The Supreme Christ

This was my bible study from a couple of weeks ago, with a bit more work done on it for preaching this Sunday.  Still needs some touching up (or a complete reworking depending on how critical you want to be) but I’ll stick it up here and see what you all say.  I warn you, it’s close to 3000 words, so you might want to clear 15 mins to read the whole thing in a one-r  (or you could quite happily read a bit at a time – each bit is only about 300 words…)  Oh, one more note, this is written to be read aloud – duh, it’s a sermon – stupid note, but I do sometimes write quite differently.

Anyway, any notes or comments or (best of all) constructive criticism would be greatly appreciated.  And, you never know, you might make it better for the next time I preach it!

“Who are you?” It’s an incredibly simple question, but not always an easy one to answer.

I’m Tim”. No, that’s your name. Who are you?

Well, I’m the preacher.” No, that’s your role today. Who are you?

I’m a student” No, that’s your current occupation. Who are you?

What is your identity?  What do you respond to it? Your name? What you do for a living? What role you have in the church? Do you try and describe yourself?

Do you see what I mean? It’s a question of identity. But our identity isn’t very important. We can quite happily live with a poorly defined identity – but what about the identity of Christ? Can we live with a poorly defined Saviour? Who is it that I have, and every Christian has, trusted to save us from pointless lives and pitiable deaths?

Paul writes to the Christians in Colossae (a small city in modern day Turkey) because some of them were being misled. They were being taught that Christ isn’t all that important. Paul wants to set the record straight and put Christ back in his rightful place at the very centre of these Christians’ lives.

Colossians 1.15-23

“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.  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.  And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.  And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent.  For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.  And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.”

You see what Paul’s doing here? He is painting the biggest sign he can find with the words “Christ is all that matters”, and that’s my only aim in this meeting – just to give you a taste of the wonder of Christ that will make you want to go and spend the rest of the day – the rest of the week! – reading more about him and coming to know him better.

First we’re going to look at who Christ is as Paul lays it out here, then we’re going to look at what Christ has done, and finally we’ll look at how we should respond.

Christ is… (15-20)

… “the Image of The Invisible God” (15)

You know the first thing that pops to mind when I hear that – Genesis!

“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” Genesis 1.27

But, there’s something special that Paul is trying to get across. He’s tying into Genesis, but he’s communicating something more. “He’s the image…” If I were to walk into someone’s house and see a nice print of the Mona Lisa on the wall, I would (not being very good with paintings and just wanting to make sure) ask “Is that the Mona Lisa?” But, if I went into the the Louvre, seeing the real deal, I would ask, “Is that the Mona Lisa?” But it’s a different question. Likewise, Genesis and Colossians are different. Christ is the image of the Invisible God.

This is then compounded by the fact that we are fallen images. We have the problem of sin, and so the painting should not be a nice print that’s well framed, but a tatty poster that has been ripped and spattered and is fit for the bin! But He, he is the image of the Invisible God. Pristine. Without blemish. Exactly as He should be.

The writer to the Hebrews puts the same concept this way:

“Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature.” (Hebrews 1.1-3)

So God, the perfect holy God, chose to clothe himself with flesh. The incarnation. But in that process he did not cease to be God, he was the exact representation of God. As it says further on in Colossians, “In him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell.” Fully God, fully human. Human as humanity is meant to be, and God as he is, in one person.

What does John 1 say? “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” and then later on “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

Okay that’s pretty amazing. Isn’t it? But Paul doesn’t finish there. If fact, he’s only getting started!!

… “The Firstborn of all creation” (15)

Now, we need to be careful with this one. Christ was never created. He is God, he is eternal. He was from before the beginning and will continue long after the end!

No, no. Paul here is not trying to say that Christ was the first thing created – in fact he says (v16) that “all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things.” So what is Paul trying to communicate?

He’s giving Christ back his position. These Christians had been taught that Christ wasn’t all that important, but Paul is attempting to fix their low view of Christ. He was giving Christ what he is due – his honour. He was the firstborn – the one who has the rights of inheritance, the one who is over all.

The Creator (16)

And if we read into verse 16 we see why. He has the right of inheritance because he made everything – and it was all made for him.

Everything. Paul underlines it – visible or invisible, all made by him. In heaven or on earth, all made by him. Everything! We have a small view of everything.

Thrones, Dominions, Rulers, Authorities. What did Jesus say before Pilate? “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above.” (John 19.11)

Christ is supreme over governments!! Christ is supreme over elections. We do not need to fret about politics or governments or laws. We are freed from the burden of all that. God is on the throne. He will have his will carried out on this earth, and all will be used in his master plan whether Christian or otherwise. Pilate, a snivelling Roman governor, was used. The treacherous Jewish authorities and their kangaroo court was used. The mocking soldiers with all their cruel techniques were used.

Do we really believe that a few mere men are going to disrupt the will of God? Do we worry over elections? Are we anxious about the laws that are being passed? Don’t be! Entrust it to God. He is on the throne! I’m not saying forget it. I’m not saying we can’t talk about it. But he IS supreme over such things and we must not forget the truth of it.

He made everything, absolutely EVERYTHING!! The kingdoms of this earth are sanctioned by him. He empires and city states are all his by rights. Christ is the king of all kings! And His divine justice will be done, if not now then on that wonderful last day! Trust in the goodness of a Saviour who is supreme!

The Sustainer (17)

And Paul still isn’t ready to finish. Not only did Christ make everything, but he sustains everything!

The atoms of your body stick together because God wills it. Gravity holds this earth together because God has ordained it. The sun continues to burn because God desires it. The whole universe continues to exist by and for His good pleasure!

I’m not saying how – that would require Physicists and Chemists and Astronomers and whoever else. I’m saying why, because God has told us why.

I love that quote that I read from Hebrews, but I cut it short. This is how it continues

“…He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power.” (Hebrews 1.3)

By the word of his power! I can barely get a glass of water by my words. But he, he is awesome! He is God. He speaks a word and it is. He does not request or suggest, his word is law and his decrees are unshakable. He is supreme!

The Head of the Church (18)

“And he is the Head of the body, the Church.” Thank God! The church is not a human organisation.

When we evangelise, we are seeking to bring people into relationship with God, not Church. When we disciple, we are trying to root Christians more deeply into Christ, not Church. When we baptise people, we baptise them in Christ, not Church. When we have communion, we are remembering Christ.

He must be the guide for our churches – not some strategy or tradition. He must be the unity of the church – not a demographic or worship-style. He must be the centre of our churches – otherwise they will accomplish nothing!

We are not Churchians, we are Christians. Do not forget it. Church cannot save us. My attendance record, my giving, my involvement, my preaching, my sincerity, my tears, my joy – none of these can save! Christ saves. Jesus wants you to trust Him! That is the Christian faith.

The Firstborn from the Dead (18)

And he is not some mere founder who has died. Christ is alive! Jesus Christ, who wandered Israel for 30-odd years about two-thousand years ago is alive. He was the first to rise from the dead never to taste death again.

Poor Lazarus had a second shot at life – but he was destined to die a second time with it Likewise with all of the other resurrections that happened in the Bible. But Christ was the first of something new. Alive to die no more. And not just taking a holiday in heaven.

Now interceding for us at the father’s right hand.  Now preparing heaven for our arrival.  Now getting ready to return in glory!

“Christ is Risen! Praise God!”, “He is Risen Indeed!”

Preeminent (18/19)

Christ is the pinnacle of everything! I love that word preeminent – it means to surpass all others To be without rival. Peerless. Supreme. What a word! Useful only for one man! The God-man Christ Jesus.

Allah, Buddha, Brahma, Mother Nature, Santa Claus, Money, Sex, Success, Possessions, Fun, Pride, Self. None of these even get close. He is Supreme. Why? “For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell”

This is it. This is the point! This is who Christ is. This is identity. He is utterly supreme. Supreme in who he is. Without peer. Without equal. Without rival.

What does YHWH say in Isaiah (42.8)? “I am the LORD; that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols.

Christ has… (20-22)

And now we move onto point two! Don’t worry though, we’re three-quarters of the way through!

Now Paul delves into what Christ has done. And he says that Christ is also Supreme in what he’s done. He’s supreme because God is pleased to fix this broken universe through his work on the cross!

The Universe was meant to be in relationship with God, but through the fall the whole earth, not just human beings, have been put out of sorts with God and everything else.

So we have the cross. God’s rescue plan for the universe. A Human, the only human unstained by sin, dying to buy back men from their slavery to sin. And the final result will be peace.

Peace is a weak word in English. It’s a lack of war and friction, rather than a fullness of peacefulness. It’s a compromising word. A word used to justify so much that is not right. But that’s not the peace that God promises. This is an ironclad peace. A glorious, unbroken, unbreakable peace. It is no compromise to some middle way. This is no ceasefire. This is God’s way. This is powerful peace. This is the promise of a remade heaven and earth. This is a theocracy, a God-ruled kingdom, where God will dwell with man, and where everything will be perfect. Even us – even me!!

Have a look at verses 21 and 22. This peace is not a plain-straight obliteration of the enemy. If that were the case, we’d be doomed – for we were the enemy. Before salvation you were an enemy of God – and if you still don’t trust Jesus as your Saviour then you are still living as an enemy of God. But thank God that he, in his wisdom and grace, chose to provide a way of reconciliation to us through Christ!

And it wasn’t just a wishy-washy reconciliation, because it wouldn’t work. He didn’t throw a big rug over us and hope that he could turn a blind eye just long enough to get into heaven. No, no. He will present us holy and blameless and above reproach. Without blemish or fault. Perfect.

Brothers, sisters. He will complete the work that he started in us! Whether you’ve been a Christian for one day or 80 years, he hasn’t finished with you yet. Not until the glory!

Isn’t that such a comfort?

We Should… (23)

But there’s this slightly unsettling clause in verse 23.

“If indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard”

In the light of all the Christ is and what Christ has done, we must now respond.

You see, just as you cannot gaze upon the beauty of your bride and wonder at the grace of her character, and then go off with another – we cannot look upon the splendour of Christ and affirm the wonder of our salvation and then remain half-hearted about it.

We simply cannot be apathetic about Christ. If we are going to suffer for our faith, we need to be sure of it. We need to know the truth of it, and be willing to continue in it.

The word ‘continue’ doesn’t do it justice – we need to persevere, we need to strive. If we are under the impression that the Christian life is comfortable then we’re going to be sorely disappointed. If you were promised ease and comfort, then I’m afraid you have been sorely misled. Paul talks about a war for which we will need armour. Jesus talks of a harvest with few labourers. The Beatitudes are full of poverty, mourning, hunger, thirst and persecution!

But the joy is joy inexpressible! Just as the work is hard and dangerous, so the joy is deep and unshakable. The Beatitudes are fuller still of the Kingdom of Heaven, comfort, satisfaction, joy and a vision of God.

So my only encouragement to you is to stand firm! Know that Christ is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, who reigns supreme over the universe, who created it and sustains it. Who is the head of the church, the firstborn from the dead who redeemed you and who is sanctifying you and who will one day glorify you! Isn’t that a joy worth striving for?

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2 Comments

  1. Amen brother!!!

    Reply
  2. I’m glad that’s your response! It means I achieved my goal! Thanks for the encouragement!

    Reply

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