I wonder whether you’ve been in a situation where keeping going has been made easier by someone else helping you? When I was at school I used to do cross-country running. I’m not the fittest person in the world – my sprint is about the same speed as most people’s jog, so every week I would be swiftly left behind by the rest of the pack. At this point, it would have been very easy to give up and walk back to school, especially since it was only about 20 yards away, and if I were left on my own I probably would have thrown in the towel. But the PE teacher in charge stayed at the back with me. They encouraged me when I flagged and pushed me harder when I needed it; and because I had help, I managed to finish every week. It was because I knew that my teacher would help me round the course that I was able to persevere.
Today we’re going to look at Colossians 1:15-23, and why it is that who Jesus is means that we can keep going in faith. Like my cross-county teacher at school who enabled me to finish my race, Jesus Christ enables us to persevere in our spiritual race. Let’s read:
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by Him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by Him and for Him. 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 and firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything He might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in Him, 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.
Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in our minds because of your evil behaviour. 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 – if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved 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.
Paul is talking about three aspects of who our Saviour is: that Jesus Christ is supreme as Lord of all, that He is supreme as our Saviour, and that because of His supremacy we can continue in faith.
Verse 15 says that “He is the image of the invisible God”. In Jesus, the invisible God is revealed, because Jesus is exactly like the Father in every way. In verses 16 to 17 Paul describes how Christ is the creator and sustainer of everything. “By Him all things were created” (v16). Paul leaves nothing out here. He mentions things on heaven and on earth, things we can and can’t see, and any form of authority we know of. Not only is this true, but Jesus also sustains everything. From the smallest atom to the vast expanse of the cosmos, the laws of science, the power of reason, the very breath in our lungs and beat of our hearts is all sustained by Him! And since our God can sustain the entire universe, how much more can He sustain us in our perseverance!
Just as Christ is Lord of this world, He is Lord of the next. As Paul says in verse 18, “He is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything He might have the supremacy.” Jesus was the first to be raised from the dead, beginning a new creation that is acceptable to God because they are in Christ. If you notice, there is a parallel between what Paul says here in verse 18 and what he says in verse 15: Jesus is the firstborn of this world and heaven, “so that in everything He might have the supremacy”. And in confirmation of Christ’s supremacy as our Saviour, Paul says in verses 19 and 20 that God’s fullness lived in Christ – meaning that Jesus is truly God. His act on the cross reconciled everything to Himself by providing a just way of forgiving sin. Can you see what this means? God, the Authority over all authority, the sustainer of the universe Himself, saved us! He is the one who guarantees our salvation, and He is the one who will get us into heaven.
So, how does this mean that we can persevere in faith? Because our salvation is secure. Look at verse 21; can you see how bad our situation before salvation was? “Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your sinful behaviour.” We were alienated from God, this supreme creator and sustainer of everything, the most important person in the universe. How insolent it was of us to reject the holy God in our sin! How great His anger against us was! And this is how we would stand before Him now, but for the most profound act in history. Verse 22 says: “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”. Jesus, God Himself, died on the cross for our sake –God Himself, the One whom we had offended, made a way for us to be acceptable to Him. And not borderline acceptable, either, but “holy in His sight”. What a turn-around! The complete, unshakeable salvation brought about by the incredible, Sovereign God Himself is the same salvation that we have. We are reconciled with God, because God Himself has reconciled us. We can keep going through all seasons of life, because how God sees us will not change, and the bad times won’t destroy our heavenly inheritance. It’s easy to remember how great it is to be Christians when life is easy, but life isn’t always a bed of roses. Health fails, friends come and go, and long-running passion can fade. Yet this we can always take heart from: Nothing that we go through in our lives will change our salvation – when life is rough, we know our Saviour stands alongside us; when we’re weary, we have reason to keep going; when we’re having an awful day and think God would be ashamed to call us His own, He loves us still!
So then, we should persevere because Jesus is supreme and our salvation is secure because of it. Christ is supreme! He is God, everything was made by Him, and He sustains everything. God used Him to reconcile the world’s broken relationship with Himself. Our salvation is rock solid because it was done by God Himself! THEREFORE we should persevere, because our prize is sure, and our God is with us, the God who cannot be beaten. Like me in my cross-country running, if reaching our final destination depended on ourselves, we would be tempted to give up because we cannot get ourselves there. But we can persevere because we have Christ with us, bringing us through life and promising our final reward in heaven. Christ, the maker of the whole universe, is running alongside us. We know that it’ll be OK in the end and He will bring us through.
This is, my friends, what I feel may be described as an EPIC. WIN.
NB – these write-ups aren’t always exactly how the original sermons were. They’ve been tweaked a leetle bit to make them more readable online.