"The Fullness of Christ" Col.1:1-23

Today we begin a sermon series looking at Paul letter to the church at Colossae. This letter was prompted by the arrival of Epaphras in Rome telling Paul about the heretical teaching that was threatening the church at Colosse. This teaching had several facets : it was a human philosophy and not from God (2:8); it involved circumcision, dietary laws and holy days ( 2:11,14,16,17); it involved the worship of angels at the expense of Christ (2:15-19); it involved asceticism, teaching that the body is evil and must be treated as an enemy (2:20-30).

In writing the letter Paul wanted to :

- express his personal interest in the church ( it appears he didn't set it up or ever visit it ).

- oppose the false teaching, especially by stressing the supremacy of Christ.

- warn them against reverting to their old pagan vices.

We are going to examine in detail verses 15 to 23. In the last sermon of this series we will be looking at prayer and this may link up with Paul's thanksgiving and prayer in the first fourteen verses.

Leonardo da Vinci was a wonderful painter. One of his acclaimed masterpieces was "The Last Supper" which was painted on a convent wall. Even the cup that the Lord used was perfect, an ornate golden vessel richly set with jewels. When he had completed the picture he invited some friends to inspect it. "What a wonderful cup," they exclaimed. "How it sparkles! Such a cup was never painted before." Leonardo immediately splashed some dark colour over the glittering chalice to turn it into an ordinary, cheap, cup. He wanted the glory of Christ, and not the beauty of the cup, to be the focus of his great work. In all things Jesus must come first.

Paul shows us in this passage that Jesus must come first.

15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.

This is not saying that Jesus is the image of God in a material way. That God is male, Jewish, with olive skin, brown eyes , and dark hair and beard.

It is saying that Jesus has the nature and being of God. He is kind, gentle, forgiving, opposed to sin, radical in how he expects his followers to live, loving and so on. He is God. And he reveals God to us. If we want to know what God is like we should look at Jesus.

"Firstborn over all creation" does not mean that Jesus was created. It means that he is more important than anything that was created. This is relevant to the heretical teaching the Colossians were being exposed to which involved the worship of created, spiritual beings ( 2:18 ). Perhaps Jesus was seen as one of many spiritual beings who mediated between God and man.

In Israel at this time the firstborn acted as the representative of his father, and managed the father's estate. There is a parallel with Jesus who represents God the Father, as we read in our gospel reading, John 14:10, ( Jesus said, ) "Don't you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me?". The firstborn looked after his father's estate. We will see how Jesus created and sustains the created order in the next few verses.

Verse 16 tells us that everything, seen and unseen, material and spirit were created by him and for him. We tend to think of God the Father creating and Jesus redeeming, yet this verse tells us that Jesus is the agent of creation. Jesus made everything, and everything was made for him. Not that creation is some cosmic toy, like a bizarre train set for God to play with. It was created for Jesus because he is the one to whom the created order is moving towards.

Verse 17. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

There is a Mr Bean sketch when he goes to the Sales. He has placed a cauliflower and some balloons inside a sleeping bag at the front of the queue to fool the other people that someone is in front of them. Just before the store is due to open he turns up in his old green mini, throws the cauliflower away, pops the balloons to the surprise of an old man with a hearing aid nearby, and walks in first.

Like someone at the head of a queue Jesus is before everyone else in time. He was there first. And he is before everybody in rank.

In him all things hold together. Not only has Jesus created everything he sustains everything. If it were not for Jesus the whole created order would disappear.

He has created you and me. And he keeps us going. So there is no room for pride, only for praise and thanksgiving. This goes against the philosophy of the world which says that everyone has the power and ability to shape their own destiny.

Not only is Jesus before all of the created order in time and seniority, he is also before the new creation, the church, in time and seniority. He is the head of the body, the church. This shows us that the church is a living organism, with its members joined to one another through Jesus. It shows us that the church is the means by which Christ ministers today. And there is an intimate union between Christ and the church, just as there is an intimate union between my brain and big toe, because I am wiggling it !

This unity of Jesus and his followers will be repeated again and again in this letter. Verse 18 tells us that he is the head of the body the church and that he was the firstborn from the dead. Not that he was the first to rise from the dead, but that he was the first to rise from the dead to a new exalted body, never to die again.

Take out can of Pedigree Bitter.

This can is full of beer and a little gas. If I was to open it, pour it into a glass and drink it dry then all of the can of beer would now be in me, and this sermon might get a bit more lively !

Jesus had all of the fullness of God dwelling in him, verse 19. Therefore you could not look at Jesus and say that there was an aspect of God that he did not have. All of God's fullness was in Jesus.

Jesus is God.

He was also man. He appeared to be just a man, yet further investigation disproves this. He is man and God.

Calvin said, "Whatever God has, he has conferred on his Son." REPEAT.

Verse 20 shows us that only through Jesus will the created order be redeemed. It is in him that the created order will find its true meaning and fulfilment. Freed from the chains of sin that entangle it.

In Revelation 21 John has a vision of a new heaven and a new earth. This is not talking about a second heaven and earth , but a renewed heaven and earth. Freed from sin by the redemption that Jesus has secured.

We now see how this affects the lives of the Colossian Christians, and the life of every Christian.

In 1903 a boat carried a spindly ten year old Italian immigrant called Angelo Siciliano to Ellis Island in the United States. His weedy frame made him a target for bullying. Seven years later he watched lions in a zoo and realized that their stretching actually helped to build their muscles. He developed a fitness system which he used on himself that he called 'Dynamic Tension'. By 19, he was winning fitness competitions and modelling. Ten years later he won the Most Perfectly Developed Man contest in Madison Square Gardens and changed his name to Charles Atlas. You've probably seen the 'before' and 'after' photos of people who benefited from his fitness course.

In verses 21 and 22 we have another before and after picture.

Before : you were alienated from God - cut off from God; enemies in your minds - opposed to God in your attitudes;

Why ? Because of your evil behaviour. We may tend to think of the word evil as something very bad. The type of thing that you might find in a tabloid newspaper headline. "Evil Vicar murders wife and puts her in freezer." Evil here is referring to anything that is contrary to God's will. It is a symptom of sin. Our tendency to do things our way, rather than God's way.

So everyone who is not a Christian is cut off from God by evil behaviour. And that behaviour makes their whole approach to life opposed to God.

After : God has reconciled you to God by Christ's physical body through death - the false teaching denied Christ had a physical body, perhaps teaching that the body is evil. There is a change from being an enemy to being reconciled;

to present you holy in his sight without blemish and free from accusation - we are holy, set apart to live for God. Perfect in his sight. God doesn't see our imperfections but Jesus perfection, a change from being evil to being perfect.

Whilst we have that perfect status, that does not mean that a Christian never sins. But we have a new motive for living inspired by God's Spirit living within us. God will sanctify us, make us more like Jesus as we grow in our faith. We need to wear those T-shirts that say on them : "Be patient, God hasn't finished with me yet !

23if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant. . We are to persevere in living the Christian life. To stand firm , rooted in the Bible and in prayer. Confident in the certain hope that we have eternal life.

The Christian life is about keeping going.

"Runner's World" (8/91) told the story of Beth Anne DeCiantis's attempt to qualify for the 1992 Olympic Trials marathon. A female runner must complete the 26-mile, 385-yard race in less than two hours, forty-five minutes to compete at the Olympic Trials.

Beth started strong but began having trouble around mile 23. She reached the final straightaway at 2:43, with just two minutes left to qualify. Two hundred yards from the finish, she stumbled and fell. Dazed, she stayed down for twenty seconds. The crowd yelled, "Get up!" The clock was ticking -- 2:44, less than a minute to go.

Beth Anne staggered to her feet and began walking. Five yards short of the finish, with ten seconds to go, she fell again. She began to crawl, the crowd cheering her on, and crossed the finish line on her hands and knees. Her time? Two hours, 44 minutes, 57 seconds.


You, Christ, are the image of the unseen God, the first-born of all creation.

You created all things in heaven and on earth:

everything visible and everything invisible,

thrones, dominions, sovereignties, powers

all things were created through you and for you.

Lord of all creation:

we worship and adore you.

You are the radiant light of God's glory:

you hold all creation together by your word of power.

Lord of all creation:

we worship and adore you.

You are the first to be born from the dead.

All perfection is found in you,

and all things were reconciled through you and for you,

everything in heaven and everything on earth,

when you made peace by your death on the cross.

Lord of all creation:

we worship and adore you.

The Church is your body,

you are its head.

You take your place in heaven

at the right hand of the divine majesty,

where we worship and adore you with all

your creation, singing:

Holy, holy, holy Lord,

God of power and might,

heaven and earth are full of your glory.

Hosanna in the highest.

Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.

Hosanna in the highest.

Colossians 1.15-18