As the director of Sojourner Ministries and Senior Pastor of Beth Sar Shalom, I get a host of phone calls and a volume of email each week from people who have questions about the Bible, Jewish customs, theology, prophecy, Israel, etc. In answering these questions I have noticed that an alarmingly high number of people hold to a host of strange beliefs about Christ. Many of these problematic doctrines can be traced back to a misunderstanding or even ignorance of Scriptural teaching concerning the Messiah. As an antidote, I often reference Paul's letter to the Colossians to restore sound doctrine. It is in this brief, yet potent, epistle that Paul presents us with some of the most basic essentials concerning what God wants us to know regarding Jesus Christ.
Paul wrote the letter to the believers at Colossae to refute an alarming heresy which had arisen. This aberrant teaching both deprecated Christ and elevated human philosophy.Therefore, the theme of the letter is the complete sufficiency of Christ in contrast with the emptiness and insufficiency of mere human philosophy. Paul wastes no words as he pointedly levels the weapon of truth at his target.
Beginning in Colossians 1:15-29, Paul provides a veritable treasure trove of doctrinal gems. One truth stressed here is the absolute preeminence of the person of Christ. Jesus is the reflection of God; the absolute representation, image and manifestation of God the Father. In Christ, the invisible God becomes visible (1:15). As deity, Christ is therefore sovereign over all creation.
Paul continues by arguing that Christ is the firstborn over all creation. Being firstborn does not mean that Jesus was the first creature to be created, as some false teachers claimed. Rather, it is critical for readers to understand that Paul’s use of the term, “firstborn,” indicates Christ’s preexistence and unparalleled preeminence over creation. Christ was the creator of all. Therefore, it would be a position of absurdity to hold that He created Himself!
Our Messiah has no peer. That is precisely why He is before all things (1:17). Absolutely everything in the entire universe was created by His design and through His command. As architect and builder of creation, all things came into being by His decision, through his power and for His purpose. Furthermore, He is the sustainer. The bonding strength in which all things hold together is none other than Jesus.
Having established that Christ is Lord over all creation, Paul goes on to relate the Messiah’s supremacy over the Church. He is the supreme, uncontested head of the church. As such, He alone is the authority and guide for His body. He possesses sovereign preeminence by divine right and divine work since He is the firstborn (first fruits) from the dead, never again to die (1:18). The divine fullness indwells Him (1:19), which means that Jesus is in firm possession of the totality of God, including all the powers and attributes of deity. With that power and authority, Christ has reconciled God and the world, or more specifically, reconciled the world to God through the cross. Paul is not declaring here that all people are now saved. What he is teaching is that it is now possible for harmony to be restored between man and his Maker. Messiah’s death has dealt definitively with both sin and guilt. More next time …