I delivered the following sermon on November 7, 2009 at a gathering of West Coast Mennonite Brethren churches known as the Pacific District Conference. My task, along with three other preachers, was to focus on the text from Colossians 1:15-20 and the theme of Christ's supremacy and centrality. In this sermon I suggest that our response to this cosmic Christ should be one of love, sacrifice and service, motivated from a heart of gratitude and humility.
Here's a bit of the introduction. Click here if you'd like to read the entire fifteen minute sermon.
Our text today, Colossians 1:15-20, is a beautiful poem used by Paul in the church at Colossae. It’s possible that this was not only a masterful piece of prose, but that it might also have been a hymn sung by the Colossians, a small band of believers struggling to find their place as a new sect in the midst of a culture that was potentially dangerous for the young church.
Paul was probably using this Christological hymn to offset several threats. Colossae was a cosmopolitan center of religion, trade and culture. The Colossian Christians were confronted with Mideastern astrology, lingering Jewish traditions, a plethora of Greek gods and goddesses, and a Roman empire that impacted everyone. It appears that these prevailing ideologies and religions were influencing a set of teachers in this New Testament church. These false teachers were advocating for beliefs and practices that were not a part of the apostles’ original Gospel.
Some in the Colossian church believed that Christ was just one in a chain of holy beings that would lead to God. This Gnostic worldview held that the stars all represented angels, spirits, or gods that were lesser deities than the God of heaven. These divine beings were believed to control humanity and act as gatekeepers for the afterlife. This hierarchical configuration of deities was probably affecting the beliefs of the first Christians in Colossae and threatened to displace Christ as their sole focus.
Another significant threat to the Colossians was the ever-present all-encompassing Roman Empire. The value system of the empire would have been inescapable; it would have reached into every aspect of daily life. In Roman culture, Caesar was the savior, the son of God, and the sole mediator of hope and peace for the world. Caesar’s picture, along with other symbols of Rome, was everywhere – on coins, in the marketplace, at sports events, and on jewelry, pottery, furniture, paintings and more. Caesar’s influence permeated life and demanded allegiance.
Paul quickly and appropriately moved to correct these potential heresies....
Here is the doc file of the entire sermon.
Colossians 1:15-20 NLT
15Christ is the visible image of the invisible God.
He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation,
16 for through him God created everything
in the heavenly realms and on earth.
He made the things we can see
and the things we can’t see—
such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world.
Everything was created through him and for him.
17 He existed before anything else,
and he holds all creation together.
18 Christ is also the head of the church,
which is his body.
He is the beginning,
supreme over all who rise from the dead.
So he is first in everything.
19 For God in all his fullness
was pleased to live in Christ,
20 and through him God reconciled
everything to himself.
He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth
by means of Christ’s blood on the cross.