Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Some Purposes of God in the Suffering of Christ: A Meandering Meditation on Colossians 1:15-23

Colossians 1:15-23
(Read the text here

The first few verses of this chapter paint a stunning picture of the glory of Christ, for here we are told that... 

(1) Jesus is the firstborn over all creation; 
(2) Jesus is the Creator of all things in heaven and earth, including the nature and scope of authority; 
(3) All things were created by Jesus and for Jesus; 
(4) In Jesus all things hold together; 
(5) Jesus is the head of the church; and 
(6) Jesus is the firstborn from the dead. 

Paul concludes, “…so that in everything he might have the supremacy.” As I  meditated on this phrase I came to see that the suffering of Christ plays a critical role in His supremacy, for not only is He the God of creation, He is also the Prince of suffering. Not only is He immeasurably high, He is also unthinkably humble. Not only is He the Lion of Judah, He is also the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world—through suffering and death. 

Accordingly, verses 19-20 teach us that the reason for Jesus' suffering was that we who believe in Him might be reconciled to God. “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.” Several things here are nearly unfathomable to me: 

(1) That God could, and would, manifest his fullness in human form. If this is a familiar idea to you, stop to think about it for a while. Let it become less familiar. Ask God to escort you into the mystery, the impossibility, the wonder, the beauty, the mercy of this truth. 

(2) That through Jesus' suffering, God reconciled to himself, not only things on earth, but things in heaven, which refers back to verse 16: “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.” Hmm, just when I think I grasp the gospel! I'm not sure I'll ever understand the fullness of what this means, but it's sure worth meditating upon. 

(3) That Christ manifested the glory of God and accomplished redemption for humanity through the horror of the cross. The juxtaposition of life and death, of might and mercy, of strength and submission, of beauty and horror are stunning, and will in fact cause the host of heaven to worship God the Father, God the Son, and God the Spirit forever and ever! 

For the purposes of Paul in the letter to the Colossians, what's the bottom line? That we, who were once alienated from God because of our rebellion against God, have now been reconciled by God to God through Christ’s “physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation”—that is, if we continue in the holy faith. Complicated, I know, but worth thinking about. 

Jesus suffered and died that we might enter into eternal and unbreakable fellowship with God. The door to that fellowship is called "by grace through faith"--there is no other door. That is, when we respond to God's gift of grace with simple, heartfelt belief, all of the benefits of the suffering of Christ become ours--forever! The fruit of this is that we, in Christ, become holy in God's sight, we appear before him as though we have no blemish at all, and we are even freed from any and all accusations that can be made against us. Not that a spirit or person cannot voice the accusations, but that the accusations will not stick because "Jesus paid it all, all to Him we owe!" 

I am deeply grateful to God this afternoon, though honestly all of this is far beyond me. All I know is that I have experienced, and am experiencing, the reconciling power of God in Christ and I'm thankful beyond words! Thank you, Lord Jesus, for making peace through your shed blood.Thank you for being willing to suffer, that we might be free. 

I encourage you, my friends, to read Colossians 1:15-23 prayerfully and carefully, and allow the Lord to feed you with the richest of food! Put the phone down for a while, lasting joy is in the good news of Jesus Christ! 

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