Colossians 1:15-29

Believers in Relation to Christ

“He is the image of the invisible God,
the firstborn of all creation,
for in him all things were created in the heavens and on the earth,
both what is seen and what is unseen,
whether thrones or lords, or rules, or powers;
all things have been created by him and for him;
and he is before all things and all things have held together in him,
and he is the head of the body of the church;
he is the beginning,
he is the firstborn from among the dead,
in order that he might come to have first place in everything,
for in him all the fullness was pleased to dwell
and through him all things to reconcile to him,
making peace through the blood of his cross,
through him whether all things on the earth or all things in the heavens.

“And you who were formerly alienated and enemies in the mind with evil deeds, but now have been reconciled in the body of his flesh by the death for you to stand holy and blameless and irreproachable before him, if indeed you remain established and steadfast in the faith and do not shift away from the hope of the gospel which you heard, which was proclaimed to every creature under heaven, of which I, Paul, became a servant.

“Now I rejoice in suffering on your behalf and I fill up that which is lacking of the tribulations of Christ in my flesh on behalf of his body, which is the church, of which I became a servant according to the household of God which was given to me for you to fulfill the word of God, the mystery that was hidden from the ages and from the generations–but now it has been revealed to his saints, to those whom God desired to make known what is the richness of the glory of this mystery in the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory; whom we proclaim by warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, in order that we might present every man complete in Christ; for which also I toil while striving according to his working which is working in me in power.” (my translation)

At the start, the letter breaks out in song (or a hymn) and speaks about Christ, especially as he relates to the world and the church. Christ is the icon, the image of the invisible God. He is the firstborn of all of creation, meaning that he has preeminence over all creation and is not indicating that he is the first creation God made. Rather, Christ was part of the creation process for everything in heaven and on earth, whether seen or unseen. All thrones, rulers, powers, and authorities were created through Christ. Christ is first and foremost before all things. He takes precedence. But this precedence is to the world, not just the church. However, he is indeed the head of the church, which is his body. Christ is the beginning. He is the the preeminent of the dead as well, taking the position of first place. The fullness of God dwells in him. In other words, he is fully God. It is through him that all things are reconciled or brought together. It is through him that peace is made, and this by his blood shed on the cross. And this reconciliation and peace is not for the church only, but for all things in heaven and on earth.

Christ’s lordship extends to the whole world. However, it is the church that is depicted as his body. Those in the church were formerly alienated with God and were enemies in thought with evil deeds. But now there is a stark contrast, for they have been reconciled in the flesh of Christ’s body through death to be able to stand holy, blameless, and irreproachable before him. This stance is for those who remain grounded and steadfast in faith, and it is not for those who shift away from the hope of the gospel. This hope has been preached to every creature under heaven, and it is of this hope that Paul declares he has been made a servant

Paul the servant rejoice in suffering on their behalf in addition to Christ’s suffering for them. He says that the believers are his body, the church, and Paul serves the church as administrated by God. Paul’s mission was to fulfill the word of God. The word of God is the mystery that was hidden from the ages and generations, but it has now been revealed to the saints. God revealed the glory of this mystery in the Gentiles. What is the mystery in the Gentiles? It is Christ is them. And Christ is their hope. Paul says that he and Timothy preach by warning and teaching every man in all wisdom, in order that they might present every man to be complete in Christ. It is for this preaching that Paul says he toils by striving according to his working which is working in him in power.

Much has been said, but what does it mean?

Christ is the image of God. He is not a fake; he is the real deal, being fully God, but he is visible rather than invisible.

Christ is first before all creation. He is supreme. He is preeminent. In fact, it is through Christ that all things exist. Additionally, all things have been reconciled in him and peace comes through him alone.

Christ is the head of the church. The church is his body. Those in the church were once alien, separated, enemies in thought by their evil deeds, but now, in Christ, they have been reconciled. Those in the church have been caused to stand holy.

To be in the church, you must remain in the church. You must have an enduring faith. And it is not enough simply to hear it; you must abide in it.

The mystery of the relationship between Christ and the Gentiles has been revealed to the saints, to those whom God desired to make it known. This mystery is to make every person mature in Christ.

Paul was made a servant of the church. He was called to suffer for them as Christ suffered for them. He was called also to preach, admonish, teach, and toil for them. But his toiling was not by his own power. The power of God was working in and through Paul.

How can we put all of this together?

Everyone is related to Christ in one of two ways. Either Christ is simply that person’s creator, or Christ is that person’s Savior. Which one is Christ for you?

Everyone is under Christ’s authority. He is supreme. He is first. Everyone else is second. Given his supreme status, it is in him that anything can be and has been done to reconcile all things and to bring peace. But if you are estranged from him, alienated, at war as an enemy with him, you are missing out on the hope that he offers his body. He will cause you to stand holy, blameless, and irreproachable before him if you remain grounded and steadfast in faith. Through God’s powerful work that is at work in his servants and in us, we can be presented as mature in Christ. His blood, which was shed on the cross, was the ransom paid to free us from our sins. Since the shackles of sin have been broken, we can, through God’s power, live a life worthy of the Lord, a life that is holy and blameless.

How then shall we live? Are we striving towards maturity? Are we living as though we are enemies with God? Are we alienated from God? Are we remaining in faith or have we wavered from it?  Are we taking hope in the work of God through Christ, which is a mystery? Is God’s work actually at work in us? The Christian life is not about living for one’s self or by one’s self. The Christian life is all about living with respect to the supremacy of Christ, by allowing God to work in the person to bring about sanctification. We do not make ourselves holy. Christ does that work. Christ the creator is also at work to create us as a righteous entity. We are his church. Therefore, we ought to live like it. There is no such thing as a stagnant Christian. Our lives should demonstrate that Christ is at work in our lives. We should be growing and maturing in relation to Christ. Are you?

Colossians 1:1-14

Faith, Hope, Love, and Deed: Characterizing the Life of a Believer

“Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy, the brother, to the saints in Colosse and to the faithful brothers in Christ, grace and peace to you from God our Father.

“While praying for you, we always give thanks to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, after having heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and the love which you have for all the saints because of the hope that is reserved for you in heaven, which you heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel that has come to you, just as it also is bearing fruit and growing in all things in the world just as it also is in you, from that day you heard it and knew the grace of God in truth; just as you learned from Epaphras, our beloved fellow slave, who is a faithful servant of Christ on your behalf, who also declares to us your love in the Spirit.

“For this reason we also, from that day we heard it, we do not cease praying and asking on your behalf, in order that you might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding, to walk worthily of the Lord in all respects, with every good work bearing fruit and growing in the knowledge of God, in every power being empowered according to the power of his glory for all endurance and patience.

“With joy giving thanks to the Father who qualifies you for the share of the inheritance of the saints in the light; who delivered us from the authority of the darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins;” (my translation)

In this introduction to Colossians, Paul and Timothy greet the Christians who are in Colosse. Paul identifies himself as an apostle of Jesus Christ, which is both a title and a function. As a title, Paul marks himself off as one of the chosen ones of Christ who have been charged with the leadership of the church. As a function, Paul identifies himself as one who has been sent out as a messenger of Christ. Timothy is simply called “the brother.” Both Paul and Timothy are writing to the saints in Colosse and the faithful brothers in Christ. Letters were often circulated, so they are not writing only to Colosse, but also to those outside of Colosse, the faithful ones in Christ, who will also hear the letter read aloud to them.

Paul and Timothy begin the body of the letter with an introduction. They give two reasons for which they give thanks to God when they pray on their behalf. They are thankful for hearing of their faith in Christ, their love for all the saints, which they have because of their hope. This hope has been bearing fruit and growing in the world and also in them. Their love was reported to Paul and Timothy by Epaphras. As a result of being reported to them, they would not cease praying for them and asking on their behalf that they would be filled with knowledge, wisdom, and understanding that comes from God. They would not cease praying that they would walk worthily of the Lord, that they would please him by bearing fruit with every good deed and by growing in the knowledge of God, by being empowered with every power according to the power of his glory towards all endurance and patience. Faith, love, and hope are a good start, and since the Christians receiving this letter were already exhibiting these things, Paul and Timothy were thankful. But the Christian life does not stop there. For the Christian, there is more to life than simply believing, loving, hoping, and knowing. Action must be taken. Christians are to do good, to bear fruit, to grow in the knowledge of God, and to walk or live in a manner that is worthy of and pleasing to God. However, such action is not by one’s own strength, but rather, it is empowered by God’s own strength. This strength enables the Christian for a long haul. The Christian life is not a sprint, it is a life long marathon, and God’s power equips the Christian to be able to endure.

Again, Paul and Timothy express thanksgiving to the Father with joy because he has qualified the Christian recipients for a share in the inheritance for the saints. They are thankful for their salvation. They have been delivered from the authority of darkness and transferred to the kingdom of the Son, which is a kingdom of light. It is in the Son that we have redemption. Redemption is a ransoming by which we are made free from captivity. This ransoming is the forgiveness of sins, the release from the captivity that sin holds. Salvation is a transaction in which God has ransomed us from the captivity of sin within the realm of darkness and has transferred us into the kingdom of the Son. For this, Paul and Timothy give thanks with glee.

And so, Col 1:1-14 start the letter by stating the good quality of having faith, hope, and love, but exhorts towards action, while at the same time defining salvation in terms of a ransoming. The idea that Paul holds faith over works does not make sense here, because he clearly holds them as important co-effects in the life of a believer. The believer not only has faith but also acts.

Even today, it is inconceivable for a Christian to believe but not act. One who has been saved, one who has received salvation, is not one who merely believes, because, by definition, such a one has been transferred into the kingdom of the Son, which is characterized by light, not darkness. Whether a new believer or a life long believer, all believers are known by their deeds. A true believer puts faith into action. Our actions must comport with our beliefs.

And what are good deeds bearing fruit? Colossians will go on to tell us, but for now, we can say that it is representing the light. Negatively, good deeds bearing fruit is not sexual impurity, impurity, lust, evil desires, and insatiable greed (Col 3:5). Nor is it anger, rage, wrath, malice, slander, or abusive language (Col 3:8). Nor is it lying (Col 3:9). Positively, it is compassion, kindness, meekness, humility, and patience (Col 3:12). It is forgiveness and temperance (Col 3:13). It is love (Col 3:14). It is peace and thankfulness (Col 3:15). It is teaching each other in wisdom, and it is singing to God (Col 3:16). In other words, positively speaking, anything that is done is to be done as though it is performed with Christ’s approval and with thanksgiving to God (Col 3:17). Colossians 4 adds more to this list of deeds bearing good fruit, but for now, we get the idea.

And what is it to grow in the knowledge of God? Colossians goes on to tell us. For now, it is right belief. It is knowledge in the mystery concerning Christ (Col 2:2). It is an acceptance of the established teaching (Col 2:7). It is not empty philosophy nor human tradition (Col 2:8). It is a knowledge of spiritual circumcision, baptism (Col 2:11-12). It is a knowledge of God’s judgment (Col 2:13-15). It is not being misled towards asceticism or traditions (Col 2:16).

We must ask ourselves, are we walking worthily of the Lord? Are we living to please God? Is the extent to which we are Christians limited to matters of faith, or are we matching deeds with what we believe? Are we placing belief in Christ or in other things like philosophy, astrology, or tradition? Are we growing in knowledge, wisdom, and understanding? Are we trying to live out our lives by our own power or by God’s? Brothers and sisters, we must endure not by our own power, but by God’s. We must believe and act, for then and only then will we be demonstrating that we belong in the kingdom of the Son, because the life of the believer is characterized by faith, hope, love, and deed.

 

Bob Kilpatrick: A friend’s blog

I had mentioned Bob Kilpatrick before in a blog post concerning prayer. His recent book, published by Zondervan, The Art of Being You, is either released or soon to be released. He has recently started a WordPress blog for himself at bobkilpatrick.wordpress.com. Bob is a friend of mine. I went to school with two of his kids, and I was in a band that had the opportunity to work under Bob’s graces as a producer. Check out his blog and you will find some excerpts from his book! Enjoy!