The Book of Colossians: Chapter 1

Paul’s letter to the Colossians is a rebuttal to the Gnostic Error, a first century heresy that was already evident in the church in 60 AD when the letter was written, and is still with us today. Chapter one introduces the pre-emminent Christ, all God and all man.


Okay, we’re going to start the Letter to the Colossians this time; Paul’s letter to the Colossians.  You know, he wrote to the Colossians in 60 A.D. while he was under house arrest in Rome, waiting for his trial before Caesar. He didn’t personally start the church in Colossae, but he wrote at the request of Epaphras who is the one who did it. Epaphras was converted to Christianity in Ephesus during a time when Paul was there, and he went from Ephesus over to Colossae, a distance of probably 100-150 miles. I know you can drive it in one day; you can’t drive as fast on Turkish roads as you do here, but it’s a day’s journey, let’s say, today. It would have been several days walking, of course, in those days.  

But Epaphras had gone from Ephesus and started this church in Colossae and right away the little Church got attacked by an early form of Gnosticism, and it got so serious that Paul actually packed up (or Epaphras, rather) actually packed up and went to Rome to visit Paul and to get his advice to see if he could help him with it. And of course, Paul’s response was to write this letter. So this letter is being written in response to an emergency in Colossae over something that’s come to be known as the Gnostic Error.

Now, as I’ll show you in a few minutes, that’s not some ancient problem that the Church had, it’s still around today. The Gnostic Error was evident in the Church almost from the beginning and it’s still with us today in cults like Scientology for example, or Freemasonry. It’s also influenced the text of some modern versions of the New Testament. 

In fact, there have been books written on the way in which some ancient texts by the end of the first century were already so infected with this Gnostic Error that they lead to translation errors.  Some of the more modern translations are subject to those errors. When the NIV first came out, it was one that was criticized in part because of this reliance on a so-called tainted source text that’s called the Codex Sinaiticus. And it’s felt that this Codex Sinaiticus had some translation problems due to this Gnostic Error having already contaminated the Church.  

You know, the King James is taken from an original text called Textus Receptus which is just Latin for the received text and it’s felt to be much more accurate in terms of truly conveying the meaning of the early writers.  

Now, at best the Gnostic Error converts the salvation into an ongoing process. You see this sometimes in the modern translation where the King James says “we have been saved” some of the modern translations will say “we are being saved” as if it’s some kind of a process that takes place in our lives rather than the event.  

You know, salvation is a single event, sanctification is the process. Salvation is a single event, and it happens in an instant of time. And so, the Gnostic Error, as you’ll see, is something that tried to make this into a progression, usually based around knowledge. 

The Greek word gnosis means knowledge and the Gnostic Error (or agnosticism which means lack of knowledge) the Gnostic Error means the error based on knowledge.  

And one of the main tenets of the Gnostic Error was that salvation was not something that came as a free gift from the Lord, when the moment that you expressed your belief in His death purchasing your pardon, but it was something you acquired through a process of study. This is what Scientology is built upon, this is what Freemasonry is built on: the acquisition of secret knowledge until finally you reach the point where you are a master, or an adept, as some call it.

And in the New Age you’ll hear this term as well. The greatest of the New Age luminaries are one of the forty so-called “ascended masters” and they’re the ones that possess all this knowledge. Jesus is one of them, but He’s only one of forty, in some peoples’ view. And so, you see this error and you see the problem and you can find it coming through the Church at various times.  

Now at best it, as I said, makes salvation an on-going process—at worst it actually substituted the progressive acquisition of secret knowledge for the blood of Jesus as the means to achieving eternal life.

The Gnostic Error became so pervasive in the early Church that between the second and fourth centuries it was necessary to develop the several creeds like the Nicene Creed, the Apostle’s Creed, and those, that anchor our faith today so that people could be sure that the basic tenets of our faith would be preserved.  

I don’t know how it was in the church you grew up in but when I grew up, every so often we’d all stand up and we would read the Apostles’ Creed together just to remind us. Unfortunately, the church I belonged to didn’t follow that very closely [laughs] but at least they repeated it from time to time, so at least they knew what it was, what they were supposed to believe, even though they didn’t adhere to it very well.

And so, Paul’s response to Epaphras’ request was to write what some modern scholars have called the K.I.S.S. Gospel. How many of you are familiar with the K.I.S.S. principle? It’s based on a mid-twentieth century management adage, Keep It Simple, Stupid. [laughs] And so, K.I.S.S.—Keep It Simple Stupid! And that’s why they call the Letter to the Colossians the K.I.S.S. Gospel because it’s a very simple, very straightforward presentation of the Gospel, demonstrating both the preeminence of Jesus to refute the Gnostic teaching that Jesus was only human and not divine, and the sufficiency of His work on the cross to invalidate the idea of this secret knowledge thing. Both are done eloquently and simply and topped off with practical advice on how to live the Christian life. So it’s a little four chapter book but it really hits home, it makes its point.  

Now some theologians who believe that Paul wrote Hebrews, place Colossians in one of his two trilogies. You know how people who study things like to package stuff together, well there are two so-called trilogies among Paul’s writings. I’m going to show you something else interesting about Paul’s writings here in just a minute, but these two trilogies—one of them involves Ephesians, Hebrews, and Colossians and it is said to convey the three offices of the Lord: Prophet, Priest and King. Ephesians being the book that conveys Him as Prophet, Hebrews as Priest, and Colossians as King.  

And so the other one is a trilogy that some people believe is based on, is really Paul’s commentary on Habakkuk 2:4, the famous verse that Martin Luther saw written in the sky over the Basilica in Rome. Habakkuk 2:4—the just shall live by faith. And when he got to Rome and he saw that, the tradition is that he was going up the steps, you know how they go up the steps to the Sistine Chapel there and how people use those steps to work off penance? You see, if you go over to Rome you’ll see people going up them on their knees and all kinds of things, working off their sins this way. And as Martin Luther got there, because his purpose in being there was to get answers from the head of the Church on what is this, faith or works? What kind of a deal have we got here? Is it faith or works? The Catholic Church seems to be faith plus works, and it didn’t seem to sit with his idea of what the Scriptures are. And so, he gets there, and he looks up as he is first arriving there, and he sees written in flames in the sky Habakkuk 2:4—the just shall live by faith.

And he said okay and he went home. He didn’t need to see the Pope because he’d had his answer from a higher authority, you see. And so this trilogy is Romans, describing who are the ‘just’, Galatians describes how shall they live, and Hebrews, they’ll live by faith. And so, some people see that little trilogy.

I’m going to show you something a little different. You know in Revelation 2 and 3 we know that there are seven letters that the Lord wrote to seven Churches. Revelation, chapters 2 and 3—seven letters to seven Churches. Well, did you know that Paul also wrote seven letters to seven Churches, and that there is a connection? They seem to connect. Now, Paul actually wrote twelve epistles—we’re not going to count Hebrews in this because he didn’t sign it. I believe he wrote it, but he didn’t sign it and so everybody questions it—but if you take the twelve that everybody agrees he wrote, three of them were to pastors—two to Timothy and one to Titus and so we’ll take those out, leaving nine. 

And then there were two doubles, 1 and 2 Corinthians, and 1 and 2 Thessalonians, so you take those doubles out. And now you’ve got seven Churches. And so, seven letters to seven Churches.  

Now how do they fit together? Well, the first letter that the Lord dictated to John in Revelation 2 is Ephesians. Well, that’s a simple one; Paul also wrote to the Ephesians, right? And on the same subject, the Heavenlies; the Church in the Heavenlies. Ephesians in both.

Now the next letter that the Lord wrote in Revelation 2 was to Smyrna. And Smyrna, as you know was the letter to the persecuted Church. Paul wrote a letter to the Philippians and the subtitle of his letter to the Philippians is Joy Through Suffering. And so, the Philippians were under intense persecution when he wrote to them and so, Smyrna and Philippians go well together.  

The third of the seven letters is Pergamos and it was in Pergamos that the Babylonian world system first came into the Church. You know, the Babylonian religious system after Babylon sort of trailed off, it moved to Pergamos. That was the second seat of the Babylonian system and in the letter to the Church in Pergamos, the Lord calls the place “where Satan has his throne” remember? And so in Pergamos you’ve got the world system, the pagan system, coming in and contaminating the Church. And then later on, the whole thing moves to Rome and that’s where it remained.  

And so, you have the pagan world system and the Church being sort of married together. In fact, Pergamos—the translation means mixed marriage like bigamy and (what’s that other thing they have here?) polygamy, and monogamy and pergamy—mixed marriage. [laughing] Two kinds that are not supposed to go together. Well, where else do you see in one of Paul’s letters the world having come into the Church? 

Corinth. The Corinthian church is the worldly church, right? In fact you remember that I’ve told you before that when in the Greek plays, they wanted to describe a character totally without any redeeming value at all (today we’d probably make him a lawyer) but in those days they called him the Corinthian. And everybody knew he was probably a drunk and a ne’er do well; the Corinthian—no redeeming value. So, Pergamos and Corinth go together.

The next letter was the letter to Thyatira. And Thyatira was a letter that spoke about the futility of religious works. And of course, Paul had something to say about religious works too, in his letter to the Galatians. So, Thyatira and Galatians fit together.  

Letter number five of the seven letters in Revelation is the letter to Sardis. Sardis means the remnant. A lot of people think the letter to Sardis is the letter to the Church of the Reformation.  If so, it’s subtitle is Dead Orthodoxy. Remember how the letter to Sardis opens, “I know your works, you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead.” Dead orthodoxy. Paul’s letter speaks to the subject of the vibrancy of religion as opposed to dead orthodoxy of tradition is the letter to the Romans, which is often called The Gospel According to Paul.  

The sixth of the seven letters is the Church of Philadelphia and of course, we all like that one best because that’s the one we belong to and that’s the Church of the Rapture, right? Now, did Paul write anything about the Rapture? Thessalonians is Paul’s letter about the Rapture. So, we’re doing pretty good so far. Now here comes the last one.  

In the last letter of seven in Revelation you’ve got Laodicea. This is the false church at the end of the age, riven with false doctrine. And of course, the only epistle we have left of Paul’s is Colossians. And guess what? The two were only about ten miles apart from each other. In fact, when you go and visit Laodicea it’s on the north side of the highway and Colossae is on the south side of the highway. Of course, the highway wasn’t there then, but there you’ve got it. 

And so here’s another connection here and here’s Paul—you know, we started off talking about the fact that people like to package these things together and we sort of laughed at them doing that and then we do it ourselves. So, we’re no better than the rest of them, right?

So, the epistle to the Colossians consists of evidence, not argument; Paul’s not making a legal case here, he’s not presenting an argument, he’s bringing us evidence. And he insists that the Gospel is a message to believe, not a religion to practice. That’s an important issue for us.  Colossians makes the point that the Gospel is a message to be believed, not a religion to be practiced.  

You know, the Lord already had a really complex and popular religion when He came to Earth, right? I mean, He had one of the most complex and one of the most deeply ingrained and totally immersive as far as it affected people’s lives that the world has ever seen. It’s called Judaism.  He didn’t need to start another religion. In fact, the religion was part of the problem, wasn’t it? And He came for a relationship, and He did some things that permitted that relationship to exist.  

And so, we learn from Colossians that the Gospel is a message to be believed, not a religion to be practiced, and that true wisdom (and Paul’s going to speak a lot about this idea of wisdom) true wisdom comes from the application, not just the acquisition, of knowledge.  

How many of you have heard the old adage, knowledge is power? It’s not true. You can know everything and not be able to do anything. It’s not knowledge that’s power, it’s the application of knowledge that’s power, right? And it’s the same with wisdom; true wisdom comes from the application, not just the acquisition. So here’s an argument against this so-called secret knowledge stuff that comes from the New Age which is the name by which we know the Gnostic Error. The Gnostic Error is called the New Age Movement today. It should be called the old age movement because it’s been around as long as the Church, but it’s called the New Age Movement.  

And in this epistle, we also learn that the greatest feat in the Bible is not the Creation, which only requires a whole bunch of power, but Redemption which also requires a whole bunch of love. And with unmistakable clarity, Paul is going to demonstrate to us here that we have been justified, we are being sanctified (set apart) and we will be redeemed. Hallelujah!

{Someone asks, “Can you repeat that part?”
Jack: “Yes I will. We have been justified. Justified, the Greek word dikaioo means to render as though innocent. We have been justified, we are being sanctified. That’s a process that goes on through our whole lives, never really stops until the resurrection or the Rapture when the Lord finishes it Himself because we don’t get finished here. And we will be redeemed. So we have been justified, we are being sanctified, and we will be redeemed.”}

All right now just a couple more things and then we’ll be ready to begin. I want you to turn to 2  Corinthians 11 and I’ll show you some of these things that Paul has written to help us understand this so-called Gnostic Error. By the way, John’s epistles (first, second and third John) also deal with the Gnostic Error and so you see it was quite an issue there. But we’re going to be in 2 Corinthians 11 and the first four verses, I think it is. 2 Corinthians 11

It says:

I hope you will put up with me in a little foolishness. Yes, please put up with me!

But you’re already doing that, he’s right in the middle of a letter to them.

I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy. I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him. But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ. For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the Spirit you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough.

So he’s telling the people in Corinth that they’re susceptible to these kinds of things as well. All through the history of the Church you find susceptibility to new stuff, stuff that has nothing to do with the Scriptures, has nothing to do with the Bible and it, as we’ll see here in a minute, Paul predicts that as we get closer and closer to the end of the age this will get worse and worse until you have religious movements, so-called religious movements within the Church that, you look at them and say, “This doesn’t have anything to do with the Church!”

You know, you’ve got these so-called seeker-sensitive congregations now. Remember that term, seeker-sensitive? Well, you know they’re so sensitive to people who are seeking that they’re afraid that the name of Jesus might turn somebody away, so you won’t hear that name. They’re afraid that reading the Bible might turn somebody away so you won’t see them read the Bible.  They’re afraid public prayer might turn somebody away, so they don’t care much about prayer and you don’t do any praying. What they are is, they are incredible staged entertainment events that are supposed to make people feel good and hopefully, get them thinking about whatever is behind the movement. But you don’t ever hear them talk about what’s behind the movement.  So, some of the biggest congregations in the country are this seeker-sensitive type. Lots of people, generate big bucks, see them on TV. They can do lots of things because of all the influence they have but they don’t say much about the Gospel, they don’t say much about God, they don’t talk about getting saved and stuff like that.  

Now, Paul predicted that that would take place as we got closer to the end of the age, so let’s turn to Timothy, a letter that he wrote to Timothy and I want to show you a couple of them here. In  2 Timothy 3:16, I think it is and then also 2 Timothy 4:3. So we’ll look at two passages right there.

2 Timothy 3:1:

But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God—

So, right away you think, “Gee, this guy must be talking about unbelievers!” But then he says:

having a form of godliness but denying its power.

So he’s not talking about pagans here, he’s not talking about unbelievers—he’s talking about the Church. And I’ve always been fascinated by the fact that in the middle of all these, what we’d call terrible qualities, he puts “disobedient to their parents”. I love to read that to my kids that he ranks that right up there with slander and abuse and all that other stuff—disobedient to their parents. Interesting. Okay so that’s 2 Timothy 3, first seven verses, right?  

And then we get to 4:3:

 For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to mythology.

Your translation might say “myths” there, but the word in the Greek is mythology. Do you see any mythology rearing its ugly head in the world these days? And can you see some of these more liberal congregations adhering or following the way of this Scripture:

Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.

“Don’t tell us anything we don’t want to know, don’t give us any bad news, don’t challenge us with anything, don’t make us think about something. Don’t make us confront ourselves, for God’s sake! Keep us entertained, keep us happy, and we’ll come back, and we’ll give you money. You just keep it light and easy.” 

Fascinating, isn’t it?

Okay. Those are a couple of things I wanted you to look at. Now this began almost as soon as the Church began, and it didn’t take long for it to take root in the Church. There were several forms of it and they’re all going to be addressed here directly and indirectly in the letter to the Colossians.  

Here are the kinds of Gnosticism that Colossians is going to deal with:

First is ceremonialism. This view held to strict rules about the kinds of permissible food and drink and religious festivals and circumcision. 

And then we had asceticism. Asceticism focused on the things you weren’t supposed to do, the things you weren’t supposed to taste, and the things you weren’t supposed to touch. This was a denial of the comforts of the world.

And then the third is angel worship, where it was thought that man is not good enough to approach God directly; that He has to have intercessors. And this is where this angel worship came from, these intercessors became almost the gods themselves.  

The deprecation of Christ which is denial of His deity. One of the three main tests that you can use to determine whether you are involved with a cult or not is how do they feel about the deity of Christ. That’s one of the three big ones. The other two are, what do they think about the existence of Heaven and Hell, and what do they think about the doctrine of salvation by grace.  Those three things, if you don’t get all those three things you might be in a cult. You know, you’ve heard that joke, “You might be a redneck”? Well if you don’t get all these things, well, you might be in a cult.  

If they deny the deity of Christ, if they deny the existence of Heaven (and especially the existence of  Hell) and if they deny the doctrine of salvation by grace alone, then you’ve got a problem. And these are the primary—a lot of people when they hear the word “cult” they automatically put the word “satanic” in front of it. And they say, “Well, we don’t worship Satan,  we aren’t a cult.” Well, you can be a cult without worshipping Satan, directly. And all you’ve got to do is deny the deity of Christ, deny the existence of Hell, deny the doctrine of salvation by grace. And that will get you into the book of cults, and Paul is going to nail those all.

He’s going to take on—now here’s the kind of  combination of stuff that came into Colossae.  He’s going to take on directly or indirectly, Hindu mysticism, Zoroastrian dualism—this came out of Persia, the Zoroastrians and you still find some Zoroastrians around, in fact there are some here in Salt Lake—Zoroastrian dualism, Jewish legalism, and Greek philosophy. And Paul’s view is that where philosophy agrees with Scripture, it’s unnecessary and where it disagrees with Scripture, it’s wrong. So it sort of puts philosophy on its own track somewhere else.  

Okay, so the Gnostic Error really invaded Colossae and Laodicea in the second and third centuries. So it didn’t go away; these guys fought this for several hundred years there. 

Okay, so you  get the idea. And you can see a lot of, especially a lot of the new wave, or new direction, that some so-called religious movements are taking, you can see the roots in the new age behind it because it’s very popular, people are attracted to it. It makes people feel good about themselves, it makes them feel like they are real smart and it gives them a superior view of things. So, it’s very popular.  

Okay, now I think we’re ready to pop into the letter to the Colossians.  

All right, with that then, let’s go back to 60 A.D. and begin our reading of the epistle to the Colossians, chapter 1, verse 1:

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother,

To God’s holy people in Colossae, the faithful brothers and sisters in Christ:

Grace and peace to you from God our Father.

This “grace and peace” (charis shalom) is a greeting that belongs almost uniquely to Paul. In fact, this is one of the marks used to determine that he actually wrote it because somewhere either in the beginning or the end, sometimes both, every one of his letters has the “grace and peace.” And he put the Hebrew and the Greek together; the traditional Hebrew blessing, you know, upon greeting or upon leaving someone was always “shalom” and the traditional Greek was always “charis.” Charis shalom; grace and peace.  

Verse 3:

We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all God’s people—the faith and love that spring from the hope stored up for you in heaven and about which you have already heard in the true message of the gospel that has come to you. 

So, now you see three other indicators of Paul’s authorship here: faith, love, and hope. Right out of 1 Corinthians, which he wrote a few years earlier. Corinthians, written about 55 A.D. Colossians, written about 60. All right, we’re in the middle of verse 6:

In the same way, the gospel is bearing fruit and growing throughout the whole world—just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and truly understood God’s grace. 

All right, so the Gospel is growing and bearing fruit. The fruit of the Gospel, Galatians 5. You remember that? Is that one of your memory verses? Yeah, you’re not supposed to be a judge, but you can be a fruit inspector, right? And so, in Galatians 5:22, “The fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”

Now, you don’t just get one or two of these out of the list, you get the whole thing. And you notice the word fruit is singular, right? So it’s not fruits of the Spirit and here’s the list of them.  It’s singular, and this is the description of all of it. And when the Lord’s in charge, He produces it all for you and so we see that coming through from time to time in believers, don’t we? You see these qualities: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

Now, be careful with this because all judgment, whether you call it by cute other names or not is dangerous, is it not? It’s all dangerous because, while I would venture to say that all of us have exhibited all of these qualities a lot of the time, I think all of us have also had days when you would wonder about us if you happened to catch us in the moment, right? And so, we’ve got to be real careful with this. Sometimes we see people walking around like they have a little list in their hands and they’re looking at you and they’re looking at their list and they’re checking you out to see whether you qualify or not. And that’s always dangerous, so be careful with that.  

But the fruit of the Spirit it says, it’s growing just as it’s been doing since the day you heard it and understood God’s grace in all its truth. 

Colossians 1:7:

You learned it from Epaphras, our dear fellow servant, who is a faithful minister of Christ on our behalf, and who also told us of your love in the Spirit.

And so, this is Epaphras, the one who started the church, now in Rome where Paul is under house arrest. Timothy apparently with him there and Paul’s going to write this letter and then he’s going to have Epaphras take it back. 

Verse 9 now:

For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding 

Now, see how he’s hitting on this idea of secret knowledge and stuff? He’s saying that this doesn’t come from some system, it doesn’t come from somewhere else. This all comes from God asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. He’s going to use a word, I think it’s a word he invented, epignosis. It’s above knowledge—you know, above. Epi means beyond, or above. And you’re going to see this word coming up here in a little bit.  

Verse 10:

 so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light.

It’s hard to know when to take a breath in some of these sentences, Paul just goes on and on. Remember when we did our study in Ephesians, the first fourteen verses is one sentence in the original, and you just can’t get through it without having to stop and you’re always wondering if you’re going to stop in the middle of a thought or not, but he was like that.  

And of course in the Greek I believe, they didn’t put spaces between the words, they didn’t put punctuation at the end of the sentence, so you just had to figure it out. So people just tended to go on and on and on until they ran out of ink or something and had to stop and dip their pen again. But that’s a big one.

Colossians 1:11:

being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. 

Now here’s verse 13:

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.

This is not something you pray for; this is something you give thanks for because this is all—if you’re an English teacher, you’ve seen this—it’s all in the past perfect tense. It was done and it’s all done. 

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.

Okay? This is done, it’s finished. And it was finished at the cross and that’s why the Lord said while He was on the cross, “It is finished.” We translate that “it is finished” and it is also translated “paid in full”, the same word meant paid in full in the legal sense. 

And so it was all accomplished. And isn’t it in the Gospel of John where John records that Jesus, I think he says Jesus, knowing that all was accomplished, asked for a drink so that the Scriptures might be fulfilled. Right, remember that? Knowing that all was accomplished. It was done at that point, nothing had to happen after that.

All right. Now we’re going to get into one of the most incredible passages describing the supremacy, the preeminence of Christ. Listen to this—and you’ll want to take some notes on some other passages here. He is the image—this is verse 15:

The Son is the image of the invisible God,

Now in Hebrews 1:3 it says He is “the exact representation” right? Isn’t that the way it says it in Hebrews 1:3

The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being,

And how about in John’s Gospel, chapter 1 where it said:

John 1:1:

 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

Okay. And you remember later on in John’s Gospel when Phillip, I believe, says, “Okay Lord. We believe everything You’ve said here.”

You know, we’ve been in this beautiful discourse from John 14 through 17 and then all of a sudden Phillip says, “Okay. Now, show us the Father. We want to see God now.” And what was Jesus’ reply?  His reply was, “If you’ve seen Me, you’ve seen the Father.” 

Now, in the King Jack version, in verse 15, it says, “He is the visible image of the invisible God!” I would have put one more word into that one, but Paul’s is going to be okay for us. 

The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.

First born doesn’t mean He was the very first human, it means that He has the title. It was a title as well as a chronological birth order. It was a title, which means that He is the inheritor. The first born has the right of inheritance. So that’s His title, He’s the first-born over all creation. And again, we could read John 1:3 and Hebrews and all these. 

It says in verse 16:

For in him all things were created:

That’s a song we sing in church, right?

all things were created: things in heaven

So that’s what, what have we got up in heaven? We’ve got angels; so He created angels.  Remember when one of the things about the New Age was the worship of angels? So Paul’s going to make the point, “Why are you worshipping the created when you could worship the Creator?” 

So, in heaven we have angels:

 and on earth,

What’s on Earth? We’re here! Humans, okay. So it’s beyond that. And then:

visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities;

You know, these are offices; these are rankings in the angelic world. Powers, thrones, rulers, authorities are rankings of angels like lieutenant, captain, major, colonel, general, things like that.  

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. 

Who is exempt from this? Who doesn’t fit into this? Shirley already said the one that I can think of, that’s the Father. But who else is exempt from this? He is Himself, yeah. The Holy Spirit, okay. So you’ve got the Triune God. Anybody else you can think of exempt from this? No,  there’s nobody else exempt from this. This includes Satan, this includes all the angelic host, this includes all of mankind. And you can go down through the animal kingdom if you want to. This includes everybody. All things were created by Him and for Him.  

In other words, they suit His purpose for all this to happen. Now, you remember, he’s not talking about the Father here; he’s talking about the Son, right?  Because he says, speaking of Christ he says, “He is the image” and the “He”, according to the rules of grammar, the “he” always refers to the same one here and so it’s always the Son. It’s always talking about Jesus. 

In verse 17:

He is before all things,

That means two things. It means He was here first; it also means He has preeminence. He’s above, you might say. So He’s both above and before.

and in him all things hold together.

He’s the glue that holds everything together, all the universe.  

I’m not a scientist so I can’t give you a good explanation of all this, but I remember hearing somebody do this and they said, you know, you get into atomic structures and things like this.  And you’ve got positrons and neutrons and all this stuff rolling around and, he says you get down far enough into the study and you find out that you’ve got two opposites there. And opposites are supposed to what? Opposites attract. That’s why boys and girls like each other.  Okay. Got it. Opposites attract and likes repel. And so you have these two things that are alike that are supposed to repel each other but they’re locked up in the same atom. And he went on to say that what happens when they come apart is called a nuclear explosion. And yet the power of this nuclear explosion is there, and it should blow up and vaporize everything. But why doesn’t it? Because He’s holding it together! And one day, according to Peter, He’s going to stop for an instant and it’s all going to poof! Disappear and then He will bring it right back together but this time it will all be brand-new again.  

And so, you’ve got this idea here that He’s the glue; He’s the glue that holds everything together.  

Verse 18:

 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead,

He was the first one to be resurrected from the dead,

so that in everything he might have the supremacy. 

This was all done to demonstrate His supremacy.

Now, in verse 19 this is a memory verse for you, and what I’m going to do is, I’m going to help you with the pronouns here because the way this is written, you can get confused—not you, of course, but other people might get confused. And so we’ll put some pronouns in here and some nouns to help you with the pronouns. 

Now, we’ve heard up until now what He is. Now we’re going to hear why. And so, in verse 19 here’s the why:

For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 

And that “him” being Jesus. So, God was pleased to have all of God’s fullness dwell in Jesus. So, in Jesus dwells the fullness of God.

and through him


to reconcile to himself

That’s to God,

all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his


blood, shed on the cross.

We know from our studies what we got out of the crucifixion, right? We’ve got the shed blood that washes us clean of all of our sins and allows us to be forgiven and made fit to dwell with God, that’s what’s in it for us.

This tells you what was in it for God. Because God was just as upset about this estrangement as we were—more so because He knew what would happen if we could get over that. But He’s very merciful and He’s very loving but He’s also righteous and just. And He’s different from us in one incredible way, and that is, He can’t be two faced. He can’t be duplicitous (is that the better word for it?) He can’t express any one of His attributes if it conflicts with any other one. With Him it has to be all right—or else it’s all wrong. He doesn’t have any shades of grey.  

Now, the primary characteristic by which we know God in the New Testament especially, is love. “God is love” we say. And we sort of forget about the fact that He’s righteous, and He’s just, and He’s holy and all these other things, and we just focus on the ‘God is love’. 

And the reason we can do that is because of verse 19. Because ‘God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in Jesus so that He could reconcile Himself to us. And, by the way, to all of His creation, by making peace through His blood shed on the cross. 

And so when Jesus went to the cross, He took all of our sins, right? And He bore the punishment for all of them. This satisfied God’s need for justice. This satisfied His need for righteousness because what does 2 Corinthians 5:17 say?  

if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 

And then down in verse 21 it says:

God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

So the exchange was made there. God in the flesh became sin in the flesh so that we could become as righteous as God is.  

So when Jesus died on the cross, He paid the penalty in full for all of your sins and that satisfies God’s need for justice. In fact, it does more than that. It prevents Him from ever judging you for those sins again, because God is bound by the law of double jeopardy. You can’t be charged with any of your sins because the penalty for them has already been paid. Somebody did it for you but it’s as good as done in God’s view. That’s why the word “justification” comes from the Greek word which means “to regard as though innocent”. 

It’s not that you’ve been acquitted—in God’s view, it’s like you never did it. He looks at you as if you were innocent, as righteous as He is. And so, justice has been satisfied by the penalty paid at the cross. Righteousness has been satisfied because His righteousness is now imputed to you. And now He’s free to do what? What’s that other big quality of His? Love—yeah. Now He is free to love you. 

Now He’s free to release the full capacity of His love for you because it is no longer a contradiction. He was restrained from all that in the past, but the cross took care of that all; it reconciled all of that. And so now, there is no problem between you and God. There’s no issue; there’s nothing separating you. His righteousness, satisfied. His justice, satisfied. Now, love and mercy flow. And they flow from God through the cross into your heart. And they flow in a way that is unstoppable. It can’t be interrupted because Jesus went to the cross, the perfect sacrifice, once for all of time. For everyone before. For everyone after. Once.

And so this Colossians 1:19, if you’re going to memorize any kind of verse at all in Scripture, this would be a good one because it just shows the extent to which He has gone to just have the opportunity to express His love for you.  

Okay. He’s going to explain this now, a little bit. Let’s look down to verse 21. It says:

Colossians 1:21:

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—

Without blemish, free from accusation.

if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel.

Okay now in the Greek that word “if” is a little bit different than it is here. In Greek, the word doesn’t mean, “if, and there’s a likelihood that this could happen”. In the Greek it means, “If, and it’s true”. It’s probably a closer word to what we have as “since”.  

Because—look at the words behind it. Whose job is it to continue you in your faith? That’s not good grammar, but whose job is it? It’s His. Who gave you the faith? He did—He did, for by grace you have been saved through faith and this is not of yourself, it’s a gift from God. The very faith is a gift from Him.

Think of the shepherd-sheep analogy. Whose job is it to keep the sheep? It’s the shepherd’s job.  I’m one of those that believe that you cannot get away from Him. John—is it ten? “My Father holds you in the palm of His hand and I hold you in the palm of My hand. And you’re in good hands.” That’s a paraphrase, okay? And try to visualize this: here’s the hand of the Father,  here’s the hand of the Son, and you’re in there. Could you get out? I don’t think so. Could you get out if you wanted to? I don’t think so.

What does He say in John 6?  My Father’s will is that I shall lose none of all He has given Me but will raise them up at the last day.” I shall lose none of all He has given Me.

So, you can make a real strong case for the fact that once you’re in, you are in. The door swings one way, and once you have walked through it, that’s it, you’re in. You may behave like you’re not; that’s a different issue. You may, by your behavior, estrange yourself from God so the two of you don’t communicate very well, but that’s a different issue. 

Remember the story of the Prodigal, did that boy ever stop being his father’s son? Even when he was away and out of reach and out of touch and living in a pigsty eating the pigs’ food, was he ever not his father’s son? No. He was acting like it, he was not taking advantage of the relationship, he was not the beneficiary at all of the relationship. But did the relationship ever cease to exist? No. 

It was a biological issue, right? You cannot sever a biological relationship. Galatians tells us that when you came into the family of God, you were adopted and given the full rights of a son. This cannot be revoked; this doesn’t have any expiration date, it’s not probational. You can’t go to court and reverse it. This is an absolute in God’s mind. And it’s a good thing because every single one of us would have lost it! You know your life, I know mine, and I’ll just speak for myself. I’d have lost mine if it could be lost.

So in verse 23, the “if” you could write with my permission the word, “‘since”:

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.

Why does he get off saying this has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven? How can that be? Since the creation, Romans 1. Paul writes about that when he writes to the Romans about the qualities of God are evident in the creation. And think about this too, think about the Gospel in the stars; remember when we talked about that, how Enoch and Seth and Adam, they named these twelve constellations up there and told the Gospel story and it’s been up there in heaven for all these ages. And every creature under heaven could look up and see that. 

Okay, verse 24. We’re going to get to the end here, I bet. We’re just going to try to get to the end of chapter 1.

Verse 24:

Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church.

Paul’s not trying to say that Jesus didn’t finish the job here, he is saying he is willingly experiencing similar kinds of suffering as the price he is paying for his evangelism. Because it is Paul’s evangelism that is building and growing the Church at this point, right? I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church.

I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness—the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the Lord’s people. 

Ever wonder about that? A couple of times, you know, in Ephesians and a couple of other places Paul talks about this “mystery” that because of the cross the door has been opened to the Gentiles as well as to the Jews. Why? Why didn’t God just come out and say that right from the beginning? Why didn’t He just come out and say to Adam, “You know, I’m going to have two peoples here, the Jews over here and the Gentiles over there and although they’re going to be like this at enmity with one another for many thousands of years, eventually I’m going to bring them all together. And it’s going to work out fine.” 

But I want you to try to grasp this idea of the difference between having the use of half the dimension of time, and having the use of all the dimension of time.  

God has use of all the dimension of time, we have use of half of it. By that I mean we can only look backward in time and we can only go forward, right? We can look back or we can go forward. We can’t go back, or else we would, and we can’t look forward, or else we would. We can only go forward and look backward. God can do both; He can look backward and forward, and He can go backward and forward.  

All right. So, when He looks forward, we call that prophecy. And He, throughout the Book of Isaiah, for example, says, “I know the end from the beginning. You don’t but I do. And just to show you, I’m going to tell you some things that haven’t happened yet, so when they do you will be able to believe Me. I’ll prove it.”

Okay, so what’s one of the things He knew when He knew from the end to the beginning? He knew that they would reject Him—His people, His own people, would reject Him when He came to Earth. Would it have been good to tell them that in advance? Would that not have usurped their right to choose?  

You see, He promised them that they would have a bona fide offer of the kingdom. He promised them that, they would have a bona fide offer of the kingdom. Could He have given them a bona fide offer if He had told them in advance, “You’re going to reject it so I’m going to give it to somebody else. Here it is, but you’re not going to take it, so I’ve already decided I’m going to give it to somebody else.”? No.  

Did they have the choice to accept it? Yes. He just knew that they were going to reject it. And that’s the big difference between having full use of time and only partial use. You can know the end from the beginning without interfering with another party’s right to choose. You just know what their choice is going to be and so you can plan accordingly. 

And so, the Church was a mystery throughout the Old Testament and, knowing about it we can look back and see hints of it, can’t we? We can see little glimpses of it, knowing about it. 

For instance Psalm 46 is clearly the marriage between the Messiah and the Church. David wrote it 1,000 years B.C. You wouldn’t know it was if you didn’t already know about the Church, but it’s there. Now that you know it, you can go back and read it and it’s there.  

But you see, there’s a difference between knowing the end and manipulating the end. It’s a good thing you and I are not given prophetic ability because our contaminated nature would cause us to want to manipulate outcomes. 

And they make movies about this, don’t they? They make movies about people who go forward in time and do something and then they have to go back and correct it. It makes great science fiction but, you see, God knows the end from the beginning, but He doesn’t manipulate events to deprive you of your right to choose. The Bible’s very big on sovereignty. It talks very firmly about the sovereignty of God. But it also, by its actions, discloses God’s respect for your sovereignty.

The people of Israel had to have an unencumbered opportunity to choose the kingdom. And when the disciples in Matthew asked Jesus, “What about John the Baptist, is he Elijah?” And Jesus said, “Yes, if they would have accepted him, he would have been the Elijah who was to come.”

What does that mean? You mean if they had accepted John the Baptist as Elijah? What was Elijah’s next job supposed to be according to the end chapters of Malachi? Does anybody know? Okay. I didn’t intend to get into this tonight, but here we are.

Malachi 4:5:

“See, I will send the prophet Elijah to you before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes.

Elijah was supposed to usher in the end of the age.

He will turn the hearts of the parents to their children, and the hearts of the children to their parents;

He was supposed to come before the end of the age and reconcile everyone for the coming kingdom,

or else I will come and strike the land with total destruction.”

Which happened, they got the curse. They rejected Elijah, they got the curse. Bona fide offer.

This is why the Church had to be kept a mystery. Same reason why the Rapture of the Church is still a mystery. It’s because everybody has to have a bona fide offer, a free and unencumbered choice for the kingdom.  

See, what if you knew the end from the beginning and you know the clerk over here in the Maverick store was not going to accept the Lord before the Rapture? Would you go and evangelize that person? What’s the point? You know they’re not going to accept. Would you want to do anything to try and make that person a believer? No. Because you know it’s futile.  Does that person deserve a bona fide offer? Yes. Everyone is guaranteed a bona fide offer.

The Lord knows the end from the beginning, knows who’s going to be there and who’s not. He wrote your names down before the foundation of the Earth was laid in the Lamb’s Book of Life.  He already knows how you’re going to choose, but He does not tell you that because you deserve the right to make an unencumbered choice. That is your sovereign right. Understand? Is that clear?  

The Jews could not know that the Church was coming to the Gentiles or else it would have encumbered their sovereign right to choose. He came, and in His lifetime, He fulfilled over three hundred prophecies from their Scriptures right before their eyes giving them every conceivable advantage in making the choice. But in the end, it was their choice.  

Just like it is with you.

And you see, you know what that means ultimately? I’ve had Baptists walk out of the room when I say this. But what this ultimately means is, that while you get what you want, God does not get what He wants, because what does Peter tell us about God? He doesn’t want that any should perish but that all would come to repentance. That’s what He wants. Does He get that?  No. No, He does not. Because He feels more strongly about your right to choose than He does about Him getting what He wants.  

Now, you think about that. There’s the definition of love that you don’t often see. Agape love is truly the subordination of one’s own desires in favor of another, right? To be so completely given over to another that you will subordinate your desires to the desires of the other. And that’s what God has done. Even though He knows the awful penalty that your choice is going to cost you.  He’s done everything He possibly can to enlighten you about this so you can make an informed decision. I mean, who can imagine the lengths to which He has gone to make it possible for you to make an informed decision, but in the end, He can’t make it for you. That’s the only thing He hasn’t done; it’s the only thing He can’t do.  

Verse 27:

To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.

He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ. To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me.

And how about that, we’ve come to the end of chapter one. Now, we’re just getting started here and already this is a pretty good book, don’t you think?