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Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth (2 Timothy 2:15)
Established November 2008 Published: January 16, 2020
For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:3-4).
Welcome, one and all, to HBS.
“Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins:” (1:12-14)
Colossians 1:9-14 is Paul’s heartfelt prayer on behalf of the relatively new converts in Colosse. He prayed for their continued spiritual growth, saying be filled with the knowledge of God’s will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding. He also prayed for their strength and endurance. Paul also reminded these Believers that salvation is entirely the work of God, He saved (rescued) them from the power of darkness (Satan’s evil empire), and translated (to remove people from one place to another) them into the kingdom of His dear Son: In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins:”
I didn’t explain verse 1:13b in the prior lesson so I’ll do that now:
“…and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son:”
Some people believe Paul’s advocating the same gospel the Lord Jesus Christ commanded the twelve to preach to Israel, that is, the gospel of the kingdom, but is this true? No, of course not. Although some people teach the Church is spiritual Israel, and the members of the Body of Christ will rule and reign with Christ Jesus on earth, Paul is actually saying the Church is under His authority (Colossians 1:18). The Colossians were redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ and partake of the grace of God in this dispensation. They are no longer under the power of darkness, but have been translated (removed) “and made to sit in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:”
Paul writes about the Believer’s position in Christ in heavenly places in
Ephesians 2:5-7, so let’s look at it:
“Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us (made alive) together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.”
The LORD God promised the nation of Israel a literal kingdom on the earth and a King to lead them. When the Lord Jesus Christ came into this world, that prophesied kingdom was at hand (Matthew 3:2, 4:17; Mark 1:15). The Apostle Matthew presented Jesus as Israel’s King (Messiah) in his gospel. It opens with the declaration “Jesus Christ, the Son of David…” (Matthew 1:1) to emphasize the fact He came from the royal line of king David in accordance with the Davidic Covenant. John the Baptist had gone forth as the King’s herald, to prepare His way, and the twelve apostles proclaimed His royal rights as they preached “the gospel of the kingdom” to the nation of Israel only (Acts 11:19). This was all in fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy (See Isaiah 9:6-7).
Paul never refers to the Lord Jesus Christ as our king, instead, He identifies Him “as our Lord and Savior, our hope… the Head of the Body of Christ:” This knowledge isn’t found anywhere in the O.T; but you will find it in Paul’s writings:
“Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the commandment of God our Saviour, and Lord Jesus Christ, which is our hope; Unto Timothy, my own son in the faith: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God our Father and Jesus Christ our Lord” (1 Timothy 1:1-2).
“The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working †of his mighty power, Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all” (Ephesians 1:18-23).
Since Christ Jesus is the Head of the Church, every true Believer ought to know what the Church is and when it began. The traditional view and the majority of Christendom believe the Church, the Body of Christ, began on Pentecost. These folks say membership into the Body of Christ is through the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Since the baptism of the Holy Spirit occurred on Pentecost, the Church began at that time. That sounds reasonable, until you read/study the writings of our Apostle Paul.
I’ve listed three rather obvious obstacles for the traditional view below:
1) God clearly said through our apostle Paul the Church, the Body of Christ, was a “mystery” (secret) that had been kept hidden in the mind of God since before the foundation of the earth (1 Corinthians 2:6-8; Ephesians 3:1-9). Furthermore this secret was revealed only to Saul/Paul. This presents a serious problem for the traditional view because Paul made this declaration circa 37 AD long after Pentecost.
2) There is no biblical evidence to support the view that anyone at Pentecost recognized the Church, the Body of Christ, had come into existence. The biblical evidence will show at Pentecost the twelve knew nothing about the Body of Christ or that God is now saving both the Jew and the Gentile into one body. Peter only addressed the Jews at Pentecost (Acts 2:14). Paul, on the other hand, declared the Church to be a living, breathing, organism, (not a man-made structure) in which the Jew and the Gentile are equal in the eyes of God. This terminology isn’t found in the four gospels or the letters of Peter, James, John, and Jude. Only Paul writes about the Body of Christ (Galatians 3:26-28;
3) Peter and his contemporaries were looking expectedly for the fulfillment of prophecy, i.e., the kingdom of God on earth, which the LORD God (Jehovah) had revealed to the nation of Israel through the prophets, not the beginning of the new Church Age. The O.T. does not contain any information about the Body of Christ. The prophets, Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and Jesus Christ Himself did not mention at any time that Jew and Gentile would be considered equal, in Christ, in one body. Instead, we find Peter quoting the prophet Joel on the day of Pentecost. He expected the “sun to be turned into darkness and the moon into blood” (Joel 2:31; Acts 2:15-21). Peter was anticipating the Lord’s return to judge Israel’s sin then establish His kingdom. There is no language that indicates His return is for the purpose of establishing the Church, the Body of Christ, with both Jews and Gentiles to the glory of God the Father! You find this information only in Paul’s writings - Romans through Philemon.
So then, Paul is saying the Colossians have been removed from Satan’s kingdom of darkness “into the kingdom of his dear son” who is presently in heaven, until God the Father makes His enemies “thine footstool” (Psalm 110:1; Revelation 19:11-16).
********Please open your Bible at Colossians 1:15-18.
“Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist. And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all he might have the preeminence. For it pleased that in him should all fulness dwell;”
After Paul prayed that the saints at Colosse might continue to walk in a manner fitting to their new life in Christ Jesus, He immediately addressed the chief concern of this letter, i.e., the exaltation and preeminence of Christ in His person and work. In addition to enlightening these Believers about their Lord and Savior, Paul indirectly refuted and rebuked the Gnostics and the Jewish traditionalists of His day who were influencing some of the folks in this assembly as to their theories. (Ephesians 4:14-15).
In response to the Gnostics theory (claim) that Jesus Christ was merely a man, Paul revealed Christ Jesus’ relationship first to God the Father, second, to creation, and third, to the Church which is His body. And remember Paul could give first-hand testimony about these things. He had at one time considered Jesus Christ a blasphemous fraud. But in 1 Corinthians 15:1-8 Paul’s clear purpose in opening this chapter is to show that the hope God has placed before all mankind is not based on the guesswork of men or likelihoods, but on the testimony of eyewitnesses many of which were still living when he wrote this letter to the Colossians circa 56-57 AD:
“Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. After that, he was seen of James (His half-brother); then of all the apostles. And last of all the was seen of me (Saul of Tarsus) also, as of one born out of due time.”
Paul said the gospel he received from the risen Lord, is the very same gospel he preached to all, that is, nothing added and nothing taken away from it, and in so doing presents the resurrection of Christ as a historical fact. He then names several eye-witnesses of Christ’s resurrection; the distraught apostle Peter was the first of these. Paul then said he too had seen the risen Lord. We understand this to be while enroute to Damascus to persecute the Jews who believed Jesus is the Son of God (Acts 8:34-37). There are three accounts of his conversion in the Book of Acts alone, and again and again in his letters he speaks of it and refers to it (see Acts 9, 22:1-21, and 26:1-23). The conversion of Saul of Tarsus, the chief persecutor of those who believed in Jesus’ name is no small thing. It is one of the most significant events in the history of the first-century church.
Christ Jesus’ Relationship to the Father
“Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature:” (1:15).
Paul prayed the Colossians “might be filled with the knowledge of God’s will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding…” and “increasing in the knowledge of God;” (1:9-10), and in 1:15 helps them with this by presenting them with the knowledge that the Lord Jesus Christ “is the image of the invisible God.” But what does that mean? Scripture holds the answer. The very same word is found in Hebrews 10:1:
“For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect,”
Here the writer of Hebrews makes a clear distinction between “a shadow” and substance, i.e. “the very image” of things that are. The law was “a shadow of good things to come,” however “a shadow” is not “the very image” itself. Clearly said, the image here is “the thing” itself, so this must mean the same thing in Colossians 1:15 because not only is the same word used, but also because we read Jesus Christ is “the image of the invisible God…”
Paul is referring to two separate Persons of the Godhead, specifically, God the Father and God the Son. I’ve been on the teaching end of the doctrine of the Trinity for more than twenty-four years, so believe me when I say this is difficult for some people to understand. However, this is what God has revealed in Scripture about Himself, so since God said it, we’re to believe it. The doctrine of the Trinity states that in the unity of the Godhead there are three eternal and co-equal Persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit, the same in essence but distinct in their role — three distinct Persons but one Being all capable of expressing thought, will, and emotion. The shortest Bible verse is John 11:35, “Jesus wept” for instance.
We find the three distinct Persons of the Godhead present at Jesus’ baptism:
“And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him: And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:16-17).
With Christ Jesus’ relationship to the Father in mind, let’s review the following Bible passages”
“Philip saith unto him, Lord, shew us the Father, and it sufficeth us. Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Shew us the Father? Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works. Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me:” (John 14:8-9).
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made” (John 1:1-3).
Let’s look at one more; please turn to John 10:29-30:
“My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand. I and my Father are one.”
The Lord Jesus Christ is not speaking about being united with the Father in plan and purpose, although that is true, but in power. He affirmed He is able to rescue and keep His people from all enemies, and that He had supreme power over all creation and affirmed this of the Father as well. In this way they “are one.” The Jews listening to Him understood that He was claiming equality with the LORD God (Jehovah) in regard to supreme authority. We know the Jews took issue with this because the next verse says, “Then the Jews took up stones again to stone him” (10:31).
The conclusion is that God is invisible except in Christ Jesus who is God in bodily form (Philippians 2:6-12; Colossians 2:9). This is why John 1:18 says, “No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.”
Christ’s Relationship to Creation
“Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him:” (1:15-16).
The very next thing our Apostle Paul shows the Colossians (and us) is, “… (He) is the firstborn of every creature:” (1:15). The first thing I should probably point out to y’all is the term “firstborn” does not necessarily indicate that one was born first. It is rather a title, which was usually bestowed upon the one that was born first, but not always. According to Jewish custom, and others, firstborn meant the first male child that was born. He assumed the father’s place at death, received the inheritance, and assumed his father’s responsibilities. But, the firstborn was not necessarily the one born first. The clearest biblical example of this teaching is Abraham’s descendants Ishmael and Isaac. According to this account, Ishmael was born first, but Isaac was the firstborn, that is, “the child of promise” (Genesis 21-28). We find this again with Esau and Jacob. Esau was the first male child born, but he wasn’t the firstborn. The same is true of Rueben and Joseph, Manasseh and Ephraim, and so on.
So then, the title “the firstborn of (all creation) does not mean Christ Jesus was a created being or the first born. Instead, it means Christ is the Head of all creation for Paul said, “(He) is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him:
In John 1:3 we read, “All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.” Although man is able to “make” things, only God can create. Paul affirms this in Ephesians 3:9 and implies not only the individuality of God and Son but that they coexist:
“And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ:”
In Revelation the Apostle John again affirms Christ Jesus “created all things:”
“Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created” (Revelation 4:11).
Paul echoes this statement in Colossians 1:16 in saying, “For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: (in keeping with the context Paul is addressing the heresy/philosophy of the Gnostics in Colosse by emphasizing that Christ Jesus is supreme over all things, and this includes any and all angelic beings; see 2:10, 15, and 18 for) all things were created by him, and for him:”
So, as I pointed out earlier, Christ Jesus is the firstborn (the Head) of all creation but there’s more. In verse 1:17, Paul said, “And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.” Said differently, He is the Head of eternity. The word “before” has to do with time and we know this because Paul said, “…by him all things consist.” The implication being Christ Jesus had to be before them in time in order to hold them together. So the Lord Jesus Christ is the Head of eternity.
The term “consist” as used here means to hold together or to cling together. The Lord Jesus Christ preserves all His creation, in other words. This same truth is found in Hebrews 1:3: “Who being the brightness of (God’s) glory, and the (very substance) of His person, and upholding all things by the Word of His power.”
In the book of Psalms we read of Christ Jesus’ creative power:
“By the word of the Lord were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of His mouth” (Psalm 33:6).
“For he spake, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast” (Psalm 39:9).
Think this through. All things in the heavens, and in the earth were created by the Word, i.e. Christ Jesus, the Great Communicator of the Godhead, spoke all things into existence. With a Word the visible and the invisible came into being. That’s power! But not only that, “by him all things consist.” Plainly said, if it were not for the Lord Jesus Christ, the universe as we know it would fall apart. As a child, I used to stare up into the night sky in awe of its vastness. I thought about why it exists and searched for answers as to why I exist. You see, even then I knew there was supreme being. Much later in life I learned it was God the Son:
“The heavens declare the glory of God (the Son); And the firmament sheweth his handywork” (In Psalm 19:1).
Christ Jesus’ Relationship to the Church
“And he is the head of the body (of Christ), the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all he might have the preeminence” (1:18).
No other apostle but Paul speaks about the Lord Jesus Christ being the Head of the Body of Christ, that is, the Church (1 Corinthians 11:3; Ephesians 1:22, 4:12; and Colossians 1:18). The Body of Christ recognizes Him as the Head of the one body; the One who has preeminence re: all things related to His body. That being said, if any person or church is not under the control of the Head, then they are not in the center of God’s will.
I alluded to this earlier, but it bears repeating. The Body of Christ is not a church denomination. It is not an organization with an earthly, ecclesiastical head. The Bible recognizes the true Church is called the Body of Christ. In Ephesians 2:16 Paul said that it is God’s purpose to, “…reconcile both (the Jews and the Gentiles) unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity (the quality of being an enemy) thereby:”
In 1 Corinthians 12:13 Paul has this to say about true Believers, “For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.”
Therefore, I pray y’all understand this has absolutely nothing to do with church rules and regulations or acceptance in one of 500+ Christian church organizations in America today. The true Church is not visible. The true Church is organic in nature, made up of true Believers all over the world, in and out of every known denomination, and God the Father recognizes only that Church. I don’t mean to upset people, but try as you might you’ll not find the terms Adventist, Catholic, Baptist, Lutheran, Methodist, etc. in the Bible. These religious systems are man-made; they are not of God; therefore, He does not recognize them. He desires that the walls of exclusivity they have erected would come tumbling down, much like the walls of Jericho, and that every true Believer would recognize the basis for our unity, our baptism into Christ by the Holy Spirit, and then experience and enjoy true oneness, i.e., unity:
“And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:” (Ephesians 4:11-13).
There can be no true unity in mere church organizations. There might be union, of a sort, but not the type of true unity our Apostle Paul writes about. But thanks be to God the Father as we read about Christ Jesus being baptized into out death on Calvary, and recognize that death was not His – He was sinless; He had no death to die; that was our death. When you come to terms with this truth and accept His shed blood as payment for all your sin, we become one with Him and He with us at Calvary:
“Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:3-4).
This is not just one way to be baptized into Christ Jesus it is the only way. The Bible speaks of no other. Adding to that, this is the only way Believers can be baptized into one another. There is no true unity apart from Christ Jesus for He is the Head of the one body. So then, that’s the relationship of Christ Jesus to the one Church, the Body of Christ.
In Colossians 1:18b Paul also said this about Christ Jesus:
“…(He) is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead;”
Paul isn’t saying He was the first to be raised from the dead. He is the first One who arose from the dead by His own power, thereby demonstrating His power and superiority over hell and death:
“I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death” (Revelation 1:18).
In Ephesians 1:20-23, Paul wrote about the mighty power of God:
“And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all” (Ephesians 1:19-23).
“…that in all things He might have the preeminence.”
The Lord Jesus Christ is “the Head.” He is the Head of creation, the Body of Christ, and He is the Master of death, so “that in all things He might have preeminence.” Paul used the term “might” here because the possibility exists that some folks might not recognize His preeminence over all things. This was certainly the case in Colosse and it remains a problem for many people today. I know people who agree the Holy Trinity exists, but they disagree with their individuality and their individual roles. Some see Christ Jesus as sitting at the “kid’s table” so to speak, while our Apostle Paul clearly teaches not only do all three exist, they all are equally God.
Something Daniel Webster, the 19th century statesman and convinced Christian said comes to mind. A Unitarian minister asked him this question, “Mr. Webster, can you comprehend how Jesus Christ could be both God and Man?" Mr. Webster replied, “No, sir, I cannot understand it, and I would be ashamed to acknowledge Christ as my Savior if I could understand it. He could be no greater than myself, and such is my conviction of accountability to God, my sense of sinfulness before Him, and my knowledge of my own incapacity to recover myself, that I feel I need a superhuman Savior.”
Folks that “superhuman Savior” is the Head of the Body of Christ and all are welcome, if you approach the Cross, where God’s Grace was publicly displayed to all, in faith.
(To be continued. Publication date uncertain).
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