John T. Willis

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Give Thanks to God the Father and Exalt Jesus Christ His Son--Colossians 1:12-20

As one works through Paul's letter to the Colossian Christians, now Paul proclaims two admonitions to these people: (1) Give thanks to God the Father; and (2) Exalt Jesus Christ God's Son. Colossians 1:12-20, therefore, naturally falls into two parts:

I. Give Thanks to God the Father--Colossians 1:12-14.
a. Thanksgiving to God is associated with "rejoicing" [the last expression in Colossians 1:11 goes with verse 12]. The people of God should naturally respond to God the Father by joyfully thanking HIM for all he has done and continues to do for all humankind. This theme permeates the Bible--see e. g., Psalms 103; 107; 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18; Philippians 4:4-6; 1 Peter 1:8; 4:13; Galatians 5:22. Verse 12a.
b. God the Father has enabled his people to share in the inheritance of the saints. The "saints" or "holy ones" here in verse 12 are angels. God, along with his angels, cooperate to carry out God's purposes, and thus enables weak, frail, sinful people to do HIS work. Verse 12b.
c. God the Father is like a powerful king, who transplants sinful people from the kingdom of darkness and sin and despair into the kingdom of light, "the kingdom of HIS [God the Father's] beloved SON," Jesus Christ. Throughout history, God has delivered suffering people from slavery into His freedom--see Exodus 6:6; 14:30; Judges 6:9, 13; 8:34; 2 Samuel 12:7; Nehemiah 9:28; Matthew 6:13; 1 Thessalonians 1:9-10; Romans 7:14. Verse 13.
d. In Christ, God's people ["we"] have REDEMPTION, that is, freedom from imprisonment and bondage--see Daniel 4:34; 1 Corinthians 1:30; Ephesians 1:7. Verse 14a.
e. In Christ, God's people have THE FORGIVENESS OF SINS, which is another way of expressing "redemption." This is Hebrew parallelism, in which the two parallel lines essentially SAY the same thing in different words. See Mark 1:4; Acts 2:38; Ephesians 1:7. The expression "his beloved SON" in verse 13b refers to the instance of Jesus' baptism at the Jordan (Mark 1:9-11; Matthew 3:13-17), and thus redemption and forgiveness of sins are inseparably connected to baptism first of Jesus and then of all followers of Jesus. See the extended discussion by Eduard Lohse, Colossians and Philemon, Hermeneia, Fortress Press, 1971, pages 38-40).

II. Exalt Jesus Christ God's Son--Colossians 1:15-20.
*First Paul and Timothy sing or recite a very old Christian song now recorded in Colossians 1:15-20, somewhat similar to the song Paul relates in Philippians 2:5-11. Here, this is not a "new" or "created" song, but a sung composed by early Christians and obviously sung in many early churches even before Paul came on the scene. The theme of this song is the exaltation of Jesus Christ as God's Son. This song proclaims SIX great truths about Jesus Christ.
a. Jesus Christ is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. As the "image of the invisible God," Jesus Christ was not created, but existed with God his Father when he created the universe and is now acting upon and with the world. He alone is superior to the whole creation in heaven and on earth. As "the firstborn of all creation," Jesus Christ is unique and hence distinguished from all creation--Hebrews 1:6, and thus stands over against creation of Lord of all. Verse 15.
b. All creation in heaven and on earth were created "in," "through," and "for" Jesus Christ. God the Father is forever Lord of creation, who acts creatively in nature and at the same time stands over against all creation as the only ruler. Alongside the Father is Jesus Christ as the agent in creation in, through, and for whom all things were created. All creation owes its existence to the pre-existent Jesus Christ. See 1 Corinthians 8:6; John 1:3; Hebrews 1:3. God through Jesus Christ is completely in control of all thrones or dominions or rulers or powers--see Colossians 2:10, 15; Ephesians 1:21; 1 Peter 3:22. Verse 16.
c. Jesus Christ is before all things, and in him all things hold together. Jesus Christ is pre-existent over the entire universe. And throughout all time, including the present time, God through Jesus Christ moment by moment governs the universe in heaven and on earth as the invisible ruler of all that is. Verse 17.
d. Jesus Christ the head of the body, the church, just as he is head of the entire universe, so that he has first place in everything. There is an inseparable connection here between the "body," the universe, and the "body," the church. We human beings ignore what God through Jesus Christ continually does in heaven among invisible beings he has created. But the testimony of the Bible is that these invisible beings certainly exist and function in the heavenly realms, and they interact with us human beings on earth. The figure or metaphor of "the body, the church," is very common throughout the New Testament--see for example, 1 Corinthians 12:12-27; Colossians 2:10, 19; Ephesians 4:11-16; and very often. Verse 18.
e. In Jesus Christ all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell. This is a mystery. Some distinguish between God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit as three separate deities or gods. But, according to the Bible, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are the "fullness of God in his totality"--see Colossians 2:9. God the Father is "pleased" with his Son Jesus Christ in his baptism--see Mark
1:9-11. Verse 19.
f. Through Jesus Christ, God the Father was pleased to RECONCILE to himself all things in heaven and on earth by making peace through the blood of God's cross. The invisible cosmos and the visible earth are in deep disturbance and rupture. But through Jesus Christ, God will reconcile these ruptures into a beautiful unity and harmony. And God the Father does this through Jesus Christ shed by his blood on the cross. This redeems both invisible heavenly beings and visible human beings. See Colossians 2:14-15; 2 Corinthians 5:14-21. Verse 20.

This texts contains some of the most powerful affirmations in scripture. Let each of us think deeply and long about these proclamations. They will change our lives daily.

What are YOUR thoughts and insights? Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis


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