SERMON - Colossians Book Survey
SERMON TYPE: BOOK SURVEY Chad Williams Box 147
Title: The Supremacy of Christ and the Book of Colossians
Text: Paul’s Epistle to the Colossians
Sub/Comp: The reality of Christ’s preeminence in the universe establishes radical implications for the life of the believer.
Proposition: Christ must be preeminent in your life.
Speaker’s Purpose: I want to challenge my listeners to demonstrate the immeasurable superiority of Christ both in their thinking and their living.
Interrogative: How can I make Christ preeminent in my life?
Transition: The book of Colossians addresses two primary spheres in which we are to demonstrate the immeasurable superiority of Christ.
What do you think the average person in the world thinks about Jesus Christ? No doubt, many believe he existed. Among those, most would probably believe that he was at least a good man who did good things for people. Do you think, however, that there would be some misconceptions regarding the Lord? In fact, let’s ask the more practical question for us. What do you think the average Christian believes about Jesus Christ? Obviously, most would be able to explain an amount of doctrine and probably discuss his role in salvation; however, do you think there could even be some misconceptions among the church – even in ours, regarding the Son of God?
The Apostle Paul wrote a letter to a group of believers who may have had such misunderstandings. The Colossian church was not one that Paul had personally established, as we see in chapter 1:4. Paul had heard of their faith, which was established through the work of a man named Epaphras (1:7). Yet, the reason for Paul’s writing this letter to these believers is quite clear. The church was being oppressed by heretical doctrine and the leaders in the church sought Paul’s council in order to combat this teaching. In response, Paul does not involve himself in an intellectual debate, but rather counters this teaching with a message that truly is relevant to believers today – Jesus Christ is preeminent!
Indeed, the book of Colossians, although written nearly two thousand years ago, is one that proves to be timeless. Many of the issues that Paul deals with all throughout this book relate to our modern society and culture in remarkable ways.
· This book answers some of the deepest philosophical questions of our day regarding the “first cause” in creation.
· Colossians further speaks to our ecumenical culture by proclaiming that there is but one church whose head is Jesus Christ.
· Colossians answers the common question regarding the true identity of this man called Jesus Christ.
· Colossians addresses our culture of pragmatism by affirming that Christ truly does change lives, give purpose to life, and offer hope.
· For a culture of multi-ethnic integration, Colossians 3:11 proclaims that in the body of Christ, there is neither racial nor social distinction, but complete unity in the sufficiency of Christ.
· Finally, this book speaks to our culture that is plagued with suffering relationships, offering invaluable counsel to husbands, wives, children, employers, and employees.
However, the contemporary issue that Colossians most unashamedly confronts is the pluralistic nature of our society. In Colossians, Paul confronts a philosophy that dethroned Jesus Christ as Lord as supreme. No, it did not necessarily remove the Savior from being a part of the Christian life, nor ignore Him completely; it simply dethroned Him as Lord over all.
Likewise, our society, and sadly even our churches are plagued with this kind of philosophy. Honestly, if the truth be known, even many of us at times exemplify this kind of attitude both in our hearts and through our actions. Indeed, we profess Jesus Christ as Lord over all, yet we give Him our leftover time. We place Him under our list of agendas. Often, we only consider Him as a mere “part” of our lives. As it has been said before, “It is not even enough for Christ to be prominent; he must be preeminent.” The entire message of Colossians centers on this single truth and is one to which we ought to give much attention: Jesus Christ must have preeminence. He must be the center of your life.
Arg: Now for most today, this is no shocking, revolutionizing idea. I have said nothing here that is new. Yet, this statement should be examined closely. Certainly, we know that Christ should be the center of our lives; however, many would feel uncomfortable if I were to ask if Christ has preeminence in your entertainment…or if I asked whether Christ had preeminence in your thoughts and attitudes this last week. At some point, friends, it is essential that we discern beyond the surface level of our lives. Paul is proclaiming this message to the church, the message of chapter 1:18 – that in all things, He might have preeminence.
Some may then ask, “Ok, if I am to make Christ first place in every area of my life, how am I to go about doing this?” The book of Colossians addresses two primary spheres in which we are to demonstrate the immeasurable superiority of Christ.
I. Meditate on the preeminence of Christ in your thoughts. (Colossians 1-2:6)
Ill / Exp: Proverbs 4:23 warns us to literally be a “watchman” over our hearts, for out of our hearts proceed our living. Without exception, the inward reality of our hearts always becomes outwardly visible in our lifestyle. This is why it is so crucial that Paul begin in chapter one of the book, not with the explanation of living, but with the core of the issue – the thinking of these believers.
Indeed, if Jesus Christ is not “first place” in their thoughts, it will naturally affect all of life. The same may be said of us. When Christ is dethroned in your heart – when He is no longer preeminent, it will inevitably affect your living!
Trans: There are three actions, found in the doctrine of the first half of the book, which will aid in keeping our minds focused on the preeminence of Jesus Christ.
A. Recognize Christ’s universal power.
Ill / Exp: It is not uncommon in our day for people to believe that Jesus Christ is no more than a child of God who loves people and did nice things for them. While none of this is untrue, the authority of Christ is often discredited. One needs only pick up the book of Revelation to see the extent of power that the Son of Man wields. It is said that he will but speak and all of earth and hell will be destroyed.
Yet, Christ’s immeasurable strength does not become apparent just in the last days, but was clearly evident at the beginning of time itself. Contrary to the misconceptions of secular society and many believers alike, Jesus Christ does not lack supreme authority.
Exp: At the very end of Paul’s prayer and thanksgiving in chapter 1, he concludes by referring to the redemptive work of Jesus Christ. Directly following this reference to Christ, Paul opens up with five verse section that becomes the centerpiece of the entire letter. 1:15-20 is said to be a hymn, expressing the preeminence of Christ. While the prayer led up to the hymn, everything that follows is either a restatement of the hymn or an application of its doctrine. Throughout these five verses, Paul centers around the universal power of the Son of God.
1. He manifests absolute deity (1:15).
Ill / Exp: There are countless cults and religions that believe the person of Jesus Christ was indeed a man, but only a man. From the days of his contemporaries in Palestine to the present, this has been one of the great questions throughout world religions. “Who is this man named Jesus Christ?”
Exp: Paul goes to great lengths in chapter one to affirm the equality of Christ among the Godhead. Statements like, “He is the image of the invisible God (1:15); in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell (1:19); who is the head of all rule and authority (2:10)” all clearly endorse the full and absolute deity of Jesus Christ.
2. He is the sovereign creator (1:16-17).
Exp: Paul also mentions that Christ is not only full deity, but he, in fact, played an active roll in the very creation of the universe. 1:16 says that “by Him all things were created, whether in heaven or earth,” and then concludes, “all things were created by him and through him.” Christ was not only the source of the creation, but also the focus of the creation. Paul further notes that “by Him all things are held together.”
App: The reality that Christ holds everything together is not only fascinating – in considering the universe being held together by His power, but it is also a reality that ought to play a role in our daily lives. Paul will soon get to this in chapters 2-4. Believers, we must remember that the same God who calls for our allegiance is the same one who holds the very universe together. There should be no question in our mind regarding the supreme authority of God. What patience He has with stubborn people like us!
3. He is the head of the church (1:18).
Exp: Paul writes that Christ is not only central to the believers’ lives and the church, but He is, in fact, the actual head of the body (as we see in 1:18), through whom, (as we find in 2:19) the entire body of Christ is “nourished and knit together.” This, of course, is only a restatement of the general observation Paul makes in 1:17, that through Him, all things are held together.
App: We tend to claim our church as our own. Pastors are often guilty of referring to the flock of God as “their church.” Peter refers to Christ as the “Chief Shepherd” who is the true owner of the church, whether locally or universally, merely placing pastors as present stewards over the “flock of God.” Paul’s terminology is one of a body, making Christ the head.
App: If Christ is truly the head of our church, do we have the liberty to push our own agendas or create strife among the body? This truth also explains why in our worship, everything we do must be Christ-centered in focus. In 3:11, Paul shares that in the body there is no racial distinction and then proclaims, “but Christ is all, and in all.”
B. Reflect on Christ’s redemptive power.
Exp: Many believe that because of the nature of the heretical philosophy that had been taught, Paul found it necessary to establish Christ as the center of salvation. He even mentions in chapter two that these legalistic demands only represented “a shadow of things to come, but [that] the substance belongs to Christ” (2:16-17).
Exp: Thus, in his soteriological treatment, establishing Christ as the center of the gospel, Paul lays out three primary, uplifting realities – all having taken place in the perfect past tense.
1. He has delivered us from utter hopelessness.
Exp: There are three main sections that remind the believers of their past state of utter hopelessness. 1:13 explains that the believer was under the domain of darkness while 1:21 reminds us of our alienation from God, hostile spirit, and wicked deeds. Likewise, 2:13 recalls our former state of being dead spiritually.
2. He has granted us complete forgiveness.
Exp: Forgiveness is a powerful message in the book of Colossians. The hymn in chapter one is flooded with Christ’s forgiveness. Paul expresses ideas like redemption, making peace with God, and reconciling us to God.
App: As Paul will demonstrate later in chapter 3, it is important for believers to often be reminded of this undeserved forgiveness which Christ granted to us, particularly when the tables are turned and we are the offended party.
3. He has clothed us in perfect righteousness.
Exp: Through Christ, believers are translated into the kingdom of God, where no sin may dwell. We also find that purpose in which Christ reconciled believers by His death was “in order to present [them] holy and blameless and above reproach before Him” (1:22).
C. Rest in Christ’s sanctifying power.
Exp / Ill: Today’s church is prone to the same legalistic tendencies of some early churches. No, for most the only struggle regarding the eating of meat concerns the quantity consumed. However, our churches have a tendency to attempt to “add” to our salvation on our own. Indeed, faith without works is dead, but that is not the point. Christ, alone, is the focus of our sanctification – a work which most of Paul’s other epistles disclose is done through the Holy Spirit Who resides within believers.
The danger of this church was a threatening influence of secular thought. To the Greeks, who prided themselves in the sophistication of their philosophical systems, the gospel message was too simplistic. To them, Jesus Christ alone was not adequate. They believed that further visions were necessary, which would provide deeper insights into the “divine mysteries.”
However, Paul explains in 1:27, that the mystery now revealed is the reality of “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” He declares in 2:2-3 that the only mystery of God is the very person of Jesus Christ – “in whom are all the hidden treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”
Exp: Paul uses further terminology to endorse this idea of Christ’s sufficient role in believers’ sanctification. He explains that…
· Christ is preached to present believers mature in Christ (1:28).
· Christ’s work presents believers holy and blameless (1:22).
· Christ’s place in believers’ hearts makes them complete (2:10).
· Christ has made believers participants in his death and resurrection, thus joining them with Himself (2:12-13, 20, 3:1-3).
It is this sanctifying power that is all the means believers need to live righteous lives. Therefore, others do not have the liberty to impose outside practices on the believer and use them as a means to judge his spiritual condition. The reality of Christ in [us, which is] the hope of glory comprises the true secret of the ages.
App: The whole point of all of this is that Christ’s preeminence must dominate our thinking. This may be applied theologically, philosophically, but most assuredly, practically-speaking. It is to this focus that Paul now turns in the 2nd half of the letter.
App: However, before we can even consider our daily living, it is absolutely essential that we give serious evaluation to our thinking. Again, if Jesus Christ is dethroned in your thoughts, he will inevitably be dethroned visibly in your life. What thoughts occupy your mind? Can you honestly say that you give much meditation to these truths laid out by the apostle Paul? If you really can’t see Christ’s supremacy displayed in your life, it is a sure sign that He is not supreme in your thought life.
Prop: Jesus Christ must be preeminent in your life.
Trans: However, we cannot stop at demonstrating the supremacy of Christ in the area of our minds, but this must extend to our living. Not only must you meditate on the preeminence of Christ in your thoughts, but you must also model the preeminence of Christ through your life.
II. Model the preeminence of Christ through your life. (Colossians 2:6-4)
Ill: Our actions are ultimately rooted in our thinking. As we all know, continual thoughts eventually lead to attitudes of the heart, and these attitudes always inevitably play out in life. This is why the first section of Paul’s letter is so key.
Exp: However, it is in the latter portion that the main thrust and exhortation of the letter is given, forming the main body which starts in 2:6 and extends to 4:6.
The theme of this section is stated in 2:6-7. “Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.”
This thematic statement provides the connection between the doctrinal and the practical. It bridges a gap which so often exists in the minds of some of the wisest of scholars. Yet, its truth is simple – live as a Christian the same way you became a Christian – centered around the work of Christ, walking by faith in Christ, knowing it is all only because of the grace demonstrated by Christ.
Arg: But really, why must believers model the preeminence of Christ in their lives while on this earth? Can they not wait until heaven? This world has so many things that we love, that we cling to. Making Christ preeminent would require my giving up of these precious things. Therefore, why is it so important to make Christ first place right now?
Trans: Here, Paul provides two reasons why believers must make Christ preeminent in their everyday living.
A. Because the believer’s life is hidden with Christ. (2:6-11)
Exp: The first time Paul makes reference to lifestyle is actually found in His prayer (1:10) when he informs them that he prays that they might “walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him.” Yet, it is not really until chapter 2 that the apostle explains the reason for the believer’s need to live this way.
Exp: Chapter 2:6-15 explains that believers are buried with Jesus Christ. They are dead to this world, but no longer dead in their sins, for God has made them alive through Jesus Christ. This is the gospel message.
Paul also challenges them to not conform to the false doctrines being taught, because they truly have died with Christ and He is all they need.
Exp / App: However, at the beginning of chapter three, Paul clearly explains the implications that the doctrine of the gospel has on the believer. Because they have been raised with Christ and are dead to this world, their lives are hidden with Christ in God. Therefore, believers have a different mission in life. It is not for temporal gain, but a spiritual pursuit, rooted and established in Christ (2:7). The hope of glory is offered in 3:4, which gives the believer incentive to demonstrate Christ’s preeminence while on earth.
App: Friends, we do not have the right to be saved – people dead to this world and alive to Christ and choose to live contrary to the reality of our spiritual state. On the contrary, the Bible often seems to teach that this kind of person was never a true believer to begin with. Now, because saints are still in the world, we will naturally still sin from time to time. Yet, the reality of our position in Jesus Christ has to transform our living – it demands a radical change from our unsaved state and a distinct difference from the world around us.
App / Exp: This is exactly what Paul is talking about in chapter three. Because believers have risen with Christ, they live differently. Therefore, they will naturally “put to death” the things in 3:5-9, and they will in turn “put on” those things mentioned that are characteristic of someone “alive with Christ.”
Trans: Yet, the second reason why believers must make Christ preeminent in their everyday living is because the believer’s motivation is centered on Christ.
B. Because the believer’s motivation is centered on Christ. (2:12-4:1)
App: The hope is given that believers will appear with Christ in glory. This fact provides a motivation that excels all others. Clearly, this is all the motive we need in order to seek the things which are above; yet, we all know that we often fail to treasure this prize the way we ought.
Exp: Nonetheless, Paul lays out how the motivation for every action that the believer performs can be tracked back to the person of Jesus Christ. This is so important for us. You see, the Christian cannot rely upon the same reasoning as the world. The world does right because it gets them something or prevents consequences. The believer, however, has a totally different way of going about these kinds of things.
· We are challenged in 3:13 to forgive one another. The basis of this forgiveness is found in the fact that we are forgiven of so much more. Therefore, how can I deny my fellow brother in Christ forgiveness when Christ Himself demonstrated His forgiveness through His death? This motivation extends beyond all others, enabling me to forgive regardless of the offence.
· Spouses are exhorted to work toward peaceful marital relationships. Yet, Paul is doing more than just giving good marital council. The motivation for this is because it is fitting to the Lord.
· Children are challenged to obey their parents. Their motivation, however, is because it is well pleasing to the Lord. Therefore, a child can honor his parent even when the parenting is the problem. He can obey even in those times when the commands given don’t make sense.
· Employees are commanded to do all things heartily. However, this is not merely because they will be rewarded for their service. That is because much of their work may never even be seen by men. Therefore, their reasoning must be grounded in the fact that they are actually serving the Lord Jesus Christ.
· Employers, likewise, are given a challenge. They are urged to treat their workers justly. Yet, this has nothing to do with their corporate reputation or a fear that they might get sewed. The motivation for the Christian employer is a reminder that they will one day answer to the Lord – their Master.
Exp / App: In each of these areas that Paul discusses, he demonstrates how the Christian should be motivated – by a motivation which contrasts that of the world. And it is this particular motivation – one that is centered completely on Christ – that becomes the ultimate reasoning to live right. Therefore, Paul’s lengthy discussion on the preeminence of Christ not only concerned their thinking, but would formulate the very grounds for their righteous living. For, indeed, a mindset centered on Jesus Christ will result in a radically different lifestyle.
Prop: We must, therefore, make Christ preeminent in all of our life.
As we have clearly seen, the apostle Paul goes to great lengths in the book of Colossians to establish the supremacy of Christ. We have seen how this kind of focus must entirely dominate our thinking each and every day. This is a thinking that meditates frequently on Christ’s attributes and involvement in our lives – both past and present. However, if this becomes the case in each of our lives, Paul’s second concern will naturally follow. If Christ’s preeminence dominates our thinking, it will inevitably be demonstrated in our lives. This is the message of Colossians – one which relates so closely to our culture today. Although our temptation is to just make Christ prominent in our lives, we actually dethrone him in the process. Believers, we must make Christ preeminent!