I wonder if you have taken time to read the booklet you received this week from the government? It explains why the government believes the UK should remain in the European Union. Both those in favour and those wishing us to leave the EU, focus on the same thing – sovereignty. Who is in control of our borders, our economy, our laws, our resources, our security? It has also been another stressful week for our political leaders, both those deemed to have not paid enough tax as well as those who paid late or have even paid too much. I suggested on Facebook that perhaps, having remained in office for well over 60 years and having survived 13 successive Prime Ministers, it might be better if Her Majesty the Queen dissolved Parliament and we went back to an absolute if benevolent monarchy.” Then when I had thought about it some more, I realised she didn’t need to, because we already have one. To mark Her Majesty’s 90th birthday we are distributing to local school children as well as seniors, copies of, The Servant Queen and the King She Serves. It tells in her own words, of her personal faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
There is no subject I delight in more than expounding what the scriptures reveal about the Lord Jesus Christ. That isa why we are serving up new charity, Peacemaker Mediators, to enable me to continue to do so when I retire. These Sunday mornings in April we are reading the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Colossians together. The prevailing culture of his day is not that dissimilar to our own. More religious than secular, it was not that people denied the person of Jesus Christ, but rather that they had dethroned him. In the marketplace of religions, there were many different ways to God and Jesus was just one of them. Warren Weirsbe observes, that there is probably no other paragraph in the entire New Testament that contains more concentrated doctrine about the Lord Jesus Christ than the one before us today. That’s why I’ve subtitled this, “Jesus Christ: Crown Him Lord of all”.[i] Please turn with me to Colossians 1 and observe:
The Sovereignty of Christ over Creation (1:15-17)
The Supremacy of Christ in the Church (1:18-19)
The Sufficiency of Christ on the Cross (1:20-23)
- The Sovereignty of Christ over Creation
“The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities;
all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” (Colossians 1:15-17)
In these verses we discover the fourfold relationship of the Lord Jesus Christ to Creation.
1.1 The Lord Jesus existed before creation
The term firstborn does not refer to time, but to his position or status. This is where, with respect, Islamic teaching has misunderstood the biblical revelation of the Lord Jesus. Islam denies what the scriptures do not teach. Jesus Christ was not the first being created, because He was the creator of all things. Firstborn simply means “of first importance, of first rank.” So, Firstborn over all creation means “prior to all creation.” Jesus Christ is not a created being; He is eternal God. To make this even more explicit, the word image used in verse 15 means “an exact representation and revelation.” The writer to the Hebrews similarly affirms that Jesus Christ is “the exact representation of God’s being” (Hebrews 1:3). Jesus could say, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.” (John 14:9). God is invisible; but Jesus Christ has revealed Him to us (John 1:18).
Creation reveals the existence, the power, and wisdom of God (Romans 1); but only in Jesus Christ is the invisible God revealed perfectly.
1.2 The Lord Jesus created everything
Verse 16 tells us not once but twice that the Lord Jesus created everything. “For in him all things were created… all things have been created through him”. The word for introducing this verse could be translated “because.” Jesus Christ is the Firstborn of all because He created all things whether in heaven and earth, visible and invisible. If you think about it, it is no wonder in the gospels that the winds and waves obeyed Him, or that demons and diseases fled from Him, or that death could not hold him, for He is Lord over all. Now let me be frank. If you accept evolution as taught in most schools and universities today, you have a defective view of Jesus because the Lord Jesus existed before creation because the Lord Jesus created everything.
Not only that, the third truth we learn about Jesus,
1.3 The Lord Jesus gives purpose to everything
“all things have been created … for him.” Indeed, everything exists in Him, for Him, and through Him.
Jesus Christ is the domain in which everything exists.
He is the agent through which everything came into being, and the one for whom everything was created. The use of three prepositions here is profound. The Greek philosophers 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. The Bible reveals that Jesus Christ is the primary cause (He planned it), the instrumental cause (He produced it), and the final cause (He created everything for His own pleasure). If everything in creation exists for Him, then nothing can be evil of itself (except for Satan and fallen angels). It also means that God’s creation is good. Fallen? Yes. Flawed? Yes. But irredeemable? No. Everything exists for God’s glory and can be enjoyed by God’s people. So let me ask you, do you know your purpose in life? If not, let me tell you – or rather, listen to the Westminster Confession, “The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” John Piper in his book Desiring God, tweaks that slightly to say our chief end is “to glorify God by enjoying Him forever.” That is what we mean by our mission statement, we exist to know Jesus and make Jesus known.
So, the Lord Jesus existed before creation, he created everything and gives meaning and purpose to everything. And fourthly, we are told,
1.4 The Lord Jesus sustains everything
“in him all things hold together.” (Colossians 1:17).
If you visit the Science Museum or a nuclear power station in Britain, you will find an exhibition which explains how nuclear energy is obtained. You will see models and diagrams of everything from the giant turbines and cooling towers right down to minute complex molecular structures. As you know everything is made of atoms. And every atom is a nucleus orbited by electrons. Every nucleus is built of protons. Inside the proton lies a deep, unsettling truth: Stuff is made of nothing, well almost. In layman’s terms protons are held together by what is called the strong force and the weak force. While electromagnetic force can attract and repel at large distances, the strong and weak forces within the nucleus are negligible at any distance larger than a few femtometers. (A femtometer is a millionth of a billionth of a meter, or 100 billion times smaller than the hair’s width). If you find that incomprehensible, don’t worry. Just remember it is not a question of what holds everything together but who. It may not be the appropriate answer in a science exam but the fact is, the Lord Jesus holds everything together. The sovereignty of Christ over creation. The Lord Jesus existed before creation, he created everything, he gives purpose to everything and he sustains everything on creation. The sovereignty of Christ over creation.
- The Supremacy of Christ in the Church
“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.” (Colossians 1:18-19)
The Church is defined in different ways in the New Testament, but the Body of Christ the most important. When a person trusts in Christ, they are immediately baptized by the Holy Spirit into this body which is made up of every Christ follower. The word head as used here simply means Jesus is the “source” and “origin” as well as “ruler.” And the word beginning can be translated “originator.” The church had its origin in Him, and today it has its operation in Him.
As the Head of the church, Jesus Christ supplies the church with spiritual gifts and opportunities to serve him and one another. Through His Word, he nourishes and purifies the church. The fact that there is “one body” does not obviate the need for local bodies of believers. Belonging to the universal church does not release me from my responsibilities to the local church. That is why we take membership seriously at Christ Church and expect everyone to serve in some way, sharing responsibility for our finances, our services and our witness in the community. If you are feeling redundant, unemployed or on holiday, lets meet at your convenience and discover your place in the body of Christ for we are both answerable to the head. And to state the obvious, we also learn here that no one on earth should be called the ‘head’ of the Church, whether it is the Pope, an Archbishop or Monarch. That position is reserved exclusively for the Lord Jesus Christ. He is supreme. The sovereignty of Christ over creation. The Supremacy of Christ in the Church.
- The Sufficiency of Christ on the Cross
“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.
Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation—if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move 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 1:20-23)
Here we learn four things about the cross of Christ.
3.1 Reconciliation is the Work of God
As Dick Lucas observes, “The Bible is not the story of man’s search for God. From the first sentence (‘In the beginning God created …’) Holy Scripture is marked out from other religious writings by its unique insistence that the initiative belongs wholly to God.” If verse 21 accurately describes our moral and spiritual state there can be no hope of peace unless God undertakes the work of peacemaking himself. This is why we are calling the new charity “Peacemaker Mediators” because that is what we are called to be. In the Beatitudes Jesus did not say, “Blessed are the children of God for they shall be called peacemakers”. Just the opposite. It is those who engage in peacemaking who are called the children of God (Matthew 5:9) Unless we are engaged in peacemaking, we have no right to be called children of God. For if God is the Peacemaker, his children will be too. Verse 19 precedes verse 20 precisely to make clear that God must take human flesh to provide the person who will be able to represent all people. So it is only ‘through Christ’ that reconciliation can be attempted and accomplished.[ii]
3.2 Reconciliation has been Accomplished
We don’t need to wait until we die to find out whether we are forgiven and accepted by God. For peace with God has been accomplished (past tense), by the death of Christ.
The work of Christ on the cross then was directed toward God not humanity. ‘We have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous, and he is the propitiation for our sins.’ (1 John 2:1). Propitiation, that is satisfying the wrath of God, does not deny the love of God, but rather demonstrates it. We need an advocate with the Father, precisely because he is also our Judge. We have an advocate with the Father, just because, in great mercy, God has come in Christ to provide one. The Christian doctrine of reconciliation is free from all pagan misrepresentations in that the one who requires to be reconciled is the one who carries out the work of reconciliation. ‘God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ.’ (2 Corinthians 5:19). Reconciliation is the work of God. Reconciliation has been accomplished.
3.3 Reconciliation was achieved on the Cross
The ‘blood’ of the cross simply means Christ’s sacrificial death. The Christian gospel centres on what happened there. The heart of the church’s message must therefore be the preaching of ‘Christ and him crucified.’ (1 Corinthians 2:2). It is very likely that as is often the case today
In many churches, the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ was not the centre of their teaching. Perhaps they were tempted, as we are, to shift the centre of gravity from the historic faith, and to locate the source of power in their own ministry, or health or wealth, or special revelations or their elevated status. The Bible never locates power or authority in people, roles or ceremonies. Reconciliation was achieved on the cross and no where else.
3.4 Reconciliation is Universal
Finally, the scope of this reconciliation is universal. The peace of God extends to the whole created order. ‘All things’ may share peace with God. Other passages fill in the time scale of this, showing how creation must ‘wait’ for the day when Christ returns. What is particularly important here however is that the Lord Jesus is again presented, as a sufficient Saviour. Nothing, and no one, lies outside the scope of his reconciling work. That is not the same as saying that everyone will be saved (which they won’t, if we take Jesus words seriously). But all who are reconciled to God are saved only by Christ’s blood.
Christians have always confessed that there is but one God; we confess that there is but one way to that God, the God-man Christ Jesus. He alone is the God-given mediator. God has made him the agent of reconciliation for all because there is no other mediator capable of reconciling any. ‘He is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.’
This is why he is rightly called the Lord Jesus Christ, King of kings and Lord of lords. John MacArthur insists, “The biblical mandate for both sinners and saints is not to ‘make’ Christ Lord, but rather to bow to His lordship. He is ever and always Lord, whether or not anyone acknowledges His lordship or surrenders to His authority.”[iii] So, when you vote in the referendum on Thursday 23rd June, on whether the UK should stay or leave the European Union, remember that sovereignty rests not in a place, whether Brussels or Westminster, but in a person. The Lord, Jesus Christ. We have been reminded this morning of the Sovereignty of Christ over Creation. The Supremacy of Christ in the Church. And the Sufficiency of Christ on the Cross. Sovereign, supreme, sufficient. Lets crown him with many crowns.
[i] Warren Wiersbe, Be Complete, David Cook, 2008.
[ii] R.C. Lucas, Fullness & Freedom: the Message of Colossians & Philemon, InterVarsity Press, 1980.
[iii] John MacArthur, The Gospel According to Jesus, Word, 1988.