Because Every House Needs a Strong Foundation

 

Some years ago, while searching for a house that would accommodate our family of five, we looked at a lot of houses. Early in our search we found a house we liked very much. It was on a quiet street and had the right number of bedrooms and bathrooms. It had a nice backyard. It had a large living room, a big, well-lit kitchen and a full and dry unfinished basement. Most importantly, we could afford it. The more we walked through the house the more we liked it. Then we looked in the basement. Good thing. We saw three large cracks in the foundation: ceiling to the floor. So we moved on.

Every house, no matter how beautiful, or affordable, needs a strong foundation. It’s an absolute must. A strong foundation ensures the overall integrity, stability and durability of the house.

And, yet for most of us, the only time we pay attention to the foundation is when it needs repair. This explains why Paul wrote most of his letters including Colossians. When a church is built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, it must do everything it can to uphold the supremacy of Jesus Christ. He is the cornerstone of our faith, love, and hope.

The situation at Colossae required immediate attention. False teachers were preaching a different gospel than the one they’d learned from Epaphras. Clues in the letter indicate this false gospel downplayed the supremacy of Jesus; placing, instead, a higher value on an unholy trinity of folkloric philosophy, human tradition, and mysticism. Whereas the gospel preached by Paul and Epaphras promoted Jesus as the hope at the heart of our salvation and kinship, this false gospel emphasized the pursuit of a philosophic wisdom as the pathway to a deeper spirituality. Realizing the danger this false gospel posed to the foundation of the Colossian church, Epaphras traveled to Rome to seek Paul’s help.

Just as every house needs a strong foundation, so too, every church (and every follower of Jesus) needs a strong foundation of knowledge with respect to the person and work of Jesus. Students of the Bible use the word Christology to describe this knowledge. Strictly speaking, Christology focuses on knowing what we believe about Jesus Christ and why. Just as every house needs a strong foundation, every Christ-follower needs a strong Christology. A strong Christology builds a strong church.

And that brings us to Paul’s majestic hymn in Colossians 1.15-20 ~ 

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.

 

A strong Christology is built on the confession that Jesus is the image of the invisible God.

If you want to know what God is like then look at Jesus. He is “the radiance of the glory of God, the exact imprint of His nature,” (Hebrews 1:3). Jesus is the genuine article. He is not pretending to be God. Jesus is God. And as such both the nature and being of God are perfectly revealed in Him, by Him and through Him. If you want to know what God is like, study Jesus Christ.

 During World War 2, C. S. Lewis, did a series of broadcasts about Christianity on the BBC. These messages appeared years later in the book, Mere Christianity. In 1942, Lewis, speaking about Jesus, made the following, memorable statement:

I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Jesus: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic—on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg—or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to. . . . Now it seems to me obvious that He was neither a lunatic nor a fiend: and consequently, however strange or terrifying or unlikely it may seem, I have to accept the view that He was and is God. (Mere Christianity, 55-56)

Eight years later, Lewis wrote an essay titled, What Are We to Make of Jesus? Working through some of Jesus’s startling claims about himself, Lewis repeated his earlier point: you can’t conclude Jesus was simply a “great moral teacher.” For if what He said is true, they are the sayings of a megalomaniac.

In my opinion, the only person who can say that sort of thing is either God or a complete lunatic suffering from that form of delusion, which undermines the whole mind of man. If you think you are a poached egg, when you are not looking for a piece of toast to suit you you may be sane, but if you think you are God, there is no chance for you. We may note in passing that He was never regarded as a mere moral teacher. He did not produce that effect on any of the people who actually met him. He produced mainly three effects — Hatred — Terror — Adoration. There was no trace of people expressing mild approval.

A famous theologian once said, “Tell me your Christology and I will know your theology.” What we believe about Jesus affects what we believe about God. If you believe Jesus was a good man, perhaps even a prophet for social justice, or a great moral teacher, then you’re likely to create a god made in your image. That is idolatry.

A strong Christology is grounded in the firm conviction Jesus is the image of the invisible God. All the evidence leads to that conclusion. Since He is the image of the invisible God, Jesus makes God knowable. God wants us to know Him. And He wants us to know Him through knowing and trusting in Jesus Christ as the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.

When the Bible was written, the custom of the day gave the firstborn son certain rights and privileges above his siblings. The firstborn was his father’s representative and heir. He had authority to manage his father’s household, and he was entitled to inherit a double share of his father’s estate.

As the firstborn of all creation, Jesus is His Father’s representative and heir. He holds the higher rank because He is the eternal, only begotten Son of God. He is the eternal “older brother” with all the rights and privileges pertaining thereunto. He has authority both to manage as well as to rule all creation including, and especially, the church. Just as important, Jesus is the firstborn because through Him all things were created through Him and for Him. A strong Christology builds a strong church. 

A strong Christology helps us do what we were created for.

The first question and answer of the Westminster Shorter Catechism are as follows:

Question: What is the chief end of man?

Answer: The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.

We are created to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. Until we realize this to be true, our hearts are restless – constantly seeking something to give us rest. And when we think we have found the thing that will give us rest, we are disappointed to discover the rest does not last. Created things cannot grant eternal rest. One of Augustine’s more famous statements is, “O God, You have made us for Yourself and our hearts are restless until it finds its rest in You.” Created things are subject to moth and rust, dust and decay. Created things can be stolen, lost or overtaken by something newer, faster and slicker in appearance. Created things cannot grant eternal rest.

Are you restless? Do you know why you are restless?

  • Is it possible that you’re restless because you have looked for rest in things that do not last?
  • Is it possible that you’re restless because you don’t know that God created you to glorify Him and enjoy Him forever?
  • Is it possible that you’re restless because you have not yet put your trust in Jesus Christ as the One through Whom “all things were created” including you?
  • Is it possible that you’re restless because you have yet confessed faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as the Savior for your sins?

Just as a strong Christology builds a strong church, it also builds a strong life of faith, love and hope in Jesus.

Paul goes on to say, “He (i.e., Jesus) is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.” God knows life can be hard for those who trust in Jesus. So when life is difficult; when we are left befuddled and perplexed as things fall apart, the One who is before all things and in Whom all things hold together will hold us together. He will not let us fall apart. He created us not to fall apart. In the beginning, God created all things by the word of His power. However, when He created Adam and Eve, He dug His hands into the earth and formed them from the dust of the ground. God made us for Himself and our hearts are restless until it finds its rest in Jesus Christ. And when our heart is at rest, we can do what we were created to do: glorify God and enjoy Him forever.

However, God did not create us to glorify Him alone. We were created to worship Him in community and in kinship with others who have found their rest in Jesus. This is why Paul adds the following description about Jesus: “He is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything He might be preeminent.”

We were created to worship Jesus as part of the church of which He is the Head. And yet, Jesus is more than just the of the Head, or Leader of the church. He is its origin and source of life.

He is its sovereign Lord, its Founder, President and CEO. He guides and governs it. The church has one Head; one Leader. He is Jesus Christ. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead.

That phrase, the firstborn from the dead, points to Jesus as the first person to come back from the dead. By the power of His resurrection, Jesus is the firstborn from the dead. His resurrection powerfully confirms His supremacy over all things—including death! The supremacy of Jesus means He is Lord of our past. He is Lord our present. He is Lord of our future. He is the same Lord yesterday, today and forever. He is the first to experience true resurrection life. As such, He will never die again. He is the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in Him even though they die, yet shall they live, and everyone who lives and believes in Him shall never die, (John 11.25, 26).

A strong Christology keeps Jesus at the heart the Gospel.

The gospel is the announcement of the good news that redemption, the forgiveness of sins, and salvation, the rescue from God’s judgment against our sin, is found in Jesus Christ alone by grace alone through faith alone.

As for why this is so is stated by Paul in verses 19-20, For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of the cross.”

Now, if all Paul wanted to say was that in Jesus, the totality of God’s righteousness, wisdom, power and holiness was pleased to dwell, the word fullness would get the message across. But this is Paul. And He is talking about Jesus. And when Paul talks about Jesus, he is rarely content to use just one superlative to describe Jesus. So in describing the character of Jesus, Paul does not say, “in Him (i.e., Jesus) some of the fullness of God was pleased to dwell,” but rather in Jesus ALL the fullness of God was pleased to dwell. Everything that belonged to the nature, character and personality of God dwelled in Jesus when He came to dwell among us. And because of His resurrection, all the fullness of God continues to be pleased to dwell in Jesus!

Let’s think about what the fullness of God refers to for a moment.

  • The fullness of God refers to the fullness of His grace.
  • The fullness of God refers to His mercy.
  • The fullness of God refers to His compassion.
  • The fullness of God refers to His love that is unconditional and of such quality that He never gives up on us.
  • The fullness of God refers to His promise to forgive us our sins and guarantee the hope we have in Jesus.
  • The fullness of God refers to His joy when He receives our worship as the expression of our faith, love and hope in His Son.

All the fullness of God sets Jesus apart as unique. He is not one god among many. He is not an angel. He is not a man who became a god through an act of great sacrifice or flash of insight. He is not one of many paths to God. Jesus is the only path. He and He alone is the Way, the Truth and the Life. He is the Lord who is the Savior. He is the one and only Peacemaker between God and humanity.

It is also significant that in being pleased to have all His fullness dwell in Jesus, God ordained Jesus to take on human flesh. God who is Spirit, chose to make Himself known in bodily form through the Person of Jesus Christ.

God willed that in Christ all fullness of deity would dwell in bodily form. The incarnation of Jesus confers dignity upon our humanity. God chose to dwell among us. It pleased God to have all the fullness of deity dwell in a human being: Jesus Christ.

 It pleased God to make things right between Himself and us through the death of Jesus on the cross. The death of Jesus on the cross is the means by which God has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son. We have peace with God because all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell in the body of Jesus Christ—the same body that was nailed to the cross for our redemption, the forgiveness of sins; the same body which three days later rose from the dead; and the same body, the same Jesus, who one will return to establish forever His eternal kingdom.

On that day, the day Jesus comes back a second time, all things will finally be made to yield to God’s will and serve His purposes. His enemies—and ours—will be defeated and His people will enjoy Him forever. Until then, “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” That name is Jesus Christ. Redemption, the forgiveness of sins, happens one way and one way only: we must confess our trust in Jesus Christ as the Peacemaker between us and God by the blood of His cross.

The first question and answer of the Heidelberg Catechism is:

Question: What is your only comfort in life and death?

Answer: That I am not my own, but belong with body and soul, both in life and in death,  to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ.  He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood,  and has set me free from all the power of the devil.  He also preserves me in such a way that without the will of my heavenly Father not a hair can fall from my head; indeed, all things must work together for my salvation. Therefore, by his Holy Spirit he also assures me of eternal life  and makes me heartily willing and ready from now on to live for him.

 A strong Christology builds a strong church. A strong Christology builds a strong life of faith, love and hope in Jesus.

On Whom will you build? Jesus is the image of the invisible God.

A strong Christology is built on the confession that Jesus is the image of the invisible God.

In Whom will you trust? Jesus is the sovereign Lord of the universe.

A strong Christology helps us do what we were created for.

By Whom will you be saved? Jesus is the sovereign Savior of all who trust in Him.

 A strong Christology keeps Jesus at the heart the Gospel.

You think about that.

 

 

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