by Jeff Heslop
– Have you ever thought about how important it is to have confidence in people or things you depend on? For example, we often depend on a good friend for help in times of need, for good counsel, and for companionship. But what if we discover that our friend is no longer trustworthy? The damage to our confidence in him or her affects our sense of well being.
What about the confidence we place in institutions? We want to place confidence in our schools, government, banks, churches, marriage, and family. When our confidence in these things is damaged, we may become more insecure, fearful, and stressful.
Of course for the Christian, our greatest confidence must be in God and His promises, more specifically in the person of Jesus Christ our Savior. The examples above are all earthly yet the loss of confidence in these things is very harmful. But if we lose any of our confidence in Christ whom we have trusted for eternal life, the harm is far greater.
The apostle Paul, in his epistle to the Colossians, was addressing false teaching concerning Christ that he knew would harm their confidence in Christ and damage their faith. These false teachers were wrong on a number of points concerning the person of Christ. Here are a few of their errors:
1. Spiritual knowledge was available only to a few who were “enlightened.”
2. All matter was evil but the soul was good. This led to the teaching that God did not create the material universe.
3. God was not active in the material world. Angels controlled the operations of the universe.
4. Jesus was the highest being God created.
5. Since all matter was evil, Jesus did not have a material body. This led to the denial of Jesus’ bodily resurrection.
In response to this false teaching Paul wrote, “See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ.” Col 2:8.
Philosophy and empty deception according to the tradition of men have always plagued the church and continue with us today even from teachers within the church. But more on this later.
Paul began his epistle to the Colossians by thanking God for their faith in Jesus Christ and their love for one another (Col 1:3-8). He then tells them of his continual prayer for them that they might be filled with the knowledge of God’s will in order that they might in turn walk in a manner worthy of the Lord (Col 9-12).
Then Paul begins to address the false teaching regarding Christ. He does this by reminding them of what Christ has accomplished in verses 13-14, then by who Christ is in verses 15-20. He knows the Colossians’ full confidence in the person of Christ is critical to their spiritual health. By the way, it is critical to our spiritual health as well.
What Christ has done for us (Col 1:13-14)
Paul wrote that the Father has rescued us from the domain of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of His beloved Son. It is in Christ that we have redemption. The Greek text reads “the redemption”, ten apolutrosin, not just a redemption. The idea of the redemption is release based on a paid ransom, or freedom based on the payment of a price. The Bible sees sinners as slaves in the marketplace of sin. Christ paid the ransom through His own blood shed on His own cross. Christ bought us, agorazo, out of slavery from the marketplace of sin and God transferred us into Christ’s kingdom.
Having been redeemed we have forgiveness of sins. Forgiveness comes from the Greek word aphesis which means to send away. Psa 103:12 describes this meaning well, “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.” Through the death of Christ, conditioned on our faith in Him, our sins have been sent away as far as the east is from the west. Now that’s is a long ways away and that is just what we need! And we are no longer slaves for sale in the market place. Christ has purchased our freedom by His own blood. Marvelous, wonderful!
Who Christ is (Col 1:15-20)
We have just seen the great things God has done though Christ regarding our salvation, but who is this Christ? What authority does He have to bring about this great salvation? Can we be confident in Him?
Paul now begins his answers. In verse 15, Christ in the very image, eikon, of God the Father. Jesus is the visual image of the invisible God. The author of Hebrews wrote, “And He [Jesus] is the radiance of His [the Father’s] glory and the exact representation of His nature….” Jesus Christ was not created, as the false teachers taught, but is equal to God the Father. Jesus is the first born of all creation. The Greek word, prototokos, means first born, existing before, superior. Jesus was before creation and is superior over creation. Jesus is not part of creation but stands outside of it, above it. He transcends creation. And He is superior over it.
We may then place our confidence in Him as Savior because He is equal to God the Father. Yet He was appointed by the Father to pay the ransom for our bondage to sin. He is not just another created being. A created being can fail us.
In verse 16 Paul teaches that Jesus is supreme over creation because God created all things instrumentally by Him. So Jesus is also creator of all things. By all things Paul means all things in the heavens and on earth, material, immaterial, rulers, authorities, and their ranks. This includes the angelic realm. So why would the Colossians want to worship angels or assign to them the operations of creation? Jesus is the creator of both the angels and the universe. The Colossians should worship Jesus just as they worship God the Father. If Jesus, as God, created all things, and God is good, then matter can’t be evil. So there is no reason for anyone to deny that Jesus has a material body. Jesus then did rise from the grave in a material body.
Paul writes in verse 17 that Jesus is before all things, pro paton. The Greek here is emphatic, autos estin. Jesus and Jesus alone or Jesus and no other is before all things. No angel is before all things. Creation is not before all things.
Do angels control the operations of the universe? No, Paul says, because Jesus holds all things together. The Greek word is sunistemi. It is in the perfect tense here. The idea is that Jesus created all things in the past and now holds them together and will continue to hold all things together. Angels can’t do this.
So Jesus is equal to God the Father. He is to be worshiped, not angels. He is superior to the creation, not part of creation. Matter is not evil because God created it. Jesus did indeed possess a material or physical body. He did rise from the grave with a glorified physical body. Referring to Ps 40:6, the author of Hebrews wrote, “Sacrifice and offering you have not desired, but a body you have prepared for me” (Heb 10:5). God created a physical body for Jesus. The sacrifices and offerings under the Law were not able to take away sins finally. But the physical body of Jesus as a sacrifice could and did. What a confidence destroying teaching it is that Jesus had no physical body.
Jesus is active in His creation, holding all things together. While He stands above creation and superior to it, He is not indifferent to it, but active within it. In other words He cares for creation. And that means He cares for you and me. That means miracles and the supernatural as taught in the Bible are believable. You and I as well as the universe are not some wrist watch, wound up, and then left on our own to keep on ticking. No, Jesus holds us together every minute of every day. We can place our confidence in Jesus.