Summary: The Lordship of Jesus, the sufficiency of His Person, and the adequacy of His work; and its implications in our lives.
THE CHRIST HYMN
Paul emphasises the deliverance which Jesus wrought on our behalf (Colossians 1:13), and the fullness of what He has accomplished on the Cross (Colossians 2:10). In Him we have “redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:14).
I. The Hymn
1. His Lordship over creation (Colossians 1:15-17):
b) He is the Father’s heir (Hebrews 1:2), the “firstborn” of creation (Colossians 1:15). Not, indeed, created Himself, but the possessor of the birthright (for the significance of the birthright, see Genesis 25:31-33; 1 Chronicles 5:1-2).
2. His Lordship over the Church (Colossians 1:18).
b) The ‘firstborn of creation’ (Colossians 1:15) is also the “firstborn from the dead” (Colossians 1:18). The resurrected Jesus is none other than, in the Greek, ‘the Author of life’ (Acts 3:15). Thus those who were ‘dead in their sins’ can be ‘quickened together with Him’ (Colossians 2:13).
c) There was a danger in Colossae that other things, such as the worship of angels (Colossians 2:18) might be added to the worship of Christ. Yet even the angels must worship Him (Hebrews 1:6). To Him alone belongs the pre-eminence (Colossians 1:18).
3. The sufficiency of His Person (Colossians 1:19).
The “fullness” of which Paul speaks is not a supplement which is lacking, such as the new teachers in Colossae were teaching, but ‘the full complement’ which subsists in Christ. In Him all the fullness was pleased to (literally) ‘take up dwelling’ (Colossians 1:19). There are echoes here of the incarnation (John 1:14), but Paul goes a step further when he shifts the concept into the present tense (Colossians 2:9), and then into heaven itself (Colossians 3:1).
4. The adequacy of His work (Colossians 1:20).
Given the fallen state of Creation, ‘peace with God’ (Romans 5:1) could only be accomplished by the blood of the Cross (Colossians 1:20). He wrought reconciliation for “all” in that He alone is able to reconcile any (1 John 2:2).
1. Remain steadfast in the truth (Colossians 1:21-23).
Paul reminds the Colossians of their own reconciliation with God (Colossians 1:21). That reconciliation is wrought in the Lord’s flesh, and renders us holy (Colossians 1:22). It is in this gospel, once received, that we must stand firm (Colossians 1:23): there is no other.
2. The reciprocal sufferings of Christ and the Church (Colossians 1:24-29).
Christ is “the head of the body, the church” (Colossians 1:18). He it is who wrought our reconciliation, literally, “in the body of His flesh” (Colossians 1:22). Yet the Apostle also says that he, Paul, in his own sufferings, literally “fills up that which is lacking of the afflictions of Christ in his own flesh” for the church (Colossians 1:24). What did he mean?
For your redemption, and for mine, needless to say, the blood of Jesus Christ is efficacious. We are saved by the blood of the Lamb. The sacrifice made on our behalf is full, final and sufficient.
However, it is part of the wholeness of “the body, the church” (Colossians 1:24), that we are made participators in His sufferings and He in ours. What He ‘began to do and teach’ in the Gospel (Acts 1:1), He continues to do through the church. Thus, when Saul of Tarsus persecuted the church, the Lord took it personally: “Why are you persecuting ME” (Acts 9:4).
This is how Peter and John, for example, were found “rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name” - literally, ‘that they were so far graced as to be disgraced…’ (Acts 5:41). Our suffering cannot be individuated, but takes place in the context of the outworking of the Lord’s purposes within the church. It is all working towards the presentation of every man (literally) “complete in Christ Jesus” (Colossians 1:28).
The Apostles laboured, and preached without charge (1 Thessalonians 2:9). They were persecuted, but were empowered to bless (1 Corinthians 4:12). The way which we might play our part in the ongoing work of the church is through the toil and strife of the ordinary working life (Colossians 1:29): but we go forward in His strength, and He works through us (Philippians 2:12-13).