June 23, 2010 David Balzer

Colossians 1:15-23: Check the Foundations!!!

Crack in the wallWe’ve been thinking a lot about FOUNDATIONS in the last few months. We want to buy a house, so we’ve looked at lots of houses for sale. And many of them look LOVELY. They have beautiful bedrooms ,and expensive kitchens, and renovated bathrooms, and big entertaining areas, and fancy paintjobs, and lovely polished floorboards.

But there are OTHER things that matter MORE to us. We look for cracks in the walls, we check the brickwork for signs of movement. We look for gaps between the skirting boards and the floorboards. We check to see if kitchen benches have dropped. Because those things are tell-tale signs that there’s PROBLEMS WITH THE FOUNDATIONS.

And, if I can, I’ll crawl around under the house. It’s dirty and cramped, and not as much fun as checking out the colour scheme. But it’s MUCH MORE IMPORTANT. Because that’s where you can CHECK THE FOUNDATIONS.

We’re looking for a SOLID house, rather than a FANCY one.

Because EVERYTHING DEPENDS ON THE FOUNDATIONS. You can build as much fancy stuff as you like ON TOP. But if the foundations aren’t solid, then the whole house can fall down. And the fancy decorations are worth NOTHING.

And that’s what Paul’s doing here. He’s reminding the Colossians to CHECK THEIR FOUNDATIONS. If the Christian life is like a house, then they need to make sure THE FOUNDATIONS are solid. And not to be tempted to add a FANCY EXTENSION. To get distracted by experiences and false promises. By quick fix short cuts to holiness or powerful experience. Not to fall for the mistake of making GOOD things into IDOLS. False gods that REPLACE the complete sufficiency and completeness and beauty of Jesus.

He wants them to be sure of JESUS. Because he’s the foundation of their faith.

And so that’s what we’re doing today. Crawling around under the house. To check our foundations.

1. Jesus and Creation (15-17)

a) Image of God ie firstborn over creation – (Gen 1:26-27)

Last week we saw how Jesus was the FOUNDATION FOR OUR SALVATION. There in v14. How God rescued us from darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves. That’s Jesus. And how Jesus has REDEEMED us, so that our SINS ARE FORGIVEN.

And in v15 it continues. He’s not just the foundation of our salvation. He’s the foundation for CREATION ITSELF. v15 begins

(Col 1:15 NIV) He is the image of the invisible God,

the FIRSTBORN over all creation.

For by him (or IN him) ALL THINGS WERE CREATED.

Those three tiny phrases sum up a HUGE amount of information about Jesus. About his relationship to GOD, as well as his relationship to CREATION. And about his nature BEFORE he came to earth (from all eternity), as well as his HUMAN nature.

At face value there’s CONTRADICTIONS there. He’s both BEFORE and OUTSIDE of creation. (“By him all things were created”).

But he’s also the FIRSTBORN OVER ALL CREATION. He’s PART of creation – Supreme in priority and rank.

And it’s hard to get our heads around his relationship to GOD. He’s the visible, earthly IMAGE of the invisible God. There’s a DIFFERENCE between him and God. But he’s also the instrument of God’s creation. That makes him THE SAME as God in some ways.

And those contradictions are all wrapped up in THE INCARNATION. In the earthly Jesus. God becoming man. When the INFINITE, ETERNAL Son of God lay aside something of that nature, and wrap himself in time-bound, fragile human flesh. Jesus, the God-man. Not less God than God. Not less man than man. But BOTH.

And it’s as MAN that Jesus is the IMAGE of the invisible God. It’s the same word for IMAGE that’s used in Genesis Ch 1. Talking about how God made MANKIND in the beginning. “And God said, ‘Let us make man in OUR OWN IMAGE”.

And that’s how Adam and Eve were made. As perfect image-bearers of God. Given the job to rule creation, under God’s authority.

But when they sinned, that perfection was ruined. When they ate the fruit the snake offered them. They thought they were improving on what God had made. Mankind Mark 2. But instead they RUINED the image. Instead of ruling creation UNDER God, they chose to rule creation IN PLACE of God.

And that’s why this world is the mess that it is. And why the WHOLE CREATION needed REDEMPTION.

And so God needed A SECOND EDITION. But not really an improved model. Mankind like he was designed in the first place. GENUINE man. A man who’d TRULY be the image of God. And that was Jesus.

He was the image of God mankind was MEANT to be. Doing the JOB mankind was meant to do. Ruling Creation under his Father, as his PERFECT image-bearer.

And that’s what “firstborn over all creation” is saying. He’s the NUMBER ONE SON. It’s the firstborn son who has the delegated authority. The family seal. The birth-right. Who inherits the family business. Who has the AUTHORITY and the RIGHTS over Creation.

He’s PART of Creation, and he PERFECTLY ACHIEVES God’s PURPOSE for created humanity.

And that means God’s plans to redeem that created world through Jesus. They’re not to be seen as a HOSTILE TAKEOVER or INVASION.

Jesus isn’t a foreign dictator. Whose authority is imposed from outside. He’s the rightful king from WITHIN creation/ OVER creation. Jesus comes as Lord of the Physical world, claiming his rightful possession. Restoring EVERYTHING.

b) Source, Instrument, Goal and Glue of Creation

That’s the EARTHLY Jesus WITHIN creation. Then v16 jumps back in time. Actually to BEFORE TIME. To explain Jesus OUTSIDE of Creation.

(He’s the perfect man. Born into time and space.) But he’s also the ETERNAL GOD who’s existed BEFORE time and space. And so he’s an AGENT in creating the universe.

Jesus is the SOURCE of creation. He’s the INSTRUMENT of creation. He’s the GOAL of creation. And he’s the GLUE of creation. In other words, he’s the FOUNDATION of EVERYTHING. Verse 16 &17.

(Col 1:16-17 NIV) For BY HIM (or 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 WERE CREATED BY HIM (or THROUGH him) AND FOR HIM (or TO him). {17} He is BEFORE all things, and in him ALL THINGS HOLD TOGETHER.

Wow! There’s LOTS there. Firstly, Jesus is the SOURCE of creation. The beginning. It’s literally “everything has been made IN him”. He’s BEFORE everything it says down in v17.

He’s the spring at the head of the river. It all flows out of him. Everything that God made, was made as A LOGICAL CONSEQUENCE of Jesus, and his position as firstborn.

Secondly, he’s the INSTRUMENT of creation. It’s a pretty similar idea. The last part of v16 says God created everything THROUGH him. BY MEANS OF him.

What might that mean? John Ch 1 talks about Jesus as the Word. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

So the Son of God. Who was there in the beginning. Is ‘The Word”. He’s the way God REVEALS himself. EXPRESSES himself. That’s what “a word’ is. Communication.

Genesis 1 describes how God CREATES by his word. “Let there be light. And there was. … Let there be animals and plants. And there was.”

As God spoke, he revealed what he was like. And in some way that we can’t understand, that’s the Son of God who’s doing that.

God creates by means of his Son.

And it’s not just the OBVIOUS things God created through Jesus. (Rivers and mountains and people and animals) ALL things – in HEAVEN as well as on earth. INVISIBLE things as well as visible. That’s demons and angels. Even SATAN. EVERYTHING.

Jesus is behind it all, and the CAUSE of it all.

The third idea is that Jesus is the GOAL of creation. Its TARGET, its destination. “God created all things FOR him.” The actual word is “INTO”. All things were created INTO Him.

That means everything exists for the purpose of serving Jesus. Everything finds its IDENTITY and CULMINATION in relation to Jesus. He’s the TARGET everything is aimed at. The FINISH LINE everything moves towards.

And the fourth thing Paul teaches here about Jesus and creation/ is that all things are ESTABLISHED in him. “In him all things hold together.” If you like, he’s the glue that holds everything together. It’s his RULE which prevents everything from falling into chaos.

He’s the BACKING BOARD that all the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle REST on. Each piece has a relationship with him, and thus with each other. And each piece fits with each other piece because of its relation to the backboard.

So, as far as Jesus and creation go, He’s the source, the instrument, the goal, and the glue of creation. The foundation of EVERYTHING. And that’s why he’s the firstborn over creation. The one with God’s authority.

2. Jesus and New Creation (18-20)

And now Paul turns his attention to the church. EXACTLY THE SAME JESUS who’s done all of this in CREATION/ is the one who rules YOU in the CHURCH. The NEW creation. Same one.

Paul’s saying, “Why are you looking to ADD something? The house is SOLID. Check the foundations. Jesus is solid as a rock, and the ruler of EVERYTHING.” Verse 18.

(Col 1:18 NIV) And he is the HEAD of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the FIRSTBORN from among the dead , so that in everything he might have the supremacy.

The “he” is emphasised. “And he – THIS ONE, the one who’s firstborn over creation – he’s head of the church. He’s YOUR head too.”

You see, the church is God’s NEW creation. Jesus came as the NEW MAN. The one who is GOD’S IMAGE. And he’s started a WHOLE NEW CREATION. A whole new mankind. And that’s the church. Jesus, the firstborn over CREATION, is also firstborn FROM THE DEAD.

Everything about Jesus and the OLD CREATION/ is ALSO true about the NEW CREATION. He’s the source, the instrument, the goal, and the glue.

First, he’s the SOURCE of the church. Verse 18 says he’s the HEAD, the church is the BODY.

And he’s the INSTRUMENT OF CREATION of the church. It was created through him. He’s the BEGINNING. Verse 18 tells us how. He’s the firstborn (not of creation this time), but FIRST-BORN FROM THE DEAD. He’s DEFEATED death, so others can trample all over the beaten corpse as they move past it into LIFE.

His resurrection is the guarantee that there’s more to come. He’s the first of many. He’s created this NEW Creation by his resurrection.

And he’s the GOAL of the church. Verse 18 finishes. “So that in everything he might have the supremacy”. We exist for him. To serve him. He’s our supreme head.

Paul goes on to show what that means. Verse 19 and 20. He’s supreme over the church because he’s God, and because he’s reconciled God and us.

(Col 1:19-20 NIV)  For God was pleased to have ALL HIS FULLNESS DWELL IN HIM, {20} and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood , shed on the cross.

First, Jesus carries all the fullness of God. He’s not God MINUS something. He’s GOD. Whatever GOD is, JESUS is. The fullness of the infinite God is found in a finite human body.

And when it comes to reuniting God and creation, notice it doesn’t just say SOME PEOPLE. It doesn’t even just say ALL people. It says EVERYTHING’S been reconciled. Everything on heaven and earth. People, but also animals, plants, mountains, clouds, stars, galaxies, and angels.

Jesus is the firstborn over CREATION. He’s the king from WITHIN creation who restores the WHOLE CREATION.

Jesus’ work on the cross is much bigger than just fixing our relationship with God. It’s about fixing THE WHOLE CREATION.

Sin’s wrecked all of this too. Animals and mountains and waves and weather and health and bacteria and politics and music. Romans 8 describes all creation groaning. Waiting for God to restore it. And he BEGAN the process when he raised Jesus from the dead.

Everything’s been restored, at least in principle, to the way God intended it. The way he designed it. The way they were in the garden of Eden.

There’s a new Science Fiction movie out at the moment called Elysium. In the future, the world’s environment is ruined, so the wealthy elite have ABANDONED it, in favour of a space station in orbit. There, life is PERFECT. Perfect weather, perfect food, perfect health.

And that’s the future many people think God’s got planned for Christians. To just abandon THIS rotten place for a perfect SPIRITUAL home in heaven.

But that’s not the teaching of the Bible. Jesus is the EARTHLY firstborn over creation, who bears God’s image perfectly, who reconciles EVERYTHING to God, through his shed blood. He CREATED everything, now he RESTORES it. RE-creates it.

And that’s what ETERNITY will look like. A perfect PHYSICAL heaven and earth, because JESUS is physical and earthly. And so are WE.

Of course the world doesn’t LOOK that way yet. But God’s WORKING on it. It’s a work in progress. It’s begun, but not finished yet. Not until Jesus returns to FINISH the job.

How’s he doing that? Wait for it! Don’t look around anywhere ELSE! By the power of his Spirit, he’s doing it IN, and THROUGH, THE CHURCH. The church is God’s LIGHTHOUSE OF NEW CREATION. Shining its light out into the old creation.

It’s a salty, tasty, appetiser of what’s coming. Like a dozen fresh oysters. It’s a bright colourful crystal that’s growing outwards in perfectly symmetrical patterns. Making everything it comes in contact with/ NEW and CHANGED and RESTORED.

All things are reconciled in principle. And they’re being put right little by little as the church lives in the world. As they live with Jesus as their head. New creation renewing the old creation all around it.

The declaration’s been made. Reconciliation is achieved. But the messengers are still delivering the message.

Like when Japan surrendered at the end of World War 2. Reconciliation had been achieved. The war was over. But the message took a while to get through to everyone. And some soldiers didn’t get the message for months or even years. But the fact that not everyone recognised the war was over, didn’t change the fact.

And it’s the same with God. Reconciliation’s been won with all things. The declaration was made when Jesus rose from the dead The message is still going out. And some people are refusing to recognise it.

But in principle, the reconciliation’s been won.

Notice too, what it ISN’T saying. It’s not teaching UNIVERSALISM. That is, that ALL PEOPLE will be saved. Down in verse 23 Paul says that this reconciliation still depends on faith in the work of Jesus. “You’re reconciled to God IF YOU CONTINUE IN YOUR FAITH, established and firm.”

If you have FAITH, then you become part of the new creation. But if you don’t, then you’re still alienated. Separated from God.

And that’s something Paul warns the Colossians about. Make sure that’s not you. You used to be alienated from God. At war. If you don’t have faith, that’s where you’ll stay.

What’s this mean for us

So what does all this mean for us?

This Jesus Paul’s been describing. THIS JESUS is head of our church. It’s not me. It’s not my church. It’s not the elder’s church. And that means we don’t act like it is. And if I do start acting like that – tell me.

The Pope says that HE’S the head of the church. But he’s not either. Ultimately you’re not answerable to anyone but Jesus. Your aim in life is not to please anyone else accept Jesus. Don’t do a job, or take on a ministry, because I’LL be pleased, or anyone else. Do it for Jesus.

And because it’s Jesus’ church, he’ll CREATE it. The future of this church is in his hands. We don’t have to worry about money, or resources, or people, or direction, or conversions, or property, or direction. He’s the head, the supreme ruler. If we follow him, then he will build his church – his new creation – just the way he wants it.

But not just the church. These truths about Jesus have something to say about SOCIETY. The world tries to tell us the church is living in the dark ages. Behind the times. But the reality is we’re at the FOREFRONT of change. We’re the CUTTING EDGE. We’re God’s NEW CREATION.

It’s not genetic technologies that are re-inventing mankind, or politics, or education, or social welfare. They’re just tinkering around the edges. It’s God, THROUGH HIS CHURCH, by the power of His Spirit, who’s making HIS CREATION NEW.

As we proclaim the gospel of reconciliation to every creature under heaven. Reconciliation that means holiness in God’s sight, without blemish and free from accusation.

And these truths about Jesus mean something PERSONAL, TOO. If Jesus is the TRUE image of God. TRUE man. Then we’re never fully human until we’re like Jesus. And each day, as we follow Jesus, we’re learning what it means to be fully human. We’re learning what we were designed to be like.

What LOVE is meant to be. And justice. And compassion. And patience. And humility. And Strength. And humanity.

Because Jesus was the PERFECT man. Perfectly representing all those qualities.

Becoming like Jesus isn’t about becoming more and more spiritual, and less and less human or earthly. To become like Jesus is to become MORE human. REAL human. To become all that God DESIGNED you for.

But listen carefully. That’s not about becoming all that YOU want to be. Or becoming all that THE WORLD says is successful.

Some churches reckon they can teach you how to be healthy, wealthy and wise. Achieve YOUR dreams. Become the best that you can be! That’s what God wants.

But that’s not ultimate humanity. What does ultimate humanity look like? It looks like Jesus. It looks like a slave. A servant. A cross. A foot-washer. A sacrifice.

“Growing followers of Jesus”. I reckon it’s a great motto for a church. Who are we? First and foremost? We’re followers of Jesus. Become more human as we become more like him. Because we’re growing as followers.

But it also describes our mission. What are we on about as a church? Our job is to grow God’s NEW creation. To grow people who will be followers of Jesus.

We’re God’s new creation. Pushing back the boundaries of his OLD creation. Pushing back sin and brokenness and rebellion. Bringing people into that new creation. A new creation with Jesus as our goal, our source, and the glue that joins us together.

We’re a SOLID house with Jesus as our foundation. Not a FANCY house, but a SOLID one.

That would be a good description for us as a church, wouldn’t it? I’d take that EVERY TIME. Ashfield Presbyterian Church. Not fancy. But SOLID!

If there’s one thing to take away this morning, it’s THIS. The same Jesus who rules CREATION, rules and guides his church. His body. His NEW creation. And that’s great news!

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