Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Colossians 1 - Counter Cultural Christianity in a World of Empire – (part 1)

Read Colossians 1

The books of Colossians and Philemon describe the nature of the Kingdom of God manifest in a contrary culture. While the new community of Christ-Followers in Collosae sought to live the reality of a Kingdom in which they were all made equals, the empire around them continued to be patriarchal, hierarchical, and built on slavery. While women and slaves were welcomed and enabled to participate as full members of the new Jesus community, outside of these Kingdom Outposts they continued to live without the status of citizenship or even personhood.

The power of the surrounding culture would have been palpable in these tiny new-formed families. Onesimus, a former slave himself, carried these letters from their beloved brother Paul, who wrote them while in chains, a political prisoner to the same empire that had once kept Onesimus bound.

The tension between the radical truths of the gospel and the practical realities of a world still oppressed by the unjust Spirit of Empire is one still felt in the Jesus community today. These books explore with real, measurable examples how a truly counter-cultural Jesus community may practice their resistance in the world of Rome, and our world today.

Colossians 1:13-14 (ESVUK)
He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

God has rescued us from our previous state of darkness and death, where the only authorities are oppressive to us, and rebels against his true and just kingdom, and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, Jesus. When Jesus is our king, we are redeemed, we are bought from our previous slave owners from the old kingdom and set free. All debts and sentences from our previous state are canceled.

Colossians 1:15-20 (ESVUK)
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For 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. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn 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.

Jesus is exactly like God on earth, reflecting him perfectly in every way. He fulfills God's perfect plan for his creation through his life. Jesus is able to do this because he was the one to create everything in the first place. Jesus created everything natural and supernatural, everything we can see, and everything we can't. All authority and power in the world came from him first. All things were created by him and for him. He existed before any of these other things did. They could not continue to exist except that he allows it.

Jesus' church works like a body, in unity and humble cooperation. He is the head of the body. By his resurrection, all of the rest of the body can now also experience new and eternal life through him. Since he came first, creating everything, and also rose again, redeeming his church, he is the highest authority over all things and in every way.

Jesus is fully and entirely God. Everything is his. Though creation was bent by rebellion, he entered it, lived perfectly within it, and died by it. In his willing death at the hands of rebels, he reconciled all rebels and violent enemies back to himself. All oppressors and oppressed have been set free, the price paid by his blood, and peace offered in his new life.

We have been called and redeemed by the highest authority in heaven and earth, the only authority with any power to do so. We have been called and redeemed to serve the only authority in heaven and earth that represents perfect justice, perfect peace, and perfect love.

All of my life of faith is in Jesus, of Jesus, and for Jesus. Anything that is not, is not of my life of faith.

This is far from a feel good sentiment. On the contrary, it is much harder to remain humble enough to recognize Jesus in all I do. The other way is empty legalism and self-righteousness. In recognizing the headship of Jesus, I am made free through his grace. In my own self-righteousness, I will always be bound; I will become a judge of others, and I will be ever aware of how I have not measured up. In recognizing Jesus in all I do, I am reconciled.

Jesus is King. Jesus is God. He made all things. All things exist through him, by him, and for him. It is only in him and for his glory that we live our lives of truth and love. All else is unjust. All else is illegitimate. All else has been overcome.

All glory to Jesus, the one true King.

v6 – Paul saw so much fruit in his own lifetime.
v13 – This book is all about Jesus.
v16 – He is high King before all and over all.
vv19-20 – Worth memorizing. Beautiful.
v23 – True believers will continue in their faith until the end.
v28 – It is Christ in us that we preach. He is the hope of glory.
v29 – It is Christ in us that empowers us to do his work.

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