesus Christ Is Lord PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Tim Black   
Tuesday, 05 June 2007 18:24

Colossians 1:15-20
Jesus Christ Is Lord”
ESV Text
Tim Black

  1. Intro

    1. Tow truck operator

      1. Conversation

        1. I have earned millions by catching deals at the right place, at the right time.”

          • A: “You should know better than I do that everything we have is a gift from God.” (No! “Dumb luck.”)

        2. I’ve cheated casinos of tens of thousands to send aid to hurricane victims.”

          • A: “It was still wrong to cheat.” (No! “It ended in a good result.”)

        3. No one owns me.”

          • A: “No one owns any of us (Yes!), except God.” (No!)

        4. God couldn’t forgive me for where I’ve been, for what I’ve done.”

          • A: “God can forgive you.” (No!)

        5. I’m dying of diabetes and cancer, and when it’s my time to go, I’m going to end my life with my .38. No one has a right to play God by prolonging my death.”

          • Only God can play God. You’re playing God by rushing your death.” (No!)

        6. Jesus was a man who died to be a martyr. No one can fight a martyr, a ghost.”

          • A: “But Jesus is more than just a martyr who died. He is God, He rose from the dead and is alive.” (No! “Jesus was just a man.”)

      2. Small view!

        1. This man had a small view of

          • God’s providential care

          • God’s moral authority

          • God’s right of ownership

          • God’s Son, Jesus Christ.

        2. And his mind, heart, and life were captivated by

          • money

          • power

          • by playing God

          • by being his own savior.

        3. He has a philosophy that is according to the basic principles of the world, and is not according to Christ.

    2. Principle: If you have a small view of Christ, you will capitulate to the life-philosophy of this world.

    3. Principle: If your mind is captivated with Christ, it will not be taken captive by the things of this world.

    4. Jesus is Lord”

      1. Who then is this Christ from whom our religion derives its name? Who is He, and what bearing does He have on how I need to view this world?

      2. Early church

        1. The early church knew without a shadow of a doubt that this Jesus Christ...“is Lord.” They knew that what it meant to be a Christian was to fully affirm the statement that “Jesus Christ is Lord.” They knew He had to be worshiped, because He died for our sins, because He rose from the dead, because He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God the Father, because He would come again to judge the living and the dead. They drew the words of this confession from many passages like Romans 10:9:

          • Romans 10:9if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

        2. But it was not until the 300’s AD that they came to a clear formulation of the doctrinal implications of this confession. A controversy arose over whether Jesus was fully God, was only partially God, was a lesser God than the Father, or was merely a man. Arius argued that Jesus was not fully divine. Alexander of Alexandria, and Athanasius after him, argued from the passage before us today, that Jesus was fully divine, “being of one substance with the Father.” Athanasius and the truth of scripture won the day, and was written down in the Nicene Creed in 325 and 381 AD.1

      3. In this passage today, Paul wants you to confess without a shadow of a doubt that “Jesus is Lord,” and to know all of what that means for who Christ is, and for how you should view this world.

1In brief, the church's controversies over the deity of Christ and the unity and diversity between the Father and the Son were:

a. 325 Nicea – same substance, decided in Council but not in whole church

b. 381 Constantinople – same substance, decided in whole church

c. (451 Chalcedon – two natures)

  1. Body

    1. Jesus is Lord over all Creation 15-16

      1. First in vv. 15-16, Paul tells us that Jesus is Lord over all creation.

        1. Colossians 1:15-16 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.

      2. Divinity & Priority over all creation 15

        1. Image of the invisible God” - Divinity 15a

          • In v. 15 Paul tells us two things—1) Christ is the “image of the invisible God,” and 2) Christ is “the firstborn over all creation.” Christ’s being “the image of the invisible God” emphasizes His full divinity; His being the “firstborn over all creation” emphasizes His priority over all creation.

          • This word “image” is the word “icon” in Greek. We might think an “image” is empty of real substance, like the way a paper photograph does not actually contain the objects of which it is a picture. But this word “icon” has a different meaning in this passage. It doesn’t mean Christ is an empty picture of God, but rather that He is full of the being of God.

            • Example: I have in my hand a small piece of stone that came from a church which sent bishops to the Council of Nicea. It’s a piece of a carving in the ruins of a church building in Susita (aka Hippos) in Galilee.1 The church building was toppled by an earthquake in the 600’s, right before the controversy over iconoclasm. The reason this is such a small piece of stone is that “iconoclasts”—which means icon-breakers—came with hammers and beat the church of Susita’s religious decorations—its “icons”--to bits. You see, the Greek churches from the 300’s to the Eastern Orthodox churches of the present day, believe that we should venerate pictures of Christ, pictures of saints, because those pictures connect us to Christ, to those saints, and thereby to God, because Christ, the saints, and God are present through their representation in those pictures. Through those “icons.” The iconoclasts, remembering the Second Commandment: “Thou shalt not make any graven image,” rejected the worship of icons, and beat them to bits.2 The Eastern Orthodox claim from this verse that because Christ is the “icon” of God, it is right to make “icons” of God.3 The iconoclasts, and the Reformers after them, claimed from this passage that because Christ is the “icon” of God, we should not look for any other representation of Him than those representations which God has appointed in His word—which are especially the image of God in man, and the sacraments. For Christ Himself is the fully sufficient revelation of all of who God is, for Christ is Himself fully and truly God.

              • Hebrews 1:3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature,

              • John 1:18 No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father's side, he has made him known.

              • John 14:9 Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.

              • Nicene Creed

                • God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God; begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made.”

            • Christ is the “icon” of God. We don’t need to look to a carving, to a stone, to see God. We need to look to Christ.

              • This stone gives us a physical connection with a distant place and a distant time, an historical connection with the saints of the ancient church, but not a spiritual connection with God’s grace which is to be found in Christ alone!

            • Christ presents the fullness of God to us, because He is in fact fully God.

        2. Firstborn over all creation” - Priority over all creation 15b

          • Because Christ is fully God He has the right of ownership over all creation, like a firstborn son in the OT had the right to inherit his father’s wealth. And so in v. 15b Christ is called the “firstborn over all creation.” This shows that He has a divine priority over all creation. He is greater than all creation, more deserving of praise, of reverence, of worship, than all created things.

            • In fact, He owns you, and He owns me. Therefore He has a right to receive our worship. He is the “firstborn over all creation.

      3. Because He created all things 16

        1. Christ’s divinity and priority are expressed in and demonstrated by the fact that He created all things. We see this in v. 16.

          • Colossians 1:16For 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.

        2. Comprehensive Extent of Christ’s Lordship over Creation – “all things”

          • In every (metaphysical) realm - “in heaven and on earth”

          • Under every (epistemological) aspect - “visible and invisible”

          • Over every (ethical) power - “whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities”

            • Spiritual powers, highest angelic or demonic forces, greatest earthly kings or nations—all were created by Christ. “Every knee will bow, and every tongue confess, that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

            • We see then that Christ is Lord in every area of being, thought, and activity.

            • Abraham Kuyper - “There is not one square inch of God’s creation over which Jesus Christ does not declare, ‘It is mine!’”

        3. Covenantal Endpoints of Christ’s Lordship – Origin & Goal

          • By Him”

            • All things come from Him. There is nothing you can see around you, nothing you own, which did not come from Christ its Creator.

          • For Him”

            • And so who are you not to use these things for Him, in service to Him?! Who are you to claim that your property is completely for you to do with as you please?! Who are you to claim that you are the creator, the origin and goal of the things around you?! Who are you to take such a high view of money, to put your trust in the worldly knowledge you have amassed, to claim you grasp the basic principles of the world?! Who are you to claim you are Lord of your life?!

            • I have news for you. I tell you the truth, you are not your own, but Jesus Christ is Lord. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.

    2. Conclusion: Jesus is Lord of Creation, and Lord of Salvation 17-18a

      1. This is the conclusion Paul is driving us to in this whole passage. Jesus Christ is Lord. He is the Master, the Owner, the Ruler, of all things. He is the Lord of the universe, and Lord of the church.

      2. Paul summarizes this conclusion in the central two verses of this passage, which both begin with the words “and He is.

      3. Lord of Creation 17

        1. Transcendent eternal preexistence - “before all things” 17a

          • Christ is “before all things.” This means He has a transcendent, eternal preexistence.

          • Arius misunderstood this verse when he argued that “there once was a time when [Christ] was not.” Arius took passages like the above, “he is the firstborn over all creation,” and Prov. 8:22 - “God created me at the beginning of His work,4 to teach that Christ was the first creature, and did not exist eternally before creation.

          • Hilary of Poitiers in his book titled On the Trinity, or De Trinitate,5 demonstrated that Scripture does teach Christ’s eternal preexistence and divine nature.

          • I AM. This is what Christ told the Jews when He claimed the divine name YHWH, which means “I AM,” and which we translate “Lord,” in John 8:58 - before Abraham was, I AM.

          • Christ is in fact the true, eternal, supremely exalted God of the OT and the New, even from all eternity past.

        2. Immanent sustaining providence - “in Him all things hold together” 17b

          • In [Christ] all things hold together.” This means there is nothing that is not held together in its existence by the immanent sustaining providence of Christ. He holds all things in His hand.

      4. Lord of Salvation 18a

        1. Because of Christ’s preeminence over all creation, as its Creator and Sustainer, He alone can have the position of complete preeminence in our salvation. No one else can save us as He can. Only God, only the Creator, only the Sustainer, can save His fallen creation. So just as Christ is Lord of Creation, so He is Lord of Salvation. He is Lord of the first creation, and of the new creation. Lord of Heaven and Earth, and Lord of the Church.

        2. Paul summarizes this point in v. 18a, “He is the head of the body, the church.” He elaborates it in what follows. Vv. 18b-20 are the second main section of this passage, which is evident in the Greek because 18b begins with the same phrase with which 15 began: “He is.”

    3. Lord of Salvation 18b-20

      1. Production of Reconciliation 18b

        1. Foundation/Fountainhead – Beginning

          • In v. 18b, we see that Christ is Lord of the production of our salvation, from its beginning to its end.

          • He is its beginning. In His Person, His divine and human natures, He is the source, the foundation, the fountainhead of our salvation.

        2. Firstborn – End

          • He is the end of the production of our salvation. His resurrection fully accomplished His victory over our sin and its consequence of death. He is already completely victorious; there is no more battle yet for Him to win in regard to producing our salvation, because He has risen from the dead. This is what it means that Christ is the “firstborn from the dead.” We in our old hearts were dead in our sins, and our bodies will die. But because He has risen, He is fully able to raise our hearts to new life, and we await the certain hope of Him raising our bodies from the dead when He comes at the end of the age.

          • So Christ tells us in Revelation 1:17-18Fear not, I am the first and the last, 18 and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.

      2. Product of Reconciliation 19-20

        1. Fullness – Beginning

          • In vv. 19-20, we see that Christ is Lord over the product of our salvation, also from its beginning to its end.

          • The product of our salvation begins in Christ in Himself, who is all the fullness of God. All the incommunicable attributes of God—His eternality, omniscience, omnipotence—are what we need to sustain us in our salvation, and all of His communicable attributes—His knowledge, righteousness, and holiness—are the core of the benefits we receive from Him in salvation. John tells us that “from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.” (John 1:16)

          • And so also Paul tells us in Colossians 2:9-10,9 For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, 10 and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority.

        2. Reconciliation – End

          • The product of our salvation ends through the finished work of Christ’s reconciliation—it is through Him that God is reconciling all things to Himself, by making peace through the blood of His cross, whether those things are in heaven or on earth.

          • You see, God is in heaven, and you are on earth. You have sinned against God, and deserve His wrath, deserve the pains of Hell forever. You have no means of reconciling yourself to God, because apart from what He did in Christ you are guilty, period. But in Christ is all you need to be reconciled to God—He died to take the punishment for your sins, and God promises to cover your guilty record with Christ’s righteous record, if you believe on Christ as the Lord of your salvation.

  2. Conclusion

    1. And so I must ask you today, do you recognize that Christ is Lord of all creation? He is. Do you recognize that He alone is Lord of salvation as well? I tell you that “there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12)

    2. My friend who drives the tow truck believes he can save himself by making sure his adult children are financially set for life, and then by taking his own life when he determines it is the time for him to die. He trusts in his wealth, and in himself as lord.

    3. Jesus Christ, Lord of heaven and earth, and the Lord of salvation, has an answer for any who trust in their own wealth to save their soul:

      1. You fool! You don’t know whether this very night your life will be demanded of you.

      2. What does it profit a man to gain the world, and lose his soul?

    4. Don’t be fooled by the philosophy and empty deception of this world, but look to Christ. Exalt Him in your hearts above all else, for He is Lord of all creation, and Lord of our salvation.

    5. Let us exalt Him, and give Him the praise that is due His name, for “God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:9-11)

1The church’s columns are still there, and a marketplace connected to the church remains visible.

2The iconoclasm controversy went from 726-843 AD.

3The Seventh Ecumenical Council, held in Nicea, 787, proclaimed: “We define that the holy icons, whether in color, mosaic, or some other material, should be exhibited in the holy churches of God, on the sacred vessels and liturgical vestments, on the walls, furnishings, and in houses and along the roads, namely the icons of our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ, that of our Lady the Theotokos, those of the venerable angels and those of all saintly people. Whenever these representations are contemplated, they will cause those who look at them to commemorate and love their prototype. We define also that they should be kissed and that they are an object of veneration and honor (timitiki proskynisis), but not of real worship (latreia), which is reserved for Him Who is the subject of our faith and is proper, for the divine nature, rendered tyµpis icon, is in effect transmitted to the prototype; he who venerates the icon, venerated in it the reality for which it stands.”

4LXX: e;ktise,n (ektisen) “created me” (as the first creature); MT: ynIn"q' (qanani) “possessed me” (as an instrument by which to create all creatures.) Arius & Hilary regrettably both worked off the LXX, not the MT.

5Or perhaps more true to Hilary’s intent, De Fide or On the Faith.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 05 June 2007 18:50