On your way west on a major highway near my home in New York, you cannot help but notice a sign written in very large day-glow orange letters. It says, “Christ is the answer.” I wonder how many people have driven by that sign and asked themselves, “Answer to what?” How many have gone on their way with no more interest in their question than in the last exit which was not theirs? If only they would look for the meaning of that sign as seriously as they look for their own highway exit, for we will all exit (this life) sometime! Christ is indeed the answer to all questions regarding this life. He said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no man cometh unto the Father, but by Me” (Jn. 14:6 KJV). With all the winds of doctrine swirling about today, we can be thankful for the book of Colossians, which gives us a clear view of the way, the truth, and the life we have in Christ. Colossians lays out the path for our walk with the Lord and prepares us for that walk by providing the great and governing truth of the all-sufficiency of Christ Himself – the object of our hearts. Colossians also exposes the basic forms for counterfeiting the truth of God by giving us the foundation for the truth. Colossians can be broken down into four sections. Let’s look at each section individually. Christ, The Head (Col. 1:1-19) First, Paul establishes his position in Christ: “an apostle ... by the will of God.” Then he tells us to whom he is giving thanks: “God and the Father of our Lord.” And for what: their “faith ... love ... hope.” He then takes up his purposes for writing to them: the seven desires he has for them, and the seven superiorities of Christ. Seven Desires: Salvation is often looked at as an end in itself, instead of the beginning of our eternal life with God. To further their walk with the Lord, Paul lists seven desires he has for the Colossians (1:9-11) – that they might: 1. Be filled with knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; 2. Walk worthy of Him; 3. Be fruitful; 4. Increase in knowledge; 5. Be strengthened in patience; 6. In long-suffering; 7. In joyfulness.
According to Paul, it is important to “walk worthy.” We are to “walk worthy of the vocation” in Ephesians 4:1. We are to “walk worthy of the gospel” in Philippians 1:27. We are to “walk worthy of God” in 1 Thessalonians 2:12. And we are to “walk worthy of the Lord” here in Colossians 1:10. It is only possible for us to walk worthy, because He has “made us fit to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints.” This is not something we need to strive for, for He has already made us fit. It is past tense. Not only should we give thanks for that, but also for His delivering us from darkness, transferring us into His Son’s kingdom, redeeming us, forgiving us, reconciling us, and perfecting us in Christ – that is, bringing us to maturity and completeness (1:20,28).
Seven Superiorities: So, being made fit, we come to look fully at Christ’s seven-fold fullness: 1. He is the image of the invisible God – the exact expression of God, who is nowhere else seen as He is seen in Christ. 2. He is the firstborn of all creation – emphasizing the privilege and responsibility that is His alone. 3. He is the creator of all things – having the power to bring forth the universe by His word. 4. He is head of all things – having authority over all. 5. By Him all things consist, or hold together – otherwise the universe would fall apart. 6. He is head over His body, the church, and the first-born from the dead – having conquered death and hell for all who follow Him. 7. He is pre-eminent over all things, for His name is superior to every other name.
Christ, The Reconciler (Col. 1:20-29)
At this point we could sing the chorus of the hymn, “How Great Thou Art,” but there is so much more! For as great as Christ is, His humility is incomparable. Philippians 2:7-8 tells us that He humbled Himself in a seven-fold way: 1. He made Himself of no reputation; 2. He took upon Himself the form of a servant; 3. He was made in the likeness of men; 4. He was found in fashion as a man; 5. He humbled Himself; 6. He became obedient unto death; 7. He died on the cross. Christ did all this for the purpose of making peace through the blood of His cross to reconcile everything in earth and heaven to Himself. On an individual basis, we who were His enemies, aliens to His heavenly will, have been reconciled by the Lamb of God sacrificed for us. He came into the world to save sinners, and after saving us, He presents us holy, unblamable, and unreprovable in His sight, if …
Many consider the “if” statements in the new Testament to be evidence that we are saved by our own works as well as by faith. This is not the case. The three “if” statements below are poised to keep our consciences from becoming slack in our confession.
• … “If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister” (Col. 1:23).
• “I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; by which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain” (1 Cor. 15:1-2).
• …“But Christ as a son over his own house; whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end” (Heb. 3:6).
For those with merely an outward profession of faith, these “if” statements are intended to invoke inward questioning as to their true condition, that they might turn to God with their whole heart. Continuance validates our confession, but does not save us. Lack of continuance proves there was no root of faith. Without being rooted, there is no being grounded and settled, and it will not take much to move someone without roots away from the hope of the gospel.
Paul concludes chapter 1 by showing that he is simply a servant to the gospel and to the Church, the body of Christ (Col. 1:24-29). Any suffering he had to endure, any labor he had to expend, was that all might have every opportunity to believe, for “The Lord … is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9), and that the Church might be firmly established in Christ. The hope of the gospel is a mystery, that is, a truth not previously revealed: Christ is in His people. What riches that entails! Paul’s service to the Church is to present everyone perfect, complete and mature in Christ, to enjoy those riches and live in the good of this reconciliation (Col. 1:27-28).
Christ, The Fullness (Col. 2)
If that isn’t enough to appreciate Christ, Colossians 2 shows us that the fullness of the Godhead is in Christ. Jesus was divine: He was “God with us” in the likeness of man. This frees us from the spoiling philosophies of other divine-claiming beings or creatures. There is only “one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim. 2:5). He is the answer to human philosophy (2:8-10), the answer to Jewish legality (2:11-17), the answer to oriental mysticism (2:18-19), and the answer to carnal asceticism (2:20-23). Freedom from all other religions, philosophies and human reasoning comes with “the acknowledgment of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ, that in Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col. 2:2-3).
Do you have full assurance and understanding of who Christ is? Do you have full assurance of faith in what He has done for you? Do you have full assurance of hope for what He will do in a future day? Do you see that Christ is the answer to all life’s questions?
Christ, Seat Of Our Affections (Col. 3-4)
When we find that Christ is indeed the answer to all, we are to set our affections on Him who is above all. As a watch is ultimately set by the sun (even atomic clocks are adjusted based on orbital timing) to mark time correctly, so we must let Christ be reflected in us. We have died to all that we once were as children of Adam. And now as Christians Christ Himself is our life – not merely our state of existence, but our very being. We are to walk in the power of His resurrection, as we are created new in Christ Jesus. This results in practical holiness as we are conformed to Christ in relationship to ourselves (3:5- 11); in relationship to others (3:12-17); in relationship to our position in life (3:18-4:1); and in relationship to God (4:2-6).
Colossians 3:1-3 exhorts us, “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” How should we then live? “They that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its affections and lusts” (Gal. 5:24). We do not crucify our bodies; we count them as already having been crucified with Christ. Now we present them to Him as a living sacrifice (Rom. 12:1).
The sinful impulses of the flesh need to be mortified: both the bad and the seemingly not-so- bad things (3:5,8-9). When putting off the old man, we must put on the new, with tender mercies (our deepest feelings), kindness, humbleness, meekness, long-suffering, forbearing (enduring irritations), forgiving (holding no grudges), and above all, love, the bond of maturity (3:12-14). Then the peace of God will rule in our hearts (3:15-17).
Whatever relationships we find ourselves in can be fulfilled: husband-wife, parent-child, employer-employee. We serve the Lord Christ, and whatever we do should be done with our best effort, fearing God, for He is our master in heaven (3:18-4:1). Praying for open doors to speak of Christ is essential in our walk with the Lord. We are to walk in wisdom, not nonchalantly, but purposefully, making the most of the time given us, speaking in grace and truth, which is the salt of our answers to others concerning our faith (4:2-6).
Paul’s letter to the Colossians closes with the greetings of those who fulfill this walk with the Lord. Even Mark, who left Paul at one point and caused division between him and his co-worker Barnabas, is included as an illustration that this is not an impossible goal (Acts 15:38, Col. 4:7-18).
By Tom Steere
With permission to publish by: Sam Hadley, Grace & Truth, 210 Chestnut St., Danville, IL., USA. Website: www.gtpress.org