Colossians - Christ our Head
J. B. Hewitt, Chesterfield
As we pass into the Colossian letter we have a totally different aspect of the Lord Jesus in relation to our Christian life. The burden and prayer of the apostle is that the saints may come to an experimental knowledge of Christ Jesus as "The Head".
In chapter 1 there is the Contemplation of His dignity; in chapter 2 Our Conformation to His walk; in chapter 3 Our Concentration on His glory; in chapter 4 Our Consecration to His service.
In Ephesians we view the Lord as Head of the Church seated at God's right hand. Here we consider Him as the Head of the Church in the sense that He is to have the pre-eminence in all things, governing the Body, as it functions upon earth, rendering to Him devout, obedient service. Note the references to the Lord as "Head" in the Epistle: "head of the body, the church", 1.18; "head of all principality and power", 2. 10; "not holding the Head", 2. 19.
Trace the references to the word body in the Epistle: 1. 18, 22, 24; 2. 9, 11, 17, 19; 3. 15. Think of some of these in the light of the teaching of 1 Corinthians 12 and see how closely we are linked together with our Lord. May it be ours to accept no other headship, no other lordship, than that of Christ Jesus our true and only Head, and render to Him humble, entire, instinctive obedience.
The Supremacy of the Head.
We read paragraph 1. 15-24 with bowed heads and unshod feet, for we are on holy ground. What a thrill of joy goes through our whole being as we gaze in wonder on the glories of our Lord. His supremacy is undisputed in every realm. He is superior to all— "image of the invisible"; superior in rank—"firstborn"; superior in creation—"by him were all things created"; superior in power—holds all things together; superior in position— "head"; superior in rank—"firstborn"; superior in place and possessions— pre-eminent, "all fulness".
As we view Him in relation to God we learn something of His personality, similarity, equality and deity, for He is the perfect representation and full manifestation of all that God is; He is the Revealer of God to man.
"He is", 1. 17, is a declaration of Christ's absolute pre-existence, like the "I am's" in John's Gospel. Christ exists as God exists, prior in time and in dignity to all things. Relative to creation, He is the Omnipotent One. Here He has priority of existence and supremacy of inherited right—the firstborn of all creation.
In relation to unseen spirits, v. 16b, He is the Eternal One. He is the originating cause and the uniting bond of every created thing in the universe. In verses 18-20 we pass from Christ the Lord of the universe to Christ the Head of the Church.
To the Church He is the Head. His sovereignty is marked, for He is the source of the Church's life and the secret of its vitality. Its cohesion and energy are derived from Him. He is its law and its life—"the beginning". Superiority is evident as the "firstborn". He stands supreme in right and place, and is the bearer of divine plenitude. The noblest efforts of men to make peace result in ever growing chaos, and the divine means is despised.
What dignity and glory is associated with our blessed Lord as in every sphere He takes the first place. He is the Owner and Heir of all things, the Head of the Church, the reconciling Peace-maker, the Messiah of Israel, to the nations the King of kings yet to reign, in heaven the Lamb and the Light thereof, and today Lord of our life.
The Sufficiency of our Head.
By preaching, warning and teaching, Paul seeks to present every man mature in Christ Jesus, 1. 27, 28. Provision is made for this in the resources of our Lord, for the mystery of God is Christ, 2. 2 r.v. In Him there is fulness of power and provision, 1.19. What encouragement for us in the wilderness! The totality of the divine powers and attributes have taken up lasting abode in Him, and this is the good pleasure of the Father, 1.19.
Our Lord as Head is the casket in which are contained all the mysteries and treasures of wisdom, knowledge and grace. Faith in Him introduces us to this treasure store with its riches unsearchable. Thus we are weaned away from the enticing words of human philosophy, and we display by an orderly and steadfast walk that He is our Lord. He is the secret of our security and growth; the Foundation Stone of our life and character; the whole glorious total of what God is resides in Him as in a settled and congenial home, 2, 9.
He is superior to all ranks and orders of the unseen, and we are in living union with Him. This assures us of nourishment and develops a holiness and power of which God is the source, the secret and the environment, 2. 19. Ritual is meaningless; philosophy is empty and the institution of a past dispensation was only a shadow of the coming things. The solid substance remains: "the body is of Christ", 2. 17.
By baptism we learn of our association with Him in burial and resurrection, 2. 12. His work on the cross has brought glorious freedom from all that would enslave and condemn us. We have nothing to do with the elements of the world, and as we daily consider our Lord we will experience victory during our earthly pilgrimage.
Since we are risen with Him, we are to seek the things which are above, where Christ sitteth at the right hand of God. This is not the day of His display. We await that glorious advent when we also shall be manifested with Him in glory, 3. 4.
Our Suitability to the Head.
There must be a work of grace in us in order to fit us for the divine presence, and to incorporate us into the Body of Christ. There is a threefold work emphasized in 1. 14-29, telling out the fulness of divine love and the freshness of apostolic ministry.
What the Father has Done, 1.12-14. There is specific gratitude to God for His inestimable love shown in our redemption. The Father hath qualified us, made us fit and given us a title for the sharing of the portion of the inheritance. Thus we are enriched by His gracious work in our souls. Paul exults in the God who has transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, 1.13. Released from bondage to a cruel master and now under the authority of God's dear Son, we pass from bondage to blessing, from darkness to light, from sighing to singing, because redemption issues in song, and forgiveness stirs gratitude.
What the Lord has Done, 1. 20-22. What a portrayal is given to us in these verses of the Son of His love, the mighty Redeemer, the royal Peacemaker. Just as in His Being and Person, so also in His work, is our Lord far above these intermediaries, v. 16, with which the saints were being led astray. He is the Conqueror of sin, the Reconciler of all things in two spheres, heaven and earth. Here we view the mystery of His fulness and the victory of His great work on the cross. The accomplishment is eternal in its issues, all embracing in its range, and personal in its application, v. 22.
What Apostolic Ministry has Done, 1. 23-29. Paul is God's representative, to present this reconciliation to the minds and hearts of men; 2 Corinthians 5. 18-20 gives us this great ministry. Colossians 1. 23-25 gives us Paul's twofold ministry; verses 26, 27 his message, and 1. 28 to 2. 7 his motive in service. His mandate is to deepen and confirm this loyalty to Christ as Lord, along the lines already laid down by Epaphras, namely, "live your life in union with Christ".
Paul's teaching ministry in the church as presented in his Epistles is full of the glory of our Risen Head and our relation to Him as such. Paul looked upon his God-given ministry as a conflict, with Christ toiling in him, using him as His instrument to further His cause.
Our Submission to the Head.
Do we give to the Lord His blood-bought right in our lives? Is He really Head in an absolute sense? He has purchased this place in our lives and in the assembly through our redemption with its glorious deliverance. Our obligations to the law have been met, the condemnation is cancelled for us, the Lord having triumphed over all our foes, 2. 14-15. His victory was absolute, with the forces of Satan routed, 2. 15; 1 Cor. 15. 54-57. He stands alone supreme.
Having died with Him, Col. 2. 20, and been raised with Him, we take our place amongst those truly alive. We have new aspirations and "seek those things that are above". We have a heavenly Object before our hearts sanctifying our desires in the wilderness. This enables us to discard the flesh, 3. 4-8, namely, our members which have to do with a sensuous life. Anything that is in revolt from subjection to God must be put in the place of death. Having shed the rags of pagan bondage, those saints are encouraged to put on the robes of splendour which belong to sons alone; we are "the elect of God", 3. 9-14.
Service to the Head. Our service to the Lord and our relationships to one another in Christ are presented in the sphere of marriage, 3. 18, 19; in the family circle, 3. 20, 21 ; in business life, 3. 22 to 4.1 ; and in social matters, 4. 2-6, all with corresponding responsibilities.
The Christian home is the first sphere of service and how very important it is that we express the features of our Lord in this sanctified relationship. Authority is to be exercised in love, and those under authority should yield true obedience as to the Lord. The business life calls for consistency and consideration since the day of reckoning is coming, for master and servant alike. The Lord has taken the servant's place and is also Master, so we can count on His righteous reward in the day of review.
Service without prayer may be mechanical, but it is never fruitful. May we pray with boldness and expectation in the interests of our Lord, preaching, walking wisely, redeeming the time and having our speech seasoned with salt. Like Paul may we practice what we preach, 4. 6.
All his fellow labourers had learned the secret of Paul's success in life— "that in all things he might have the preeminence". There is no other way today. Are we like Archippus, growing tired or slack in our service? He is directed to keep at it until he has brought his ministry to a successful conclusion.
The last words, "Grace be with you", are a brief yet warm salutation. May we never forget the sheer generosity of God, revealed in sending His Son to die and to be raised for our salvation. This benediction of grace will sustain in sorrow and anxiety, will strengthen for sacrifice or service rendered in His Name, and cannot fail to cheer all noble saints who crown Him Lord of all.