Clarification of the Christ

Colossians 1:15-20

colossians 1 15 NIV

I love to look deeper into these verses in Colossians to fully understand what Paul was writing and why. Paul was poetic in his language and using wording that the Israelites used to describe the personification of wisdom. If you look through the Old Testament it is not likely that you will find the phrase “Holy Spirit”. You will however find the term “Spirit of God” which we discover is the same thing, God’s power within us. Likewise “word of God” is not seen in the Old Testament. Once there is a reference to the “word of the LORD” but the majority of the references toward the Word of God are seen describing this personification of wisdom. A different way of saying the same thing. Jesus is the living embodiment of the Word of God.

“He is the image of the invisible God” – Jesus is called the image of God in these verses and in 2 Corinthians 4:4. In Hebrews 1:3 he is described as “the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His being”. Two truths are revealed through the first half of this verse: God has remained unseen “no one has ever seen God” John 4:18 and second, Jesus reveals the nature and character of God for he is the image of God in which humanity was originally created in Genesis 1:26. It is the image that we as the faithful will be transformed into upon Jesus’ return.

“The firstborn over all creation” – Paul borrowed from his Jewish upbringing; firstborn was a Hebrew way of saying someone was especially honored. The nation of Israel was called firstborn (Exodus 4:22), as was David (Psalm 89:27). The word, in these instances, did not refer to their physical birth but to their place of honor before God. So here Paul is saying that Jesus has a place of honor over all creation.

“By him all things were created” seven times in these verses Paul mentions “all creation”, “all things”, and “everything” stressing that the Christ is supreme over all through the power God granted him. The tense at the end of this verse was not translated correctly in the NIV, it says “all things were” however the original language was not past-tense “were” rather present “are”.

“Before all things” like with firstborn this does not speak of time but importance. The Christ is before all things in importance for it is only through him that all things will be restored.

“All things hold together” he will usher in a new age in which sinful man will be redeemed and united with our holy God.

This passage speaks of the importance of the Christ, the place of honor over all things that he holds. Additionally it points to both Jesus’ place of honor over the church and those who will be resurrected to eternal life as well as a chronological order. Jesus was the beginning of the church as we know it. And he was the first, and only one to this point, which God raised to new life. We the faithful will follow suit once Jesus returns.

“All (his) fullness dwell” (his) was added to many translations which adds to the confusion and skepticism that people may have concerning these verses. Before moving forward think about what happens to those who come to God through Jesus. We are filled with God’s spirit, His power and character, at least to a point. But Jesus was filled with the fullness of God, all power and authority were given to him. He also displayed the nature, character, and attributes of God. Paul also had another reason for his choice of words, “fullness” was a popular term among the Gnostics who used it to refer to the combination of all supernatural influences. So Paul used their own word to elevate the Christ above all other religious ideas and systems.

“To reconcile to himself all things” Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection set the stage for not only the faithful to be made new but also all of creation. Unfortunately it does not mean that everyone will be saved from sin and ultimately death. We have free will and we make our own choices. But God does not give up on us. I believe that even those He has already seen reject Him are given daily opportunities for redemption.

It is important that we have a clear understanding of who Jesus is and the reason that we need a Christ, Messiah.

To be continued… (by someone else)

Jeff Ransom

 

(Editor’s Note – Thank you Jeff for finishing off the book of Proverbs with us this week, and giving us two free theme days to think on!  Tomorrow we will begin looking at the book of Revelation – one chapter a day through the month of November.  And in December we will finish off the New Testament with the book of Luke.  So many precious things in God’s Word!  Keep taking it in.)

Contentment and So Much More

Proverbs 30

Proverbs 30 8 9 NIV

The author of this proverb, Agur, begins by belittling his understanding. The irony is that his words hold great wisdom. He is not bragging about his knowledge and understanding. He is declaring the LORD our God as unfathomably great. He asks six questions, five of which identify the power of God. The sixth is prophetic of the yet unborn son of God, Jesus. Additionally, his understanding of the perfection of God’s word and the refuge it provides us is astounding. This is a man of great wisdom who humbly recognizes his insignificance before God which in itself makes him all the more wise.

He then focuses on two requests of God; honesty and contentment. He asks that falsehoods and lies be kept far from him. He provides a variety of ways in which lies and deception can bring curses down upon our heads. They destroy our relationships and cause us to spiral ever further from the God who loves us. Entwined in these illustrations are lessons of being satisfied with what we have. Appreciating that our needs are met and being content with that is not easy when there is often so much more that we want. God provides for our needs, the author acknowledged this. Everything beyond our needs comes from our desires which are, more often than not, borne of our sinful natures.

Agur then contrasts contentment with greed. First pointing to leeches which will gorge themselves beyond their needs. Then he personifies four things which are never satisfied. Two of these are actually life-giving; the womb and land. These are bookended by destructive examples; the grave and fire.

Verse seventeen seems oddly out of place and more than a little disturbing. It actually goes with the theme of honesty. The person suffering such a creepy fate has been dishonest in action and words with their family, and likely with everyone else in their life. Ultimately they will be alone and everything they had will be scattered among the people around them.

How do the eagle, snake, ship and couple fit together? Is this what Agur did not understand? I doubt it. Each of these examples can be seen as somewhat mysterious in what path they will take. The eagle is not limited in the great expanse of the sky just as there are few obstacles that the snake could not overcome. Without a rudder and someone to steer, the ship would be tossed at the whim of the sea just as the whims of men and women often make courtship, that is dating for all those not familiar with the term, tumultuous. So how does this fit in with what Agur is trying to convey? It goes back to his self-proclaimed ignorance of, well, everything but specifically of God’s ways and will.

And then we get back to a verse that makes us scratch our head. The mention of the adulteress is actually an example of someone who is neither content with their relationship or dealing honestly with others. Additionally, she is completely without remorse as she sees nothing wrong with her actions. My prayer is that none of us would get caught up in this specific type of behavior but even more so that we would be remorseful of any actions that we take or words that we use which hurt others.

Up until verse 21, Agur has been consistent with themes of God’s power and majesty, honesty, and contentment. Somewhat enigmatic but consistent nonetheless. Beginning with verse 21 though he expands his words of wisdom. First to include the injustices of the world or what he refers to as four things by which the earth cannot bear. Of the four examples the first and last are of one who is raised to a higher position, likely without the benefit of knowledge or understanding of their responsibilities. This type of unfair promotion can lead to disaster in most cases. It is not uncommon though to see someone with little knowledge of how to manage situations or how to lead people placed in a high position. Additionally it is a warning to us not to seek after something we are not prepared or equipped to handle. I guess that goes back to one of the main ideas as well, contentment.

Agur then reminds us that wisdom and understanding are not reserved for anyone. Young and old, big and small may seek after these great treasures. His specific examples are of course of the small creatures and the wisdom found in how they act. The contrast however is of larger creatures and their “stately bearing.” The imagery used is of pride and arrogance. Perhaps a reminder of humility in our own positions, whatever they may be. Given how this proverb concludes that would certainly seem to be the final lesson.

So what have we learned from Agur, other than that he has a pretty cool name? Humility is greatly valued, especially in light of our amazing God’s power. He was in awe of the gift of God’s word that has been given to all men. He esteemed honesty and contentment as the greatest gifts to request from God. And he reminds us that it is not our age or size that matters but our willingness to seek after wisdom that counts.

 

To be continued…

Jeff Ransom

Looking for the Living Christ

Philippians 3 10
John 20
Acts 1
Acts 9
Church Tradition
Revelation 1
All these places point to a living Christ, if we take the Bible even slightly seriously.
But it doesn’t mean much if you don’t believe.
Today, we are going to do something different. When you are done reading this blog, turn off your phone, close your Bibles and listen to the Spirit of God. Jesus said he would give us the Spirit, and the Spirit of Truth will guide us into all truth. So listen to the spirit.
That’s a hard ask, but what I mean is pray. That prayer may be sitting quietly at your powered-off laptop, or it may be on a run in your neighborhood, or on a nature hike in the nearby park, or it may be as you weed your garden, or as you pick up your room at college. Wherever you find yourself, in whatever it is that connects you to the Lord, ask the question I have asked you over and over again.
Do you believe that Jesus is alive?
That is the central question, not merely of the Christian faith, but of the human condition.
If Christ be not raised, life is, to quote MacBeth, “A tale/ Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,/ Signifying nothing.”
And one more Bible study, one more daily reading will not fix that bleak picture of existence if you do not believe Christ is really and truly alive.
Today, pray for conviction that Christ is raised. Pray for the knowledge that he lives. Pray that Christ would live within you and be made real to you. Whatever it takes.
I have had my doubts. There are times when I felt the crushing weight of loneliness, as if we are the only beings in the universe. But now, having experienced the saving grace of God in my life, I am convinced. I know that Christ lives, and I have written every day with the desire that you too are convinced.
May you, my brothers and sisters, feel the wind of the spirit as Christ breathes on you.
May you dive into the waters of life and swim to the shore where Christ prepares a meal and forgives your sins.
May you see him rise up from the mount of olives to prepare a place and may you trust he will descend to that mount again.
May you find yourself knocked from your horse with the voice of Christ resounding in your ears.
May you stand firm, no matter the course of life, no matter the beast or demon that stand in your way and persevere in his calling.
May you have all this and more because Christ, the savior and redeemer, is alive through the Power of God.
So, I ask one more time, do you believe Jesus is alive?
-Jake Ballard

The Spirit of God

JOHN 14

John 14 16

Today, we will continue what we started yesterday, what scholars call “The Upper Room Discourse.” Many people believe that the teaching of Jesus from John 13-17 were all taught to the disciples the night before he died. (They were in the upper room of a house, hence the name.) When Jesus speaks, he encourages the disciples to not be troubled. Though he will not be with them in person, he promises something else. What does he promise?
A counselor. (v16) The Spirit of Truth. (v. 17)
Jesus says that the Spirit will come, who will counsel the disciples and guide them into all truth.
What is the Holy Spirit?
This is a question that has perplexed theologians in Churches around the world for quite some time. Jesus says here that he will send the Spirit, and that he will come to be with his disciples. Is he the Spirit? No, because it’s clear in John that there is a difference between Jesus and the Spirit. And that same difference is found in verse 26 in regards to the Spirit and the Father. So the Spirit is something other than the Father and the Son. This have led some to conclude that the Spirit is a distinct person, being, or entity, but this is problematic, because in many ways the Spirit is described in non-personal terms. (Spirit comes from the Greek word πνευμα, meaning wind, breath or spirit.) It is poured out, given, and we are baptized into it. However, at the same time, the Book of Acts, and here in John, Jesus and his early followers listen to the Spirit deciding things and guiding and teaching.
So what is the Spirit? Another name for God or Jesus, or the power of God in action, or even a Person?
I don’t know.
For a long time, the words “I don’t know” made me terribly uncomfortable. They made me feel weak, like I wasn’t living up to my potential. (In truth, being a nerd AND a member of the CoG, I was getting social AND theological pressure to know everything.) However, I’ve come to know that I CAN’T know completely; the language about the Spirit is not about knowing and controlling but about submitting, relating and embracing. When the Spirit guides the disciples in the book of Acts, they submit, not ask what is guiding them. When Paul is encouraging his brothers and sisters to love in Corinth he writes “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.” When the Spirit comes, the Spirit is coming from God and in the name of Jesus. Do I trust Jesus enough to allow whatever the Spirit is to effect me in such a way that the Spirit changes me?
As you read this language in John about Spirit and what the Spirit will do, don’t get lost in the weeds asking questions about what the Spirit is. At some point, there can be a time and place for that discussion. But today, right here and now, ask God to send that Spirit in the name of Christ into your life. When Jesus breathed on his disciples (John 20:22) and gave them his Spirit, when fire fell in Acts 2 and they were refilled in Acts 4, those disciples were more concerned about how God was going to help them live tomorrow. If you need the power of God on a Monday morning (or evening or night) what you need is to say with me…
“Lord I don’t know everything, but I know that I need your Spirit.”
And that is a prayer God will answer in the name of Jesus.
-Jake Ballard

Rehashing the Road to Damascus

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Hello! My name is Joel Fletcher and I am going to be writing the daily devotions for this week. I live in Minnesota with my wonderful wife, delightful daughter, and as of next Friday, a pastoral puppy. I like adjectives, alliteration, and Aussiedors.

This week we’re going to wrap up the book of Acts.

Since chapter 9, Luke has been chronicling the campaigns of one Saul of Tarsus (now called Paul), a Jewish Pharisee turned Christian Missionary. Now the story of how this up-and-coming member of an exclusive Jewish religious group became the follower and apologist of a so-called radical who was crucified has already been told, but over the next few chapters, it will be reiterated.

At the end of chapter 21, Paul is arrested due to a ruckus caused by his presence in Jerusalem. From this moment until his presumed death in Rome, Paul will be in the custody of the Romans. This incarceration will enable Paul to spread the Gospel to people he would have not met otherwise.

The method Paul will use to do this is called witnessing. Witness or testimony is the attesting of facts or events. A witness is someone with personal knowledge of something. What happened to Paul on the road to Damascus is the central point he uses when sharing his testimony. As we will see throughout this week, Paul does not shy away from sharing what he knows to be the truth—even if it means facing death.

As you read through these final chapters of the Book of Acts this week, be mindful of how passionate Paul is in defense of his beliefs. Paul uses every opportunity he has to persuade people of the power of God, demonstrated in the resurrection of the Christ and his coming Kingdom. We may not have the same powerful testimony of being struck blind by the risen savior, but each one of us who believes has the opportunity and mandate to witness to any who will listen.

 

-Joel Fletcher

The Real Gift that Keeps Giving

Acts 2

Acts 2 38 39

On the Jewish feast day of Pentecost, the disciples get the gift they were waiting for. The power of God – at work in their lives. The disciples go out with a new bold style that has forever changed our world. They have become the talk of Jerusalem and because of so many visitors hearing the message in their own language, the message is becoming available to the rest of the neighboring countries.

The former coward disciple Peter, who denied Christ three times, has a new found confidence and fearlessness as he takes on the authorities he once feared. He stood and proclaimed Jesus as the promised messiah. The fulfillment of all the Jewish peoples’ hopes and dreams. That day three thousand people respond to the message and the Christian church begins.

The church is a movement – notice how I said “is” not was. The church is not supposed to be a stale environment only catered to a small group in a small location. Instead a movement that moves – active, involved and growing. The new church did just that – it was moving fast. To the annoyance of the Jewish leaders, the message spreads through out Judea and Samaria.

It is our mission to continue that movement – keep growing the church and continue to share the message of Christ. Like the early believers we need to devote ourselves to the teachings (truth), fellowship (getting together with other believers) and prayer (communicating with God).

-John Wincapaw