15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 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. 17 And 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, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. (Colossians 1:15-20)
We learned in verse 15 that Jesus is the image of the invisible God. He is the visible representation of God the Father, the exact imprint of His nature. That means there is absolutely no disagreement between the Father and the Son. There never has been conflict with them, never a hint of it. There is not a personality of Christ and then a personality of the Father that are unique one from the other.
Husbands and wives have personalities, gifts, and skills that often complement one another. You may be super organized, and your spouse may be, well, not so organized. Maybe you are good with making money and your spouse is good with spending money. You see how well that works out! He likes to cook and you like to eat, that’s a good combination. No really, you know how in relationships people complement one another? Weaknesses in one may be lessened by strengths in another. It is that way with our elder body. It is that way in many business relationships. But with the Father and the Son, it is not that way. They have no weaknesses that need shoring up with the strengths of the other. They are each perfectly wise, powerful, loving, holy, merciful, just, righteous, pure, and so on. As the Father is holy, so is the Son. We see this in verse 19.
For in him [in Jesus] all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell (Colossians 1:19)
God the Father was pleased that all His fullness would reside in Jesus. All the fullness of who the Father is resides in, takes up residence in Jesus Christ. This truth pleases the Father.
The word “fullness” here is of great importance. We see the word also in Colossians 2:9 – “For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily.” These two are really similar. This word “fullness,” when speaking of a divine entity, was used by false teachers and would have most likely been used by false teachers in Colossae as Paul wrote this letter. I find this fascinating because we see this so often. We see Paul using words, phrases, and even ideas that the people to whom he writes or speaks to, words that they understand. They would have been familiar with this word “fullness,” again as relating to spiritual things, but it was not being used as Paul uses it here.
“Fullness” by the false teachers was being used to describe multiple divine entities that, if combined into one, would represent a totality of divine nature. This thought was formulated more so even by the Gnostics. It was like this: there was a supreme God, but he interacted with humanity through many intermediaries, and these intermediaries, or spiritual agents, each had some divine qualities, but not all divine qualities. None could possess, in their thinking, all the divine nature of God. So divine nature was distributed among many entities, and if all were combined together then there would be some semblance of fully divine character.
So any communication between God and man had to pass through this sphere of powers that exercise varying degrees of control, depending on their abilities and powers. Those who believed this way were careful to respect these powers in order to gain favor with them and eventually to gain favor with God.
We may be able to understand this today as we think about our culture’s fascination with supernaturally powerful beings in literature and movies. It seems that what makes a popular movie today is that it must include a person or people who have abilities that go way beyond human limitations and into a realm of fantasy, that elevates them over others. And so many characters are developed with interesting abilities – Captain America, Iron Man, the Hulk, Batman, Spider-Man, and so on. Each possessing extraordinary powers. But who is stronger? Which one can overcome all the rest? Which one of those fictional characters have all the power, possess all strength, wisdom, and might? Which one can finally bring peace to the whole world and a scenario where no enemy can rise up and give a credible challenge? None of them.
This is fantasy, none of them are real of course. But it is a similar idea to what some of the Gnostics believed. Divine, but limited, power spread over many entities. Churches were being challenged to believe this.
And so here comes Paul using this word “fullness,” this word that many understood to mean what we have described, and he redeems the word, uses it correctly and uses it to describe not many divine entities, but one. He undermines a whole religious system being spread with this one simple, direct, forceful affirmation, which is that the fullness of deity dwells in one person, the person of Jesus Christ. The whole of divine essence and power resides in Jesus. He is the one, all-sufficient intermediary between God and man and possesses all the attributes of God.
Looking for a hero with all power? There is one: Jesus Christ. No other will come along and morph into something greater. And the Father is pleased with this. He puts Himself on display through the Son. We see God through the Son.
and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. (Colossians 1:20)
It is also God’s good pleasure to “reconcile” all things to Himself through Jesus. The fullness of God in the Son is used, divine energy used in a work of reconciliation. “Reconciliation” means “to bring peace.” It is to bring into agreement. We talk about this in relationships. We may say, “I need to reconcile with my spouse,” or, “I need to reconcile with my child.” What we mean is, we need to bring that relationship into a state of peaceful resolution, so that we can then relate to each other peacefully and not as enemies. If we reconcile our checkbook, we are bringing it into agreement with our bank balance.
The word Paul uses here is only used here and in one other place in the New Testament. But it seems he has simply taken a common word for reconciliation and strengthened it, and that is what we have here in verse 20.
Now if you look down to the next paragraph, you will notice that the main theme is reconciliation of God with us, with Christians, the redemption of people. But here in verse 20 it seems to be more of a universal reconciliation, as in creation, the created world, not just humanity. It’s like we read in Ephesians 1:10, “as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.” This uniting of all things is similar to the reconciling all things from our verse this morning. Everything was created with a view of Christ.
The need for reconciliation means that things or people are first in a state of conflict. So if all things in heaven and on earth were created through Him (v. 16), and yet “all things” – whether the things on earth or those in heaven – have to be reconciled to God through Him, then it follows that all things have been estranged from their Creator. If reconciliation is needed, it is because there was a problem.
In Romans 8:19-23 we get a hint of the problem that exists. Listen carefully to these verses, listen with this idea of reconciliation in mind…
19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. (Romans 8:19-23)
Paul speaks here of the creation as involuntarily having been subjected to futility, but as destined to “be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.” Since the liberty of the children of God, you and me as believers, comes to fruition through the redemptive work of Christ, the release of creation from its bondage to decay is assured also through that same redemptive work.
The universe has been in conflict with the Creator, and reconciliation will take place. So what happened? Because when the Lord created, He said it was good. What happened? Sin entered the world. And what sin touches it corrupts.
Do we always really believe that? I say that because we tend to often take sin lightly. We take it lightly, participating in it as if it won’t corrupt. We think we can dabble in sin and it won’t really affect us much, or if it does it will be so minor that all will be fine. We deceive ourselves when we think that way. And so one way that we can be reminded of the destructive nature of sin is to look at its effect on our world, this earth.
I love the outdoors. I really enjoy the outdoors. I don’t have to be on a once in a lifetime trip to somewhere exotic to enjoy the outdoors. I love sitting on the back porch just being outside. I do like seeing new things, but I like the same old things outside too. I’m amazed by God’s creation, and I want to be in it, outside in it. But the outdoors is anything but pristine; it has been corrupted. Things are decaying all around us. The suns rays are harsh, and destructive even, to much of creation. Wildlife is in conflict. Many animals are ruthless and cruel. Plants grow and then they die. Death is all around in nature.
In my home we often talk about places we would like to go where we imagine that it is perfect and pristine, almost as if it is unaffected by the Fall. We can keep thinking that I guess, keep imagining as long as we never visit those places. But if we go, I’m sure there too we will realize that this world where we live, all of it, has been affected by the Fall, by sin.
Here is one way this happened. After Adam sinned, God spoke to him, and as He spoke He began to describe for Adam some of what would now be true because of the effects of sin. In Genesis 3, after God cursed the serpent and informed Eve of how childbirth would now be painful, and of how she will desire to rule over her husband, then God said this to Adam…
17 “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; 18 thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. 19 By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”
20 The man called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all living. 21 And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them. (Genesis 3:17-21)
Many people today, radical type environmentalists, talk about the earth as if we can bring it back to a state of perfection. Like if we enact certain laws, ban certain types of practices regarding resource extraction, logging, farming practices, and so on, that we can get things back to a perfect state, that we can renew this earth. Now, I am all for conservation, we have been tasked by God to rule over, to have dominion over the earth and the things in it. We should do that well and do that for God’s glory, we should be good stewards, but as Christians we should also realize that this world is decaying and that we don’t have the power to change that. What is needed to change that is reconciliation, redemption of the world through Christ.
The Bible is a book about redemption. It is a book about how God redeems what has been lost or appears to be doomed. Redemption of man and of the world is what God does. He takes things – you and me, if we are His – and brings them, brings us into a right position with Him. This is the theme of the Bible.
Do you realize that one day this world will be created new? It will be redeemed, and those places where we might imagine have not been affected by the Fall will be transformed to a place where they really haven’t. God takes what has been broken and makes them new and better!
The animal kingdom will change…
6 The wolf shall dwell with the lamb,
and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat,
and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together;
and a little child shall lead them.
7 The cow and the bear shall graze;
their young shall lie down together;
and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
8 The nursing child shall play over the hole of the cobra,
and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder’s den.
9 They shall not hurt or destroy
in all my holy mountain;
for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord
as the waters cover the sea. (Isaiah 11:6-9)
The wolf and the lamb shall graze together;
the lion shall eat straw like the ox,
and dust shall be the serpent’s food.
They shall not hurt or destroy
in all my holy mountain,”
says the Lord. (Isaiah 65:25)
The universe will change, the solar system…
Then the moon will be confounded
and the sun ashamed,
for the Lord of hosts reigns
on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem,
and his glory will be before his elders. (Isaiah 24:23)
Moreover, the light of the moon will be as the light of the sun, and the light of the sun will be sevenfold, as the light of seven days, in the day when the Lord binds up the brokenness of his people, and heals the wounds inflicted by his blow. (Isaiah 30:26)
19 The sun shall be no more
your light by day,
nor for brightness shall the moon
give you light;
but the Lord will be your everlasting light,
and your God will be your glory.
20 Your sun shall no more go down,
nor your moon withdraw itself;
for the Lord will be your everlasting light,
and your days of mourning shall be ended. (Isaiah 60:19-20)
Tremendous, dramatic changes will take place, God and creation reconciled. This is what God does. Change, redemption, reconciliation – all God’s work. Are you thankful for that? Do you believe that?
This is not only true for nature, for what will come, but it is also true even today in your life and mine. Next week we are going to get more specific about Christ’s work for us to reconcile us to His Father, but for today I would just like to leave you with this idea of God’s work and desire to bring about change.
This is who God is, He redeems and changes people and things. I say this because, although the Bible is packed with this truth, we often struggle to believe it. As Christians, God is in the business of changing us. I lament at times to hear people give up on God’s work in their lives. I mean people who are hurting or have been hurt, and they, we sometimes, really falter in our belief that God can change us and that He can change those around us who belong to Him. But this is what God does. We will see it dramatically so in creation, but we also see it dramatically in daily living, don’t we? Do we believe He can change us and those who are His? Don’t give up on change, don’t give up believing God. Don’t stop believing that He is the Redeemer and He is mighty to change people.
If you have struggled with fear over some issue for years, go to Him and believe that what He has begun in you He will continue until the final day of redemption.
If you have failed as a father in your home, go to Him and believe He is able to transform you, that you may live a life worthy of your calling.
If you have lost your passion to live for Him, go to Him in confession and believe that He is passionate for you and is always near you and for you.
Where you are is not where you have to stay. If that were so, if the past was always indicative of the future, we would all still be in our sins, helplessly barreling down a path to hell.
But He’s faithful, He doesn’t quit on us, so we can always call on Him.
19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. (Colossians 1:19-20)