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The Image of the Invisible God

Colossians 1:15-19 December 21, 1975 1201

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This morning I want us to look together at a very important portion of the Word of God, the first chapter of Colossians verses 15 to 20...Colossians chapter 1. We're going to be dealing with just a very very basic message this morning hour and refocusing our attention on the person of the Lord Jesus Christ, who He is, why He came into the world and what the birth of the Lord Jesus really means.

I'm sure that the humble birth of Jesus Christ was never really intended to be a facade to hide the reality that God was being born into the world. But it has turned out to be just that. People in our world can accept the infant but not accept the God/man. They can accept the trappings of Christmas because they appear so very harmless from the perspective of a manger, but cannot allow Jesus Christ to be God in human flesh. And consequently for the greater part of the world, Christmas has absolutely no meaning at all. Even though the angels announced the meaning of Christmas, the shepherds understood the meaning, Mary understood it and praised God for it, the wise men knew it, most people have missed it.

What is the significance of Christmas? Well it is nothing other than what we were reading to you earlier. There was to be a child born whose name should be called Emanuel because it means God with us. The two letters elthe name of God, Emanuel, God with us, the child was no other than God born in human flesh.

In Isaiah chapter 9 the promise came that a son would be given, a child would be born, the government would be on His shoulders, and among other things, His name would be called the mighty God, the Father of eternity. These are designations of deity that are assigned to the person of the Lord Jesus Christ.

In John chapter 1 and verse 14 it says, "And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth." Who was that Son? Who was that one made flesh? None other than the fullness of God.

I don't suppose any of us can ever fathom what it means, as Jeanette was singing earlier, for God to be born in a manger, for God to stoop to those kinds of features in His entrance into the world, the greatest condescension the world has ever known or will ever know. Some have celebrated certain humiliation among men, they used to say of St. Francis that he would embrace the lepers that he once ran from. Of William Booth who was the great founder of the Salvation Army that he spent his entire life time rubbing shoulders with the slum dwellers in London. And missionary upon missionary who have spent a life time enslaved to Christ to try to win those of another culture, of another place to Him. And there was the Apostle Paul who became all things to all men that by some means he might win them to Christ. There have been those who have stepped down from great places to humble ministries, but none can ever begin to understand the meaning of God becoming man. It's beyond us to realize that Emanuel, God with us, thou He was infinitely rich, became poor, assumed our human nature, entered into our sin polluted atmosphere without being tainted by it, of course, took our guilt, bore our griefs, carried our sorrows, was wounded for our transgressions, was bruised for our iniquities, was raised for our justification, ascended into heaven for our intercession and will return some day to take us to be with Him forever. This, says Paul, is the mystery of godliness that God was manifest in the flesh. What an incredible unbelievable incomparable reality.

There has never been a person like Jesus Christ...never. For God only invaded the human stream once. He is unique. I think this is illustrated many ways in the Bible but one that I think is so graphic is in the book of Revelation when everything is winding up and Revelation predicts the end of the world, the end of the age, at the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ to establish His Kingdom. And it pictures in chapter 5 God sitting on the throne. And in the hand of God is the title deed to the earth, the seven-sealed scroll which is the one thing that gives God the right to hold the world. And heaven and earth is searched for someone who is worthy to unravel the scroll, and no one is found. And John begins to weep and just as he begins to weep he hears it announced that the lion of the tribe of Judah is worthy and steps forward the Christ. And all of heaven begins to ring with praise for He is worthy to take the earth. Why? He is matchless. He is incomparable. In all of the universe He is absolutely unique. He is the only one who has the right to possess the creation. There is no other like Him. There is only one, says the chorus of heaven, who is worthy...the incomparable Christ, God in human flesh. No wonder Paul said, "Great is the mystery of godliness."

I want you for this Christmas time to see who this Christ is. For most of us this is just another look, a review, a scanning over things we've already studied. For some, perhaps, this is an introduction. For all, I trust, a blessing.

Look at Colossians chapter 1 and verse 15 with me. I want to just kind of look through verses 15 to 20. And in this particular passage which we'll never be able to exhaust because of the tremendous depth of information that is here, but we'll just kind of run by picking up the features that are most salient. I want us to look at Christ as Paul presents Him in terms of relationship. Paul presents to us Jesus Christ in His relation to God, His relation to the universe, His relation to the unseen world, His relation to the church and His relation to everything else.

First of all, beginningly look at verse 15 and let's see Jesus in His relation to God. Now there's a lot of discussion, of course, throughout ethnic systems and religions and cults and whatever else about who Jesus really is and what in fact His relation to God is. Some say He is less than God, one of many gods, a created being, a high angel, a good teacher, a prophet, etc., etc., etc. Let the Bible speak for itself. Verse 15 says, "Who..." and "who" is taking you directly back to verse 13, commenting on the last word of verse 13 "son." The Son, the one in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sin, that one who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.

Now in relation to God it says that Jesus is the image of the invisible God. It only takes a limited study of the Bible to find out that God is invisible. The Old Testament says that no man has seen God. God says you cannot look upon Me and live, in Exodus. In John chapter 1 it says that nobody has ever seen God. In 1 Timothy Paul writing about God called Him the invisible God. God is a spirit, Jesus said, and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth. God is invisible. But God has been made visible. There is someone who is the eikon, and that's the Greek word. The eikon of God. In classical Greek that term has to do with a dye, or a stamp. In New Testament Greek it has to do with an exact replica, a precise copy, a representation. Today I think the closest word would be a photograph. God is invisible but God has become manifest and He has been manifest in the person of the Son who is none other than Jesus Christ.

Now to understand totally the impact of the statement, we need to understand something of the background that presents itself to Paul as he writes. He is writing to the Christians in a city called Colossae. This particular city in Asia Minor was one of those cities that was being inundated by a rather typical flow of false teaching under the term Gnosticism. It came from a Greek word gnosis which means to know. There were certain people who elevated themselves as the only ones who really knew the truth. They were the elite, they were the super intellectuals. They were the Gnostics, the ones who knew. They fancied themselves the only ones who had the truth and the common people couldn't know it. And some of the things they taught were rather bizarre, the most bizarre of all were those related to the person of Jesus Christ and therein always lies the greatest heresy.

Let me tell you a little bit about what Gnostics taught. They believed, for example, in the creation out of evil matter, that the creation was not made out of nothing as the Bible says but that creation came from evil and that all matter was consequently evil. There was some kind of evil stuff to begin with from which everything else was made and it was all evil. Matter was evil and spirit was good. The old philosophical dualism. They believed then that spirit was good and God was spirit so God was good so God could never touch matter. Therefore they concluded two things, God couldn't create and God couldn't become a man because if God created that meant a good God created evil. And if God became a man that meant a good God dwelt in an evil capacity, or in an evil body.

So they said, well, here's how creation happened. Once there was only God and then God became somehow to beget what was called emanation. See, in other words He began to beget lesser beings. And in a long cycle of infinite lesser beings that God beget, finally somewhere infinitely down the road from God they became bad. And finally they got so gross that one of them was able to create, he was so far removed from God. And this evil emanation, this evil demiurge, this sort of semi-god way down the line created evil, not God.

And then they said Jesus was just one of those emanations way up at the front of the line. He was still when they were good. And so they imposed the philosophical attitude on the whole perspective of biblical truth and twisted it all and came up with the fact that God couldn't create and Jesus couldn't be God in human flesh. What it really amounted to was Jesus was just a good angel. And so the Apostle Paul writes to straighten out the fact that Jesus is God and that He is the creator, verse 16, by Him were all things created...just to keep the perspective clear.

Now notice the phrase "the image of the invisible God." What does it mean that He is the image? It doesn't mean He was created in the image of God, that's Genesis 1:27 and it speaks about man. We were created in God's image, He is God's image. There's a big difference. He is the replica. He is the copy of God. He is the exact reproduction. He said, "If you have seen Me you have...what?...seen the Father."

Notice Hebrews chapter 1 verse 3 and this is a parallel passage to which we'll look several times this morning. But it says in verse 3, speaking again of the Son, the term Son in verse 2 being modified by who in verse 3, "Who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person." Christ again is the radiance of God. The brightness of His glory would be like the sun. The sun shines its light. And just as the radiance of the sun reaches out from the sun, lights, warms and gives life and growth to the world, so Jesus Christ is the radiance of God bringing God from a cosmic location to the very hearts of men. The brightness of the sun is the same nature as the sun. It is as old as the sun. Never was the sun without its brightness. The brightness can't be separated from the sun yet it is not the sun. So Christ is God, the express image of His person...the exact reproduction of God, the image of God, the equal to God. To call Jesus the eikonianof God is to say that He is the perfect portrait.

Some have come along and tried to tell us in this passage, "Well, it really means that Jesus is just a good outline of God. He just gives you the general idea. He's sort of a sketch." You can't handle that because if you look at verse 19 it eliminates the possibility of that view. "For it pleased the Father that in Him should the sketch dwell?" Is that what it says? Should what? "Fullness dwell." He is not the outline of God, He is all of God, He is the fullness of God.

Now look at chapter 2 verse 3, talking again about Christ, "In whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge." Verse 9, "For in Him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead." Not some, not a sketch, but all. He is totally God. He is the fullness of God.

John told us in 1:14 that He was full of grace and truth. There isn't anything lacking. There is no absence of any attribute. He is the fullness of God. The tragedy is that somehow everybody in the world, apart from those Christians who find that narrow way that is found by few, don't see this. And they're kind of categorized in 2 Corinthians chapter 4 and verse 4, it says, "In whom the God of this age...Satan...has blinded the minds of them who believe not lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ who is the image of God, the eikonof God, should shine unto them." Yes He's God. He's the exact reproduction. He is the perfect replica. He is God in human flesh but Satan has blinded the minds of them that believe not so that that radiance of the living Son cannot penetrate the darkness of willful unbelief. Jesus is not a sketch of God. He is not a summary of deity. He is deity.

It's a fantastic thing, you know, to think about when you realize that that child that came into the world was the God who made everything. It's incredible that such condescension would exist, that such love would manifest itself, that the one who made everything would heal the sick and feed the hungry and weep over the broken hearted, that He would choose ordinary men to accompany Him in His life time, that He would become the friend of those whom the conventional and the orthodox and the pious were disgusted with. But that is God and Christ is God.

Listen, it's pretty obvious, just think of it this way...He has to be God just from the standpoint of looking at His life. For example, if God were a man I would expect Him to be sinless. Jesus was. And if God were a man I would expect that His words would be the greatest words ever spoken. And Jesus' were. And if God were a man I would expect that He would exhibit the most profound influence over human personality of anybody who ever lived, and He did. No one ever has affected the course of the world like Jesus. And I would expect if God were a man that He would do miracles, and He did. And I would expect that if God were a man He would manifest love beyond human comprehension, and He did. And so I expect that Jesus was God. He fits every part. He is the image of God.

Further, look what Paul says in 15, he says, "He is the firstborn of all creation." Now many people have misinterpreted this and indicated by this verse that Jesus was a created being, that Jesus was made like everybody else. Maybe He was one of the series of emanations, He was a created man or He was a created angel, or He was a created semi or sub God or whatever. And they take the idea of the firstborn of creation.

But, my friends, that is not talking about the act of birth for if it is there is a terrible mistake here because Jesus wasn't the first one created. Adam was and there were an awful lot before Jesus. And the other problem with it is that the Bible is very clear about the fact that Jesus Christ didn't begin to be when He was created anyway. He just absolutely shattered the Jews one day and in the gospel of John it says that He said to them in John 8, "Before Abraham was I am." And they took up stones to stone Him, they couldn't conceive of such blasphemy. In John chapter 10 later on they said the reason we feel about You like we do is because You make Yourself God. He did, He was. What they couldn't understand was His claim to preexistence. No He never was created and even when He became a man He was not the first one created.

Well what does it mean that He was the firstborn? It's a simple thing, prototokosin the Greek, it means the right to rule, the heir, the ranking one, the one in authority. It has to do with the rights of inheritance. You know, in the Jewish mind the firstborn was the one who inherited everything. And what it is saying here is that Christ is the inheritor of all creation. He is the heir of everything. It doesn't mean necessarily that He had to be born or that He had to be the first one born. You think of Jacob and Esau. Esau was born first but Jacob was the heir. Jacob was the prototokos.

Think of it in terms of Psalm 89:27 which I think is helpful. It says this, this is God speaking: "I will also make Him My firstborn." What do You mean, God? He followed it by saying this, "The highest of the kings of the earth." What is the definition of "firstborn"? The ranking one, the supreme one, the highest monarch. If you want it in the terms of Revelation, "The King of kings and Lord of lords." That's what prototokosmeans.

Look again at Hebrews chapter 1. It says in verse 1, "God who at different times and in different ways...Old Testament...spoke in time past unto the fathers by the prophets has in these last days spoken to us...dia(?)...through His Son whom He has appointed...what?...heir of all things." You see, He is the inheritor of all things. He is the firstborn of all creation in the sense that He is the primary one, He is the one who has the right to the inheritance, He is the ranking one, He is the chief one. And that's why you see in Revelation chapter 5 when they were looking for somebody who had the right to take the earth, there wasn't anybody in the universe but Him. He's the only heir. And so He came forth to take the scroll and possess the earth because it was rightfully His. And in Revelation 11:15 it says, "And the seventh angel sounded and there were great voices in heaven saying, The Kingdom of this world is become the Kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ and He shall reign forever and ever." Yes, the kingdoms belong to Him. He is the primary one. He has the special place of inheritance, privilege, prestige, honor, the Father's heir of all the creation. He is the sovereign.

Yes, Jesus is God in a body and yes, He is the creator. The claims that He made were astounding. He claimed to be in authority over angels in Matthew chapter 13, over men in Matthew 25, over everything in Matthew 28:18...claimed to be God, to forgive sin, to raise His own body from the grave. He proved it and Thomas said He's right, "My Lord and my God."

But secondly, Paul goes further and shows us not only His relation to God but His relation to the world. Again here this presents His deity, verse 16, "For by Him were all things created." Now that's a simple thing. I don't know how you could become confused. Jesus made everything. In John 1:3 it says, "Without Him was not anything made that was made." He made everything. All things were created by Him. He is the creator God.

In Hebrews again chapter 1 verse 2, it says that His Son has been appointed heir of all things by whom also He made the worlds. Christ was the agent of creation. God created the worlds through Christ, the action of the trinity. We have God creating in Genesis 1. We have the Spirit moving and bringing life in Genesis 1. We have the Son creating in the New Testament. The trinity was active in creation, no less Christ than God is the creator.

Now think of what it means. When I think about creation it boggles my mind. Everything that was made He made. Look at verse 16 in Colossians 1 again, "For by Him were all things created that are in heaven." Do you ever conceive of that? Do you ever conceive of what is out there? If this doesn't give you a grandiose idea of God you just haven't looked at it. When I think about the vastness of space it just boggles my mind. Do you realize that you could bore a hole, for example, in the sun and pour in one million, two-hundred thousand earths and still have room for four million, three-hundred thousand moons? The diameter of the sun which is 93 million miles away from us is 385 thousand miles, the diameter. But the nearest star, Alpha Centurii is five times larger than the sun. The moon is only about 211 thousand five-hundred miles away and you could walk in 27 years if you could cover 24 miles a day and you had something to stand on.

Think about this, a ray of light travels at 186 thousand miles a second, so a beam of light reached the moon in one and a half seconds. Well let's imagine we could travel that fast. We can travel 186 thousand miles a second. That's fast. We could reach Mercury in four-and-a-half minutes. It's only 50 million miles away. Two minutes we'd be at Venus...26 million miles. And four minutes and 21 seconds we'd hit Mars, it's only 34 million miles away. Next comes Jupiter, it's only 367 million miles away, that would take us about 35 minutes. And then if we decided to go on since we were making such good time, we could go to Saturn, it's only 790 million miles away and it would take about an hour and 11 seconds. Then Uranus is a billion miles away, Neptune three billion, etc., etc. And when we get way out to there, we're still on the porch.

You say, "What do you mean?" Well, the nearest star is 20 billion miles away...the North Star 400 billion. A particular star named Beetlegist(?) is 880 quad-drillion miles and has a diameter of 200 million miles greater than the earth's orbit. It's a big star.

You say, "Who made all that?" Well once there was a puddle...tell me about your puddle. Once there was a God...

The babe in Bethlehem made it, that's what the Bible says, "For by Him were...what?...all things created." And then when the Bible says He can make of you a new creation, it doesn't seem so tough, does it? But maybe that's the toughest thing of all because there's a will involved. He made everything.

Further His relationship to the world is indicated in verse 17, this is a staggering thing..."He is before all things and by Him all things consist." You see, Jesus lived as God before He was ever known as Jesus, before He ever came into the world He existed in eternity past. In John 17 He was talking to the Father having one of those prayer meetings that He liked to have in the garden of Gethsemane each night and He said, "Father, I've finished the work which You gave Me to do, now restore Me to the glory that I had with You before the world began." Wow, what a statement. The glory that I had with You before the world began. He said before Abraham was I am. He thought it not something to hold on to be in an equal position with God but became a servant and humbled Himself. He is the beginning and the end of Revelation chapter 1. He is the alpha and omega. He is the root and offspring of David. How incredible that somebody should be the source of David and the son of David. But He is. Preexisting one. He is before all things. He made all things. All things were made for Him for He is the heir of all things.

And then this word in 17, "And by Him all things hold together." This is talking about cohesion. You know, the whole world would fall apart if it weren't for Him. I don't buy the God of the deist who says that God just made everything, wound it up and went away and says now he's going to watch it all wind down. I believe that God upholds the world.

In Hebrews 1:3 it says Jesus Christ upholds all things by the word of His power. What keeps the world from flying to pieces? The upholding power of God. The reason we can send men out in space in little tin cans and make sure they come back and plop in the right spot is because God has rules that don't change. He upholds the earth. If the earth's rotation slowed down at all we would alternately freeze and burn. The same thing would happen if we got any further or nearer to the sun because it's 12 thousand degrees Fahrenheit. Our globe is tilted on an axis at 23 degrees which enables us to have four seasons. If it wasn't tilted like that, great ice continents would pile up on the north and south. If the moon didn't remain at its exact distance from the earth, the ocean tide would completely inundate the land twice a day. If the ocean slipped to a few feet deeper than it is, carbon dioxide and oxygen in the earth's atmosphere would be completely absorbed and no vegetable life could exist. Somebody's got to make sure everything hangs together.

You say, "Who does that?" It says right here, "He is the one by whom all things consist." Who is the one? The Son, the dear Son. What Son? The one who gave redemption through His blood the forgiveness of sin, none other than Jesus Christ as the God who made upholds the world. You say, "All that in the manger?" Yes, no wonder Paul said, "Great is the mystery of godliness that God was manifest in the flesh."

Further, Paul speaks in verse 16 about Jesus in His relation to the unseen world. Look at verse 16 again. "For by Him were all things created that are in heaven and that are in earth, visible and invisible," that means the material world and the spiritual world, "whether they be...and this is a description of the invisible world...thrones, dominions, principalities, or powers." Those are all ranks of angels. All of them are created by Him and...what?...for Him. Why, He is the firstborn, He is the prototokos, He is the heir of everything.

What is His relation to the unseen world? Is He just another angel? No, He is the one who made the angels. Is He just another emanation from God? No, He is God. He is the one who made everything visible and He is the one who created everything invisible. No matter what the rank...and here you have four, you have thrones, dominions, principalities and powers and the New Testament adds elsewhere authorities. Those five terms describe the five ranks of angels, at least those are the ones that have been revealed to us. Christ is over all of them. He is before all of them, verse 17. He is the one who upholds all of them. He is the one who made all of them. He is the one for whom all of them were made. The very angels who came that day and announced the birth of Christ and said, "Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to men of good will," those very angels who declared the birth of that baby were indeed the servants of that baby...ministering spirits. Angels, whether they are elect angels or whether they are fallen angels, have no power, no existence, no right to exist, no sustenance apart from the upholding power of Jesus Christ. He is superior to angels. He made them. He was before them. They were made for Him.

In Hebrews 1:7 of the angels he says, "Who makes His angels spirits and His ministers a flame of fire," and here he talks about the fact that let all the angels of God worship Christ, the angels that Christ has made. He says to the angels, "Worship Him, but unto the Son He says, Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever." The angels are to worship the Son, the Son is God. That's the claim of Hebrews 1:7 and 8. He is the one who created angels and He created them to worship Him. He is God.

So, we see Jesus in His relation to God, His relation to the universe, His relation to the unseen world. And it all revolves around creation, upholding and the purpose of creation that He should inherit it all.

Now let's move from the area of creation to the area of redemption in verse 18. And here Paul turns to show that Jesus is God from the standpoint of redemptive history. First of all, Jesus in His relationship to the church, verse 18, "And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead that in all things He might have the preeminence."

Redemptively Jesus Christ is supreme. There is no other...no other. In all things He has preeminence. In redemptive history there is none greater than Jesus Christ. There is no greater angel. There is no greater God. There is nothing greater than Jesus Christ, redemptively He is preeminent and that belongs only to God.

Notice what it says, "He is the head of the body, the church." Four great facts are pointed out and that's the first one. He's the head of the body. The church of Jesus Christ, everybody who knows and loves Christ is seen as a member of a body, a part of the body of Christ. In 1 Corinthians 12 this is fully developed. It's even discussed in Colossians again, it's discussed in Ephesians and the idea is that all of us are parts of a living organism, that the church is not so much an organization as it is a living organism. And everybody has a function. And everybody is a part of that moving organism, that body two I call it, Christ and the world reincarnated again spiritually in His church. And the church is directed by its head and its head is Jesus Christ. He is the head of the church.

You say, "What do you mean by that?" Well, it's not so much the organizational head, it's the organic head. What does your head do for you? Well, that varies, things are relative. But anyway, let's look at it from the simplest standpoint. Your head provides two basic functions...growth and direction, growth and guidance, if you want to be literative about it...growth and guidance. You have at the base of your skull a gland known as the pituitary gland and the function of that gland, among other things, is to produce hormones that create growth. Your head then is responsible for your growth. Secondly, your brain is also responsible for the controlling of your body. The cerebrum which controls the parts of the body, the cerebellum which has become known as the harmonizer of muscular action.

These functions in the brain control the direction of the body. So the head controls the growth and the head controls the functioning. And that precisely is what the Lord Jesus Christ does. He provides growth for His church through pumping His own life into the church. And He provides direction from the Word for His church. There is no higher authority in the church than Jesus Christ. He is the head of the church. There aren't any equals, there aren't any people in competition, there is no power struggle. Christ alone is the head of the church. He gives life to the church and guidance. He is the one who gave birth to the church. It was He who said in Matthew 16 "I will build My church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it." It is He who recreates and gives life.

Paul says to the Ephesians in chapter 2 verse 10, "You were created in Christ Jesus." He is the one who makes new creatures, the head of His church. And guides His church through the Word.

Secondly, speaking redemptively, He is the beginning. And this carries this whole idea further. He is the one who gave life to His church. He is the one who gave it its beginning and the word here, arche, can have the sense of originating power, it can have the sense of source. He is the source. He is the generating energy of the church. He is the one who brought it to life, who brought it to existence. But I feel that the primary meaning here is rank. He is the supreme one in His church. And again, just building on the concept of head. He is not only the one giving life and the one directing, but He is the one deserving glory...the one deserving honor. It was created by Him, He is the source of the church's life and He is the one who deserves the honor.

And really that glory and honor came because He is thirdly the firstborn from the dead. He gained His rank, He gained His exaltation by His resurrection. It says that Christ became a man, humbled Himself and through the resurrection God was well- pleased and God exalted Him and gave Him a name above every name that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow. It was in the resurrection that the exaltation came. He is the firstborn from the dead.

What does it mean firstborn? There's our word again, prototokos, it simply means the chief one, the highest ranking one, the greatest one, the leading one, the one in authority. He was not the first person to rise from the dead. No, that isn't what it's saying. There were others who rose before Him. In fact, at His own crucifixion the graves were open and the saints came forth, didn't they? In the Old Testament the prophets of God were able to raise some from the dead. Jesus Himself had raised people from the dead, Lazarus proceeded Him, for one. It is not saying He was the first one ever resurrected. It is saying of all those who have been resurrected, He is the prototokos, He is the chief one, He is the highest ranking one, He is the supreme one. He is the firstfruits of all of them that slept, the very best of all who slept.

Yes, He is the one who gives life and direction to the church. He is the chief one in the church. And He is the chief of all who have been raised from the dead and His resurrection is our guarantee of resurrection.

Summing it up Paul just says, "He is preeminent...He is preeminent." There is no other in His category. There's only one Christ. He is unique. He is incomparable. He is matchless. Not Buddha, not Mohammed, not anybody else, not any religious leader who ever lived, not any guru, not any spiritualist, not anybody who ever lived is in the category with Jesus Christ. He has the preeminence. He gave birth to the church, gave life to the church, gives guidance to the church, resurrected of all those who came out of the grave, He is the supreme one and the guarantee of the resurrection of all the rest, thus He is the preeminent one.

It stands to reason, people, that the one who is first in rank in the universe, that the one who is the universal point of reference, that the one who is the agent and the goal and the forerunner and the sustainer and the governor of all creation, that the one who is the head and the life and the beginning and the first in rank and the one who was primarily resurrected from the grave before all others in rank to give life to the rest has got to be the one who is preeminent. Nobody who ever lived has the history that Jesus had. He is supreme. There is none like Him.

That brings Paul to a fifth consideration and he just sums up everything in case there might be a loose end floating around. He has spoken of Jesus in relation to God, in relation to the universe, in relation to the unseen world and in relation to the church. And now he speaks of Jesus in relation to all other things...just whatever else may be lying around...just to make sure you don't leave anything out...verse 19, this is a great statement. And you could spend time just weeks and months digging into the reality of this. "It pleased the Father that in Him should all pleroma, all fullness dwell."

Listen, Paul sums it up by saying this, now mark this, the powers of deity and the attributes of deity were not to be distributed among a multitude of beings. It was all given to one. God did not say, "Well, I'm going to pass out My deity to a whole lot of different beings." No. "In Him should all fullness dwell." That ought to silence the people who come along and say, "Yes, well, you know, He was a representation of God and God gave Him something of the meaning of deity and some other angel over here got some and some other subgod over here got some and some other semigod over here got some and God kind of passed it around." Paul says no. "There is no other expression of God than this one, in Him dwells the totality of the pleromaof God." There is no other like Him, God gave His attribute to no other.

Again, just listen in John 1 in the presentation that John gives of Christ to this idea of fullness. "And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us and we beheld His glory the glory as of the only begotten of the Father...what's the next word?...full of grace and truth." He had it all. Verse 16, "And of His fullness have all we received." Again indicating fullness. We're in Colossians, I remind you of verse 9 of chapter 2 again, "In Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily. And to know Him...verse 10...you are...what?...complete." Why? Because you don't need anything else because it's all there. You don't need to follow the teachings of ten different people. You don't need a whole lot of religious leaders. You don't need to read a lot of holy books. All you need is Jesus Christ for in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily and you are complete in Him.

You say, "But there's got to be some information apart from Him that I need to know." Look at verse 3 of chapter 2, it says, "In whom are hidden all...how many?...all the treasures of...what?...wisdom and knowledge." There's nothing that you need outside of Christ in terms of spiritual truth, spiritual reality.

Who was this child? God. Paul tries to show us that with a look at His creative power and then with a look at His redemptive work. The question that would come to anybody's mind at this point would be simply this question: why? Why? Why did God do this? Why did God become a man and why was He born that men might treat Him the way they were treating Him? Why? And treat Him yet the same? Why did Jesus do it?

Well, I think it's made very clear by the passages that surround this passage. Look at verse 13. Why did He do it? "Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness and translated us into the kingdom of His dear Son in whom we have redemption through His blood, even the forgiveness of sins." Now jump to verse 20, "And having made peace through the blood of His cross by Him to reconcile all things unto Himself."

Why did He do it? To make peace. You say, "Peace between who?" Peace between God and man. I remember reading a story out of World War II. A great battle was raging between the French and the German soldiers. And it happened to be Christmas day. And there was a reporter there watching what was going on. The Germans were hold up in a farmhouse and the French had a trench and they were firing and firing and firing and firing. All of a sudden a little baby who had been in the farmhouse with the family that was there got out of the house. And they saw the little baby crying and toddling in front of the gunfire. Both sides stopped. The reporter wrote down, "How fitting that on Christmas a babe should bring peace."

There's a war raging between man and God and the wrath of God is poured out and spent on sinful man. Man fires back his hatred and indifference toward God and a babe makes peace. Jesus alone could take the hand of sinful man and holy God and because of His own infinite sacrifice on the cross join the two and He can reconcile us to God and make peace by the blood of His cross and forgive us our sin. That's why He came because He alone is God to take God's hand, man to take man's hand and join the two.

You see, maybe it's like a king who has a right to be angry with his subject and he tells his subject of the judgment that's coming. But then the king's son falls in love with the daughter of the subject. Now the king's got a problem. His son marries the daughter of the subject, comes back to the king and says, "Father, I would seek favor for my new family." The analogy can't be carried very far but as I thought of it I thought of this, God was justifiably angry with man. Christ loved us and married our nature. And in so doing went to a cross and carried our sins and paid our penalty and restored favor between us and God.

Why was He born? Because there was no other way to bring peace between man and God. He alone could do it. He's the incomparable, the unique, the matchless, the only one who can reconcile man to God. And He did it through the blood of His cross.

Do you believe that? If you believe that and you've committed yourself to that reality, Christmas is truly Christmas. Let's pray.

Father, thank You for our study this morning. We're especially grateful because we know it's the truth. And in a world of such darkness about truth it feels good to know something is true. Your Word is truth. Your Son is truth. Your Holy Spirit is truth. We thank You for the fact that Christmas was never intended to be only historical, it was always intended to be very personal. At the same time we thank You for that we realize that the world doesn't even know the meaning of that. For them Christmas is historical, tradition, not personal. And though Christ a thousand times in Bethlehem be born, if He's not born in us our souls are still forlorn. We would ask that somehow by Your Spirit and Your grace You would speak to the hearts of those who might be with us this morning hour who have never committed themselves to the truth of Christmas, who have never really realized or been willing to believe and yield to the truth that You have come into the world in human flesh to die, to rise again for our salvation and that this Christ, God in human flesh, is incomparable, none like Him. He alone can reconcile us. May we realize with Peter, "Neither is there salvation in any other for there is none other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved."

With your heads bowed for just a moment in time of prayer and examining your own motives and thoughts at this time, what I've shared with you is the simple truth and yet it has such profound reality in it that it staggers the mind. But I don't want you to get lost in the scope of it all, I want you to be able to make it very personal. God loves you. Because He loves you He came into the world, took on human flesh and died on a cross to bear your sin, to pay the penalty for your sin that you might enter into His presence, that He might be able to express that love that He's always had uninhibited for all eternity.

And the Bible simply says that as many as received Him, that is Christ, He gave the authority or the right to be the children of God. It's a question of taking a gift. There's only one thing to do with a gift and that's to take it. You can't earn it. You just take it. The Lord wants Christmas to be personal and He wants to give you a gift and the gift is eternal life and the gift is salvation and it only comes the way He packaged it. All you can do is take it or refuse it.

Maybe there are some of you in our midst this morning and you just are thinking in your heart, "I think I'll take it. I want that gift. What do I do?" Well I'd say silently in your heart just say to the Lord, "I accept Your gift, the gift of Yourself, coming into the world dying for me, the gift of salvation and eternal life, I take it." Could you pray that prayer in your heart just saying, "Father, I take that gift?" If you did, that's the greatest thing that ever happened in your eternity. You belong to God. It's just that simple. "Him that cometh to Me...said Jesus...I will never turn away." If you took the gift, it's yours forever.

Father, we thank You for what You're doing in our hearts. We thank You for what You've done in history to make this miracle in our hearts possible. Give us a rich day as we contemplate, as we express praise and gratitude as we enjoy what it is to know You and the reality of Your birth and Your birth in us. Bring us together again tonight as we will express that joy and we'll praise You and thank You in Jesus' name. Amen.