I've been studying through the small NT book of Colossians. Chapter One has yielded both insight and joy to my heart as I've mulled what it means. Without further ado, here are 3 things to chew on...
Where are the Commands?
Like most of Paul's epistles, the beginning of Colossians has Zero Commands. In fact, the first 37% of the book is void of any command! (Yes, I calculated the percentage). Paul goes an entire 35 verses (out of 95 total) before he utters the command, "Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, so walk in him..."
So what does Paul write in the first 37% (and beyond) of the book? He reminds the Colossian Christians (and us) of all we have in Christ Jesus. In terms of English grammar, we would say Paul emphasizes the Indicatives (things true of us) above the Imperatives (commands). In fact, once you begin to understand the treasure of the indicatives, the commands of the Christian life move from burdensome "have-to's" to joyful "get-to's!"
You can see this even more clearly in the book of Ephesians. It has 6 chapters. There is only one command in chapters 1-3 ... and the command is to "remember" what it was like before coming to know Christ (hardly a burdensome command. Eph 2:11-12). Instead, Paul heaps up indicative upon indicative, reminding the believer of what Jesus has done for him or her!
This is the Christian life: to understand all Jesus has done for you and then, living with a heart stirred with affection for Him, responding in heartfelt gratitude. When we understand the Gospel's indicatives, our behavior changes – animated by a motivation we could never muster on our own.
Jesus is Peerless
The intent of the Scriptures isn't to set a standard for us to accomplish but to expose our inability to meet any such standard ... while highlighting the Only One who ever did. His name is Jesus.
Colossians tells us that Jesus is ...
- ... the Image of the Invisible God. In other words, if you've seen Jesus, you've seen God. Jesus said so in John 14:9.
- ... the Firstborn of Creation. As 21st century Americans, "firstborn" sounds like a birth order term. The one born first. However, that is not what it means. In Judaism, firstborn is a Rank or a Title. It means Jesus holds the preeminent place of rulership over all of creation. He holds the Sovereign position of King over all.
- ... Creator of all. "For by Him, all things were created ... all things were created through Him and for Him." (Col 1:16). Note the prepositions: by Him, through Him, and for Him. Jesus is fully engaged in the Creation of his universe.
- ... Self-existent and Eternal. Col 1:17 says Jesus is "before all things." He predates it all, since He is Creator.
- ... a hands-on Engineer. "... and in Him all things hold together." (Col 1:17). Years ago, a dear friend said to me: "Jesus holds the electrons in their orbit in every atom of the tiniest flea." Surely it's true: Jesus holds everything together by His will.
- ... the Head of the Body (the Church). (Col. 1:18) As a human body cannot exist/function/accomplish without a head (though some seem to try!), the Church cannot exist or function without Jesus acting as the Head. He is Leader, Ruler, Absolutely Essential, the great Sine Qua Non.
- ... the Beginning. (Col 1:18)
- ... the Firstborn from the dead. There's that title again: Firstborn. Remember, it means Jesus has top Rank over all.
- ... finally, Jesus is Preeminent (Col 1:18). He is without peers, unique, and glorious. There simply is no one like Him.
The other day I wrote Q-D-T on my ring finger, to remind me of the verbs in Colossians 1:12-13:
"[The Father] has Qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has Delivered us from the domain of darkness and Transferred us to the Kingdom of His beloved Son (Jesus), in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
Qualified, Delivered, Transferred. These are not things we do, but things done for us, to us, for our good. They are in the Indicative Past Tense, and we are receivers, not doers, of the action.
- Isn't it good news that we don't have to qualify ourselves to be in God's good graces? Jesus credited his record to us and by His performance we are qualified.
- Isn't it good news that we don't have to deliver ourselves from impossible danger and ruin? Yes! We have a heroic Rescuer in Jesus, who died to save us from catastrophe.
- Isn't it good news that we don't have to transfer ourselves from an inescapable Alcatraz? Yes! We have Jesus, who didn't just spring us from Death Row, He took our appointed sentence and died in our place, transferring us from a hellish prison to the freedom of His Kingdom.
Why not study the small NT Book of Colossians this weekend?