Col 1:15-18 #9, The Church 10/19/2003 ßà
#1. The Image of the Invisible God (Col 1:15-16, John 1:18, 14:9-11, Rev 13:8)
#2. He Is the Head of the Body, the Church (Col 1:17-18, Isa 55:8-9, Eph 2:22, 5:26-27)
#3. And You Hath He Now Reconciled (Col 1:21-22, John 20:21)
Please open your Bibles to the Epistle to the Ephesians 2:19 (2X). We are continuing in the series that is called, "The Wisdom of God" (2X). In this series we are taking an overview of God's plan and God's execution of His plan for this creation. In other words, we are gleaning from the Scriptures what the counsel of God and what the providence of God is, and what is the end of all things that God in His counsel has decided from before the foundation of the world? The first sermon in this series was preached on August 10, 2003, and was titled, "God's Eternal Purpose for This Creation". The last two sermons in this series were titled, "It Is Finished", two weeks ago, and "Metamorphosis", one week ago. You have to see the logic in this; this sequence is not arbitrary. Because the Lord Jesus Christ finished His work on the cross, paying for the guilt of all the sins of all those people whom He came to save, all those people are guaranteed to experience a "Metamorphosis" at some point in their lifetime. In other words, all those who had their sins paid for at the cross are guaranteed to become "Born Again" at some point in their lifetime. What then will they do after that they have become "Born Again"? The Bible says that they will have an urgent desire to meet together with others who believe as they do, and so they want to form a local Church. That is why today's sermon, which is #9 in this series, is titled, "The Church" (2X). Let me first say a few words about:
In His wisdom God instilled in us the desire to worship together as a Church, because we want to meet together as a church family. That is the reason why our church exists. This is the visible church. The visible church is the local church. Therefore the local church is a group of people who gather together on Sundays, because the greatest feast of the NT church is the bodily resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. But the main reason why the church worships on Sundays is because God changed the OT 7th day Sabbath to the NT Sunday Sabbath. And you can see that in the Greek text in Matt 28:1, in Mark 16:2, in Luke 24:1, and in John 20:1. Clearly the OT 7th day Sabbath, which was part of the Ceremonial Law, has been done away, and God established the NT Sunday Sabbath in its place as a sign that the Messiah has come already, and on this day we are looking back at the glorious day of His resurrection from the dead. Thus the church is not a building, and the church is not a meeting hall, but the church is a group of people who come together to worship. This is the visible, local church, or the local congregation, and we must see it as an institute, established by God. But God also speaks in the Bible about another church, which is the church as a living organism, not a visible local congregation but invisible because only God knows its members. This is the church universal, as it is evident for example in Eph 2:19, where we read:
Eph 2:19 Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God;
This is the group of Christian believers, all having their salvation in Jesus Christ, being washed by His blood, sanctified and sealed by the Holy Ghost. This church has been from the beginning of the world, and will be to the end thereof; which is evident from this, that Christ is an eternal King, who without subjects would not be a King. And this holy church is preserved and supported by God against the rage of the whole world. Furthermore, this holy church is not confined or limited to a certain place or to certain persons, but is spread and dispersed over the whole world, and yet it is joined and united with heart and will, by the power of faith, in one and the same spirit. This church universal includes all that are saved and it excludes all that are not saved. This is the body of Christ. This is the church that is holy, without sin, without spot or wrinkle, consecrated unto God, and therefore quite distinct and separated from the world consisting of fallen and sinful mankind.
Therefore, when someone proclaims that the church is dead, that person may be speaking about a certain local congregation, but making such a preposterous claim for the entire church in the world is arrogant. He is not God, and he cannot see the hearts of people in every congregation in the world. Christ said that He will build His church, referring to the church universal, and the gates of Hell shall not overcome it. Even in the dismal days of king Ahab, when Elijah thought that he was the only faithful one left in Israel, God told Elijah in 1Kings 19:18,
1Ki 19:18 Yet I have left me seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed unto Baal, and every mouth which hath not kissed him.
This we can also say for today's condition in the churches. But I believe that presently there are a whole lot more than 7000 which have not bowed the knee to Baal. For this we have to give thanks to God. Please turn in your Bibles about 15 pages to your right (ß) to the Epistle to the Colossians 1:10
In this chapter we have a wonderful description of the church universal, and her relationship to Christ as the head of the church. We read in Col 1:10,
Col 1:10 That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God;
Col 1:11 Strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness;
It is only by the grace of God, and by the wisdom that God imparts to us, that we can "walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work". It is only by the grace of God that He will give us also the wisdom to be "increasing in the knowledge of God" when we study His Word, and when we meditate on His Word, and when we listen to uplifting sermons, and when we engage in fruitful discussions with believers of like mind, and so on. Our life and our frame of mind are in the hands of God. He determines if we will learn or if we will remain stagnant. And so, when we see that God blesses us with understanding, we should check if our insights are also reflected in the minds of other believers, and we must thank God for the "increase in the knowledge of God" that we have received. "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of
lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning" (Jas 1:17). Let us go on in Col 1:12
Col 1:12 ¶ Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light:
Col 1:13 Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son:
Col 1:14 In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins:
Should we not be intensely grateful for this? The Father "hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light". The saints in light are those who have entered into the church universal, and have become the body of Christ and the Bride of Christ. The inheritance of the saints in light is God Himself, reflected in the words God spoke to Abraham when He said in Gen 15:1, "Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield and thy exceeding great reward". God promised this to Abraham and God also promises it also to all the spiritual children of Abraham. When we receive God Himself as our reward, we have received everything. We could not ask for more, for there is no more. And when "the Father has made us meet", or made us fitting, "to be partakers of this great reward", it means that we have been elected unto salvation from before the foundation of the world. We shudder when we think that He could have passed us by. What a pain if He would have elected someone else in my place. But no! The Father has chosen to make us as vessels unto honor, and for this we must thank Him immensely. How great is our gratitude? Can we see our life as a life filled with gratitude? Formerly we were in the kingdom of Satan, the king of darkness, and we relished in our sins. But at the time of our Metamorphosis the Father has delivered us from the power of darkness, meaning that we are no longer held captive under the power of sin. The Father has delivered us out of the kingdom of darkness and has translated us into the Kingdom of His dear Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. What this means is that we cannot go back into the kingdom of darkness. Once Christ has paid for our sins and God has done this wonderful work in our soul, it means that we can no more go back to our former sinful state. Just like a butterfly will no more fit into the cocoon she came out of, so it is impossible for us to backslide into our former condition of being happy in our sin. In the Kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ there are no backsliders. Verse 14 says, "We have redemption through His blood". This does not refer to every human being in the world, but it refers to "We". Who are "We"? "We" are all those whose sins Christ came to pay. We read in Matt 1:21, "Thou shalt call His name Jesus, for He shall save His people from their sins". "We" are "His people". If I would not be one of His people because I am a Gentile, then Christ would not have paid for my sins. But since I know, by faith, that all my sins were paid by the Lord Jesus, I also understand the meaning of "His people" in Matt 1:21.
#1. The Image of the Invisible God (Col 1:15-16, John 1:18, 14:9-11, Rev 13:8)
Beginning with verse 15 we have a description of the Lord Jesus Christ and the power of Christ, which holds everything together.
Col 1:15 Who is the image of the invisible God, the Firstborn of every creature:
What does it mean that He is "the image of the invisible God"? God says in John 1:18, "No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him". And it is most clearly explained in the words of the Lord Jesus in John 14:9-11, where Jesus said, "He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father", and "The words that I speak unto you I speak not of Myself: but the Father that dwelleth in Me, He doeth the works", and "Believe Me that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me". God tells us here that Jesus is the image of the Father. It does not mean that the Father has hands and feet like Jesus had, because "God is a Spirit, and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth". Adam was a man created in the image of God. The Lord Jesus, who is the Second Adam, was God created in the image of man. The first Adam represented the glories of God only in part. He could think and speak. He could have a concept of righteousness and fellowship with God, but he could not think like God. The Lord Jesus Christ is eternal, incomprehensible, immutable, almighty, perfectly wise, just, good, the overflowing fountain of all good, one in thought with the Father and residing both on earth and in heaven at the same time. And He was that way before His incarnation, He was that way in the days of His flesh and He is like that now also in His glorified state. That is why He is "the image of the invisible God".
When the Lord Jesus Christ is called "The Firstborn of every creature", or better "The Firstborn of all creation", He does not bear that name for the reason that He was born of the Virgin Mary. It does not refer to His birth, but to His death and resurrection. God specifies that in verse 18, where Christ is called, "The Firstborn from the dead". His birth is not the greatest feast of the church, but His death and resurrection is. Christ is called "the Firstborn of all creation", because He is "the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world" (Rev 13:8). His death for the sins of all the OT saints is effective from the foundation of the world, and thus His resurrection also reaches back to the foundation of the world. "If Christ is not raised, our faith is vain; and we are yet in our sins". The entire creation of the world, and even the creation of this universe, is contingent upon Christ being raised from the dead. He must die and be raised from the dead, to accomplish God's purpose for this creation. We read that also in:
Col 1:16 For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him:
It is easy to believe that "all things were created by Him", because we read a confirmation of this in John 1:3, "All things were made by Him; and without Him was not anything made that was made". When we believe that the Lord Jesus Christ is the second person of the triune God, and when we believe that the triune God created the heavens and the earth, it is easy to believe that the Lord Jesus Christ was the creator of all things together with the Father and the Holy Spirit. But this verse,
says something more. Col 1:16 says that "All things were created by Him and for Him". Were all things created for Him? Please turn about 15 pages to your left (à), to the Epistle to the Ephesians 1:9-10. What is God's goal? What is the outcome? What has God determined in Himself? What is the end of all the works of His hands? Here in Eph 1:9-10 we read about the actions of God the Holy Spirit in revealing to us the mystery of His will, and revealing to us God's purpose in creating us and in saving us. God says in Eph 1:9,
Eph 1:9 Having made known unto US the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself:
We read in verse 9 what God has purposed in Himself, in His Counsel before the foundation of the world, with respect to the eternal purpose of all His works. Then we read in verse 10,
Eph 1:10 That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him:
There can be no doubt that this passage deals with the eternal good pleasure of God. He has purposed in Himself from before the foundation of the world how all things should be in the end. And God is not just speaking about all the elect, because God says emphatically "all things", and God specifies these things as those "which are in heaven, and which are on earth". What has God, from before the foundation of the world, determined in Himself with respect to this present creation? We see in verses 9 and 10 first of all that the entire creation shall be intimately connected and be a harmonious unity. Is all creation a harmonious unity now? No! The creatures are now separated and pitted in battle against each other. Microbes and viruses are attacking mankind. The world of mankind is divided: the reprobate are persecuting the children of God, and even the children of the Devil are pitted in combat against each other. In the spirit world Satan and his demons are in a spiritual battle against those of mankind whom they hate the most, and angels are sent by God to be ministering spirits to those who shall be heirs of salvation and heirs of God. But here in Eph 1:9-10 God teaches us that it was God's purpose from before the foundation of the world to unite all things again into a higher and all inclusive unity, both the things in heaven and the things on earth.
Secondly, we see that all things will be gathered together "in Christ", and they are governed by Christ as King. This is what God has purposed in Himself, and God will bring it to pass. God decided the end, and God sovereignly determined the way and the means that should lead to that end, sin and death included (2X). God's plans cannot be frustrated. This also means that all creation shall be most intimately united with God, since Christ is God. This also means that all creatures who oppose Christ as their Lord will be removed into a place called Hell, and all things that have been defiled by them shall be destroyed, so that in the end situation only righteousness shall dwell where the Saints shall be. It will be a perfect universe where everything and everyone is united under Christ as the head. This is what verse 10 teaches us. "All things were created for Him".
In the end of the world the organism of the elect church will be finally and completely separated from the reprobate shell. Some people teach that God created a perfect and original organism in Adam. This original organism is marred and spoiled and corrupted by sin. And in the end God restores this original organism in the church by recreation. The problem with this view is that something falls really in the hands of Satan, and is lost. The Devil, after all, gains a victory, although God restores His marred creation and has the final victory. But that is not the view of Eph 1:10. What is the Biblical view? God from all eternity purposed to create a church in Christ. That church was created in the loins of Adam organically, together with the reprobate shell of the human race. Remember, God said to Eve, "I will greatly multiply thy sorrow AND thy conception". And in the line of election and reprobation God separates the nucleus from the shell, and God brings His elect church to glory. Nothing is lost (2X). Sin and Satan must simply serve the purpose of realizing the church of Christ. And God maintains His counsel (2X). This is the teaching of Eph 1:10 and this is the teaching of Col 1:16. that is why God says in Col 1:16, "All things were created by Him and for Him". Let us now continue with Col 1:17. Please turn again about 15 pages to your right (ß) to Col 1:17 (2X).
#2. He Is the Head of the Body, the Church (Col 1:17-18, Isa 55:8-9, Eph 2:22, 5:26-27)
First Col 1:17 repeats in different words what God already said in the previous verse,
Col 1:17 And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.
Christ is before all things, means not only that He existed in time before all things came into existence, but also that Christ must be number one in our life. Let us check out our daily schedule, and see if Christ is indeed number one in our life. Where does the bulk of our time go? Do we give Christ our leftover time? Do we give Him just 1½ hour on Sundays? Do we think that is enough? Do we take time to watch TV or to read the newspaper? Is it possible that we actually do not love Him as much as we ought to love the One who saved us from a slippery slide into Hell?
Not only were all things created by Him and for Him, but presently all things are held together by Him. The Lord Jesus said, "Without Me ye can do nothing", and that is absolutely nothing. Not only was He speaking to the disciples, not only was He speaking to all the elect of mankind, but he was also speaking to all those who are the non-elect, which are on the way to Hell. The Lord Jesus said to them also, "Without Me ye can do nothing", and God does that without being the author of sin, and without making any of us robots. We cannot understand this from the human perspective, but God says in Isa 55:8-9, "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts". We cannot reach or understand the height of God's level of thought. All we can do is believe what the Bible says. We are not called to understand it all, but believe it all. We must apply this when we want to know the meaning of "By Him all things consist". All things, refer to really all things, both in the world of the elect as well as in the world of the non-elect. Now the next V.
Col 1:18 And He is the Head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the Firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence.
Christ is the Head of the church, which is called His body. Christ is the Chief Cornerstone of the church. Christ is the foundation on which we rest all of our doctrines. But where do we find this information about Christ? It is in the Bible. That is why the Bible alone must be our guide, to guide us into what is truth and what is false. The Bible is our measuring stick, and the Bible is our plumb line, and the Bible is the only collection of words we can trust. The Bible is the church's foundation, even though Christ is really our foundation. But only if we remain faithful to the Bible will we be "a habitation of God through the Spirit" (Eph 2:22). And Christ is the beginning of the church, and He is called the Firstborn from the dead because He purchased the church when He hung on the cross. O yes, He purchased the whole world, but He purchased especially the church eternal, the body of believers who are called His Bride, and paid for all her sins,
Eph 5:26 That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word,
Eph 5:27 That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.
This is why Christ had to die and this is why He had to rise from the dead, "in order that He might have the preeminence". Since He purchased the church and the world when He hung on the cross, He became the Master of all creation; and that is why:
We read in Col 1:18-20,
Col 1:18 And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence.
Col 1:19 For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell;
Yes, it pleased the Father that in Him, in the body of the child born to the Virgin Mary, in the body of the carpenter of Nazareth, our Kinsman, in Him all the fullness of the Godhead should bodily dwell.
Col 1:20 And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven.
Since Christ was the God-Man, our Kinsman and God's spotless Lamb, He only qualified to be our Redeemer, to make peace between God and man through His suffering and death on the cross, and He alone qualified to reconcile all things unto Himself. Here is that "all things" again, which really means all things. We see it again in Eph 1:22-23, where God says
Eph 1:22-23 And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.
However, God will give His glory to no other. He is Lord and accomplishes all His good pleasure. Through the vain imagination of Satan and the fall of man God prepared the way for His Son to come into the world. That Son God had anointed from before the foundation of the world to be the Head of the church, the heir of all things, the Lord of lords and King of kings, the everlasting representative of God's lordship over all created things, the eternal Servant-King under God, in Whom and under Whom all things, both that are in heaven and that are on earth, must be united in the heavenly Kingdom of the new creation. This Son of God, this anointed Servant of the Lord, was ordained to come into this world, to unite Himself with human nature, and to become like unto His brethren in all things. In the world He was to represent God's cause, His eternal covenant, His truth and righteousness, His sovereignty and lordship, His everlasting love and mercy, His glory and honor. Out of the world He must redeem and save His people in the way of perfect obedience, even unto death. And He must form them into a people of God, that will live in God's house and that will extol His praises. He is anointed to overcome all the power of sin and death, to dispossess the Devil and the wicked, and finally to destroy them by the breath of His mouth. And having overcome all His enemies, He is to submit Himself and His Kingdom to the Father, that God may be all in all. This is what Christ came to do! The result is a battle throughout the ages: Christ and His church against the world, which is principally anti-Christ. The Son of God gathers His church. To that church He gives His Word, that she might proclaim it. He calls her out of darkness into God's marvelous light, in order that she may walk in the light. Yet, though calling her out of the world in a spiritual sense, He leaves her in the world, that she may proclaim the Gospel in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom she shines as lights in this dark world. This is our primary task in this world. This is the task of our local church as a whole, but this is also the task of each individual in this congregation. How do we measure up to this assignment? Do we find ourselves busy doing this work? Do we find ourselves busy preparing for such battles? Do we find ourselves busy praying for many?
At this point, let me briefly summarize what we have covered so far. #1. We have talked about the local church and the church universal, and for both we must give God thanks. #2. We have seen that Christ is the image of the invisible God, and why He is called the Firstborn of all creation. #3. We have seen that all things were created by Him and for Him, and this really means "all things". Nothing will be lost to the Devil. #4. We have seen that Christ is the Head of the church, which is called His body, and Christ must have the preeminence, because He bought us, body and soul. Then God says:
#3. And You Hath He Now Reconciled (Col 1:21-22, John 20:21)
Col 1:21 And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled
Col 1:22 In the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight:
In the past we all were enemies of God in our mind by doing wicked works. But now we have been reconciled to God. Christ did that. He did not ask our permission, but He chose whom He would save and He saved us mightily, on the cross and through His Spirit at the time we became "Born Again", to present us holy and unblameable and unreproveable in His sight. What does that mean? It means that we have become of the family of Christ. He went before us to the battle, and was victorious. His death was His victory. But we are not just drafted into the family of Christ; we also have been drafted into His army. The Lord Jesus said, "As My Father has sent Me, even so send I you" (John 20:21). Will we fight the battles where Christ sent us to? He has promised us victory. Will we obey? It depends on how great our gratitude is. Would we run like soldiers to the battle, or would we run like cowards away from the battle? Again I ask, what does it mean, "to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight"? Does this have anything to do with our witness in this world? Absolutely! There are no silent Christians. All those who have become saved have an urgent desire to engage in the spiritual battle that God has assigned to us. And what is our victory? Faith is our victory! To remain faithful to the Gospel of Christ and to keep the faith, that is our victory. Faith is the victory that overcomes the world. This victory is certain, because God ordained His Son to be the heir of all things from before the foundation of the world. Therefore when we read in Col 1:23,
This does not refer to a condition for salvation, but it refers to a fact that accompanies salvation.
Col 1:23 If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister;
No, this is not something that we must do out of our own good heart; it is not something that we must conjure up in our own mind, but,
Php 2:13 For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.
We cannot take credit for any good works, which we do. This is God working in us and through us to accomplish what He foreordained that we should do. No, don't take the credit away from God. He deserves all the credit and all the glory for any good works that we do. Besides, did you notice that we do not do those good works perfectly? We know that we always can improve on what we have done yesterday. This means that even our best works are tainted by sin. Don't offer such sin tainted works to God, as if they came out of your good heart. Therefore, serve Him fearlessly, and believe that He will preserve us to the end, to the day of Jesus Christ. Let me read to you from 2Tim 1:12. The hymn that we are going to sing in a few minutes is based on these words.
2Ti 1:12 For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.
AMEN. Let us turn to the Lord in prayer.