The Credentials of Christ
© C. O. Bishop 7/12/2018 Cornell Estates 7/15/18
Introduction: Concerning Believers
Last time we saw a long list of things that are true of every believer, regardless of how we are feeling or how we are functioning at the moment: they are true, unconditionally. They are based entirely upon our position in Christ, not our condition as believers. Thus, they are positional truths, not conditional truths.
All of the following are true of all believers, because we are in Christ:
- He has made us fit (that is what “meet” means in old English) to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light (past tense.)
- He has delivered us from the power (Greek exousia) of darkness (past tense.)
- He has translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son (past tense.)
- We have redemption through His blood (present tense.)
- We have forgiveness of sins (present tense.)
Notice that none of the above list is just a “potentially” true statement. There are no qualifiers. There is nothing to detract from the full weight of the statement regarding our position in Christ!
Paul listed these truths (amongst others listed elsewhere) so that the believers can be secure in their faith, not wallowing in fear that the Savior will abandon them because of their own failures.
Then he lists some things that are true of Jesus; these are the Credentials of Christ. All are describing who and what He is:
15 Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature:
16 For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him:
17 And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.
18 And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence.
19 For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell;
20 And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven.
21 And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled
22 In the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight:
Regarding Jesus, Paul says that:
- He is the image of the invisible God. (In John 14:9, Jesus himself confirmed this, saying, “he that hath seen me hath seen the father!”, and in Hebrews 1:3, he is called out as the express image of the person of God.) I once thought he was simply saying that he was “just like” the Father. Then I read Isaiah 9:6, and I saw that the promised Son was to be called “the Everlasting Father!” At that point I gave up trying to bring the Trinity down to a level where I could understand it, and I simply accepted the fact that he who has seen the Son, has literally seen the Father!
- He is the firstborn (eldest—the heir) of every creature (that is His “position”…not suggesting that He is a created being.) In Hebrews 2:11-13, Jesus introduces himself as the eldest of many brethren, referring to all believers, but especially the church-age believers. His eternal position in the Godhead, as God the Son, is not changing, nor are we becoming “gods” of any sort, but he has elevated us to sit in the throne with Him. This is utterly astounding to me.
- He is the Creator! The Creator of all things, in Heaven and in Earth, visible and invisible, including the angelic beings of every kind…everything! (This is confirmed by God the Father, in Hebrews 1:10, saying, “And thou, Lord, in the beginning, hast laid the foundations of the Earth, and the Heavens are the works of thine hands.” John 1:3 says “All things were made by Him, and without him was not anything made that was made.)
- He is preeminent above all things (Confirmed in Hebrews 1:8-12, among others.) One place where we could see His preeminence, is in John 1:1, 14 “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us, (and we beheld His glory, the glory of the only begotten of the Father) full of Grace and Truth!”
- He is the sustainer of all things…meaning, literally, that through Him all things “hold together.” Has it ever occurred to you to wonder what would happen if he just “let go?” He says that he is the one holding the universe together. And in 2nd Peter 3:10, he says that, at the end, the heavens and the earth will “pass away with a fervent heat and a great noise.” (Yeah, that might be an understatement!)
- He is the Head of the Body which is the Church. This is a relational statement, from one perspective, but he also is using the human body as an object lesson. Over in 1st Corinthians 12, he uses it as an example, too, regarding the gifts; pointing out how each part of the body has a function, but that all are subject to the head. Many times in the New Testament, Paul points to Jesus as the Head, of whom we are the Body.
- He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in ALL things He might have preeminence. Jesus is the first real resurrection…not just reviving the old body still as a mortal body, but raising the body immortal, never to die again, never to suffer any sickness or distress. We can count His resurrection as the guarantee of our own, since God says that we have not only been resurrected with him, but have ascended and are already seated with Him in Heaven. (Ephesians 2:6)
- He is the physical embodiment of the entire Trinity. (see Colossians 2:9) There are numerous passages that demonstrate this fact. (For example, in John 14:16-23, he says that the entire Trinity will actually indwell the believer, in the person of the Holy Spirit, while in another passage we are told that it is Christ who lives in us. So the Trinity, while existing eternally as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, is not split into three separate parts. This verse alludes to the completeness of the Godhead in Christ, but in the next chapter (2:9) he spells it out clearly: “In Him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead, bodily.
Finally, Paul goes on to say that:
- Jesus made peace (already) between us (we who are sinners) and the Holy God (absolutely separate from sin and whom we now serve) through His blood at the Cross. This passage is parallel to the passage in Ephesians 2:14. “He is our Peace, who hath made both one and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us.” (Thus abolishing the partition between Jews and Gentiles, creating something new: the Church!)
- He did so to reconcile all things to Himself, both in Heaven and in Earth. It is interesting and important to note that God is not reconciled to sinners: sinners are reconciled to God. Our assignment, as His ambassadors, is to serve in such a way that He can reconcile the World to Himself through (2nd Corinthians 5:18-20) That is our job, as His ambassadors. Jesus said that we were to reflect His light and His love in such a way that those around us would see our good works and Glorify the Father…not us.
- We, the Church, though we were once alienated and enemies in our minds (see Ephesians 2:11-13), through our own wicked works (compare Ephesians 2:2, 3), have already been reconciled to Him through his flesh (2nd Corinthians 5:18), so that
- We are now presented holy, and unblameable and unreproveable in His sight. (See 2nd Corinthians 5:21; we have been made the righteousness of God in Him.)
What an amazing series of statements! Both the statements of our eternal position in and with Christ, and the supreme eternal status of the Son of God are mind-boggling!
I remember, as a new believer, thinking of Jesus in his human appearance, and having difficulty imagining him to be God in the flesh. (How could he be so exalted?)
But it would have been even more appropriate for me to have taken, as simple fact, the Deity of Christ, and the fact that he is the Creator, and the Eternal Master of the Universe (and beyond,) and then try to imagine how it was possible to condense him down to such a size and shape that we could relate to Him at all.
And yet, that is exactly what He did. He chose to become a human baby, grow up experiencing all the hardships of a life in poverty, in a nation enslaved to Rome, and to finally subject himself to being abused and tortured to death by his own creation. (How could He be so humble?) And why would he voluntarily undergo such monstrous and undeserved shame and agony? We are left to either accept the facts of the Gospel, and embrace the blood of the Cross as our only hope, or to reject it, for whatever excuse we may choose to entertain, and be left to our own devices…lost, without Christ.
23 If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister;
The “If” in this verse is not questioning whether the readers are really believers, nor whether they will, in fact, continue in the faith. The truths he has just proclaimed are absolutely, eternally true of every believer, whether they continue to walk with God or not. (Witness Abraham and Lot: both were saved by faith, and God later confirmed that Lot was still saved, but Abraham lived in such a way as to usually receive the benefit of walking with God, while Lot did not.)
The fact is that the privileges of a relationship with God are not particularly useful when we wander astray from Christ (and Abraham had some times like that, just as David and others did;) for all practical purposes, during that time, we are living as if there were no relationship.
Yes, I am a child of God, and a “sheep of his pasture,” as the Psalmist says, but the sheep are in grave danger when they are away from the Shepherd. He will not lose us, but we can be attacked by the enemy, and wounded, and drawn into deep trouble, as was Samson. Remember that Samson served his own desires much of the time, and as a result, he ended up literally blinded, and working for the enemy. We can end up spiritually blinded by the World and our own sin, and working for our eternal enemy, Satan, because of bitterness and hard-hearted unbelief.
Don’t allow yourself to be “moved away” from the centrality of Christ. Don’t lose sight of the Hope and Security in the simplicity of the Gospel.
Notice that Paul claimed to have been made a minister of the Gospel. Consider this: the word “minister” just means “servant”. Every one of us who has trusted in Christ for salvation, have also been made a minister of the Gospel: a servant of the Person of the Gospel, the Lord Jesus.
If you are a born-again believer, you have become a servant of the Gospel, as well, and you have a responsibility to live in that reality. Pray for opportunities to serve, especially for opportunities to share that good news with others.
Sometimes the opportunity comes unexpectedly. I had a co-worker explain why he was living with a woman and not getting married, by saying, “Because I don’t believe in Christianity, or organized religion of any sort, and I don’t believe in marriage.” But, over the next fifteen minutes or so, I was able to comfortably share with him the central theme of the Bible, who is the person of Christ, and to assure him that God is not particularly a fan of “organized religion” either. (Who were Jesus’s worst opponents on earth? The priests!) I don’t know how he will respond, ultimately, but he went away understanding the Gospel, and I was grateful for the opportunity to have served!
Lord Jesus, open our eyes to our role as ambassadors, permanently linked to you as servants of the Gospel. Fill us with your grace and help us to reach the lost around us with Your love.