In two weeks the most watched sporting event in North America will be televised, the Super Bowl. Two teams will play in the Super Bowl to determine the championship and supremacy in North American football. One of the teams (New England Patriots) is trying to be the first team to win a Super Bowl championship after having a "perfect season" without a loss. One sports writer said that this would send this team into sports "immortality" or make them into the "gods of sport".
Well, I think this is a great athletic achievement – but far short of what is required to be any kind of god – especially the true God! It is interesting, however, to note that people still associate great skill and achievement with a superior or Supreme Being – even if it is a "sports god".
Thankfully, in the Bible we have a description of one who was God and what it says about Him goes far beyond the ability to run or to throw and catch a ball. In the book of Colossians, Paul describes the true nature and achievements of the one who we believe is indeed divine, immortal, and supreme – Jesus Christ.
Jesus: Master of the Millennium – Colossians 1:15-20
In writing to the Colossian brethren, Paul describes the supremacy of Christ to a church who had begun to drift away from the faith. False teachers had crept in and began teaching a gospel that mixed together:
- (began with) – Greek philosophical ideas
- (mixed in) - Pagan cultic practices
- (added) - Jewish religious traditions
- along with the teachings of Christianity.
These men blended all of these components into a "new" gospel which, they claimed, would give people a more dynamic spiritual experience. Instead of faith practiced in loving obedience as Jesus had taught,
They promoted a strict form of asceticism (denial of certain foods, vows of celibacy, etc.) telling their followers that this would provide the spiritual power needed to gain the salvation they wanted. This type of teaching and practice was clearly in opposition to the gospel and so in response to these heresies, Paul puts forth two main ideas in his epistle to the Colossian church:
A. It is Jesus Who is Supreme
It is Jesus, not these teachers, not their new methods not any person who is superior.
15He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. 17 He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. 18He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything.
In stating this fact Paul describes 7 areas of Jesus' supremacy:
1. He is the supreme spirit – vs. 15a
As the image of god, he is god – no other spirit invented by man is his equal.
2. He holds the supreme position – vs. 15b
No created thing is before him in time or position.
3. He is the supreme authority – vs. 16a
Every level of creation from the unseen particles to the greatest king or leader if subject to his authority. Not only is his authority greater, but every other authority is in service to his.
4. He is the supreme reason for existence – vs. 16b
He is the answer to every great question and the end of every search.
5. He is the supreme power – vs. 17
It is by his energy that the physical world continues to exist. Not gravity, not black holes, not exploding galaxies – he is the power source for all existing things.
6. He is the supreme head of organized religion on earth – vs. 18a
Only jesus, by virtue of his supremacy, has a right to be worshipped as god. He and only he is the true religious and spiritual head – all others are pretenders and false prophets.
7. He is the supreme leader of the eternal kingdom of heaven – vs. 18b
In the spiritual world he is the leader of the angels and spirit beings that were created before us as well as the supreme leader of those who have joined them from the earthly realm. In the kingdom of heaven jesus is the lord of all forever.
Now, after establishing Jesus' supreme position in all of these areas – Paul explains one other important fact about Jesus, that they need to be reminded of.
B. Jesus, the Supreme Lord, Sacrificed Himself for Them
19For it was the Father's good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, 20and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven.
Paul's point here is – who needs human philosophy and cultural rituals and human effort when the Supreme Lord has personally undertaken the task of saving those who were condemned to death by sin? No amount of human wisdom and effort could accomplish what the Supreme Lord had accomplished for them – and for us!
Paul finishes this section by reminding them of three things. If they accept what he has taught them, then they need to remember 3 things:
1. Remember the Way They Were Saved
21And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds, 22yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach
He explains that their sins against God are what made them guilty and subject to condemnation and punishment in hell But, he goes on to say, it was the blood of Jesus, the Supreme One, that washed away their guilt, that made them pure before God.
The cross, the blood, the sacrifice of Jesus – this is what makes them pure beyond the reach of Satan and acceptable to God; not self-sacrifice, self-denial or the learning of mysteries.
2. Remember to Remain Faithful
23aif indeed you continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel that you have heard
Note that he says, "if" – this is a condition. God's grace is free, we cannot buy it, earn it, sell it, or obtain it based on our conditions. We cannot produce it or force Him to give it to us based on our effort, wisdom or actions. God sets the condition for grace, He establishes the one criterion for its procurement – and that one condition is faith. You can only obtain this wonderful soul cleansing grace through faith, and that faith is expressed according to His will and purpose.
Grace is free but it is not given to scoffers, disbelievers and disobedient.
If it was, then sinners and disbelievers like Herod and Hitler and Stalin would be with Christ this very moment even though they hated Him and His church during their lifetimes.
No, grace is extended to those who have faith and in Colossians 2:11-12; Paul further explains that faith in Christ is properly expressed in baptism. In Colossians, Paul is simply repeating what Peter explained to the Jews in Jerusalem on Pentecost Sunday.
37Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, "Brethren, what shall we do?" 38Peter said to them, "Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
- Acts 2:37-38
This is where 3000 would have easily obeyed the gospel as 12 men baptized this many in just a few hours. And do Paul reminds them to remain faithful, assured that the grace of God to remove all of their sins was applied completely when they called on the name of Jesus in repentance and baptism.
3. Remember the Gospel
23bwhich was proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, was made a minister.
The danger here was that with their false teachings, these men were moving them away from the original gospel message. In so doing they were also moving them away from Christ because Christ is one with His gospel. To deny one is to deny the other. So Paul tells them to remember:
- Christ as the only Supreme one
- His cross as the only way to forgiveness and perfection.
- His gospel as the only true message of hope.
If they did this, the Supreme Lord Jesus would remain their personal savior and Lord forever.
So as Paul encouraged the Colossians in his letter, I encourage you this morning to hold on to four important things as you live your Christian lives:
1. Hold on to Christ
He is the Master of this millennium – the last one and all the ones to come. Y2k; wars; climate changes; economic upheavals, whatever – He is the Supreme Lord. Jesus will save you, sustain you and surround you with His love forever. Hold on to Him.
2. Hold on to the cross of Christ
There will be all kinds of new prophets, new teachings, new promises… no matter what, hold on to the cross of Jesus: when you feel you are unworthy, when you are afraid all is lost. Hold on to the cross of Jesus as the one act in all of history that will serve to save you and keep you saved forever.
3. Hold on to the gospel of Christ
Technology changes and society changes, but people are the same today as the day Adam sinned. God preached the gospel to Adam because it was the answer to his problem of sin and it remains the answer to sinful people. Let us not change the gospel or be ashamed of it – let us instead take every advantage that technology has given us to proclaim the glorious gospel to every sinner on earth!
4. Finally – let's hold on to each other
The world is filled with unbelievers and scoffers, evil men and women and satan's willing servants. Because of this – Christians need each other. Let us not hurt each other, let's forgive and be kind to those for whom christ died and within whom the holy spirit resides. Let's make the loving of each other our main priority for this church. This will be pleasing to the Lord Jesus and promote the best witness of our faith in Him.
If Jesus Christ is not your Lord you can acknowledge your faith in Him today in repentance and baptism. If you have been unfaithful to Christ, you can also come for forgiveness and restoration as we stand and sing.