Colossians (20 Dec 2022)

One of the wonderful experiences God gave us was an opportunity for teacher exchange.  I exchanged jobs, houses and cars with an English school teacher for a year.

Jim and Ann Salisbury and their children lived in our house, drove around in our car and he taught at my school.

In the meantime, Elizabeth and I with our children lived in their house in Liskeard in Cornwall, drove around in their car and I taught at Liskeard Comprehensive School for a whole year.

It was a wonderful year.  We saw so many places and things and all sorts of experiences which were a real blessing to our whole family.

We got to know some precious people including a special group that met for prayer, praise and sharing on Wednesday evenings, called Living Waters.  If we were in town on Sunday we went with them to the 500 year-old St Martin’s Church.

Now because we actually have some saints Martin with us - saint Darrel and saint Nancy Martin, I want to show you a few photos of St Martin’s Church in Liskeard.  The singers are a Cornish Male Voice Choir.

Then the pictures move into the bell tower where I asked Nigel to read the words on a plaque on the wall especially so I had a recording of a genuine Cornish lad with a genuine Cornish accent.

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Now Nigel and Denise were members of the church and had recently been approached by some Jehovah Witnesses to have Bible Studies with them and they had become quite keen on the things they were learning.

Another neighbour and friend, Peter, suggested to them that if they were enjoying Bible Studies with the Jehovah Witnesses that they might like to have a Bible Study with us.  They thought this was fair enough and agreed to meet up one evening. So Peter and I went to their home and we started looking at the discoveries they had made.

The JW’s had convinced them that God - no, call him Jehovah - had created everything and then created Jesus, meaning that Jesus is not God but just another created human being, albeit a somewhat special one.  They also think of the Holy Spirit as a kind of force that God exerts when he wants to. Regard the Holy Spirit as a thing, not a person, rather like, “the force be with you.”

In other words, they believe that Jehovah the creator, Jesus the Son and the Holy Spirit are separate things, not one God.  They do not accept the idea that God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit are aspects of the one and only God. They are very much against the idea we have of the trinitarian God, God who is three in one.

So we asked them how they arrived at this conclusion and looked at some of their arguments and then we came to the passage which is in today’s reading: we read Colossians 1:15-20 as it is in the Jehovah Witness version of the Bible

The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all other things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all other things have been created through him and for him. He is before all other things, and in him all other things hold together. 

I asked them why some of the words were in italics and they had to look to the front of their book for an explanation.  There we were told that some words not in the original were inserted into the text in italics and they are there to clarify the meaning of the passage.

I asked him to read the passage, emphasising the words in Italics:

The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all other things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all other things have been created through him and for him. He is before all other things, and in him all other things hold together.

Then I asked him to read the passage but without the words in italics.

The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

Then I asked them how do the words in italics clarify the meaning of the passage?

There were a few moments of silence while they looked it over again and thought about it then, almost in unison they suddenly said, “it doesn’t clarify the meaning - it changes it!”

Quite clearly the passage says Jesus was NOT one of the other things.  In Jesus God took on human form.  Jesus is God in a human body.  Jesus is God incarnate, in the flesh.  Jesus is Immanuel, God with us.

This passage plainly tells us that Jesus created all things.  He was the creator who created all things. He was not simply another thing.

Being the creator God, Jesus created everything in heaven and on earth, visible things and invisible things, including thrones and powers and rulers and authorities. 

All things were created THROUGH Jesus, BY Jesus.

Not only were all things created THROUGH Jesus and BY Jesus but they were also created FOR Jesus.

He is more important than anyone or anything.  He was there with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit when “the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters” and we read “Then God said, ‘Let us make mankind in our image…” and so on. 

He was there before everything because he is the creator of everything.

Not only that but he holds everything together.  We are in the palm of his hands. If Jesus decided he has had enough of this creation he has made he could just as easily drop it all and let it fall apart. We are in his hands and very literally at his mercy.

We tend to think of Jesus the teacher, meek and mild, but we don’t often think of him as the creator. That is, Jesus is God.  The idea of God in human form was something only God himself could think of - it’s hard for us humans to wrap our mind around it.  But we shouldn’t be surprised that God had this in mind all along and let us know that this was the way it would be.

As long ago as the prophet Isaiah the announcement was made: 

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6)

It’s so easy to celebrate those words each Christmas but each time we do we need to see the impact of them. They predicted the birth of Jesus who is the Wonderful Counsellor, Jesus the Mighty God, Jesus the Everlasting Father, Jesus the Prince of Peace.

In the passage in Colossians it says Jesus is the image of the invisible God because in fact he is God. As the creator, God is greater than the creation and consequently beyond our vision.  He is the invisible God but if you want to know what God is like you can’t get a better image, picture or likeness of God than you get in Jesus.

If you want to get to know God, get to know Jesus - and the best way to do that is to read about him in the Bible and talk to him! As Jesus told his disciples, “If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.” (John 14:7)

No wonder he could say, “I am the way, the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)

When Pilate had Jesus crucified he annoyed the Jews by having a sign on the cross, “King of the Jews”. And during his trial Pilate had asked Jesus if he was the king of the jews to which he answered, “my kingdom is not of this world”. He’s not a king like King Charles III. Jesus is king over Charles.  Whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him, including King Charles, President Biden, Prime Minister Albonese and Vladimir Putin.

Having been raised from the dead he is now “seated at the right hand of God the Father in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named”

One day, according to the Father’s plan, Jesus will return. “Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:4-11)

Sadly, even then people will fight against him, even make war against him but Jesus will conquer them. (Revelation 17:14) 

It will be plain and unavoidable that the Lord, Jesus Christ is King of Kings and Lord of Lords! (Revelation 19:13,16)

Do people underestimate Jesus? Do we? Do you underestimate Jesus?

What’s the outcome for people who rebel against powerful rulers?  In Iran, for example, if you don’t like the oppression of the Ayatollahs? Or in Russia if you don’t want to be conscripted into the army? Or in North Korea if you want to speak against the Supreme Leader? We know what happens to rebels in earthly kingdoms - we can see it happening!

So why do people think Jesus doesn’t  care if they ignore him or, worse, rebel against him or speak against him? Why do they think there are no consequences for such offensive behaviour when you consider who he really is and what his power is.

To be fair, even we Christians don’t often think of Jesus in these terms, do we?  We think of him as a teacher, a man who was the son of a woman, a man who walked, lived, taught, even performed miracles but that was a couple of thousand years ago. 

Until we are pulled up by a passage like this in Colossians we don’t think of him as God, let alone as the creator but that’s just how he is described here.  Just to make it more emphatic Paul goes on to say of Jesus that 

He is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

In the whole of creation Jesus’ whole destiny was to have the supremacy, to be more important than anyone else and it only makes sense.

Jesus was God himself coming into human history and coming with a purpose. None of us have responded to God, to Jesus, with the submission and commitment that is due to him - All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23) so God himself did something about it.  

For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, Jesus, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

So when Jesus died on the cross he was God himself paying the penalty for those who have offended him. That is a magnificent combination of love, justice, mercy and grace.

He has made the way of reconciliation between us and himself, Jesus has made peace with us and God and he did it through his blood shed on the cross.  Jesus was God incarnate who took on human life in order to allow it to be taken for your benefit and for mine.

People make all sorts of excuses when they deny these realities, when they don’t allow Jesus to be their Lord, their King, the one who has the supremacy.  But you and I have no such excuses and no need to make them because we acknowledge Jesus’ supremacy and rejoice that we are reconciled with God because of him.

And we look forward to eternity because not only did Jesus die for our sake but then he rose from the dead never to die again, setting a pattern that we can confidently expect to follow. He is the first to rise from the dead. He has shown his complete supremacy, his total godliness by rising from the dead.

In the meantime, whose church do you go to? There really is only one church and Jesus is the head of the body, the church. When we get together as the body of Christ our purposes include trying to find out what Jesus, the head, wants us, his body, to do.  That’s why we read the Bible and have sermons.  Knowing who he is we acknowledge him, praise him, worship him and seek to serve him.

Think about that word in italics which was added to this passage. Think how significant it was that adding that word completely changed a stunningly important passage, stealing the truth from readers.  We should learn the lesson from this: don’t edit the Bible to suit your ideas, preconceptions and preferences. There is a warning about this in Revelation 22:18-19

I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this scroll: if anyone adds anything to them, God will add to that person the plagues described in this scroll. And if anyone takes words away from this scroll of prophecy, God will take away from that person any share in the tree of life and in the Holy City, which are described in this scroll.

I have known people who are Jehovah Witnesses followers and they are sincere, well-meaning people who are lovely people and good neighbours. When they call treat them as a Christian should! I tell them that I have accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as my God and saviour, that I have received God the Holy Spirit in my life and have assurance that Jesus has prepared a place for me in heaven and that one day I will join him and other Christians to worship him and God the Father around his throne.

But I am concerned for the eternal future of the founders of Jehovah Witnesses because they can expect the fate Jesus himself warned about in Matthew 18:6

If anyone causes one of these little ones – those who believe in me – to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung round their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.

Naturally Paul was concerned for Timothy and the people to whom he ministered which is why he prayed for them as he did with a prayer in Colossians 1:9-14, just before the passage we have been looking at.  If at any time you have run out of ideas for prayer then follow Paul’s example in this prayer, praying it for others but also for yourself.

Since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.


1426 Modified: 22-01-2023
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