Series on Colossians, I The Mystery of Christ, A The Revelation of God, 2 Prayers, b Possibilities, Text: 1:12-20, Title: Realizing Our Potential


It would be difficult to find a more dazzling and majestic description of the preeminence of Jesus Christ than this passage. As believers we, of course, are thrilled with this description of our Lord’s ascendency over all things. However we must view this against the background of the heretical teaching in Colosse. As we have pointed out, that the Colossian Church was troubled by teachers who had grafted on Jewish belief many of the strange speculations about matter and creation which have always had such a fascination for the Eastern mind. The false teaching was that all matter was evil and the seat of sin; thus the material creation could not have come directly from a good God. They believed in a great gulf separating God and the material world which was populated by a series of beings progressing downward from the spiritual to the material. These shadowy beings in which the spirit was gradually thickened into matter were worshiped. These presumed angels and powers dominated the religious life of the ancient world and closely resemble Paul’s description in Ephesians 6:11 and 12 where he writes, Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Alexander Maclaren writes, “ As when the full moon rises, so when Christ appears, all the lesser stars with which Alexandrian and Eastern speculation had peopled the abysses of the sky are lost in the mellow radiance, and instead of a crowd of flickering ineffectual lights there is one perfect orb, and heaven is overflowed.” We see no creature any more but only Jesus. In seeing Jesus we learn three indispensable things about Him. They are the rescue, the reign and the reconciliation.

I The Rescue

The rescue can be seen in verses 12-14, Joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. You notice that he word joyfully is incorrectly placed with the previous verse by the editors of the New International Version. Actually it is describing our rejoicing over being forgiven and delivered. When one of our citizens is held hostage in a foreign land we are glued to the news sources and transfixed by the reports of our special forces, seals, scouts and raiders on their daring missions. When someone is lost at land or sea the news sources are filled with the reports of the attempts rescue and retrieve the lost. With amazement we honor the bravery and skill of these rescuers. Yet the greatest rescue mission of all time  was not done by the special forces or the seals, but by a solitary figure, the king of kings, who laid aside His glory and was made in the likeness of sinful man and in the words of Isaiah 50:7 set His face like a flint to go to Jerusalem, For the Lord GOD will help me; therefore shall I not be confounded: therefore have I set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame. Jesus resolution and determination increased as the end loomed and he frequently referred to his impending death, but it was to rescue us for he said in Mark 10:45, For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. Such determination in the face of death reminds me of the year 1983 in Australia. A 500 mile footrace was scheduled. Race officials were startled when a 61-year-old man, Cliff Young, approached and handed them his entry form. His "racing attire" included overalls and galoshes over his work boots. They refused to let him enter, but he explained that he'd grown up on a 2,000-acre farm, with thousands of sheep, and no horses or tractors so, when the storms came, his job was to round up the sheep. by running two or three days steady. As the race began the others quickly left him way behind, shuffling along in his galoshes. But he didn't know the plan included stopping each night to rest, so he kept going. By the fifth day, he had caught them all, won the race, and became a national hero.  In 2004 the organizers of the race changed its name to the Cliff Young Australian Six Day Race. What was the key to Cliff Young's success? Keeping his eye fixed steadfastly on the goal, and not stopping, no matter the difficulties or the obstacles, until that goal was achieved. Thus Jesus died in your place so that you might have eternal life. One other thing should be noticed. When people are rescued by the Army special forces or Navy seals the event is over and they customarily go back to their ordinary lives. When Jesus rescues you He makes you a joint heir which means that you inherit the world. If you do not trust in Him, you inherit the wind.

II The Reign

We see the universal almighty power and glory of Jesus in verses  15-17, He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. In the Son of God the essential nature of the Father is mirrored and displayed. Essentially, then, we learn here that Jesus is the heir of everything He is the heir of the old creation, and in the next section we learn that He is the heir of the new creation. He is heir of the old creation because he made it. This John  tells us in the prologue to his gospel in 1:2 and 3, He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. Some people mistake the word “firstborn” to mean that the Son of God, Jesus was created by the Father, and that He is the first created. Nothing could be further from the truth. As Paul says here and elsewhere, the Son created all things. If he made them then he cannot be part of what was made, and if he created them he cannot be part of the creation. The Greek supports the better meaning that he was “before” all things. Like the Father, the Son is eternal. Furthermore Paul says he made them for Himself. They are “for Him.” The rule of primogeniture runs throughout the Bible. This means that the heir is the firstborn, so this is just another way of saying that the Son is the heir of all the Father possesses. They possess it together. The real icing on the cake is the words, “In him all things hold together.” In other words every atom in creation would dissolve, and every molecule would collapse if he were not holding it together. We read the same thing in Hebrews 1:2 and 3, In these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. We read in Genesis of the creation that God spoke and it was so. He simply spoke the universe into existence. It is by that same infinite omnipotent Word that He holds the universe together. I leave you to ponder the implications of this for your everyday life, but remember when you walk out of here the ability to put one foot in front of the other proceeds totally from the Word. This is what it means to say that God is sovereign. Jesus name above all names.

III The Reconciliation

In verses 18-20 we move from rescuing and reigning to reconciling as we read, And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. Of course we are reconciled to God through the atonement, but the effect of Jesus saving work is of a much greater extent. He redeemed the entire creation. The new creation is the Church, the city of God. The church is paradise restored. The Church is the city set on a hill. The Church is the city whose builder and maker is God, the city that Abraham looked for. The Church is the new Jerusalem to which we come in Jesus. The church is the city John describes in Revelation 21:2 and 3, I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. Jesus is the head, and the head of a human being controls all. It is in the head that the organs of special sense are mainly located. The brain receives impulses from the outside world and from inside the body. It organizes and interprets these impulses. It thinks. It reacts, and this both voluntarily and involuntarily. Thus it guides and directs the actions of the individual. In the cerebrum are located the areas that control the various parts of the body. The cerebellum has been called “the co-ordinator and harmonizer of muscular action.” The medulla controls such actions as winking, sneezing, coughing, chewing, sucking, and swallowing. Here also the cardiac center regulates the rate of heart-beat, while the respiratory center is in charge of the activity of the respiratory organs. The head controls it all. The heart may stop and be started, but when there is no brain activity there is no life. Jesus is the head and from him comes life and direction. For this reason we read that, “God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him.” All the Divine nature in all its sweet greatness, in all its infinite wealth of tenderness and power and wisdom, is embodied in Jesus Christ. As Kistemaker says, "The powers and attributes of Deity were not to be distributed among a multitude of angels” (as the Colossian heretics alleged). “The divine supremacy or sovereignty, either as a whole or in part, was not to be surrendered to them. On the contrary, in accordance with God’s good pleasure, from all eternity the plenitude of the Godhead, the fullness of God’s essence and glory, which fullness is the source of grace and glory for believers, resides in the Son of his love, in him alone, not in him and the angels. It dwells in him whom we now serve as our exalted Mediator, and it manifests itself both in Creation and Redemption.” The Colossian Christians do not need angels to help them get saved. Rather in Christ, and Him alone, they are complete as Paul says later in  2:10. Thus Jesus is the head of the new creation, the firstborn from the dead. In His resurrection he is the new beginning that we long for. As Paul says in I Corinthians 15:20-24, But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. But each in turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him. Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. Jesus created the old world and now through the shedding of His blood in atonement he has created the new world and reconciled to Himself all things. By constant contemplation of that glory as revealed in the gospel, we are gradually transformed into the same glory.