Summary: In Colossians chapter one, Paul declares the preeminence ("first-ness") of Christ in five areas: the gospel message; the cross; the creation; the church, Paul’s ministry. Who do you think Jesus is?
Putting First Things First
Series: Jesus, Post-Resurrection, part 2
Wildwind Community Church
April 29, 2006
2705 A Part Of Main Structure
Rev. W. Kingstone Greenland visited a vacant house with a friend who desired to purchase it. The friend was particularly struck by the beauty of one of the rooms which he wished to turn into his study; but he objected to a cupboard in the corner.
“I will have to remove it”, he said to the architect. “No, you won’t,” was the reply. “But I can do what I like if I buy the house,” said the man. “You cannot do what you like with that cupboard,” answered the architect. “Why not?” he asked, “Is it protected by a clause in the deed?” “No,” said the architect, “it is not on the deed: it is on the plan. You cannot take away the cupboard without taking down the house; it is part of the main structure.”
So if we take away the Deity of Christ, we destroy the whole structure of Christianity. That doctrine is built in. It is central. It is a part of the structure.
In Colossians 1, the Apostle Paul sets out to declare the deity of Christ – to show his preeminence over all things. Remember now that preeminence really just means superiority – that Jesus is superior to all human beings, all the created gods men and women have worshipped, all religious and philosophical systems, and all powers in the universe. He is absolutely without parallel. If we remove him, we have removed the main part of the structure, and the structure cannot stand. Without the divinity – the preeminence – of Christ, there simply is no Christianity. Many branches of theology exist today that attempt to take the supernatural out of Christianity, including all miracles and the resurrection. Many deny that Jesus was the Son of God, though he may have been a great teacher. Most claim to want to help us gain a better understanding of Jesus so that we can honor him properly. None come right out and say they intend to destroy Christianity, but Paul knew the truth. Separate Jesus from his divinity and Christianity collapses.
Now you have to understand the boldness of this claim, and that Paul is not saying something about Jesus that Jesus never said about himself. On the issue of the boldness of the claim, Buddha never claimed to be god. Mohammed was the founder of Islam and he never claimed to be anything more than a prophet. Joseph Smith, the founder of the Mormon religion, claimed to be only a man who had received a revelation from God. Moses and Abraham, the two principle patriarchs of Judaism, never claimed to be anything more than human beings. So this claim to preeminence on the part of Jesus is very bold – unlike any claim made by any other teacher or religious leader. Here’s what Jesus had to say about himself:
John 14:9-10 (NIV)
9 Jesus answered: "Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ’Show us the Father’?
10 Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work.
If you still doubt, I would just encourage you to read Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John (preferably all of them!) and take note of what Jesus said about himself. He believed he was God, and he frequently equated himself with God. Paul isn’t adding this to the mix – it’s not a new claim for Christ – it’s one Jesus himself made.
So as we said last week, Paul wrote Colossians to address a heresy, or false teaching, creeping up in the church at Colosse – the teaching was that Jesus was not God. Paul argues passionately to the contrary in Colossians. We’re going to look at chapter one today and in chapter one we see that Paul declares the preeminence of Christ – he says that Jesus is most certainly, most definitely God. He declares that Christ’s preeminence is evident when we look at five areas: the gospel message; the Cross; the creation; the church; and Paul’s ministry.
Paul begins his argument in verses 4-12, where he shows how the absolute superiority of Christ is shown in the message of the gospel itself. In verse 5, Paul lists the evidence that these people had received salvation – faith, hope, and love. Paul says they had received the “word of truth” from Epaphras. He uses this phrase “word of truth” in reference to the lies being taught by the Gnostic teachers. Paul points out that they had heard and received this word of truth, and believed it, and that believing had brought forth real fruit, real change, in their lives. Only this kind of fruit is evidence of real salvation. What Paul is driving at is that it’s not about learning some hidden mystery, some secret wisdom, some spiritual password. The evidence of the supremacy – the preeminence – of Jesus is the observable changes that have happened in the lives of the Colossians since they received this “word of truth.”