Colossians 1:15-23

Who is the most impressive person that you have ever seen and heard? Let me define what I mean by an impressive person. You cannot be around this person without being encouraged. Just listening to and watching this person touches your life for good. You can name specific blessings in your life because of the focus and guidance of this person. He or she opened your eyes. He or she opened your understanding. He or she changed the way you look at the world and see life. And he or she did it just by being himself or herself.

Truly impressive people share some specific characteristics. One set of characteristics identify what is absent in impressive people. (1) They are not "full of themselves." Impressive people are not self-centered, are not consumed by who they are and what they are doing. (2) They do not seek praise. Impressive people do not live by the affirmation of other people. (3) They are not hungry for the "spot light." Impressive people do not need to be the center of attention.

A second set of characteristics identify what is present in impressive people. (1) Just being around them challenges you and stimulates you. Impressive people are positive people who see possibilities. (2) They are bigger than life's demands and problems. Impressive people are not defined by life; they define life. (3) They see and understand realities that many people do not see or understand. Impressive people have the courage to see and accept the obvious.

One of this world's great tragedies occurs when people are afraid of an impressive person and reject and misrepresent him or her.

The Christian who rises to his or her spiritual potential focuses life on a specific impressive person. Jesus Christ is the most impressive person they have ever known. Jesus encourages the person as no one else can. Jesus powerfully touches the life of this person as no one else can. Jesus blesses him or her as no one else can. Jesus opens his or her eyes as no one else can. Jesus opens his or her understanding as no one else can. Jesus changes the way we see the world by changing the way we see ourselves.

In all the influences that can touch your life, no influence can be as powerful in your life and in your death as can Jesus. Many who were touched by Jesus in his ministry said, "WOW! Who is this man?" We, too, will say, "Wow! Who is this man?"

  1. Please read with me Colossians 1:15-23.
    He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions 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. He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything. For it was the Father's good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven. And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds, yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach-- if indeed you continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel that you have heard, which was proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, was made a minister.
    1. The congregation at Colossae was a troubled congregation with some fundamental problems.
      1. The primary spiritual influence in their lives was not Jesus Christ (2:8-15).
      2. Their basic criteria for measuring spirituality was not Jesus' teaching (2:16-23).
      3. The focus of their lives was not the godliness that Jesus revealed (3:1-4).
      4. They had not stopped practicing their pre-Christian behavior (3:5-11).
      5. They had not learned how to treat each other properly (3:12-17).
      6. Their basic relationships needed fundamental adjustment (3:18-4:1).
    2. If you dug to the foundation problem on which all their other problems were built, what one problem was the foundation of all their problems?
      1. The number one problem in the congregation was this: they did not know and understand Jesus Christ.
      2. If they knew Jesus Christ:
        1. He would be the primary spiritual influence in their lives.
        2. His teachings would be the primary criteria for measuring spirituality.
        3. The godliness he revealed would be the focus of their lives.
        4. They would replace pre-Christian behavior with godly behavior.
        5. They would treat each other properly.
        6. They would be godly people in their basic relationships.
    3. How had their ignorance of Jesus Christ affected them spiritually?
      1. Ignorance of Jesus Christ basically resulted in two things.
      2. First, it resulted in their being religious people who were ungodly.
        1. Being religious does not keep you from being ungodly.
        2. Godliness is demonstrated in the way you live and the way you maintain your relationships.
        3. Religion is demonstrated in the way that you follow sacred practices.
      3. Second, it resulted in their creating their own special brand of religion.
        1. They combined some pre-Christian religious beliefs with some Christian beliefs and produced a religion that was a spiritual hybrid of their old religion and their new religion.
        2. Some of their religious practices were based in the pre-Christian religious behavior.
        3. Some of the standards they used to measure spirituality were carry-overs from their pre-Christian religious standards.
        4. They created their own religion and called it Christianity.
    4. What had to occur to produce the fundamental changes that needed to happen in this congregation?
      1. They had to know who Jesus Christ was and is.
      2. They had to understand what Jesus Christ was and is.
      3. They had to place their faith in Jesus Christ.

  2. What did they need to know, understand, and believe about Jesus Christ?
    1. He is the image of the invisible God, the first born of all creation.
      1. If you want to see God in the flesh, you look at Jesus.
      2. If you want to know how God would act if He were human, you look at Jesus.
      3. You never say, "I know what Jesus said and did, but what would God say and do?" because Jesus said and did what God would say and do.
      4. The "first born of creation" probably refers to the fact that he was God's agent of creation, an emphasis found in the next verse.
    2. Every "this world" reality and every "heavenly world" reality was created by him for him.
      1. He was God's agent for creation.
      2. He is at the center of the creative purpose.
        1. Not only did he bring everything into being.
        2. But also creation finds its fulfillment, its objective, its completeness in him.
    3. He existed in his pre-human form before anything was created, and he is the force that holds the creation together.
      1. Jesus Christ is the cohesive force that sustains order and design in the total created realm.
      2. Creation was the act of bringing order out of chaos.
      3. Jesus Christ keeps all creation from returning to chaos.
      4. Is it not interesting that as you diminish the influence of Jesus in your life, your family, and your world, you at the same time increase the chaos?
    4. Just as he is the agent of creation, he is the head of the church. (Just as God used the preexistent Jesus as the agent of the universal creation, God used the resurrected Jesus as the agent for His spiritual creation.)
      1. Paul is not affirming the Jesus built an institution.
      2. Paul is declaring that Jesus is the creator and authoritative leader of the "called out" people of God.
      3. Just as the preexistent Jesus was God's agent of creation who created by ending the rule of darkness and chaos, the resurrected Jesus was God's agent of spiritual creation who brought the redeemed people of God into existence by rescuing us from the darkness and chaos of evil.
        1. He is the beginning of redemption, salvation, and resurrection.
        2. He is the first to be resurrected never to die again.
        3. In God's kingdom, he has first place in everything--spiritual preeminence belongs to Jesus Christ alone.
    5. It pleased God for His fullness to exist in Jesus Christ.
      1. The completeness of God perfectly exists in Jesus Christ.
      2. The fullness of God resides in Jesus Christ.
      3. That declaration is so significant that it defies comprehension.
      4. No one this world has ever known is as significant as Jesus Christ.
      5. No one can represent us before God as can the one who is filled with the essence and power of God.
      6. No one can represent God to us as can the one who is filled with the essence and power of God.
      7. I want you to carefully note the emphasis on what God was pleased to do.
        1. God was pleased to let His fullness live in Jesus.
        2. God was pleased to reconcile everything to Himself through Jesus.
        3. God was pleased to make peace through Jesus' blood at the cross.

  3. What did this mean to the Colossian Christians?
    1. Before they came to God through Christ, they were totally alienated from God and hostile towards God because they were ruled by evil through their godless behavior.
      1. But that changed, and it changed only by what Jesus Christ did.
      2. Because of Jesus Christ they were reconciled to God.
      3. Because of Jesus Christ they were enabled to stand before God as holy, blameless people who could not be condemned by anyone in God's world or in this world.
    2. Jesus Christ made it possible for that to be their continual condition if certain things were true of them.
      1. Their faith must be firmly, steadfastly established in Jesus Christ.
      2. They must not leave the hope they received in the atoning death and the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
      3. This faith and this hope was declared throughout the creation.

In a way, the American restoration movement has made the same mistake the Colossian congregation made. At some point we assumed that everyone knew and believed in Jesus Christ. Concluding that, we assumed that we could restore Christianity by restoring the church. Concluding that, we focused our energies on building an institution instead of restoring the rule of God through Jesus Christ. And now we experience all kinds of spiritual problems because we have "loyal members of the organization" who live an ungodly existence. They are not ruled by Jesus Christ.

Christian materialists make the Colossian Christians' mistake. They make their own religion by combining the objectives of materialism with some of the teachings of Christianity. They are not ruled by Jesus Christ.

Christian religionists make the Colossian Christians' mistake. They measure spiritual things by standards that do not come from God. "Good religion" has little to do with Jesus Christ. "Good religion" exists if Christians meet their standards. "Good religion" has little to do with being ruled by Jesus Christ.

Do you believe that Jesus Christ is the image of the invisible God? Do you believe that Jesus Christ is the creator of everything that exists? Do you believe that Jesus Christ brought into existence the redeemed people of God? Do you believe that Jesus Christ rules God's redeemed people? Do you believe that God's fullness lives in Jesus Christ? Do you believe that God produced reconciliation and peace in Jesus Christ? Do you believe that you will stand before Jesus Christ when you die?

No one is more important than Jesus Christ to this world. No one is more important than Jesus Christ to our congregation. No one is more important than Jesus Christ to our family. No one is more important than Jesus Christ to you and me.

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Evening Sermon, 21 May 2000
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