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“Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me” (Colossians 1:28-29). 

It makes you want to pay attention when you see the same word three times in a verse that has only nineteen total words. That simple but critical word is “everyone”! And this has nothing to do with Paul having a limited vocabulary. He is trying to make sure we don’t miss the point. We are to proclaim, warn, and teach all people that maturity in Christ is our sure and profound calling. With so many infant “Christians” present in our culture there is no doubt this message is relevant for today. The Biblical writers were challenged by the immaturity of Christ-followers on more than one occasion (see I Corinthians 3:12, Hebrews 5:12). The idea? Grow up…in Christ!  

This should cut to the heart of the shallowness that plagues the visible contemporary American church. Wilbur Rees says this about our current “Christian” culture that seems to be 3000 miles wide but only 1 inch deep:

“I would like to buy $3 worth of God, please – not enough to
explode my soul or disturb my sleep, but just enough to equal a cup of
warm milk or a snooze in the sunshine. I don’t want enough of him to make
me love a foreigner or pick beets with a migrant worker. I want ecstasy,
not transformation; I want the warmth of a womb, not a new birth. I want
a pound of the Eternal in a paper sack. I’d like to buy $3 worth of God,

This passage makes it clear that all the truth of God is for all the people of God. As ministers of the Word we should have such an eternal perspective that we courageously proclaim, warn, and teach with all (not some) wisdom the “whole counsel of God”(Acts 20:27)! Disciples of Christ should have the same ravenous desire – more and more, deeper and deeper into the “unsearchable riches of Christ” (Ephesians 3:8). And we should do so by the sweat of our brow and all the energy He can muster in us, being totally reliant upon the power of God to do His mighty work of revelation, impartation, and application of His truth. 

This is the seed and the source of our proclamation of the wisdom that makes us grow up in Christ. Paul explains this purpose of maturity in Christ to the church at Ephesus: “Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ” (Ephesians 4:15). Now we see this all come together: Maturity in Christ is for everyone and for everyone in every way! 

And this maturity comes from our toil that is empowered God’s power. Notice the unique phrasing of Colossians 1:29: “I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me”. There is human effort in the struggle to become mature in Christ but  “growing up into Christ” is only accomplished by the His energy and His power at work in us. Self-effort alone will end in frustration and defeat. I believe this was Paul’s point when he shared, “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:12-13). This “working out your salvation” was not about obtaining or maintaining a right standing before God but about the obedience necessary to become more like Christ. 

Let us then have such and eternal perspective and rely on God’s eternal power. Maturity in Jesus is for everyone and in every way. It is developed by God-wrought desire, energy, and effort combined with God-induced power. Growing in Christ is to be the norm and not the exception for His disciples. Is this our reality? Is our passion to know Him more and make Him known in all wisdom and fullness? If not, cry out to Him with heart-wrenching tears of toil and struggle. Ask Him for the greatest Treasure and “decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified…with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling…but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God” (1 Corinthians 2:2-5).

“…of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints. To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:25-27). 

It has been said that, “Man can live 3 weeks without food, 3 days without water, 3 minutes without air, but not one second without hope.” There are unbelievers that claim to live without hope (especially atheists and agnostics) but life without hope is just “existing” – true living has an eternal and spiritual component. Ephesians 2:12 describes those apart from Jesus as, “having no hope and without God in the world.” Given that  the word “hope” is used is use 3 times in Colossians 1 alone and there is much emphasis is scripture on both the necessity and assurance of our hope in Christ, I don’t think I can overstate the importance of this concept (see Ephesians 1:12, 1 Thessalonians 1:3).  

It is critical, then, that we understand what our hope is: it is not wishful thinking but a certain promise (Titus 1:2, Hebrews 6:18). Listen to Paul explain that such an understanding of this hope is a gift from God as He reveals this truth in our hearts: “having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints…” (Ephesians 1:18). Hope, then, is a mysterious intangible that, through faith, we know just as assuredly as we believe in a God we can not see: “[we] through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God” (1 Peter 1:21). Hope that is seen (except through the eyes of God-empowered faith) is not hope at all: “For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees?  But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience” (Romans 8:24-25). In other words, hope and faith and intricately intertwined; without faith there is not hope; our hope is based upon the faith God has given us. 

This hope is our ministry and stewardship, a stewardship to make the Word of God fully known by sharing this glorious mystery and its indescribable, infinite value. In revealing this radical truth to us, given to us by the sovereign grace of God, we have become the adored objects of the riches of glory that is “Christ in us”. This is why we are all called to be ministers of this great mystery revealed by God through His word and realized by the presence of Jesus in us. “Christ in us” is that great mystery (which in this context is “a great truth that is known only by the revelation of God at His appointed time to whom He chooses”) and our hope everlasting. Therefore we must “in [our] hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15). 

Although difficult to fathom with our finite minds, our hope hinges on the indwelling presence of Jesus in us. Christ, the creator and sustainer of all things, Jesus by whom, through whom, and for whom all things exist has taken up residence in us. The Lord of glory is living in us, the Christ of the cross and the empty tomb has captured us, the Sustainer of our souls is sealed in us, the King of all creation has claimed us, the Light of the world has become our eyes, the incomparable wisdom of God has been given to us as “the mind of Christ”, our Redeemer resides and rules in us, the self-existent “I Am” has become has become our life. And this mystery of our hope is revealed through relationship more than reason or even religion. It is instigated and maintained in us by faith in Christ. In other words, our hope is Jesus! And not just Jesus, but Him in us! Ultimately this indescribably reality is the sign and seal of our promised hope and final glorification. This is the hope, the glory, and the life that He has made us stewards over; to fully know, to joyfully experience, to powerfully demonstrate, and to continually share with those without hope, those without Him. 

Is this our reality? Do we fully experience the mystery of Jesus’ inhabitation of our very beings? If so, how could we not be radically and eternally “transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the LORD, who is the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:18)?

In light of my last blog (Joyful Suffering With and For Jesus based on Colossians 1:24) which states the case for why Christians suffer and why it should be joyful, I found this article in The Wall Street Journal. Here is a real life example of a life lived in joyful suffering for the name of Jesus.

Manute Bol’s Radical Christianity


As any churchgoer who tuned in to watch the recent NBA finals contest between the Lakers and Celtics already knows, the term redemption is probably now heard more often in NBA sports broadcasts than in homilies. A Google search under “redemption” and “NBA” generates approximately 2 million hits—more hits than “redemption” and “Christianity.” The term can also be found in more than 2,600 stories on

What does redemption mean in the world of professional basketball and sports more broadly? It involves making up for—or, yes, “atoning”—for a poor performance. When the Lakers beat Boston, for instance, Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times called the victory “redemption for the Celtics’ 2008 Finals beating.”

More often, though, sports journalists use the term to praise the individual performances of NBA superstars. Thus, the Associated Press reported that Kobe Bryant “found redemption” after he won a title in 2009 without the aid of his nemesis and former teammate Shaquille O’Neal.

Manute Bol, who died last week at the age of 47, is one player who never achieved redemption in the eyes of sports journalists. His life embodied an older, Christian conception of redemption that has been badly obscured by its current usage.

Bol, a Christian Sudanese immigrant, believed his life was a gift from God to be used in the service of others. As he put it to Sports Illustrated in 2004: “God guided me to America and gave me a good job. But he also gave me a heart so I would look back.”

He was not blessed, however, with great athletic gifts. As a center for the Washington Bullets, Bol was more spectacle than superstar. At 7 feet, 7 inches tall and 225 pounds, he was both the tallest and thinnest player in the league. He averaged a mere 2.6 points per game over the course of his career, though he was a successful shot blocker given that he towered over most NBA players.

Bol reportedly gave most of his fortune, estimated at $6 million, to aid Sudanese refugees. As one twitter feed aptly put it: “Most NBA cats go broke on cars, jewelry & groupies. Manute Bol went broke building hospitals.”

When his fortune dried up, Bol raised more money for charity by doing what most athletes would find humiliating: He turned himself into a humorous spectacle. Bol was hired, for example, as a horse jockey, hockey player and celebrity boxer. Some Americans simply found amusement in the absurdity of him on a horse or skates. And who could deny the comic potential of Bol boxing William “the Refrigerator” Perry, the 335-pound former defensive linemen of the Chicago Bears?

Bol agreed to be a clown. But he was not willing to be mocked for his own personal gain as so many reality-television stars are. Bol let himself be ridiculed on behalf of suffering strangers in the Sudan; he was a fool for Christ.

During his final years, Bol suffered more than mere mockery in the service of others. While he was doing relief work in the Sudan, he contracted a painful skin disease that ultimately contributed to his death.

Bol’s life and death throws into sharp relief the trivialized manner in which sports journalists employ the concept of redemption. In the world of sports media players are redeemed when they overcome some prior “humiliation” by playing well. Redemption then is deeply connected to personal gain and celebrity. It leads to fatter contracts, shoe endorsements, and adoring women.

Yet as Bol reminds us, the Christian understanding of redemption has always involved lowering and humbling oneself. It leads to suffering and even death.

It is of little surprise, then, that the sort of radical Christianity exemplified by Bol is rarely understood by sports journalists. For all its interest in the intimate details of players’ lives, the media has long been tone deaf to the way devout Christianity profoundly shapes some of them.

“Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church…” (Colossians 1:24). 

Joyful suffering, if you understand the message of the gospel, is not an oxymoron – a paradox, maybe, but not a contradiction. Here is a sample of some passages that assert, despite our natural aversion to it, suffering and persecution is an inherent and beautiful part of our faithful following of Jesus: 

  • His followers rejoiced in being counted worthy to suffer for Jesus’ name (Acts 5:41). 
  • Suffering providentially compels us to be dependant upon God and not ourselves (2 Corinthians 1:8-9). 
  • Spiritual maturity and character are developed through suffering (Romans 5:3-4). 
  • Suffering for Christ reminds us and others of the Treasure to come (Hebrews 11:25-26). 
  • We will be uniquely blessed if we are “persecuted for righteousness sake” (Matthew 5:10-12). 
  • “The Spirit of glory and of God” rests on those who suffer for Him (1 Peter 4:12-16). 
  • Those fully surrendered to Christ view suffering for His name as a divine gift (Philippians 1:29). 

But this suffering and persecution is not fatalistic, purposeless, or hopeless. It has a mysterious yet divine purpose in us and for a lost world: “But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things?” (2 Corinthians 2:14-16).

So we see two potential reasons that we are called to suffer for Christ; the presentation of the gospel and our identification with Jesus. First we see in Colossians 1:24 that the spread of the gospel is facilitated by the suffering of Christ’s servants. When commenting on this verse John Piper explains, “Paul suffers, and he says that in his sufferings he fills up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions? What does that mean? Here’s my answer in summary: What’s missing is the in-person presentation of Christ’s sufferings to the people for whom he died. The afflictions are lacking in the sense that they are not seen and known among the nations. They must be carried by ministers of the gospel. And those ministers of the gospel fill up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ by extending them to others. Paul sees his own suffering as the visible reenactment of the sufferings of Christ so that they will see Christ’s love for them.” 

Secondly, suffering for Jesus identifies us with Him. When we suffer for Him we are, due to the mystery of our spiritual union with Him, actually, in sense, suffering with Him. When Jesus accosted Saul on the road to Damascus He said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting” (Acts 9:4-8). So we see that Paul’s persecution of the church was a persecution of Jesus. So everything that is done to the body of Christ (us) is also done to Jesus. Paul later explained this as “sharing in Christ’s sufferings” (Philippians 3:10). 

But Jesus had already told us this would be so: “You will be hated for my name’s sake”, he said (Mark 13:13). And especially in John 15:18-21: 

“If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me.” 

The joy we find in suffering for and with Jesus is that we are honored to image forth His beauty and the glorious gospel of our Lord.  In our union with Him we magnify Him by demonstrating His suffering. For it is through His cross of suffering that He has saved our souls. And what a privilege it is to point others to Him, through our temporary afflictions for His name, knowing what eternal and indescribable glories await us in Jesus: “For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal” (1 Corinthians 4:17-18).

“…if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant” (Colossians 1:23). 

Arminians and Calvinists agree on one thing: Those in Christ, His elect (meaning chosen) will continue in the faith. They may differ on how this happens but they agree that it does happen nonetheless. I believe this verse serves two purposes. First, it is evidence that those with true saving faith will not be moved from their hope that is in the gospel of Jesus. Secondly, it is a warning to all who claim to have saving faith is Christ, lest they do not continue established and firm in the faith and in a persevering life that demonstrates the reality of that faith. 

Absorb the explanation of theologian Dr. Grant C. Richison:

“Does this “if” indicate that our salvation depends upon us? What if our faith fails? If faith fails then it is an indication that it was not a valid saving faith (I John 2:19). The genuine believer will persevere by the reality of God in his life. It is the perseverance of the Savior that preserves the perseverance of the saints!

In the Greek, the “if” indicates an assumption of truth. Paul assumes that the Colossians will continue in the faith. This is not an “if” of the future; it is an “if” of the past. The word can be translated “since.” “Since indeed you continue in the faith.” Our reconciliation is an accomplished fact. Continuance is a test of reality. There is no uncertainty of the believer’s reconciliation. The believer will be uncharged and without blemish when he stands before God (v. 22). Salvation was an accomplished event at the moment of faith.”

In other words, Paul is presuming the condition of continuing to be reality, to be true.   He predicates this on the previous statement – that anyone who will be presented to God holy, that anyone who is reconciled to God through Jesus Christ will also continue in the faith.  Why?  Because true believers (His elect) do remain firm and are not moved away from the faith.  Those that have been placed in Christ are not persevering in order to achieve reconciliation. They are persevering because they’ve already been reconciled.  Simply said, those who Jesus reconciles will continue in the faith.  This isn’t just a probability or  a possibility: It is a promise that the reconciled, those whom Jesus will present before God, will not be moved from the hope of the gospel.

Hence we see the warning is implicit in the text. The word “continue” means to persist in or adhere to the faith. Be warned, Paul, suggests, you must persevere in the faith and the pursuit of a Christ-honoring life to be a genuine participant in the good news of the hope found only in Christ. So, how is a true follower of Christ identified?  Has he prayed the sinner’s prayer?  Not necessarily.  Did he walked an aisle, join a “church”, and get baptized?  Hardly enough. Does he profess to be a Christian?  Maybe.   Does he do good works?  Insufficient by itself (see Matthew 7:21-23)?  How then?  When he continues in heart-altering, steadfast faith and with a life that demonstrates the transforming nature of the Holy Spirit’s residence in and Jesus’ dominion over him. Immerse yourself in the words of Jesus:

Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you? Everyone who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he is like: he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built” (Luke 6:46-48).

Jesus’ and the apostles’ teaching was fraught with this idea.  In Luke 8:4-8, someone may receive the Word with joy but having no root (not real) he will fall away under trial. Those branches which abide in the vine are not cut off and thrown into the fire (John 15).  We read In 1 John 2:19 that those who are genuine believers will no doubt continue in the community of faith, that if you are not with Christ then you are not of Christ.  With this in mind, Jesus’ understanding of the tendencies of fallen man is revealed in John 8:30-32: “As he was saying these things, many believed in him. So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

But let us not forget that even in this promise and warning we are utterly dependant on Jesus:

 “Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body,  and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful” (Hebrews 10:19-23).

And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds,  he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him” (Colossians 1:21-22). 

In one of the most inclusive and captivating passages concerning our redemption in Jesus, these two verses are pregnant with meaning.  They tell us what we were apart from Christ, what we have now in Him, and the glorious culmination of what He is going to make us. 

I’ve often heard unbelievers say that they aren’t enemies of God but, according to Jesus, you are. “No man can serve two masters, he will love the one and despise the other”, he said (Matthew 6:24). Paul often speaks to our status as an enemy of God if we haven’t been reconciled to God through Jesus (see Romans 5:10, Ephesians 2:1-3). James indicated that friendship with the world makes us enemies of God (James 4:4). And any deed we do, no matter how “good’ it may seem is evil when we are in this state of alienation and enmity with God (Romans 14:23). Although frightening, we should gain immeasurable appreciation, gratitude, and love for Jesus. For the darkness, bondage, and condemnation we were under before the Holy Spirit’s transforming intervention into our lives has been removed. 

Jesus’ shed blood is the only means by which condemned sinners can be reconciled to God: 

“remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility” (Ephesians 2:12-16). 

The beauty of this overwhelming truth is highlighted by a single word – now! We were alienated but now we are reconciled with God. The wall of hostility has been broken down through the cross and we can, in the present, bask in the glorious reality that Jesus has reestablished our relationship with Holy God. For those who have been placed in Christ we can go and do and stand and sit and wake and rest knowing that Christ has made things right between us and holy God. And we are to experience that blessed fellowship now. Jesus said, “I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture…I came that they may have life and have it abundantly (John 10: 9-10). 

So let us no longer live defeated and powerless. We have been reconciled to God, we have been declared righteous, and thus we can experience His presence and power! Not just later but now! Because of the atoning work of Christ we can graze in His pastures, drink from His fountain of living water, and eat His bread of life. In the present we can dine at His table, we can sit at His feet, we can hear His voice, we can delight in His bountiful goodness. 

As staggering and encouraging as this is, it is still but a shadowy precursor to what we will eventually made into. We are not yet completely holy. We can not experience the unhindered beauty of the fullness of His presence just yet. We can not yet know Him in all that He is. But He has, through His blood, purchased those realities for us. They are our inheritance and hope. He will, in our future, present us holy, blameless, and beyond reproach before God.  How incredible! How amazing! Paul said it this way, “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known” (I Corinthians 13:12). And how is this possible? He tells us in the very next verse: “So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love”. And faith, hope, and love are seen ultimately in Jesus’ redeeming work that has reconciled us to God. He has transformed our sordid past into a hopeful present and, finally, a glorious and perfect eternity.

“And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross” (Colossians 1:18-20). 

Merriam-Webster defines preeminent as “having paramount rank, dignity, or importance: outstanding, supreme”. Another resource says, “Superior to or notable above all others”. Although still insufficient in capturing the greatness, grandeur, majesty, and transcendence of Jesus, it is helpful in understanding what Paul is saying in Colossians 1:18. In other words, Jesus’ supremacy is beyond our wildest imagination. Even when we catch a glimpse of His superiority it does not do Him justice. This word, however, is the best that we have to work with in trying to quantify and qualify His infinitely greater worth and essence. 

Thus Jesus has been rightly appointed the head of His body, which is the church. Although much of what we see today in the professing, institutional church today saddens us, it does not in any way detract from His headship. Why? Because He is the head of the true, universal, remnant church. Although some involved in local congregations or house churches surely are members of the true church this verse is not talking about the varied expressions of the localized church or gathering of believers but all of His church at large – all of His true children, past, present, and future. 

It is in this sense Christ is the head of the body and this is not an honorary or traditional title. He is Lord over His church whether we fully see this manifestation in the visible church’s fruit, mannerisms, and organization. This is because those professing to be “the called out ones” often haven’t surrendered to His rule over our gatherings but have cultivated a man-centered culture based upon personalities and programs. Thankfully, in many cases, we see His sovereign rule displayed despite the institutional or the home church! As the writer of Hebrew expresses it, “putting everything in subjection under his feet, now in putting everything in subjection to him, he left nothing outside his control. At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him” (Hebrews 2:8). So, despite our humanistic and self-righteous efforts to usurp the church by human effort, mechanisms, and political power, He is “building [His] church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it’ (Matthew 16:18). 

Another reason that the church is His is that Jesus was not a special man who was inhabited in some unique way by the presence of God. He is God, God in all of His fullness. Notice the tautology, “all fullness” (Colossians 1:19). He was not just some of God nor did God have only some of Him. He is “God of very God”. This is why no one is qualified to be the Head of Christ’s body but Jesus, the son of God Himself. And as the Son of God He has clearly demonstrated His indescribable power and worth by the shedding of His blood for His church at Calvary. 

Therefore, He is the preeminent head of the church because He has redeemed it (as well as His creation). Colossians 1:20 is not a statement that all will be saved but a reference back to 1:16 that proclaims Jesus to be the center of all things and that all things in heaven and earth are made by Him, through Him and for Him. Yes, His powerful blood is sufficient to reconcile all things or, as the writer says, bring them under His subjection. This peace, then, is brought about by the all-sufficient, all-powerful blood of the cross. In other words, you are either subject (surrendered) to Him by faith in His atoning work (thus reconciled) or you, as an enemy of the cross, will be made subject to His righteous judgment. It is that authoritative, God-given position that separates Jesus as the ruler over that which He has purchased and that makes Him so vastly superior and the sovereign head over all of His creation and His church. 

All of this begs some pivotal questions. Have you surrendered to His preeminence? Is the gathering of believers you are associated with united under Jesus’ leadership, headship, and Lordship over them in their adoration and activities as His body? Do you experience the organic, dynamic, and vital presence and direction of our preeminent Savior? This is His rightful place – with all things under Him and Him ruling over all things! And God has dictated this, as Paul told the church at Ephesus, “And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church” (Ephesians 1:22).

“For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities–all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together” (Colossians 1:16-17). 

Historians confirm that a major, devastating earthquake took place in or near Colossae (the Lycus Valley) in A.D. 60 or 61, which would be around the time (A.D. 60-62) that most conservative theologians believe Paul was writing this epistle. It makes sense then why Paul is explaining Jesus’ role in the design, creation, and sustaining of the entire universe. The Jesus that they followed and served is no mere man (as if the previous verse, Colossians 1:15, had not already convinced them) but the architect of all that we know and see and even beyond. Additionally, He created the cosmos for Himself and His own glory. It is His to do with as He pleases. 

Every aspect of the blueprint of creation was conceived in the mind of Jesus, the Galilean carpenter. He is the master architect and the artisan that wove together the fabric of all that is – from the most overwhelmingly expansive galaxies to the microscopic electrons and neutrons that are the foundation of all matter. Jesus is the grand designer who spoke all of this into existence. Paul says that all things – “in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities”- were created by and through Him. In other words, nothing (and I mean nothing) known or unknown is outside of His creative and sovereign power. The apostle John elaborates: “All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made” (John 1:3). 

So all things were made “by” Jesus and “through” Jesus but, just as impressively, all things are sustained by Him. In Colossians 1:17 the phrase “in him all things hold together” could be translated “in Him all things cohere” or “all things subsist”. The point is clear; he is the “divine superglue” that keeps the universe from unraveling. In other words, without the sustaining Christ it is not an ordered cosmos but a disintegrating chaos. Look around you (and really look and not just “see”)”: everything you see or hear (including yourself) is being perpetually sustained by Christ. Without His creative attention all things would vaporize into nothingness. 

But the main truth I want us to absorb is that “all things were created…for him”. Although Jesus allows those in Him to enjoy His creation (1 Timothy 6:17), ultimately He created it for Himself. And, as part of His creation, He created us for Himself! Here’s the point: You and I are not the point! Jesus Christ is, always has been, and always will be the point. And everything points to Him because all things were created by Him, through Him and for Him!

It has been said that Americans hold nothing sacred but “self”. Garrison Keillor calls it “raging narcissism” and it has infected Western Christianity. We are “converted” not to turn to Christ and point all things to Him but because “Christianity” provides us a better way to live and “fire insurance”. We see conversion as a way of finding and fulfilling ourselves, as a road to self-discovery and not God discovery. We serve to be seen of men and not to encourage men to see our Savior. We give to feel spiritual and get a tax deduction not with joyful sacrifice. Christian self-help books (Is that not an oxymoron?) fly off the shelves as God is perceived as some kind of fairy godfather that has been put in place to satisfy our every carnal whim and alleviate all of our wants, problems, and tribulations. Suffering is now for the sinners and not the saints. Why? Because we have forgotten (or choose not to believe) that all things are created for Him and not us. Following Jesus is not about us – it is about Him! 

We would be wise to heed and be transformed by the writer of Hebrews bold proclamation about Jesus: 

“… putting everything in subjection to him, he left nothing outside his control. At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him. But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering” (Hebrews 2:8-10). 

One day all will bow before him (Philippians 2:10) because all things, including us, were created by Him, through Him and for Him!

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation” (Colossians 1:15). 

This question has echoed through the ages and demands an answer. Ignoring the question is its own answer as it indicates Jesus is not worthy of your query, thus relegating Him to the trivial. Virtually every culture and religion has pondered the question knowing its import. 

The Bible is filled with stories of those who asked, “Who is Jesus?” The unbelieving Herod, after beheading John the Baptist, questions who Jesus was (Luke 9:9). The disciples, those closest to Him, after Jesus calmed the raging storm were compelled to ponder “Who is this then…” (Mark 4:41). The jealous and angry Pharisees huddled to discuss Jesus’ claim to be able to forgive sins (Luke 5:21). Even Christ triumphal entry into Jerusalem was filled with shouts of praise along with the question, “Who is this?” (Matthew 21:10).  A few days later a pompous Pilate framed it in a slightly different way, a way that makes it personal for us, when he mused, “Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?” (Matthew 27:22). 

What do the Biblical writers, those closest to Him in physical time and space, say? Peter says, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16). John proclaims, “In the beginning was the Word (Jesus), and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made” (John 1:1.-3). The writer of Hebrews states, “He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power” (Hebrews 1:3). Paul describes Him as, “the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation” (Colossians 1:15 – the best rendering of this is “firstborn over all creation) and Him, “who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped…” (Philippians 2:6). 

To use the vernacular, Colossians 1:15 says that Jesus is the “spitting image” of the Father who otherwise can not be seen (see John 1:18, Romans 1:20, Hebrews 11:27). In other words, Christ has in common and images all of the attributes of Father God – His nature, purity, purpose, power, glory, etc. Later Paul puts it this way: “For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily” (Colossians 2:9).  Therefore, He is the exact representation of the Father and therefore Jesus is God. The first half of this verse makes this clear and the second half underscores this idea showing Him to be sovereign over all of creation. As someone has said, Jesus is everything the Father is except the Father. What an amazing thought! 

So who does Jesus claim to be? “I and the Father are one”, he said (John 10:30). Jesus’ reply to Philip’s request to see God was, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father”? (John 14:9). He even claimed to be pre-existent in John 8:58: “Jesus declared, “I say unto you, before Abraham was, I am.” In referring to Himself as “I am” (as He did on several occasions), Christ’s audience was sure to make the connection with God’s description of Himself to Moses (Exodus 3:13-15). 

Although it was used by others before him (including 19th century preachers Mark Hopkins and John Duncan), C. S. Lewis’ trilemma is appropriate here. It is usually stated, “Jesus Christ can only be one of three things; a lunatic, a liar, or the Lord”, or in more common language “mad, bad, or God”. The New Testament writers and His disciples were willing to give up everything for their belief that Jesus was God. Why? Not only did Jesus claim to be but His life demonstrated that he is “the image of the invisible God, the firstborn [over] all creation”. Millions throughout history have staked there eternal destiny on it. And so have I. So, what do you say? What will you do with Jesus who is called Christ?

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