Scripture Entry – “The Preeminent Christ and His Cross”

As I meditated on Colossians 1:15-22 I caught something of the immensity of the Divine irony in this text and I am thankful to God for it.  The slant on this time of meditation was the word “peace” (Colossians 1:20).  This can be both a beautiful word and a word of warning in the Bible.  It is peace with God that the Scriptures speak of so often.  It is beautiful when one has it, that is, peace with God.  It is, however, a word of warning to those who do not know it.  Peace may be had with God, but if one is not at peace with God, then there is nothing left but enmity and a sure judgment of holy wrath.  

What captured my soul was how this peace was attained.  In this I found something of majestic irony.  Notice the Person who accomplishes peace with God; it is none other than the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God.  But this text seeks to portray Him in an exquisite manner in part to remind us of the cost of this peace.  Paul writes several things of Jesus intended to illicit our praise – “He is the image of the invisible God.”  Moreover, He is “the firstborn of all creation,” yes, and thus what of creation but that “by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities – all things were created through him and for him.”  Yes, indeed, for Him!  As if this isn’t enough majesty Paul continues, “[He] is before all things,” still more, “in him all things hold together.”  What of the church?  “[He] is the head of the body, the church.”  What of eternity? “He is the beginning.”  What of that which is to come? “[He is] the firstborn from the dead,” and to what effect but “that in everything he might be preeminent.”  These treasures being so, what more can we say?  Paul answers with a purpose, “For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell.”  The fullness of the eternal God was happy, elated, delighted, pleased to dwell in Jesus.  This fullness dwelt with a goal in mind, namely, that “[all the fullness of God was pleased] through him to reconcile to himself all things.”  To what expanse?  “Whether on earth or in heaven.”  To which we must bow in adoration.  

Christ Jesus, the King of God (v. 13-14), the invisible God fleshed out (v. 15), the Author of creation through whom all things glorious, all things which in this life captivate our senses, all things in this life which cause us to tremble, and bow, all things He made, and He made them for Himself, such that He is both the beginning and the end goal, Lord and Master, the rightful King of all creation (vv. 15-16).  He sustains all things because He is before all things (v. 17).  He is the glorious King of the church, and He rules its members with justice, grace, and love (v. 18).  He is the Victor over time, and death, He is the undefeated Glory (v. 18).  God the Father was pleased to dwell in Him – oh, what manner of man, then, was He?  He is the agent of reconciliation; Jesus brings sinner to God, and God to sinner when no one else can (v. 19-20).  Marvel, oh church, at Jesus Christ.  Muster up all of the collective praise that we possibly can for a million years and it would fall infinitely short of that which is due Him, of which He is most worthy of.

Oh church, do not miss what follows!  Capture the Divine irony!  How did this great Savior reclaim His own universe?  How did the great Savior make peace with God?  Oh, how the text turns – He is the King, the Lord God, the Author of all creation, the Head of every power, the Source and Binding of all things, the Head of the church, the Beginning, the Firstborn from the dead, the One in whom the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and for what?  Why?  How did He reconcile all things to Himself?  By “making peace by the blood of his cross.”  

Not by human or military force; not by religious violence (on his part); not by the eloquence of his sermons; not by his athleticism, fame, or fortune; not by the state, but by. . . the blood of his cross.  Pause here and ponder it, I pray.  This mighty God, this sinless Savior, the One whom we should know by creation because by Him were we created and yet we did not know Him, but rejected Him, and nailed Him to a tree.  This Savior, this eternal Warrior, this undefeated Champion of Glory made peace “by the blood of his cross.”  It was his cross!  

God incarnate, without sin, spotless, without blemish, perfectly obedient to the Father, perfect keeper of the law of God laid down His life for His sheep, that is, we who are properly called sinners against God, stained, rebellious, evil at heart, holding the nails and the hammer, hocking our saliva in the face of Him who gave it to us, our rough words upon Him who formed us in the womb of our mother.  Yes, Christ bled and died on his cross for sinners, that the ungodly might be declared righteous by God and reconciled to Him and brought into this peace that I now write of.  And it is brilliantly lavished upon us as the children of God through faith in this Jesus.

Sinners need peace with God and they do not have it.  Christ has accomplished it for all who would repent and believe in Him for the forgiveness of sins and the basis of eternal life with God.  You see, our text continues to thwart our efforts at self-righteous piety which is really more unrighteousness and rebellion against the merit of Jesus Christ.  In v. 21 Paul writes that we are or were once “alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds,” and therefore that, “he has now reconciled [this ungodly people] in his body of flesh by his death.”  Peace could not be attained any other way.  God is holy; we are “doing evil deeds.”  Our deeds cannot give us peace with God – perhaps with fallen man, but not with the Righteous God.  Only Him who was always at perfect peace with God because of His perfect sinlessness, can make peace with God for sinners albeit by demonstration of those very sinners (we included) violence.

In this text, Paul means to say, “Look – look at Him, this Savior…who died on his cross, the death of sinners for sinners!”  “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29)  We desperately needed peace with God, and while it is impossible to find it within ourselves, Christ died for the unrighteous, so that through faith in this King, God would impute to us His perfect sinlessness, and on that basis alone we are at peace with God.  “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,” Romans 5:1.  

How shall this apply?  

First, by the mention of peace it is implied that peace is necessary with God, and thus that we in our natural state do not have it.  Rather, the converse is true – God’s wrath abides on us still if we have not believed in His only Begotten Son (John 3:16, 36).  We are a people in need of peace with God, but this peace cannot be accomplished by natural or inherent means.  God demands perfect righteousness with Him, the perfect Judge of righteousness.  If we are not in Christ, then we do not have peace with God.  As such the most pertinent question for you, if you be an unbeliever, is how can I be saved from the wrath of God?  And if you be a child of God who has tasted of this peace, then the most pertinent endeavor that we have is to make this peace known.  

Therefore, behold the means of peace once more – the Jesus of Colossians 1:14-19 is the one who made peace by the blood of His cross in v. 20.  This is the greatest of means.  Nothing and no one else could have accomplished this peace with God.  It took the Jesus of Colossians 1:14-19 to accomplish what God demanded for perfect peace.  How short we fall?  Infinitely, I do not hesitate to write!  Ah, but Christ!  This King of kings, this gentle Savior, this mighty Warrior, this Son of God has finished the work!  He cried out from his cross, “It is finished!” (John 19:30).  And, indeed, it is!  Jesus is the captain of peace eternal with God.  

Then, lastly, behold the duty of the church, those who know this peace with God in Christ.  What is this duty but to make the means of peace with God known to our home towns and to the nations.  We must preach Christ and Him crucified and live holistic lives before God and men.  We must be peacemaker’s (Matthew 5:9a), for we are the sons of God in Christ (5:9b).  Shall we lie with ease?  Shall we sit back in laziness?  Shall we live it up?  I write to my shame!  This was not the way of the majestic Savior.  This Jesus of Colossians 1:14-19, to whom all creation should have immediately recognized as Lord and worshipped, did not embrace the life of ease – no, He made peace by the blood of His cross.  And so it must be for His disciples!  I do not mean that we can attain what Christ attained in the way that He attained it, but rather that we deny ourselves in order to hold up this Christ to a world in need of Him, pleading earnestly with them to repent and to trust and embrace the truth as it is in this Jesus.  The blood of the martyrs one thousand years ago and that of the persecuted today suggest that this is the way of making peace with God in Christ known to the world.  In America, it may not be a sword, or a gun, or torture chambers, but rather, a word, a scoff, a heavy sigh, a pressurized job atmosphere, a satanic attack – nevertheless, behold Him who died on His cross to make peace for you with God.  Only by our own crosses will the Gospel of peace press forward to those, who like we before them, are currently at war with Christ.  In other words, if by sacrificial love demonstrated on a torturous cross, this awesome Savior attained peace with God, so by our sacrificial love the peace attained with God by Jesus Christ will be made known.  It is good for us to think upon this irony – the cross is the glory of Him in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge, the glory of Him whose beauty words cannot hardly communicate.  For by His cross, Jesus made peace with God for we who were and are at war with Him.  Let us then put on the shoes of readiness – given to us by the gospel of peace (Ephesians 6:15), that many may be salvaged and made willfully captive to the glory of Jesus Christ, and in Him have wrath averted and peace eternally lavished.  Oh, capture the wonder of this Jesus, Him whose name is “Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6).

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