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"Amillennialism 101" -- Audio and On-Line Resources
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"The Image of the Invisible God" -- Colossians 1:15-23

The Third in a Series of Sermons on Paul's Letter to the Colossians

Whatever the Colossian Heresy was exactly, Paul’s answer to it is to show forth the supremacy of Jesus over all things.  To do that, Paul utilizes an early Christian hymn which speaks of Jesus as the very image of God and the creator of all things, who, in his work of new creation, delivers his people from the consequences of Adam’s fall–sin and death-reconciling them to God and calling them into his church, of which, He, Jesus, is the head.  The content of this hymn provides Christians with some of the most important teaching about Jesus found anywhere in the New Testament–a so called “high” Christology–and sets the stage for much of what follows in the balance of Paul’s letter to the church in Colossae.  Paul utilizes this hymn to set forth Jesus as the only one in whom true spiritual fullness is found (contrary to the false teachers promoting the Colossian heresy), as well as to make the point that because Jesus is creator of all things, he is that one who delivers his people from the realm of darkness (vain philosophy, human traditions, religious legalism).  

As we continue our series on Colossians, we will take up a passage loaded with doctrinal content about the person and work of Jesus.  In his incarnation, the second person of the Holy Trinity, Jesus, takes to himself a true human nature in the womb of the virgin, conceived by the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit.  While the gospels focus upon the events surrounding the miraculous conception and birth of Jesus, the New Testament epistles often focus upon the meaning of Jesus’ person and work, including a discussion of Christ’s two natures–one human, one divine–yet which exist in one person, Jesus the Christ, along with detailed reflection upon his saving work on the cross and in his bodily resurrection from the dead.  All of this is found in the “Christ hymn” of Colossians 1:15-20.  
No sooner had the apostolic churches been founded, these churches soon encountered those who either misunderstood, or else intentionally distorted, what was revealed about Jesus in the gospels, and which was proclaimed and taught by the apostles.  The Colossian heresy is one of those instances in which false teaching arose in one of these newly-founded churches in the Lycus Valley in Asia Minor.  When this false teaching was brought to Paul’s attention by Epaphras, the founding pastor of the church in Colossae, the apostle responds with this letter, the Epistle to the Colossians.  As F. F. Bruce puts it, “the intelligent appreciation for the doctrine of Christ is the best safeguard against most forms of heretical teaching and certainly against that which was currently threatening the peace of the Colossian Christians.”  The same holds true today.  The more we know about the person and work of Jesus, the more successful we will be in our witness to others, the greater our personal devotion to him, and the better our response to those who challenge our faith, much as the Colossians were experiencing.

In Colossians 1:15-20, part of our text this morning (we will get as far as verse 23), we come to another of the so-called “Christ hymns” found throughout the writings of Paul.  We recently covered a similar Christ hymn, the so-called Carmen Christi of Philippians 2:6-11, which, you may recall has a similar literary structure as well as similar content which uses highly exalted language of Jesus drawn from the Old Testament.  We do not know if these hymns were used in Christian worship before Paul incorporated them into his letters.  It is certainly a possibility that Paul composed them when writing the letters in which they appear, but they do seem to predate Paul.  Both Christ hymns identify Jesus as one with YHWH (i.e., Jesus is God), both speak of his incarnation (Jesus taking to himself a true human nature), and in both Philippians 2 and here, Paul draws heavily upon Old Testament passages which foretell, or prefigure the coming of Jesus as Israel’s Messiah and the Son of God.  If we wish to be good students of Paul, we need to train ourselves to look for these echoes and allusions to the Old Testament (especially from the Psalms) which are found throughout his letters.

To read the rest of this sermon:  Click Here

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