2018-7-08 The Person of Christ

Cornerstone EPC                                                                              Sunday morning
Franklin, NC 28734                                                                          July 8, 2018

“The Person of Christ”
Colossians 1:15-17

We arrive today at what one scholar calls the Great Christology.[1]  In today’s text we see Christ’s marvelous Person—as sublimely shown to us by the Holy Spirit through Paul’s pen.  In weeks to come, God willing, we shall see both Christ’s work (in 1:18-20) and Christ’s effect upon the elect (in 1:21-23)[2]  Let’s us hear God’s written word, which testifies to the living Word, Jesus Christ—and, in the hearing, let’s hear of the glorious Person of Jesus Christ.

(HERE READ THE TEXT)

The Holy Spirit, through Paul, tells us of Jesus’ Person in soaring terms.  First, He is the image of the invisible God.  Let Scripture illustrate Scripture.  The Apostle John, writing in the Gospel bearing his name, writes, “No one has ever seen God; the only God, Who is at the Father’s side, He has made Him known” (John 1:18).  Jesus Himself, replying to Philip as recorded by John, assures him and us, “Whoever has seen Me has seen the Father” (John 14:9).  Hence God, in essence invisible, became visible in Christ’s incarnation.  We shall hear a bit later, and more fully, from Hebrews 1:3 that Jesus is the exact imprint of God’s nature.  Again, we, having seen Jesus through the Spirit-aided eyes of faith, have seen the Father also.

Second, Jesus is the instrumental means of creation.  Scripture elsewhere agrees with Scripture here.  Again, John writes in his Gospel, “All things were made through Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made” (John 1:3).  The author of Hebrews writes in a similar vein, “But in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son, Whom He appointed the heir of all things, through Whom also He created the world” (Hebrews 1:2).  Hence, we see that Jesus, before His incarnation, was present at and involved in God’s fiat creation, and that ex nihilo—from nothing.

Third, Jesus is the One existing before all things.  The Gospel of John opens in a way that John Calvin calls thundering from the heights[3] with these words, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth (John 1:1, 14).  This certainly is true with respect to time.  Jesus, being eternal, exists from eternity past to eternity future—and everywhere in between.  Therefore, among other truth, He exists before any created thing.  This is also true with respect to rank.  Jesus is above all things—things both visible and invisible.  This squares with what we read in the third chapter of John, namely, that He Who comes from above is above all (John 3:31).[4]  It also squares with that soaring passage of Jesus’ exaltation in Philippians 2: “Therefore, God has highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the Name that is above every name, so that at the Name of Jesus every knee should bow, in Heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:9-11).  Think of it, every sentient being, of every age, from every place, one day will confess Christ as Lord—either gladly or grudgingly.  Truly Jesus Christ is before all.

Fourth, Jesus is the Sustainer of all.  The author of Hebrews tells us of Jesus, “He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of His nature, and He upholds the universe by the word of His power” (Hebrews 1:3).  The Westminster Shorter Catechism, a subordinate confessional standard of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, asks us, “How doth God execute His decrees?”  The Catechism then supplies the answer, “God executeth His decrees in creation and providence” (Westminster Shorter Catechism, question and answer 8).  We see from Scripture that Christ is instrumental not only in creation, but also in providence.

We receive today glorious information for our souls, yet some may ask, “What is the relevance of this information for my life today?”  First, such teaching as we hear today protects from error in practice and outlook—just as it did in Colosse, ca. A. D. 60-62, so also it does here and now.  Some have read Scripture, even this text, and have concluded erroneously that Jesus too is created.  Our text today, rightly understood, reminds us that Jesus was never created, only begotten—and every time we recite together the Nicene Creed, we confess Scriptural truth.  Others have read the Scriptural account of Jesus’ life and teaching and concluded that Jesus was a great teacher only, but not divine and, hence, not to be worshipped.  Our text today makes clear which of the three choices offered us by C. S. Lewis in his famous tri-lemma[5] (Jesus is either lunatic, liar, or Lord) is the correct one—namely that Jesus is God incarnate and, therefore, is to be worshipped as Lord.

Second, such teaching as we hear today fuels our worship of our triune God.  Note from today’s text Jesus’ infinite existence.  Note also His infinite power.  Note furthermore His infinite wisdom.  Then, in view of these compelling truths, fall at His feet, for the first time or afresh, and worship Him.  May He be praised, and may you indeed be blessed.  AMEN.

[1] C. F. D. Moule, The Epistles to the Colossians and to Philemon.  The Cambridge Greek Testament Commentary (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1962), 58.

 

[2] For this three-fold division of Colossians i.15-23, I am indebted to Moule, ibid.

[3] John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, I.viii.12.

[4] Commentators differ concerning whether these words come from John the Baptist’s lips or from the Apostle John’s pen.  Whether the words occur within quotation marks or not reveal the translator’s stance.

[5] C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (New York: Macmillan, 1952), 55-56.  Here is the full quotation: “I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.’  That is the one thing we must not say.  A man who was merely a man and said the things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher.  He would either be a lunatic—on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg—or else He would be the Devil of Hell.  You must make your choice.  Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse.  You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God.  But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher.  He has not left that open to us.  He did not intend to.”

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