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Charismatic Puritan

Right doctrine leads to right thinking, and right thinking leads to right living.

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Location: Gaithersburg, MD, United States

Jealous for the truth, beauty and majesty of our glorious risen Savior.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Colossians 1.13-23 - Part 3

III. Jesus as creator.

We typically talk of God the Father as creator, but the NT describes what the OT hinted at, that is the plurality of agents in creation, by telling us in several places that creation was formed by, through and for Jesus (All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. John 1:3 (ESV)), as it does here.

Paul explains a fourfold relationship of Jesus Christ to Creation.

1. He existed before Creation

2. He created all things

3. All things exist for Him

4. He holds all things together

1. He existed before Creation

He is “the firstborn of all creation…by him all things were created…And he is before all things…” The term firstborn (prototokos) does not specifically refer to time, but to place or status. Jesus Christ was not the first being created, since He Himself is the Creator of all things.

Firstborn primarily means “of first importance, of first rank, the heir.” Firstborn of all Creation can also impose a chronological relationship however, and thus means “prior to all Creation.” As we said before when we discussed His God-head, He is eternal God. (Before Abraham was, I am.) (In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. John 1:1 (ESV))

2. He created all things

“For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible.” “All things were made by Him” (John 1:3). He is the Creator, not of “the rest” of the universe, but of “all things.” The word for that introduces this verse could be translated “because.” Jesus Christ is the Firstborn of all because He created all things. It is no wonder that the winds and waves obeyed Him, for He is Master over all. All things are under His command.

3. All things exist for Him (v. 16b).

Everything exists in Him, for Him, and through Him. Jesus Christ is the Sphere in which they exist, the Agent through which they came into being, and the One for whom they were made.

Paul’s use of three different prepositions is one way of refuting the philosophy of the false teachers. For centuries, the Greek philosophers had taught that everything needed a primary cause, an instrumental cause, and a final cause. The primary cause is the plan, the instrumental cause the power, and the final cause the purpose.

When it comes to Creation, Jesus Christ is the primary cause (He planned it), the instrumental cause (He produced it), and the final cause (He did it for His own pleasure). What He is not, is one with it. Creation is not of Him, that is of his substance.

This world with its mountains and lakes, its insects and birds and fish and beasts, and flowers (especially TULIPs) was made so beautiful because it was Christ’s world. Man was created and the ages of history were all arranged for Him.

Sin was ordained for him so that He could save us from it. Creation was designed to be the stage for manifesting God’s glory through Jesus Christ. The eternal purposes of redemption and their fulfillment in time were all for him so that He could simultaneously demonstrate God’s love and mercy and justice and wrath.

4. He holds all things together (v. 17).

“In Him all things hold together.” “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 (ESV))

Science continues to look for a universal theory that would explain the function of the universe, what is euphemistically called the Theory of Everything (TOE).

There appear to be different rules for how big things like galaxies function and other rules for how atomic and sub-atomic particles behave. And different rules for different kinds of particles. Light has wave and particle properties. Small particles have particle and wave properties. There are electric, magnetic and gravitational forces, and subsets of those.

When you consider the volume occupied by an atom, it is mostly empty space. Imagine that the nucleus of an atom was a golf ball. The first electron shell would be 1000 meters away. If the nucleus was the size of a period on the fifty yard line of a football field, the first electron would be out at the goal line. These are massive distances relative to the size of the objects that hold them together. What is the force that does this, that keeps matter together? It is Jesus. That may sound like a simple school child answer, but that is what it is. The Word of his power.

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ῥῆμα [rhema /hray·mah/] “word” 56 times, “saying” 1 time. That which is or has been uttered by the living voice, thing spoken, word. 1a any sound produced by the voice and having definite meaning. speech, discourse.

Jesus speaks and His words have sufficient power to not only create, but sustain and carry the universe through to its purposeful completion. (Heb 1.3 - uphold = to carry to completion) He holds it together yet keeps it from collapsing in on itself. He rules it at the cosmic and subatomic levels, and at all stages in between.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Colossians 1.13-23 - Parts 1 & 2

I. Intro: Jesus as He is.

I am a husband. I love my wife. I wrote down some of the things that I love about my wife:

1. I love the way she greets me at the door when I come home. She is so excited to see me it is as if her whole day has been spent waiting for that moment.

2. I love the way she snuggles up with me on the couch when we watch TV.

3. I love how soft her fur is behind her ears.

4. I love to watch her tail wag when she gets happy.

5. I love the way brings her toys to me and hunkers down and barks at me when she wants to play.

So quickly you get the picture that I’m not really talking about my wife, Jewell, but I’m probably talking about my dog, Mizu. Now, I have a relationship with my wife and my dog, but they are very different relationships. When I call myself a husband, I’m talking about a relationship with my wife.

My relationship with my wife, if it is going to be honest, if my love for her is to be real, needs to be built on a knowledge of Jewell as she is, not as I want or imagine her to be.

What is a Christian? Most of our definitions of “Christian” revolve around a relationship to Jesus Christ. But in the same way I confused my definition of Jewell with my definition of Mizu, we can confuse our definition of Christ with something we want or imagine Him to be and the result is that we love, worship, follow and obey someone or something other than Jesus as He really is. We create an idol.

A.W. Tozer defined idolatry as this: “We imagine something about God and then act as if it were true.” We don’t get to “imagine” Jesus to be something other than who He really is as revealed in scripture. All attempts to describe him beyond what we have been infallibly given must be regarded with extreme caution because they will always have a tendency to redefine Him according to our image and likeness, our preferences, and that is evil.

Fortunately, we have the infallible, revealed word of God to inform us. This passage of scripture in particular is one of the most detailed and precise definitions of who Jesus is, what he has done, and how that matters. Knowing who Jesus really is is essential to our ability to love, worship and obey Him. And that is to be our primary eternal purpose: to worship God through Christ by loving and obeying Him.

I am convinced that God’s greatest purpose, His ultimate goal, the one thing that consumes His zeal more than anything else, is His own glory as revealed in His Son, Jesus.

There’s a song that sings of Christ on the Cross, “You took the fall and thought of me above all.” I think that is false. Honestly, I think that is an insidious indication of pride and narcissism. Jesus did not think of me above all, He thought of His Father’s glory above all. And God not only loves His own glory, but loves His Son so much as to make him the primary agent of creating, revealing, and magnifying His glory.

We become partakers of that glory, fellow agents of magnification, and beneficiaries of the work of Christ - all of His works from before the foundations of the world - through the Gospel; that is, the very real historical fact of Jesus as He is, His dying for sinners, and our the proclamation of those facts.

As we look at these verses from Colossians, we must consider Paul’s original intention towards his original audience, which was to correct the errors of false teachers by establishing sound doctrine. Exactly who they were, I don’t think we can be certain. There is some evidence of arguments against Gnostic heresy, some against Judaizers, and some against pagan or Greek mythology.

The only remedy to the snares of false doctrine, is to understand who Christ is. So, to counter them, whoever they were, Paul makes clear, detailed doctrinal statements about the specific nature, power and function of Jesus Christ, and especially as his role as part of the God-head, as Creator, as Lord and as Redeemer.

These are huge subjects that volumes have been written about and in these few verses, we have a tremendous amount of theological content. I could easily imagine 3 months of preaching, on these 11 verses. Maybe 6. Yet at the same time we could summarize the vital and essential information of this in a sentence:

Jesus Christ is the son of God who took on flesh to die as a sacrifice for our sins so that God the Father could reconcile us to Himself so that we could stand before Him blameless and be welcomed into his kingdom as sons. (I don’t do small sentences.).

Even Better, we could make it a song:

Holy God, in love became

Perfect man to bear my blame

On the cross, He took my sin

So that I might live again.

(The Gospel Song, Sovereign Grace Ministries)

I want us to look in rather broad strokes at these four roles - deity, creator, redeemer and king - and begin to put them in usable terms so that we can define who Jesus is and what our relationship to him is, so we can worship Him rightly, and avoid idolatry.

II. Jesus as part of the God-head:

Paul speaks of Jesus distinctly as God. He is the image of the invisible God. Not as man was made in the image and likeness of God, in his natural faculties and dominion over the creatures. Rather, he is the express image of his person, (Hebrews 1:3a: 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.). Jesus claims this of Himself in John 14:9 (ESV) “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.” And even more so, Paul says that in Jesus the fullness of God was pleased to dwell.

What does that mean, fullness? Fullness = πλήρωμα, plérōma - n: a total quantity, with emphasis upon completeness. It thus denotes in particular totality, the absence of any lacunae (gaps or holes - like the lacunae in bone). All things needed are provided. This also applies to kings having the full measure of authority and greatness. It was specifically used of Caesar Augustus. Pleroma, as a word and as a concept, does not brook any room for exceptions. It completely fills the space. “Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over” Luke 6:38 (ESV) It does not allow for any other definition of Jesus except as fully, actually, completely God.

Currently there is a heresy that began around the 1870s called “kenosis theory” (Have this mind ... but made himself nothing (kenoo - emptied himself)..."

“The Divine Logos by His Incarnation divested Himself of His divine attributes of omniscience and omnipotence, so that in His incarnate life the Divine Person is revealed and solely revealed through a human consciousness.”

But this is a new concept without any theological history beyond German Liberal scholars and no support in the actual text of scripture. God, through Paul, anticipates such idolatry and so gives us clear refutation in verse 19 and again in v 2.9, by declaring the true and full deity of Jesus, the pleroma of His godness.

During Paul’s time the heresy was the opposite distortion, that Jesus was fully God, but not really human. The false teachers taught that matter was evil, including the human body. They also taught that Jesus Christ did not have a real body since this would have put Him in contact with evil matter.

The results of these false teachings were tragic, including extreme asceticism on the one hand and unbridled sin on the other. After all, if your body is sinful, you must try to enslave it and deny it any sense of pleasure. Or if flesh is evil and is going to perish anyway and only our soul matters, then why not enjoy our carnality since it’s just going to be purged in the end.

Paul doesn’t allow for the heresies that say that Jesus was a divine creature that only appeared to be in the flesh, because clearly in vv. 20 and 22, he speaks of Jesus’ flesh and blood, not as symbolic but as the means by which he made atonement for sins. If his physical form was merely metaphor or apparition, then so is our salvation only a specter.

Rather, Jesus is both God and man - the hypostatic union - and He will redeem both spirit and flesh, reforming creation to be the union of heaven and earth, not two separate realities, but one contiguous realm that He made and rules (God, creator, redeemer, king).