The Tulip Driven Life Podcast

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Christ’s Superiority in this World

By: Nathan Fox

Last week I spoke about the message of redemption from our sins through the blood of Jesus. In last week’s blog, I spoke as openly as I could about the Gospel and the way that it changes lives. I spoke of Jesus’ persecution and pain for the forgiveness of our sins. This week, the topic remains Jesus, but it turns to His superiority. It is true that He shed his blood, but what makes His blood so worthy to be shed on our behalf? What makes Him so different that the entire crux of the Christian faith rests squarely on His shoulders? What makes Jesus the one that delivered us? Paul turns to answering these questions in Colossians 1:15-20, and it is there that we will focus our attention

Christ is God
Colossians 1:15 says this: “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.” Look at the first part of that verse. In the first clause of this verse, Paul makes the argument that God could be seen in the fleshly body of Jesus. God Himself became incarnate, and dwelled among us as a human being through the man of Jesus Christ. Jesus is God, and it is there that He gains His superiority to die for us.  Now, we must also be careful here as we dissect this verse. It is easy to conclude by looking at the end of this verse that Christ is the first creation. This is not only wrong, but extremely heretical and dangerous. Christ was not created, but has always been (after all, He is God).  We can easily refute that train of thinking. First of all, the Bible outside of this verse doesn’t lead us to any assumption that Jesus was created. And if the whole of the Bible claims Jesus to be God, then one verse shouldn’t easily persuade that He is not. Secondly, Paul’s mentioning of Him as the “firstborn over creation” is not a question of His origin, but rather an assertion of His position. He is the King of all creation, not because He was created first, but because He created everything. If Jesus is God, and Jesus created everything, then we can see that the shedding of His blood is sufficient for the covering of our sins.

Christ Controls Everything
Piggybacking off of his earlier assertion that Jesus was the creator of the world, Paul leaves no doubt in verses 16-17 when he says this: “For by Him (Jesus) all things were created that are in Heaven and that are on earth, visible, and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist.” Paul makes it very clear in this verse that Christ is not only the creator of all natural things, but He dictates the course of all of human history. Also take note of how many times Paul says the word “all” in these two verses (four times!). Paul makes his point very clear: Jesus is Lord and master over every single thing in this world. According to my professor here at Liberty the word all can be defined as this: “all means all and that’s all all means.” It sounds like a ridiculous definition, but the point definitely gets across. Christ controls all things, and there is not a single thing that has happened in this world that He did not allow to happen. Christ is in complete control, and in there we have another glimpse of how worthy He is to have taken our sins upon His shoulders.

Christ is the Head of the Church
Paul persists on claiming Christ’s superiority as He turns to verse 18 of Colossians 1. Take a look at it as it says this: “And He (Christ) is the head of the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have preeminence.” Here I face a very sobering (yet exciting) truth as I pursue ministry in the local church: the church belongs to Jesus. He is the very foundation of the church, the very core of what we believe. He controls the church and owns the church, because He died for the church. He died, but He resurrected (“firstborn from the dead”), and in that He has authority over all things that the church does. May we be motivated by our head, our leader, our Savior! May we remember that He is the king of all things, and we are just mere tools in His grand plan. Because God incarnate, controller of the universe, came to die and to rise again, we are able to say that His blood was the only blood that could have ever been shed on our behalf.

Coming Full Circle
Read Colossians 1:19-20 and you will see that the qualities of Christ that I listed above have enormous ramifications on why it was only He that could shed His blood to redeem us. It says this in those two verses: “For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross.” Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes! Because we have seen that Jesus is God, because we have seen that He is creator of all things and holds all things together, because we have seen that He is the one who controls all the course of human history, and because we have seen that He is the head of the church due to His power over death, now we can see that only His blood was sufficient to make peace on our behalf. He alone is worthy of the honor and glory for that death and that resurrection. Only God Himself could have come to this earth and pulled that off. What a redeemer we have! He is so powerful, so wonderful, and yet, so intimate with His children. That’s why I love my Jesus. 

Monday, January 28, 2013

Called To Be Saints (Part 6): A Heavenly Calling

By: Thomas Clayton Booher

Hebrews 3:1 Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our confession, Christ Jesus.

The author of the letter to the Hebrews is unknown. The writer does not identify himself, and the clues are sufficiently weak as to make it impossible to offer a suggestion with any certainty. The Scofield Reference Bible ascribes the letter to Paul. Most all other such Bibles refrain. It is very unlikely that Paul was the author. The writer places himself among those who had not received any direct revelation from Christ, but heard only those who had (Heb 2:3). Paul insists that he had received his Gospel from Christ himself (Gal 1:11, 12; Cf Eph 1:3).

The occasion of the letter is an apparent danger of some Jewish converts to turn back to the Old Testament system of worship in some fashion. The temptation to succumb is easier because the temple and priestly offices were still in tact, as the letter seems to indicate (Heb 5:1; 8:13; 10:1-3, 11). If the temple had been destroyed, as it was in 70 AD, its significance would have disappeared.

Because of this danger, the author’s purpose is to persuade his readers not to leave their confidence in Christ and turn back. Hence, his theme is the superiority of Christ over anything that had previously come in redemptive history: OT prophets (1:1,2), angels (1:4ff), Moses (3:2-6), the High Priest (4:14-5:10; 6:20; 7:26ff; 8:1, 2; et. al.), Abraham (7:1-7), the Levitical priesthood (7:11-25; 8:3-6); the Old Covenant sacrifice (8:7-13; 10:1-18).

Hebrews 6:4-6 underscores the danger. Although the interpretation of this text is problematic, however it is interpreted, we may discern a stern warning. For those who have been so enlightened, as his Jewish audience has, but after careful consideration turn back to the old ways, there is no more sacrifice. The implication is that such persons will fall away and cannot be restored for they will not come to repentance. Their hardhearted disdain of the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit and the word of God is akin to the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit (Matt 12:31) wherein there is no forgiveness.

But the writer is persuaded of better things of his readers, that they are not going to apostatize but rather continue on in the way of salvation (Heb 6:9). It is with this confidence that the author addresses his readers as holy brothers and partakers of the heavenly calling.

Our calling is a heavenly calling because it is a calling whose origin is not of this world. From Paul we learn that all of humanity by nature comes under the dominion of the prince and power of the air (Eph 2:2). John speaks of the whole world lying in the power of the wicked one (1 John 4:19). There is nothing in this world that can produce a calling like the heavenly calling. It is a calling that comes through the work of his Spirit within us (John 3: 3, 5).

It is a heavenly calling because those called have been blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, that is, in Christ who is now in heaven at the right hand of God (Eph 1:3) interceding for us (Rom 8:34). Our union with Christ in his death and resurrection (Rom 6:5) places us in the heavenlies with him even now (Eph 2:5, 6) though to the human eye and in our mundane experience it does not appear to be so and will not until we see Jesus when he comes again (1 John 3:1, 2; Col 3:3, 4).

It is a heavenly calling because it is a rescuing from this present evil world (Gal 1:4) into a new creation (2 Cor 5:17; Gal 6:15) which has not yet been fully realized, but will be when Christ returns to recreate the world (2 Pet 3:10) and establish the heavenly tabernacle of God among men in the new heavens and earth (Rev 21:1-3) where God and man will co-dwell once again as they had done at the beginning (Gen 3:8, 9).

It is a heavenly calling because it persuades us to set our affection on the holy things above, not on the wicked things of this world (Col 3:1-5). It imparts to us wisdom from above that is pure, peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy (James 3:17).

It is a heavenly calling because the Savior who calls us as sheep by name (John 10:3) came down out of heaven (John 3:13; 6:38) as the Bread of Heaven (John 6:31-33, 50, 51) who gives us heavenly life.

Because our calling is heavenly we are assured that nothing here below can alter its sure outcome as Paul wrote, I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:38, 39).

Our heavenly calling assures us that God can do a great work in us with the same power that he used to raise Christ from the dead and seat him (and us) in the heavenly places (Eph 1:19, 20) where we are untouched by the principalities, mights, powers, and dominions of spiritual forces (Eph 1:21).

With such a heavenly calling, who can be discouraged? There is hope now and for the end. It is when we forget our heavenly calling that the difficulties and trials of this world become too great for us. We are drained of assurance and tend to despair as those who have no hope.

Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.... without wavering, for He who promised is faithful (Heb 4:14; 10:23).