STUDY ONE: PAUL’S TEACHING ABOUT JESUS CHRIST

Because the false teaching in the Colossian church was reducing Jesus Christ to a mere first step towards the knowledge of God, Paul gives us in Colossians a more complete description of who Jesus really is than he does in any other letter. Here he presents us with one impactive definition of Christ after another, leaving us with no doubt that in Christ we are confronted with no one less than God. Here in Christ is the fulness of the knowledge of God. Here in Christ is all we need to know, indeed all that God wants us to know, about himself. To reach beyond Christ, to seek knowledge of God beyond Christ, is to reach for an idol, to embrace balsphemy. To embrace so called knowledge of God from some source other than Christ is not to get more knowledge of God, it is, rather, to get incredibly less.

1:15 JESUS CHRIST IS THE VISIBLE LIKENESS OF THE INVISIBLE GOD

Write out the phrases that describe Jesus as the image of God.

2 Cor 4:4-6

 

Heb 1:3

 

Phil 2:6

 

John 1:18

 

John 14:8-11

 

Because Jesus Christ is the visible likeness (image) of the invisible God no one need ever again ask ‘what is God like?’ In seeing Jesus Christ we see precisely and exactly what God is like. In seeing Jesus Christ we see God. In knowing Jesus Christ we know God. A radical implication of this truth is that unless we see God when we see Jesus Christ our god is not the true God. If our god is different from Jesus Christ then our god is not God. It is as simple and as devastating as that. Jesus Christ is the true God.

How do these verses refer to Jesus?

Romans 9:5

 

Titus 2:13

 

1 John 5:20

 

We should not think that this seeing and knowing Jesus Christ is limited to those who saw him in his human flesh. There were many who saw him and knew him physically yet still did not see and know God - consider the leaders of the Jews. No. This seeing and knowing Jesus Christ which is seeing and knowing God is spiritual, and possible only when God himself rips away the blindness with which Satan has darkened our minds. This seeing and knowing is a gift of God’s grace. For further input study the meaning of 2 Cor 4:6; Mat 11:25 -27; 16:17 .

For further input study the meaning of:

2 Corinthians 4:6; Matthew 11:25-27; 16:17 .

 

 

1:15 JESUS CHRIST HAS AUTHORITY OVER EVERYTHING – the ‘firstborn over all creation’

When we consider the title ‘firstborn’ we need to remember that its primary significance is in relation to role and position, not time. The ‘firstborn’ in a Hebrew household was the one who was the heir of all the father possessed; he held a position of priority and authority in the Father’s household. So, Esau, the first to be born, sold his birthright to his twin brother Jacob, thus giving to Jacob all the rights and privileges of the ‘firstborn’ (Gen 27).

In addition, firstborn does not mean first created. That which is born is of the same essence to that which gave birth to it. That which is created is made of different stuff from its creator. To say that this verse teaches that Jesus was the first thing God created infers that Jesus is not of the same essence, or stuff, as God.

Jesus Christ is prior in terms of time - he existed before all things. He also holds the position, rank, authority of the firstborn over the whole created universe.

This phrase teaches us:

        • He is absolute heir of the Father [see also Heb 1:2; Ps 89:27]
        • He is begotten before all ages
        • He has priority of rank/honour over all creation [see also John 5:23 ]
        • He is the acknowledged head of God’s household
        • This is a Messianic title

1:16 ALL THINGS WERE CREATED THROUGH AND FOR JESUS CHRIST

What fact is common to all of these verses?

John 1:1-4

 

Rom 11:36

 

Heb 1:2

 

1 Cor 8:6

 

Rev 1:8,17; 2:8

 

This truth also wraps our lives up in a great and overwhelming security. If all things were created through him and for him, then there is nothing in all creation which is beyond the limit of his control, and there is nothing in all creation which can or will ultimately defeat his purpose. In the context of the Colossian heresy, all of the supposed sources of enlightenment to which the false teachers were directing the Christians are obviously less than Christ, rather than being in addition to and more significant than Christ. If they exist at all they are mere created beings, dependent on him for their existence and dependent on him for their purpose and meaning.

This truth of our creation by Christ and for Christ, gives overpowering significance to our lives. Our existence has its source and its goal in Jesus Christ. He is its beginning and its ending. We are here because of him and for him. No one, in the light of this truth, is permitted to negate or think poorly of themselves and their existence.

1:17 JESUS CHRIST EXISTED BEFORE ALL THINGS: HE IS ETERNAL

Paul is here referring to the eternity of Christ: that Christ existed before the beginning of time and space. To identify Christ as eternal is to identify him as God.

In the KJV all of these verses refer to the ‘eternity’ of God. Write out the parallel phrase from your Bible.

Isaiah 57:15

 

Jeremiah 10:10

 

Micah 5:2

 

How do these NT references express the eternity of Jesus Christ?

John 8:58

 

 

John 1:1-4

 

 

If God is the eternal one, and the NT claims eternality for Jesus Christ, what does this assume or teach about Jesus Christ?

 

 

 

 

1:17 JESUS CHRIST HOLDS THE WHOLE UNIVERSE TOGETHER

        • - ‘in him all things hold together’ [Colossians 1:17 ]
        • - ‘sustaining all things by his powerful word’ [Hebrews 1:3]

Nothing that exists exists apart from the sustaining power of Jesus Christ. Every that exists exists in the form in which it exists because of Jesus Christ. The chair you sit on, the metals in your vehicle, the water you drink and the food you eat, exist in that manner because of Jesus Christ. Should he withdraw his sustaining, cohesive word, the whole universe would disintegrate and become nothing.

Consider: the stuff you are made of - from the visible outside to the invisible DNA strands that contain all the coded information that makes you you (note that the information in one human DNA strand would fill 1000 X 500 page books of small print) - all is held together by Jesus Christ. Whether we acknowledge it or not we are dependent on him in the most absolute sense. Without him we would cease to exist.

It is this powerful Creator-Sustainer whom the Colossian false teachers were belittling.

1:18 JESUS CHRIST IS THE HEAD OF THE CHURCH

      • the Source of its life
      • the First-born from the dead
      • he has first place in all things

Not only are we dependent on Jesus Christ for our physical existence, we are also dependent on him for our spiritual life. We, the church, owe our life in the presence of God, both now and for eternity, to Jesus Christ. As firstborn from the dead he stands in authority over death. In this is our assurance that we who believe in him have already, spiritually, passed from death to life, and will, at the end of the age, physically experience resurrection.

What do these passages teach about the present and future liberation from death that the believer has in Christ?

John 3:36

 

 

John 5:24

 

 

Ephesians 2:4-6

 

 

Colossians 3:1-4

 

 

1 Cor 15:35 -57

 

 

 

1:19 ALL GOD’S FULLNESS DWELLS IN JESUS CHRIST

      • - ‘God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him’ – Colossians 1:19
      • - ‘For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form’ – Colossians 2:9

These two verses are extremely significant. They stand against all who deny the full deity of Jesus Christ. They also stand against all who teach that there is more to know beyond Jesus Christ. All the fullness of God dwells in Jesus Christ. Take anything away and what you have is less than God. Add anything and what you have is less than God, for in adding something other than Jesus Christ you dilute and distort what was the pure truth about God. You can neither take from nor add to that which is complete, and still maintain and retain that perfection. Any addition or subtraction changes it from truth to error. In Jesus Christ we have God’s perfect and final revelation of himself.

1:25-27 JESUS CHRIST IS THE GOAL AND CONTENT OF ALL GOD’S PREVIOUS REVELATION

(See also 2:16 ,17)

The Old Testament was written in anticipation of Jesus Christ; from Genesis to Malachi, it speaks of Jesus Christ. This is not only in words of straight predictive prophecy, but in history, in people, in ritual, in law. As Jesus said: You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me... (John 5:39).

1:26,27; 2:2 JESUS CHRIST IS GOD’S ‘SECRET’ OR ‘MYSTERY’

It has been said: the New is in the Old concealed: the Old is in the New revealed. When we read verses like 1 Peter 1:10-12 and Luke 10:21-24 we realise that the old people of God knew there was a secret or mystery. Even those who wrote the words knew that they had a deeper meaning than the obvious. In the coming of Jesus Christ that secret, that mystery, now stands open before our eyes (see 1 Cor 2:6-10).

1:27-28 JESUS CHRIST IS THE CONTENT OF GOSPEL PREACHING

Paul says: we proclaim him. The Gospel centres on Jesus Christ. Not on my need for fulfilment or whatever; not on my need to escape from hell and judgement; not even on the awesome work of Jesus Christ on the cross. It centres on the person of Christ. If he is not who he claimed to be then the cross is meaningless and ineffective, and its promises empty and powerless. Only the real, Biblical Jesus has both the authority and the power to save us. We cannot have the benefits of his cross unless we have him.

2:3 JESUS CHRIST IS THE KEY THAT OPENS ALL THE HIDDEN TREASURES OF THE WISDOM AND KNOWLEDGE OF GOD

This consolidates what Paul has already emphasised: everything there is to know about God is known in and through Jesus Christ. Any knowledge of God that comes from any other source is not to be trusted. At worst it is a lie; at best diluted and/or distorted. Because it will always contain some element of error it can never be true truth. The element of error, even if it is only the error of omission, inevitably adulterates the whole ‘pot’ of truth. Jesus Christ alone opens up to us the knowledge of God. To search beside or beyond Jesus Christ is to move into darkness.

2:6 JESUS CHRIST IS LORD

Paul here refers back to the Colossians’ original response to the Gospel: they received Christ Jesus as Lord. This was no second step after receiving Jesus as Saviour; rather it was the initial step. The Bible knows nothing of first receiving Jesus as Saviour then subsequently receiving him as Lord. In fact, according to the Bible he can be our Saviour only if we recognize and acknowledge him as the Lord. (Rom 10:9; John 1:12-14; 3:18; 8:24; 20:31; 1 Jn 4:2,3,15;5:1,20.)

Check out this concept in these verses. What to they state as the criteria essential for salvation?

John 1:12-14

 

John 3:18

 

John 8:24

 

John 20:31

 

1 John 4:2,3

 

1 John 4:15

 

1 John 5:1

 

1 John 5:20

 

 

2:10 JESUS CHRIST IS SUPREME OVER EVERY POWER AND AUTHORITY

There is no power or authority that stands outside the authority of Jesus Christ. As Rev 17:14 states, he is Lord of lords and King of kings. But we must not limit this authority of Christ to physical or political powers but to spiritual powers as well; this is demonstrated in the work he did on the cross, which in turn is confirmed by the resurrection (see 2:15; Rom 1:4). Those supposed powers or beings by which the false teachers assumed the world was created and through whom they supposed they found knowledge of God beside and beyond what is revealed in Christ, are insignificant and powerless. To give them honour, to worship them, is both ridiculous and blasphemous.

Here again Paul is hammering it home to these Colossians: Jesus Christ is IT. When you’ve got him you’ve got the lot. There isn’t any more. In fact, anything more is actually less. False teaching makes people discontented with Jesus Christ, enticing them to the elusive more, playing on the common delusion that the grass in the next field is always greener. [Note well: false teaching usually rises up from inside the church, not outside.] In 2:19 Paul states that the people who have gone off after something beyond Jesus have ‘lost connection with the Head’.

List the most significant facts that you have gained from studying Paul’s presentation of Jesus Christ.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In a small group discuss and make notes on:

a. What effect this knowledge of Jesus Christ will have on your outlook on life:

 

 

 

 

 

b. What relevance this knowledge of Jesus Christ has to how you talk to people about the Gospel: