Thursday, January 31, 2013

Awed by Greatness

Stan ‘the Man’ Musial, one of baseball's greatest hitters and a Hall of Famer with the Cardinals for more than two decades, died Saturday, Jan. 19, 2013 at the age of 92. Many were in awe of his talents, but he was a greater encourager, whether on or off the field, with his sense of treating everyone the same that caused so many to really love him. What some did not understand is that Stan only did as our Savior would have us all to do. He imitated Christ by showing how to love one another. John 15:12 Today we begin Unit III, “Imitating Jesus”. The disciples were at awe of the greatness of Jesus Christ on many occasions. ‘But the men marvelled, saying, What manner of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him!’ Matt 8:27 Paul gives us an answer to this question in his doctrinal teaching recorded in Colossians 1:15-20 (today’s lesson text). We will review the importance of the person and work of Christ as Lord of all creation and the author of our peace with God. It is necessary to understand the doctrinal teaching of Paul to imitate Jesus Christ and discern the teaching of the various doctrines of false teachers. The devotional reading is recorded at Ephesians 1:17-23.

During the period of Paul’s writing of this Epistle there were many false teachers in Colosse who were threatening to undermine the Christian doctrine of the church. The Gnostics were the most prominent heretics in the early church. They believed that salvation was the result of what you knew, rather than the finished work of Jesus Christ at Calvary. They were considered intellectual. In today’s society we have false teachers, also. Gnosticism has reappeared in Christian Science, Mormonism, Jehovah Witnesses, etc. We must be sure the church with which we align ourselves studies and believes in the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as the Trinity. We must know that it studies and believes in the finished work of Jesus Christ at Calvary. That is Christian doctrine versus false teaching.

Paul advised the Colossians he was thankful for them and had not ceased praying for their wisdom and spiritual understanding. He gave thanks to God, the Father, as the Author of the plan of salvation for believers to have the opportunity to inherit everlasting life (the light). This was made available when His Son redeemed us with His life on the cross and we were forgiven/justified of our sins. Christ delivered us from the power(s) of darkness and God transferred us, the believers, to the kingdom of His dear Son, Jesus Christ. Col 1:12-14

‘Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature:’ Col 1:15 Paul addressed the Colossians by painting a picture of Christ in doctrine. When he described Him as an “image” it was not as if Christ looked in a mirror and saw Himself appearing as God, the Father. No! He has all the spiritual attributes of the Father. He is eternal, preexistent, omnipotent, and equal with the invisible God. He is the “image” of His Father and was the manifestation of God’s might, majesty, and glory while He walked on earth. Paul also described Christ as the “firstborn of every creature”. This is not to be understood as a physical birth or a reference to the birth of Christ in Bethlehem which are references in time. All believers are sons of God, but Jesus Christ is God’s unique Son who existed before all creation and occupies a supreme position over it. The phrase simply means that He is God’s Son by an eternal relationship. It is a title of priority of position. No man can change it.

‘For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him:’ Col 1:16 The false teachers went to great length in using verse 15 to state that Jesus was a created being. However, this verse refutes their claims strongly. We learn from Paul that not only was Jesus the Creator (by him), but all things belong to Him having been created for Him. What are all things? Paul was painting the picture that Jesus was not just a Man, but He is the Creator. Everything that existed in heaven and earth, whether visible to the human eye or not, was created by Him. As humans it is easier to understand the creation of that which is visible to us than that which is not. Paul revealed four (4) invisible created beings or worlds – thrones, dominions, principalities, or powers. It is not for us to understand; it is for us to accept that Christ is the Creator. ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.’ John 1:1-3 How can we not be in awe of His greatness?

‘And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.’ Col 1:17 Paul does NOT state that Christ was before all things. He lets everyone know of the preexistence of Christ and His eternal nature. He is timeless. He is before His creation of all things. He reigns supreme over all things. It is by Him that His creation runs within His order and plan, even though sin interrupts to attempt to cause confusion. For example, the sun comes up during the day and the moon at night. The globe is held in balance with an unseen gravitational force, rotating ceaselessly on its axis. Christ not only created all things, but everything continues to exist and be held together. Are we not in awe of His Divinity?

Paul had described Christ as Lord of creation. (15-17) He now moves to describe the work of Christ and as author of our peace with God. (18-20)

‘And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence.’ Col 1:18 Christ is the Head of the church. A church is not necessarily a physical building. However, it is a body of believers upon which Jesus stated, “Upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” Matt 16:18 Come what may, the church shall be victorious against satanic forces with Jesus at the helm. This is the work of Christ. Paul informed the Corinthians that it did not matter what part they played in the body of Christ, there must be no schisms, and they each were an important member. 1 Cor 12:14-27 The Head and brains of the church body is Jesus by virtue of His sacrifice for her sins. He uses the church body to minister to the world. As Head of the church, Christ governs, guides, controls, and directs. He teaches through love, grace, mercy, and protection. Christ is the beginning of the new spiritual life because he rose as the first-fruits. 1 Cor 15:20 He is the “firstborn from the dead” meaning He is the first to rise from the dead to die no more. All other Old Testament saints who had been blessed to rise from the dead had died later. It is the will of the Father that Christ has all power and preeminence/superiority in the heavens and earth. ‘For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son: That all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father. He that honoureth not the Son honoureth not the Father which hath sent him.

‘For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell;’ Col 1:19 The Gnostics taught that Christ was a kind of “halfway house” to God; he was not the fullness. In this verse Paul argues that all fullness of the deity of God dwells within Christ permanently. He was both God and human at the same time. Jesus was always fully clothed with all of the divine attributes of omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence. (John 1:14; 2 Cor 8:9; Heb 4:14-15) It pleased God, the Author of the plan of salvation, to have His Son given exaltation as Head of the church, in whom was given preeminence over all things in heavens and earth, and in whom dwelt all divine attributes of fullness.

‘And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven.’ Col 1:20 God’s love for us is so great that it pleased Him to reconcile man to Himself through the blood shed by His Son on the cross. Jesus prayed ‘…O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done.’ Matt 26:42b He was all powerful but obedient to His Father. The purpose for His birth in the flesh (John 1:1-4, 14) was to make peace between God and man for sin which was introduced to the world by Adam. This required an atonement or sin offering acceptable unto God. When sin entered the world, it affected all of creation. (Gen 3:17; Job 4:18; Job 25:5; Rom 8:19-22; Jude 6) Not only was man reconciled by the sacrifice of our Savior, but all things in earth and in heaven. It does not seem to include all things under the earth or infernal things. It would not make sense that satan, the fallen angels, and unbelievers would be reconciled to God. They had never reached out to Him, in faith, to accept His love, grace and mercy.

This writer’s Sunday school teacher recently told the class about her granddaughter’s prayer. “I don’t know much about you. But I’m going to copy that!” Well yes, let us all imitate Jesus our Creator, Reconciliator (Savior), and Head of our Church. Let us each be obedient and copy that!

Written by Deborah C Davis

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