Experiencing Authentic Ecclesia: “Jesus’ Primacy and God’s Purpose”
Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church
Set free, O Lord, any tension or anxiety which may keep us from fulfilling Your vision of what we can be. Fill us with the strength of Christ, the power of Your Holy Spirit, and the faithfulness of all true saints, in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Did anyone here watch the President’s speech to the Congress last week? I confess that I did not watch it live – I did look it up and watch it later, and read the manuscript. I’m not a terribly politically minded person, but the last two years have been so full of political opinions it has been really hard to avoid getting hit by something somewhere along the line.
This week, members of the GOP have been praising this speech as very “presidential”; even much more liberal media members have commended it as well written and well delivered. Others from the Democratic persuasion have lambasted it and the President who delivered it as nothing more than talk….
If the whole adoration and rancor dividing this nation wasn’t so sad, it would be funny!
But here’s the thing – love him or hate him, Donald J. Trump is not our Savior! And while praying for our leaders is one way of working out our salvation in fear and trembling, admiring any political figure, or despising her/him, is not our main purpose in life.
We are now in our first full week of the Season of Lent; we enter into it with both praise and purpose. Last Sunday we began a study in the New Testament letter from the Apostle Paul to the Christian Community in Colossae, Asia Minor (today’s Turkey). These Colossians, while living across the planet, 2,000 years ago, in the Roman Empire, weren’t all that different from we Lidgerwoodians.
Colossae was on the decline, in the midst of a thriving Greco-Roman world – and false teachers and worldly temptations and threats against humanity and fear of domineering governments were all taking over!
Paul writes to remind them who they were, to encourage their discouraged souls, to tell them again of who God is and what God had accomplished in Christ Jesus. In this letter we are invited to experience authentic ecclesia – to practice genuine Christian faith.
Listen with me to God’s Word from Paul’s Letter to the Church in Colossae. Colossians 1:15-23 ….—-
15 The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. 19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.
21 Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. 22 But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation— 23 if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant.
In the very opening paragraph of this letter, what we read last Sunday, Paul introduced the idea of REDEMPTION! God the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
We are given the offer of our full value, redemption, as children of God Almighty, full forgiveness, absolute absolution, as we accept His offer through Jesus Christ. We don’t deserve it, but God mercifully offers His grace!
In today’s passage Paul introduces us to the REDEEMER!
Jesus is certainly mentioned in the beginning paragraph, but today’s paragraph concentrates on Jesus.
There are any number of ways one might properly talk about who Jesus is. Let’s hear some of those that come to your minds first. What are some one-word titles for Jesus? Or simple descriptive phrases of Jesus? —-
Thank you. In different places throughout the canon of Paul’s Epistles, he uses most of what y’all just said. In this Epistle to the Colossian Christian Community Paul concentrates his description of Jesus as “Supreme”. Jesus holds the position of Primacy over all that is!
Look at some of the ways Paul says Jesus is supreme:
- Jesus is the FIRST BORN of ALL creation! As the visible image of the invisible God, Paul is telling us that the Second Person of the Trinity, the Son of God, was not born some 60 years before this letter was written, or 2,017 years ago for us – He was born before creation happened! In His pre-incarnate form, Jesus has existed since before time began. Someone asked me a couple weeks ago how God was created…. The answer, beyond what our feeble minds can ever fully comprehend, is that God was not created, ever. He is God. From everlasting to everlasting! And the Son of God, Jesus, is fully God, of the same substance as God the Father, and therefore is supreme in His eternal-ness! John’s Gospel reminds us that all things that were created were created through Him! Genesis says, God said, “Let there be … and there was.” John calls Jesus the Word that was with God and that was God! He is Supreme!
- Paul says that as the only begotten, Jesus is the HEAD of the CHURCH. Not the Pope; not the Arch-Bishop; not the Executive Presbyter; not the longest standing member or longest serving Elder or Deacon; certainly not the Pastor or Pastoral staff. Yes, Jesus wants us in positions of leadership – but, as our new Deacons and Elders vowed to do a few weeks ago, and I hope every one who has ever been ordained into church leadership remembered their own vows, we serve under Jesus who alone is HEAD of the CHURCH!
- Paul states that as Lord of all Creation and as lord of His Church, Jesus is also, therefore, Lord of HIS PEOPLE! For the Colossian Church this truth gave power to the people to live against the grain, even against the government. For us in 21st Century America, may it give us the gravitas to live counter-culturally – to be generous even in tough times, to be faithful even when we are fearful, to be bold believers especially when bullied by bigots and false teachers. Jesus is not just our Savior – He is our LORD! Not just our Friend – He is our MASTER. We either willingly serve Him, or we willingly walk away from Him. We cannot call Him Lord, and then not do what we know He wants us to do!
Jesus is supreme over any and every possible other thing! Do you, do we, do I, allow His Primacy to Rule?
And now, a little more quickly, let’s look at what Paul says about how this visible image of the invisible God expresses God’s purposes:
- Verse 19 says that God was pleased to have all His FULLNESS dwell in Jesus, reconciling all things to God! All creation is God’s, and that is shown by the Son of God coming in human form.
- God’s purpose is shown in His reconciling us to God – by Jesus’ DEATH! “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe, we are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” (Romans 3:22-24) Which brings us to the next:
- Reconciling us to God – through our FAITH! Yes, it is free – but just like any gift, it is only ours if we accept it! Rejecting God’s redemptive forgiveness and turning away from His Supremacy means that we also reject what He offers for this life as well as for eternity! This, in cahoots with the third point above, that about our obedience to His Lordship, brings us straight to the last purpose listed here:
- Reconciling OTHERS to God – in OUR faithfulness! You are included in His magnificent plan to bring wholeness to the world – food to the hungry, here and in Kenya; water to the thirsty, downtown and in Kiminini; clothes to the naked, at the UGM and through CEO; and love to the lost, among our own families and friends, and across the globe in East Africa!
Experiencing Authentic Ecclesia means having the truth about the Primacy of Jesus, and obeying into the Purposes of God! This is a Church on the very verge of truly experiencing all of that – and we are blessed, privileged to be in on the ground floor! Let’s join the Colossian Christians and be that kind of church together.
God of the ages, through time’s troubled years You are the One in whom history coheres; nations and empires Your purpose fulfill, moving in freedom, yet working Your will.
In us and for Your Kingdom, we pray, Amen.
Carson, H.M.; Colossians and Philemon; Tyndale new testament Commentaries; 1984; Pp. 42-49.
Clarkson, Margaret; “God of Creation, All Powerful, All Wise”; 1987.