READ – COLOSSIANS 1:15-23
We’re in a series called F1RST on Paul’s letter to the Colossians. The gospel is that Jesus is the resurrected and reigning King of the World – the implication being He’s to have first place in everything (Colossians 1:18). This week were focused on what appears to be a kind of poem or song Paul wrote or adapted to showcase the grandeur of Jesus.
Paul’s main idea here is that Jesus is the first thing that puts all second things in their proper place.
1. JESUS AND THE BEGINNING
Why should Jesus have first place in all things? Paul essentially says that Jesus is first because He is the answer to the questions: 1) Is there a God (and if so, what is He like); 2) What does it mean to be fully human? The answer to the first question helps answer the second. If there is a Creator – it’s likely that His intention and purpose in creation would help answer the question as the purpose and meaning of humanity. The problem with these questions is that most of the time they seem invisible or hidden. Perhaps some might even say the answers or unknowable. But Paul in Colossians 1:15 says there is a visible answer: Jesus. Paul’s audacious claim is that Jesus is actually the answer to both of the two biggest questions of life – Jesus is both fully God and fully human.
That’s a radically humbling and freeing truth. It’s humbling because Jesus is first, not me. Fulfillment won’t come when we live by, through, or for ourselves. Jesus is first. It’s also freeing. Jesus is saying to us, “I made you and hold you together every second.” So you don’t need to be the center of the universe and hold your life together – Jesus is the center and holds all things together.
2. JESUS AND THE END
Jesus is both the end of the story and the end goal of all things. Jesus’ story begins before time and involves Him being the Maker of all things (“firstborn” doesn’t mean Jesus was the first created being – it’s a title that indicates preeminence and rank) and ends with a full reconciliation of all things in a new creation. That’s deeply important to hold onto. Jesus’ mission wasn’t extraction, but invasion with the end goal being restoration.
Jesus also shows us what the end of life is – what the purpose of our life is all about. When Jesus comes into our life – He takes first place in your life, in everything. That means Jesus comes first in our relationships, friendships, marriage, politics, finances, sexuality, work, leisure. As Jesus takes first place we become more fully human – more of who we were created to be because now our Creator (Jesus) is the end/purpose of our lives.
3. JESUS AND NOW
Jesus is the beginning and the end. He created all things and reconciles all things. But we don’t yet see a world that’s fully reconciled. Why? Paul says we don’t see all things fully aligned to the Creator’s good purpose and goals because of our alienation and hostility. The world and our lives are out of sync not merely because we do bad things – but because we are separated and estranged from our Creator. We are alienated – on the outside of something we were meant to experience. But we’re also “hostile in mind” – we reject the idea that Jesus is first in everything. The reality is that we will always be restless and unfulfilled and alienated until we see that Jesus offers and gives fullness. Our sense of alienation is an echo of our beginning and end – we were meant to be in a full relationship with God and our lives find their purpose in that relationship.
The good news is that Jesus ends our alienation and hostility. In his cross He has ended our estrangement from God. We were in God’s world and yet lived like we were Lord and Center of the universe. Jesus was first, but we live like we are. We deserve to be thrown out. But Jesus becomes our substitute. He who deserved to be first didn't take it by force – but won it through sacrificial love. God the Creator lets himself be thrown out and pushed out of the world on the cross. Jesus becomes the highest and first by becoming lowest and last. Jesus is treated like a hostile enemy so we could be treated like a beloved friend. What should be our response? Put this kind of God first. Make Jesus first in your life, because He is first in all things.
QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION
1. What about the sermon most impacted you or left you with questions?
2. If there’s time, read through the entire letter to the Colossians as a group. Colossians 1:15-23 is really a kind of climax to the letter. Paul explores heights that are mind blowing. How do you think this passage makes sense of other portions of the letter – maybe particularly some of Paul’s commands in Colossians 3-4?
3. Jesus is the answer to two of life’s biggest questions – Is there a God? What does it mean to be human? Explain and discuss. What are common obstacles to people believing that Jesus answers those two questions?
4. What difference does it make in a person’s life or in sharing the gospel that Jesus is our Maker before He is our Rescuer?
5. Jesus’ mission is an invasion – not an extraction. What are implications of Jesus’ plan to restore all things to your life, to your work, to the church?
6. Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection brought reconciliation to all things. But our lives and this world is often far from reconciliation. How do you account for that? What’s the remedy?