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“Holding It All Together”

Sept.11, 2016 Colossians 1:13-20


Back to school this past week. Students will be getting used to their new classes, their new teachers, sizing each other up. In class we became conscious of who were the quick-to-answer ones and the not-so-quick; who were the so-called ‘brown-nosers’, and sometimes there was an obvious “teacher’s pet”. I remember spelling bees and doing mental math; sometimes a competitive element was added to try to make it ‘fun’ – though of course it ended up most satisfying only for the last person standing.

             Even children in the classroom are constantly and unconsciously evaluating each other, trying to figure out “who’s number 1", where YOU fit in the pecking order. Then out on the playground, perhaps those who weren’t near the head of the class inside exerted their influence more outside: bullies who may have been taking out their frustrations at lacking academic ability.

             As life advances and we graduate from various levels of schooling, we leave scholastic grades behind but continue evaluating people in other ways. Who’s the best dressed? Who’s being most influential? Who’s accumulating the most wealth? Who has the best job? Human nature, ever since Adam blamed Eve who blamed the serpent, has always been quick to seek to rank oneself in superior position to those around. We see Hillary jostling with Donald for position; presidents of countries countered by their own courts or senates. It’s just like we’re back on the playground, standing on the top of the mound playing “King of the Castle”. There’s something inside us that yearns for importance, our sense of inferiority begs to be noticed, recognized, counted worthy.

             Last week we learned how the town of Colosse in Asia Minor had declined from an important centre to “second-rate market town” in the 5 centuries leading up to Paul’s time. Perhaps the residents felt they needed to turn to new and exotic religions in order to boost their morale. We deduce from Paul’s letter they were being enticed by ceremonialism, legalism, worship of angels, and human philosophies including an early form of Gnosticism. So the apostle, in prison in Rome, after finding out about the situation from Epaphras, sent a letter back emphasizing to the Christians at Colosse how much they already HAD in Christ, that they shouldn’t be duped by counterfeits, accept wooden nickels as it were.

             In our section today of Colossians 1, Paul schools them on “the 3 R’s” – not readin’, writin’, and ‘rithmetic – but that Jesus Christ is RESPLENDENT, REDEEMER, and RECONCILER.

             I’d like to illustrate each section with quotes from David Boudia, who is an Olympic diver from Indiana who’s married to Sonnie and has a 2-year-old daughter Dakoda. Boudia has won 4 Olympic medals including one gold and is a 20-time national champion. Recently he released an autobiography titled Greater than Gold. It hasn’t been a smooth ride. He smoked marijuana in younger years and engaged in a partying lifestyle. In 2009 he despaired of life and even considered suicide. That fall he became a Christian. Eventually, with the help of an older couple into whose home he moved for the sake of accountability, Boudia was able to leave behind his former lifestyle. He was able to start making Jesus Number One in his life. In a blog article Tim Challies describes Boudia as now “a world-class diver who...often stands with reporters after competitions and does all he can to deflect attention away from himself and toward Jesus.”

             One of Boudia’s “5 Life Lessons” is, “Don’t live by how you feel, but by what you know to be true.” We need to learn to let our new identity in Christ be dominant, rather than our old self. As Challies explains, “Our hearts and minds deceive us by telling us that we should trust ourselves — our wisdom, our feelings, our instincts — rather than trusting what God says through the Bible. But this is a sure path to pain.” Boudia writes: “Your old self (before Christ) would live by how you felt. But if you’ve been made new in Christ, you don’t have to live that way. You are free from that bondage.” (Gal 2:20) Self needs to let go of that drive to be ‘head of the class’, and instead surrender to Christ.


This passage is one of the most sublime portraits of Jesus in the whole New Testament. It’s a real mountain-top, exalting Jesus in His divinity. Gnostic teaching held that matter is evil and was created by a remote aeon (spirit-being); Gnostic philosophy placed a whole system of aeons and angels above Christ. So Paul drives home not only Jesus’ supremacy – that He’s superior to other created beings – but in fact Jesus’ deity, that He’s fully God and fully human, unique, in a class utterly by Himself. Paul may have been drawing on an early Christian hymn in vv15-20.

             Jesus is singular in His divinity. V15A “He is the image of the invisible God...” When you look at Jesus, you see God. In John 14 Philip, one of the disciples, asked Jesus to show them the Father. Jn 14:9 “Jesus answered: "Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?” The author of the letter to the Hebrews wrote, Heb 1:3 “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being...”

             Jesus is tops in rank or position – the real Number One in the universe. V15 He is “the firstborn over all creation”: firstborn not so much in time – He was not part of creation; Jacob received the rights of ‘firstborn’ even though he was younger than Esau – firstborn as in the sense of rank, rights, privilege. V16 “all things were created...FOR Him”. V18B “He is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything He might have the supremacy.” NRSV “have first place”.

             Jesus is the Agent and Owner and Disposer of everything that is. V16 “For by 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 and for him.” In 1Cor 15 Paul describes how Christ will finally be installed as Lord over all, then submit the whole package to God the Father: 1Cor 15:28 “When he has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all.”

             Jesus is both outside and beyond creation as its Lord, AND the glue that holds it together, all things ‘cohere’ in Him. V17 “He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” There are parallels here to John’s introduction to his gospel: John 1:1-3 “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.” And later in John’s gospel Jesus Himself astounds the Jews by saying, Jn 8:58 “I tell you the truth...before Abraham was born, I am!”

             Jesus is in particular head of those who believe in Him, the church. V18A “And he is the head of the body, the church...” Communion (which we celebrate today) is a reminder of our “one-loafness” in Christ, one Body, which He (not your pastor or elders) directs as the only Head. We as members are Christ’s hands, feet, mouth, and eyes. 1Cor 12:27 “Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.”

             These verses clearly highlight Jesus’ divine uniqueness: He is above all things, which were created by and for Him, subservient to Him; He is the Head, God’s very image and designated Agent. Jesus is RESPLENDENT, glorious, exalted and exceptional: He claims our worship for Who He IS.

             One of David Boudia’s ‘life lessons’ is, “All I have is Christ”. This Olympic athlete has come to fully rely on Jesus for his hope, joy, identity, worth, life, and future. Boudia says: “You can take the gold medal away from me. You can take my health and my career. You can take my particular church. And as much as I love them, you can take my friends and my family. If all I have is Jesus, then Jesus is enough. It’s a scary thought, yes, but true. He is worth every sacrifice you may have to make. He is worth every struggle in this life you may have. The Bible says that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life, and that no one comes to the Father except through him (John 14:6). He is my only hope, and he is your only hope.”


Jesus is resplendent, claiming our worship; He’s also our Redeemer, for which we are obliged to render thanks and obedience. ‘Resplendent’ describes who He IS; ‘Redeemer’ pertains to what He’s DONE for us. V14 “In Whom we have REDEMPTION” – being bought back, purchased, as a slave or someone kidnapped who’s released when a ransom has been paid. But to fully appreciate this, let’s back up into verses 12ff: “giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light.For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” We USED TO BE captive under the ‘dominion of darkness’ – its power, authority, or right – but God has transferred or moved us into ‘the kingdom of the Son He loves’, forgiving our sins, sending away the penalty. How could that be? Through the steep price Jesus paid – V20B “through His blood, shed on the cross”. That’s the other emblem of communion, the cup, wine with its red colour reminding us of Jesus’ lifeblood poured out on our behalf, in our stead.

             For what Jesus has done to bring us out of bondage to the Dark Domain, we owe Him our thanks, our obedience. Are you making progress in that?

             Another of David Boudia’s ‘life lessons’ is “Take your thoughts captive.” He writes: “As followers of Christ, we are called to battle [sin] valiantly and vigorously. Don’t be passive in the war against sin and resign yourself to the fact that you have no control over your thoughts. You do! God provides grace and will help you in the fight. Our obedience to Christ must be marked not just by how we act externally but by how we think inwardly. You don’t have to give in to sinful thoughts. Take them captive to obey Christ.”


Christ as resplendent claims our worship; as Redeemer claims our thanks and obedience; and, third, as our RECONCILER claims our obsession, our focus, to plug into His fullness. In the middle section of this passage Paul detailed Jesus’ divinity, His preeminence and supremacy over all creation, how He’s rightly “NUMBER ONE” in the universe, in heaven and on earth. But how does that connect with us? The gospel doesn’t let that remain distant, detached, as some remote fact. God wants us to PLUG IN!

             Vv19-20 “For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 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.” All God’s “fullness” dwells in Jesus: here Paul’s borrowing a technically loaded word from the philosophies he’s refuting. As if to say, all God’s powers and attributes are ‘at home’ in Jesus. Every good quality you could possibly imagine being in God, it’s there in Jesus. All supernatural power that you would expect from a being that spoke and brought the universe into being, it’s there in Christ.

             And – get this, isn’t it amazing?! – God wants us to plug into all that! “Through [Jesus] to reconcile to Himself [ God] all things...by making peace through His [Jesus’] blood...” The word translated ‘reconcile’ means ‘to restore a former state of harmony’, ‘to bring back into favour’. Concise Oxford Dictionary defines “reconcile” as “to make friendly after estrangement”. So it’s to bring back together those who were separated; they’re no longer at odds. It’s so awkward and tense when two parties aren’t speaking to each other; it’s so wonderful when they’re reconciled, getting together again without all that tension and fear. As sinners we were rightly separated, cut off from, at enmity with a holy pure all-powerful God; but Jesus by pouring out His life for us, painfully, crucified like a treasonous criminal, has made it possible for us to be forgiven, be “at home” again with the Almighty. Welcomed “into the kingdom of the Son He loves” (v13). God’s great goal in all the universe is to bring us back together with Himself, washed, made holy, put right, forgiven, and filled with His own Holy Spirit.

             As our Reconciler, Jesus in all God’s fullness warrants our obsession, our focus, our preoccupation to be yearning for that connectedness, savouring and strengthened by His fullness. He deserves for us to SEEK HIM FIRST (Matthew 6:33), be obsessed with pleasing Him just as an Olympic athlete is driven to practise relentlessly in pursuit of a medal.

             Another of Boudia’s ‘life lessons’ is, “Put your hope in the right place.” Not like the times he was looking for satisfaction in all the wrong places, including Olympic glory. Boudia says: “I tried my utmost to find lasting satisfaction and joy in things that were never designed to provide them — in the creation rather than the Creator. I thought the Olympics and a gold medal were a surefire way for me to be happy for life. The result? Destruction, despair, and disillusionment. Fame is fleeting. Riches can vanish in an instant. Pursuing such temporary pleasures may provide some momentary joy, but not joy in its fullest as God designed his people to have it. True joy on earth and eternal joy in heaven are found only in a relationship with Jesus Christ.”

             Real, lasting, eternal joy comes from a relationship, connectedness, being ‘at peace’ and plugged into Jesus. He wants you to come to Him today! Submit to Him in whom all things hold together – and discover how He can help you ‘hold it together’ in your daily life. Let’s pray.