02 September 2011

"... so that he might come to have first place in everything" (v. 18)


Paul is writing to the church at Colossae, a church which he had not visited himself, but about which he had heard from Epaphras, a church worker from that area (located in the south west of the country we now call Turkey), who had visited him in prison (probably in Rome).

Paul begins his letter with thanksgivings and prayers for the new church, but here, in a highly poetic passage (which may owe something to a pre-Pauline hymn or statement of faith), he turns his attention to some basic teaching about the person and work of Christ. Why might this be so?

If we read on in the letter, we will find that the church at Colossae is being threatened by some alien ideas (see especially Colossians 2:8, 16-23). It seems that these ideas came at least partly from Judaism, and possibly also from a stream of thought which owed its origin to Greek philosophy. The effect was to tempt the Colossian believers to believe that faith in Christ was not enough for their salvation. They needed to follow Jewish traditions (Colossians 2:16), ascetic practices (Colossians 2:18, 20-23), and the "worship of angels" (Colossians 2:18) as well.

As against these ideas, Paul insists on the supremacy of Christ as the sole mediator between God and humanity as:

  • he is God's "image" (v. 15), the exact reflection of all that God is, and the one who contains "all the fullness of God" (v. 19);
  • he pre-existed, and is supreme over, creation ("the firstborn of all creation" (v. 15)) as its originator, sustainer, and goal (verses 16-17);
  • he was the first to rise from the dead, and is Lord of the Church (his earthly "body" (v. 18);
  • he is the one who, through his sin-bearing death on the cross, has made it possible for humanity to be reconciled with God (verse 20).

In short, Jesus is all we need to find peace with God. Other traditions, practices, and types of worship are redundant. The only question is whether we will take up the offer God had made to us through him.


To Ponder

How far is Jesus central to your life today?

What difference would it make for him to be Lord of your family, your place of work and your community?

Bible notes author: The Revd Peter Ensor

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