Summary: Sermon 1 in a study in Colossians
“Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, to the saints and faithful brethren in Christ who are at Colossae: Grace to you and peace from God our Father.”
In our study in Philippians I briefly brought to your attention, the frequency with which Paul enjoyed mentioning Christ, either by name or by designation.
I do so again here because when we focus on these things the heart of the true believer is infused with the same joy in the Spirit that most certainly was the experience of the Apostle as he wrote.
Paul manages to mention the name of Christ 5 times in the first seven verses of his letter, although he did not include verse designations. Since verses 3 through 7 are composed of one long sentence we can say that he mentioned Christ by name 5 times in the first two sentences of his epistle.
Then if you look down quickly from verse 13 through 22 of this chapter, which we will be going over at a much slower pace in weeks to come, you will see that Paul lays out for his readers a virtual tapestry defining Christ’s deity, His accomplishments for us and our certain hope in Him.
Verse 14 “In whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins”
Verse 15 “He is the image of the invisible God”
Verse 16 “By Him all things were created…by Him and for Him”
Verse 17 “He is before all things and in Him all things hold together”
Verse 18 “He is …head of the body, the church…firstborn from the dead”
Verse 19 “all the fullness…dwells in Him”
Verse 20 “Having made peace through the blood of His cross”
Verse 22 “He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body…to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach”
Paul loved to talk about Jesus, and the more we understand all these things said of Him here, the deeper our understanding of who He is and what He has accomplished for us; the efficacy of His cross and the uniqueness of His power to save and to preserve us for Heaven, the more we will love to talk about Him as well.
APOSTLE OF JESUS
Here is the fundamental truth that should be brought to mind in the reading of these opening words, ‘apostle of Jesus Christ’.
Jesus is alive.
The scriptures are silent concerning Saul of Tarsus until Luke first writes of him in Acts 7:58 when the men who stoned Stephen laid their cloaks at the feet of ‘a young man named Saul’.
We don’t know if Saul ever saw Jesus in the flesh before His crucifixion. I suppose we could assume that at some point he must have, since he was a devoted Pharisee living in Jerusalem and this stoning of Stephen took place within the first couple of years after the birth of the church.
But then we can’t really assume that, can we? I mean, if the scriptures are silent on any issue it is a dangerous thing to assume or to insert in our pretension what is not there. That is as bad as ignoring what is there because we don’t want it to be; because it makes us uncomfortable or we just frankly do not understand what we are reading so we skip over it.
So the first thing we read of Saul of Tarsus is that he is a young man watching over the cloaks of those who are pounding Stephen to pieces and he’s utterly enjoying the bloody mess, and as far as we’re concerned he has just begun to exist because we are told absolutely nothing about him prior to this, so we must not make it up. Of course, we know that Paul gives us some information about himself in his writings about his life before knowing Christ, but he doesn’t say anything about seeing Jesus before the Damascus road incident so my point is we cannot speculate on that.
Therefore, we follow the steps that are recorded for us of this young, zealous ravager of the church Acts 8:3 and we next find him on the road outside of Damascus, which is so far to the North that it is actually in Syria and farther than Christ even traveled during His earthly ministry – that is how determined he is to route these heretics from their nests and extinguish them – and he is showing no signs of changing his mind or ceasing his murderous rampage, and he has an experience that is so sudden and so astounding and so miraculous and so wonderful that in an instant this well-educated student of Gamaliel is radically changed forever.
His theology is changed, his heart is changed, his mind is changed and from the moment he stands up from the ground and for the rest of his earthly life his claim is that he was ordained and commissioned by Jesus of Nazareth, risen from the dead and the God and Lord of all, to preach the good news.