The Supremacy of Jesus
Pastor Ben Hiwale
How big is your God? If you think your God is small and helpless then you will live differently than you if you believe that He is great, gentle, gracious and good. One the problems we have as Christians is that we think our God is too small. We don’t think he can completely handle our issues, He maybe is all powerful and all knowing for others but not for you, and as a direct result of that we get anxious, sad, timid, scared. Remember the movie Honey I shrunk the Kids? At times Church, it seems, we have shrunk God. If you live with a small God, your life is filled with anxiety, everything depends on you, and your emotions are dependent on your circumstances. You don’t trust anyone, can’t be generous. Since you have to take care of yourself, your acceptance by others is more important to you than your willingness to help or influence. You remain self centered because your God is not big enough to help, reward or punish. When we shrink our God, we end up with faithless prayer, benign worship, joyless service, self-centered love, hopelessness, unforgiveness and a life filled with fear.
In Colossians, Jesus was seen as one of many gods in the Pantheon of the Roman gods. Gnosticism ruled they could not bring themselves to believe that God could become man, because they believed that matter was evil. Their view of God was small. What is your view of Jesus today? What size is he?
This text is primarily a Christological passage of the New Testament. This is one of those passages that strikes you as beautiful, deep and rich but you have hardly any idea of how deep it is until you get deep into studying it. There is so much in this passage that we can do a mini-series on these verses. As I prepared to preach this message, I feel like the mosquito at the nudist colony, so much good stuff, where do I begin? As we walk through it, I want to give you some observations to help us see the beauty of this passage and then draw out a few of the implications that are in there for you and me.
In the west we often think that God is a means to a better life, family, purpose, guilt free living or even eternity in heaven. As if God existed for us and we not for Him. Thinking of God that way is fundamentally wrong. Repentance is not merely adding God to our lives, repentance is living like all that we do and all we are exists for God. He is the center of everything. This is more than just adding God into your life; it’s a complete re-orientation of who you are.
The Supremacy of Jesus Over His New Creation
Jesus is paramount over everything that He has created in verses 15-17 and He’s preeminent over all that He has redeemed in verses 18-23. Another way to say it is that He has first place over both the cosmos and the church. He is Lord of everything He has made and He is Lord over everyone He has saved.
In verse 18 the reference to firstborn is the resurrection from the dead. Jesus died on the sixth day of the week, which is the same day man had been created, which is the same day the Genesis account presents that man had sinned. Jesus died on the sixth day showing that he was ushering in the end of first creation, Jesus was raised on the first day of the next week ushering in the new creation. In the Gospel of John 20:22, it tells how after the Resurrection, the first time Jesus saw his disciples he did something very strange. He breathed on them. Which is a strange thing to do when you see someone after a while.
When he did that, he said to them, receive the Holy Spirit. What is happening is – Jesus was beginning this new creation. He was starting this resurrected community that we know as the church. Jesus is the head of the new creation and the source from which it all flows. Later they would receive the spirit in full in Acts 2. His embodiment of the new creation is the church. The church is God’s display of the glories of the new creation. It is where the power of spirit is making a new resurrected order within the church. It is where he showcases the beauties of the resurrected life.
Verse 19 – He is displaying Trinity – we see God in 3 parts. He is saying the fullness of God was in Jesus, in experiencing Him you experience the full Godhead. Which is why Jesus said in John 14:23 – when the Holy Spirit comes and resides in you, so does the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit. In other words, all 3 members are in every single one of them. If your head is starting to explode then you are getting a hang of this.
Verse 20 – Here is the turn in this passage. When we rebelled against God, Paul says, the God who existed before all things and the God who spoke all things into existence through His word. rather than smashing us out of existence, He left the glories of heaven and took upon Himself our penalty and reconciled us to Himself. The cross was bloody, Paul says. The cross was gruesome because our sin was utterly wicked before the face of God. Jesus in his death on the Cross was absorbing the wrath and penalty of God towards creation so that every single ounce of penalty due to us was put on the cross. The reason blood grosses us out is because sin grosses God out. That is why the cross was what it was because our sin was what it was. Sometimes the utter majesty of the Cross is lost on us.
How does this passage apply to us today? Let me try to make two simple points and present couple questions and applications as we continue to unpack this. We can summarize this passage this way:
- Knowing and Loving Jesus
- Gospel – Only Way to Love Jesus
Knowing and Loving Jesus
Paul says the point of salvation is knowing and loving Jesus, that Jesus would be pre-eminent. Our original sin was idolatry. We loved something, treasured something, we prioritized something more than God. Paul says in Romans 1:23, our original sin was that we worshipped and served the creature, more than the creator.
When you love creation rather than the Creator, you’re trying to get from creation what creation cannot give you. You’re going to hit a ceiling and grow frustrated and be forced to medicate. Some of us are going to medicate with drugs and alcohol. Some of us are going to medicate with sex. Some of us are going to medicate with lust. Most of us are going to medicate with trinkets and toys. In the Garden of Eden, we see idolatry, false worship. Sometimes people have a hard time seeing that. I don’t see them bowing down or worshipping the tree. No they worshipped it because they deemed it more fundamental to their lives than the presence of God. So they turned their back on the presence of God and chose the tree, and that is idolatry. So every sin from this point on also springs from idolatry, where you and I treasure and prioritize something else rather than God.
If the essence of our sin is Idolatry; then the essence of repentance as it says 1 Thessalonians 1:9 – to turn from our idolatry back to the living God. But for many people God is a means to an end. He is the best way to a better life now or better family, or better finances, or health or eternity in heaven. You don’t use God for a means to anything. He himself is the great prize. All the service for God means nothing to God if it is done in pursuit of anything else but God himself. All the zeal for God means nothing to God if it is done for any other reason but God himself. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13, I can make more sacrifices than anyone, give my body to be burnt, how can be more radical than that. Paul says I can have all the spiritual gifting and converse in every possible language on earth and in heaven and if I don’t have love in my heart, it doesn’t really matter because God is not pleased with it. If anything he is insulted by it. This creates the dilemma of Colossians chapter 1.
How can we learn to love God if the essence of coming to God is loving God and making him pre-eminent? Love cannot be commanded. Isn’t that the irony of the great commandment? How do you command someone to love someone else. Can you imagine if your parents put a girl or guy in front of you and said – love her or him. You will be like, who are you? You can’t command someone to love. Love is a response. When I met Teresa and fell in love with her, it was a response to her beauty. The more I have gotten to know her over the years, the more I love her because love is a response to delighting in something, it is a response to a character of something.
How can we love God, it is the great commandment, how can we be commanded to love God and yet have it be generated from our heart, where it is to achieve no other end than God himself. The answer Paul says is in the Gospel.
Gospel – Only Way to Love Jesus
The Gospel is the only place we can learn to love Jesus. Paul gives us a breathtaking portrait of Jesus and his work. But don’t miss the context. He says all this after telling them in verse 9 that they be filled with the knowledge of His will and they have spiritual understanding, endurance and perseverance, Notice verse 22, we will be presented holy and blameless and above reproach if (verse 23) we continue in the faith and hope of the Gospel which is proclaimed to us. Paul was saying, “If you are truly saved, and built on the solid foundation of Jesus Christ, then you will continue in the faith and nothing will move you. You have heard the Gospel and trusted Jesus Christ, and He has saved you.”
In other words, we are not saved by continuing in the faith. But we continue in the faith and thus prove that we are saved.
Spiritual growth doesn’t take place by going beyond the Gospel; Spiritual growth is produced by going deeper into the Gospel. Love for God and love for others, the spiritual fruit is produced in us by seeing Jesus and what he has done by immersing ourselves in the Gospel. Spiritual growth, bearing spiritual fruit, understanding, knowledge of His will, and endurance, those things don’t come by going beyond the Gospel, they come by going deeper into the Gospel.
For example, how is physical fruit produced? When a man and woman come together they produced a physical fruit, a child. They are not thinking about the fruit they are producing. They are caught up in a moment of intimacy and love with one another and the fruit of that is the child. People think the way you produce spiritual fruit is by playing Matt Redman songs, having quiet time every day, telling yourself to love, love, love. You don’t produce spiritual fruit by thinking about it and pursuing it, you produce spiritual fruit by being swept up in an intimate spiritual adoration and worship of Jesus Christ and the fruit of that is love, joy, peace, gentleness, longsuffering. Love cannot be really commanded, love is a response to beauty. We see that beauty in the glory of who Jesus is and what he has done in the gospel. That when we are changed. That why it says 1 John 4:19 – we love Him because he first loved us.
What is the Gospel?
The more you know and are in touch and immersed in the Gospel, the more love for God or others is produced in you by experiencing the love of God towards you in Christ. So what Paul gives us here is a declaration of what Jesus has done. The Christian Gospel is primarily two things; and we cannot get this wrong.
- It is an announcement
- It is a story.
The word Gospel was not an exclusively Christian word or even a religious word when it was first used by the apostles. The word in Greek means” good news”. It was often used when Greek generals were in battle. After they won they would send out a “gospel carrier”, an evangelist, back to the cities they were protecting to announce the good news: General So-and-So had won the battle and they were free! It was not an invitation to come join the battle; it was an announcement that the battle had been won. So when the word Gospel is used as a description of the message of Jesus and his apostles, what is being implied is that we are not announcing what they are supposed to go and do for God, but primarily we are announcing what God has done for us. God uses that announcement, that story, to change our hearts. God uses the beauty of the story to make Jesus come alive in our hearts. Which is why the Gospel is not primarily what we ought to do for God, but what God has done for us. Seeing what God has done for us gives us the heart to do what we should do for him.
For example – When we want to motivate generosity in the church at large, we use guilt – “look at all those people in India how they are suffering, we should do something to help them!” Or how about, “you give to God and God will multiply and bless you.” That is appealing to our greed; if you give to God, you will be rich. Paul uses neither one of these motivations. In 2 Corinthians 8:9 Paul uses neither guilt nor greed, but grace. Guilt and greed may produce a temporary response. God does not want a generous offering, he wants a generous life. That is not produced by a sermon, guilt or greed. It is only the generosity of Christ that produces a generous spirit in you. The Gospel is not just after obedience; it is after a whole new kind of obedience. That is the kind of obedience that does not necessitate a stirring preaching on whatever that subject is, in order to become to what God wants us to become. You can apply this to just about anything when it comes to spiritual fruit.
Another example – Forgiveness – Matthew 18:24 – Jesus told a parable that sums up this perfectly. The man who owes another man ten thousand talents. We really don’t know the magnitude of this debt. But it was a debt that could not be paid by this guy and in those days, after his death his children and their children will continue to inherit this debt. Time comes to collect that debt and he makes an emotional appeal to the man he is indebted to. Then something happens that must have taken Jesus’ hearers by surprise. Jesus uses the word “splagma” – gut compassion. The man is moved and says, “no I am not going to give you more time, I am going to forgive your entire debt. You are free forever.”
The man stands up and for the first in his life he is really free. He runs across the street and immediately crosses paths with a man who owes him a dollar. He grabs the man and demands that he pay him back the dollar. When he cannot pay, he has him thrown in jail. I wonder if the people listening to this story heard that and said, no one who is forgiven 10 thousand talents will hold someone else accountable for one talent. That was Jesus’ point exactly. If you have trouble forgiving others then you have no concept of the grace of God towards you. And if you have a problem forgiving others, I am not going to beat you up, I want to put you in touch with the generosity of Christ towards you because when you experience the generosity of Christ towards you. it will produce the fruit in you.
Many times we have taken the Bible and preached the Gospel as what we ought to do for God. Our sermons are characterized by commands, read the Bible, be in a small group, live generously. Listen: the law, no matter how eloquently preached, cannot produce change in us. That is why Paul in 1 Corinthians 13 says, it’s not like you can be more committed in your obedience, it’s not a spiritual experience that you must have, because he could speak in more tongues than anyone. You must have love in your heart. Where does love come from? Love for God comes from experiencing the love and beauty of God, and that happens in the Gospel.
God is not after obedience but a new kind of obedience that is born out of love. I pray that this kind of preaching doesn’t sound dangerous to you. Experiencing the Gospel produces the heart that bears spiritual fruit. What He wants and what we want becomes the same. Don’t confuse diagnosis in the Bible with prognosis. The Bible diagnosis tons of problems –sin, apathy, lovelessness, God’s prognosis is always repentance and faith in the Gospel. Gospel produces in us what the law couldn’t. It makes us alive. This is bedrock of the Christian faith. The knowledge that the God who created the universe could not be more favorably disposed to you and He is the only one that matters.
This is what Paul says drives out sin. I have had conversations with people dealing with lust or porn. They will tell me, I cannot turn this off, man. I say, oh but if your wife or child walks in on you, what happens – did you lose your desire in that lust? What just happened is your attraction to lust was driven out by a greater emotion. Many people are trying to bring them into subjection by will power when those things are brought under control by captivation of the higher power, higher beauty. This explosive power is so great that it snatches away all other attractions. We don’t learn to bring our bodies under control by deadening our impulses, we bring them under by growing in our passion and love for God, and that happens because of the Gospel. That is how people are changed. That is how spiritual fruit and maturity is produced. How we began in Christ is how we continue. The gospel is not the diving board off which you jump into pool of Christianity; the gospel is the pool itself. The gospel as someone said is not the ABC of Christianity but the A through Z. Notice how we are saved, we are to continue in the faith, steadfast. We are not going beyond the gospel, but going deeper into the Gospel and that is what keeps transforming us.
The parable that is scary to me as a Pastor is of seeds, Luke 8, how some of them sprang up quickly, Here is question: These people are producing fruit and the sun comes out and withers them? Are these saved or unsaved people? They represent unsaved people who for a while looked like saved people, but their roots never went deep enough to choke out the temptation, when it comes. The way you move people from sinners prayer to relationship with Christ – you don’t give them 3 steps to do this and 4 steps to overcome that and 5 ways to march up that hill, you do it by driving the Gospel so deep down their heart that it goes beyond the weeds that choke out their attraction to sin. It’s deeper into the Gospel.
Maybe the reason it has been difficult for us to engage our culture with this message because we haven’t fallen in love with the Gospel. Maybe if we looked deep enough we might see that most of our passion is for self-exaltation and not the Glory of Christ.
I am praying for a Revival in Rochester and the surrounding counties. What changes me is not the best life now but the glory of the Gospel.
Given that God is good, great and gentle, how should we live? We should live in:
Authentic Relationships – No need for image control, no need to live a lie. Brokenness will never be fixed unless we live in an Authentic Relationship with him. Live in forgiveness. Otherwise you will forever be using external things to medicate a restlessness in you that is robbing you from all that Christ has come to grant you in the Gospel.
Selfless Service – Our God serves everyone. We don’t serve because of a need, it’s not about guilt, you serve because that is who our God is and that is what you are. He gave himself to be a ransom. Take a step today! Rows are good but circles are better – creates accountability, flourishes your gifts.
Passionate Evangelism – Share the Gospel – it’s the good news. Your walk with Jesus is not private, it may be personal. You are the light and salt – Light always shines and salt always preservers. Invite people to Church with you, those that are far from God to the most meaningful event you do every weekend in your life. Allow the Gospel to transform
Faith Filled Prayer – I am tired of benign prayer. Our heart is not in prayer. We don’t ask weightlifters to pick up pencils, why do we ask God for sunny days, as if that is all he can do? Hebrews 13:5-6 – I will never leave you or forsake you.
Awesome Worship – Awe-filled worship, not Awful worship. Your God who spoke the world into creations, humbled himself became a man, went on the Cross and made a way for you to be reconciled with Him, He now resides in you – He is great, good, gentle – How shall you live?
1. How is your love for Jesus? Is Jesus pre-eminent to you or your life, career, finances or some pursuit pre-eminent to you?
2. When was the last time you were deeply moved to tears by the Gospel?
What is going to change us, our situation is not some 5 steps of this or that but the billion steps God took towards me to rescue me. Ephesians 5:25 says, remember how Christ loved you. In a lecture you leave with information, in a motivational speech you leave with action steps but in a sermon, you leave worshipping. You leave unbelievably fulfilled. It is all about the Cross. The Gospel produces the heart that obeys. Creation was set on a course to Reconciliation because of the Cross.