Christ is the Firstborn of all Creation
Christ Is the Firstborn of all Creation
Colossians 1:15 – 23
Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill
Let’s turn to Colossians 1:15-23. It is one of the clearest statements of the gospel that we have. “He (Jesus) is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation; for in him all things were created, in the Heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or authorities – all things were created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the first-born from the dead, that in everything he might be pre-eminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross, And you, who once were estranged and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and irreproachable before him, provided that you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel which you heard, which has been preached to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul became a minister.”
One of the things that give me difficulty as I tried to deal with the gospel and its meaning after I became a Christian at 13 first and then really at 17 years of age – was that Jesus bore our sins. I believed it because that was the gospel but it actually bewildered me. I thought he bore my sins in 29 A.D. but I wasn’t even alive then. I hadn’t time to do anything wrong so how did he bear my sins?
I believed what everyone said that you take it by faith and so for a long time I tried to do that. I thought a bit like the illustration that Paul Little gives. There’s a little boy in Sunday school that is asked, “What is faith?” He then says, “Faith is believing what isn’t true.”
I was a bit like that. I thought you are saved by faith and although I didn’t say that faith was believing what isn’t true, it’s really what I meant. I believe that Jesus bore my sins, even though I hadn’t committed them and didn’t live till thousands of years later yet I believe in some way that he bore my sins.
So to tell you the truth, the result was that throughout the years I didn’t really understand what you meant when you said that. It still baffles me when I read a man as bright as Francis Collins. Francis Collins wrote The Language of God and he is the top scientist that is heading up the genome research in America for the government. He is much respected and The Language of God is a very good book. It’s very clear and has a C.S. Lewis approach to the reasonability of believing in God. Yet, in one sentence he passes over it when he says, “Of course this wouldn’t be possible if we didn’t believe that Jesus died for our sins.” His statement was right enough but to me I thought it was funny that he didn’t go into it any more. Maybe he chose not to because he was dealing with a different subject.
But it has surprised me how many people toss that off — Jesus died for your sins – of course he did, yet I’m sure there must be many people who think the same as me.
And so I got into all the theories. Well God paid Satan off by offering Jesus as a ransom for our
sins. So it was paying a ransom to Satan for our sins. And of course that was baffling because it made Satan equal with God. Yet that ransom theory was “the” theory in evangelical circles.
So all down through the years I’ve had difficulty with that. In what sense did Jesus die for my sins if he actually died back then? Did I ever read these verses? Yes, a thousand times I have read these verses. Did I understand them? Not for a moment. And I’m daring to say this morning that great parts of Christendom have no idea what those verses are about. They are absolutely bewildering. They are so “Einstein”.
It’s the whole truth of infinity. It’s the whole truth that God sees the whole of history as one second. And that the final reality is that this is all just one present moment that we are experiencing. I’ve tried to put that in my writing where God kindly plays back that one second in century spaces so that we can appreciate it. But the actual reality of life is that it’s one eternal, present moment.
And that’s what these verses are getting at. I don’t think many people understand the verses. You know what the gospel is but most preachers don’t touch this at all. I can understand because it’s difficult to get over to an ordinary person the idea of eternity as being one present moment. God sees everything in one second.
In other words what Einstein says is true. Time and space are relative. If you go up to the top of the Foshay Tower the clock is going faster than it is at the bottom. According to where you are in space, your time is goes faster or slower. There is a place therefore somewhere in the physical universe where time virtually stands still.
But that’s what these verses are talking about. I agree with you that it brings up a lot of other difficulties. Let’s look at it and I’ll share as clearly as I can understand. First of all it is talking about Jesus. What do people think of when they think of Jesus? He’s the man in the long garments in the Middle East, in the first century with a beard. And they think that’s Jesus. They think he was a local preacher in the first century and he lived for 3-4 years as far as ministry was concerned and he was crucified and then rose from the dead. But they think that that’s Jesus.
They don’t think of him as much more than that. If you said to a person that he is really at God’s right hand they would say, sure. But they don’t think of him as the image of the invisible God. They think he is like God but he’s the perfect image of God. He is the image of the invisible God – the God that made the whole universe. He’s exactly like Jesus. Jesus is exactly like him.
The next clause is just a phrase. He is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation. You feel like hitting yourself on the head. What a minute – he’s the first-born of all creation. He’s either born or he is created. Which is he? Of course it’s plainly saying that he’s the first-born. Of the whole creation of life he was the very first and he was born. He wasn’t created, he was born. So he was part of God. That’s why we call him the only begotten son. He was first-born. He came in 4 B.C. but that was when he appeared on earth as the first-born of all creation. Before there was anything, there was God and he had an only son, Jesus.
Jesus was born of his father. He was the first-born of everything. Now, I submit to you I don’t think people think that way for a moment. I don’t think they think that Jesus was actually born and had a life. They know that we talk about Jesus and his preexistence but it’s kind of a theological phrase. Yes, he was preexistent. Obviously if he had anything to do with God then he was
preexistent. But they don’t really grasp that he was born of his father before there was any creation.
Why am I bothering you with this? To tell you the truth it’s important that sometime we start sharing things as they really are. First of all it would deal with a lot of people who have had the same problems that I have had. Certainly it would be right along with the theoretical physicists and their belief that Einstein was right. Time and space are relative and time hardly exists at all.
So, it is important that sooner or later we start trying to deal with this in our websites and with the things that we are sharing. I feel a bit like the man who said, “If you preach the gospel about everything but the center of problems in the age in which you live you haven’t preached the gospel.” It’s really important that we preach the gospel in a way that deals with the present atmosphere in which we live.
Why people like Dawkins can make so much trouble for truth is because we are not sharing the gospel and explaining it. I agree with you that it takes a bit of work. So let’s go to it.
He is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation. For in him all things were created. You mean Jesus with the long garments and beard? In him all things — I know that you’ll say they do believe it but they don’t. Nobody really believes that. They read that and say that John already said that. “In Him all things were created. Without him not anything was made that was made. In Him was life and the life was the light of men.”
They remember those verses of John but also that things were created. They remember that and treat it as more of a general, philosophical statement. They don’t treat it as being the Jesus that we see in the gospel. In him all things were created. Hitler? Yes. You? Yes you and me. All things were created. We were created in him back then….. Our moms were a way of God getting us onto this physical planet but we ourselves were created in him.
For in him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible. Whether thrones or dominions or principalities or authorities— all things were created through him and for him. He is before all things and in him all things hold together.
And so everything was made inside of Jesus. He must have had a lot of sins to bear. If it’s up to us we would deal with a bunch of criminals by building steel fences and arming with guns so that we keep them well away from us. We would not bring them into our own home. We say, “Sure give them free will and let them do what they want. The only way they’ll ever be able to appreciate me or to know me or to be like me is if I give them free will. But I’m not going to live with that.”
But that is what God did. He made us all inside his only begotten son. I dare to put it this way and I know it’s extreme and provocative but God did what he did so that he wouldn’t lose us. I think that’s what was in his dear mind. I’m with everybody here who says you have to have faith to appreciate it but your faith won’t make it true unless it is true.
He made everything inside of his son. You will not be lost because you are not in his son. You’ll lose the reality of it maybe……I don’t know. You’ll lose the perception of it if you don’t have faith. Faith creates nothing. It just recognizes what is truth. But that’s where you and I are today.
Hitler – I just pick him because he is one of the worst. God put all things in his son and it’s not just his son that bears the sins. Our dear father bears them every day. Everything each of us does occurs inside of him. There isn’t a thing that we think or a feeling that we have that he and his dear son do not know.
Of course you can see it begins to make sense of all kinds of things. It begins to make sense of that cry of forsakenness on the cross. “My God, my God why has though forsaken me?” Well, obviously it was our father being torn apart by his love for us and yet it was taking place inside of his son.
Why I think it’s worth the trouble to work out how to express this because people don’t know our God. They don’t know their dear Father. They don’t know what he has done and what he does every day.
You see the way it goes on… “All things were created through him and for him. He is before all things and in him all things hold together.” As this little insect tries to get into this part of his body and poison the blood, he restrains it in order to keep the blood flowing to all the other parts. So he is continually working to hold his own body together in the midst of all the desperate elements that are trying to destroy it and to break it up.
He is before all things and in him all things hold together. We casually wonder why Bearden stepped back at that moment. Or why did the invasion take place just like it did on D-Day? Or why did such and such a things happen? Boy wasn’t that lucky. It wasn’t lucky at all. It was our dear father who has continually, again and again, repeatedly held things back.
Why was I lying on the gurney waiting, when a surgeon passes by and happens to notice my chart? There are thousands of things that could have occurred.
He is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning the first-born from the dead. Yes, the ones that died in him he raised them up. Calvary was just the outward historical expression of the agony that he had been bearing for centuries. So there is a whole reality that God has born everything that every human being has ever done. He has born that in his only son so that he could give us the chance to accept and to turn and to live.
Very few people are thinking about that. In fact what Christendom did to the gospel was to destroy the idea. Patripassianism is a well-known heresy meaning the “father suffering”. The issue was not just that the father was suffering but they believed the father could not suffer. They believe the Latin and Greek deity was the right one. God was a person who was impassable or impenetrable and could not be touched by the failures or the imperfections of humanity. And so we were brought up with the idea that God was way up there and he was untouchable. Mary was in some way touchable but God himself was not touched.
We were trying in some way to protect the absolute holiness, purity, and indestructability of God. So we emphasized that the deity is untouched by us. We are influenced by the statements in the New Testament that he was touched by our infirmities. Statements like Jesus wept when Lazarus had died showed that he had been touched in sympathy but they themselves were not touched.
We certainly don’t believe that all the worst in the world was right in the heart of his son which he felt every day. And so the world has little idea of God’s heart. It has very little idea of what
their dear creator is like. It doesn’t matter if it is the abortion issue or all the other stupid arguments that people have about god as if he is a “thing” to talk about. Instead he is the dear person who has held us in his heart from the very beginning.
Think about it because we need to begin to share some of this. I understand that it’s often possible to slip over into Satan’s extreme. You have to try to state things as honestly as you can but I would say it’s unthinkable that you won’t touch it. I agree with you that we should talk with each other and describe how we are going to say things. We should do what we can to help each other to put it rightly. But certainly it begs to be shared. Men and women do not know how dear our Father is.
Yet, it’s here and you can see it. You can’t make any sense of it except to ignore it. And that’s what most people do. You can just ignore that piece and other similar pieces in the Bible. But our Father is really something. He is so kind. Of course you’re right. It’s very near to universalism except that universalism says that everyone is going to be saved whatever their attitude. No, our Father is going to keep on keeping on. He will keep on keeping on until eventually we turn.
The Protestants have kept things as a very tight club. God has not born all our sins. He will bear your sins if you confess them at an altar, if you do this and do that…. No. Our dear father has been bearing them faithfully from the very beginning.
We have a friend that says, “We know where we’re going!” But God has us in his heart and he will keep on holding us there until we eventually believe and see and open our hearts to him. So in a very real way there will be no drunkards or robbers in Heaven. There won’t. God will bear with them until they change. Because the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases. His mercies are new every morning. His mercies never come to an end. So you can see that it’s something very precious that God has given us.
We have this silly computer system and we can ask for his grace to begin to share some of this to others. Let us pray.