I remember reading a story about a pastor who preached on Isaiah 6 and Isaiah’s vision of God in His throne—
1 In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple. 2 Above it stood the seraphims: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly. 3 And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts: The whole earth is full of his glory. (Isaiah 6:1–3)
The pastor decided that he would simply preach on the holiness and greatness of God. He would not give one word of application, just focus on displaying a great God as clearly as he could. He preached and the people accepted it as a fine sermon, but nothing unusual.
Many weeks later, a father came to him and told him that their child had been sexually abused by a close relative.
The father said the past few months had been the hardest of his life. He said, “Do you know what has gotten me through? That vision of God’s greatness that you gave me back in January.”
Well, I am trying not to expect the same response from anyone about this message! At the same time, I feel driven to show you a picture of Jesus and His greatness—to help us in difficult times. To do that, we are going to look at Colossians 1:14-17.
14 In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins: 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. (Colossians 1:14–17)
Jesus is great! Amen!
Why is Jesus great? Let me draw out five reasons from this text:
Jesus is great…
1) BECAUSE HE PROVIDES REDEMPTION AND FORGIVENESS
Colossians 1:14 In whom [the antecedent is “Son” in verse 13] we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins:
In Christ we have “redemption” (apolytrōsis). Let’s stop there and think about that word. Redemption means to be bought back, like redeeming a family heirloom that you sold to a pawn shop for some quick cash.
In Bible times, the word was used to speak of buying someone out of slavery. The question that naturally comes up is this: what do we need bought back from? What are we enslaved to?
We find the answer at the end of verse 14—“sins.” Also in verse 13, we see that the Father has “delivered us from the power of darkness,” which is, again, sin.
Turn to Romans 6 to see that sin enslaves us. Paul writes,
6 Knowing this, that our old man [our sinful nature] is crucified with him [Christ], that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. 7 For he that is dead is freed from sin. (Romans 6:6–7)
Paul is using a different metaphor to describe our being set free from sin—that of dying with Christ—but the image of slavery is just the same. We are enslaved to sin.
A slave could permanently escape his master in two ways: by dying or by being redeemed. In Colossians 1:14, the image being used is redemption. We need bought out of slavery to sin.
Great! How much does it cost to redeem us from sin? A thousand dollars? A million? No, “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). Oh dear, that’s pretty high.
That’s why Paul says here that “we have redemption through his [Christ’s] blood.” Christ died in our place for our sins!
That’s why in Romans 6:6, Paul says that we’ve been “crucified with” Christ. His death becomes our death. And that’s how we can have redemption—His death becomes the payment to buy us out of slavery to sin.
The result of our redemption is “the forgiveness [aphesis] of sins.” To forgive means to pardon or to release someone from a penalty.
The Greek word here literally means, “to send from.” That God forgives us means that He sends away our sins. We find that theme elsewhere in the Bible:
12 As far as the east is from the west, So far hath he removed our transgressions from us. (Psalm 103:12)
…thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea. (Micah 7:19)
In Leviticus 16, one of the rituals that God prescribed for the Day of Atonement was that a goat would be sent away into the wilderness.
The priest would place his hands on the goat’s head and confess the sins of the nation. Then the goat would be sent far away to symbolize their sins being sent far away. Do you know what that goat was called? The scapegoat!
Jesus became our scapegoat when He died for our sins on the cross and rose again the third day. When we place our trust in Him, our sins are forgiven—they are sent away like that poor goat in the wilderness!
Jesus is great because He provides redemption and forgiveness and Jesus is great…
2) BECAUSE HE IS THE LORD GOD REVEALED
Colossians 1:15 Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature:
Jesus made the invisible God to be visible to humanity. The apostle John writes that…
18 No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him. (John 1:18; cf. Hebrews 1:3)
This is of huge importance because it means that Jesus did not come and simply teach about God. He came as a visible representation of God.
There are plenty of people in the world today who will agree that Jesus taught about God, but they deny that He is God.
For example, the noted atheist, Anthony Flew, said “Read the Sermon on the Mount and you’ll know that Jesus was a first-rate ethicist. [That is, Jesus taught a first-rate code of ethics].” Mr. Flew thought that Jesus was a good teacher.
It’s silly to talk about Jesus being a good teacher about God and at the same time not accepting that He also is God. Jesus said things that God would say, not just what a teacher about God would say.
For instance, what would you think if I, Levi Durfey, a teacher of God, said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life…no one comes to the Father but by me” (cf. John 14:6)?
Or what would you think if I said, “All power in Heaven and Earth has been given to me” (cf. Matthew 28:19)?
Or, what I said, “I will be delivered into the hands of men, they will kill me, and after that, I will rise the third day” (cf. Mark 9:31)?
Would you consider me to be a good teacher about God? Or would you be recommending that Tami get me into a therapist, ASAP?
It’s just silly to accept Jesus as a teacher about God without accepting Him as God! Jesus is the visible image of the invisible God!
Jesus in Colossians 1:15 is also called the “firstborn of every creature,” which has caused some people to think that Jesus Himself is a created being—that He is the One who was born first in all creation.
They think that Jesus is the first created thing. But that ignores the next verse which says, “by him were all things created.” If Jesus was created, then how could He create all things? No, here “firstborn” (prōtotokos) cannot mean the one who is born first.
But that’s not the only way to understand “firstborn.” Firstborn can also refer a person’s status, position, or rank. In Bible times, the right of the firstborn could be passed to a younger son, as what happened with Esau and Jacob.
What Paul is saying is not that Jesus was the first thing created, but that He is first over all creation! Jesus is great because He is the Lord God revealed! Jesus is also great…
3) BECAUSE HE IS THE CREATOR
Colossians 1:16 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:
Like I mentioned a moment ago, “all things” were created by Christ. John, in a great passage, says,
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 The same was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. (John 1:1–3)
Jesus was in no way created by God and then created everything else…without Him was not anything made that was made!
Let’s ponder what Jesus made for a moment. Have you ever, like David in Psalm 8, considered the vastness of creation? He said:
3 When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, The moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; 4 What is man, that thou art mindful of him? And the son of man, that thou visitest him? (Psalm 8:3–4)
Now, David was a shepherd who sat out under the stars and pondered them with his eyes—but these days we have far greater means to look at creation. Telescopes—from your hunting binoculars to the Hubble Space Telescope—have given us the capacity to see the vastness of creation.
There are around 5,000 stars that the human eye can see without a telescope. That’s how many David would have seen when he composed Psalm 8.
But there are many, many, many more stars than that. In our galaxy alone, there are probably 250 billion stars. The number keeps changing as we discover more!
And then we can consider the size of those stars, take for instance, our sun. How many earths can fit inside our sun? A thousand? Ten thousand? A hundred thousand?
Try this: it would take 1.3 million Earths to fill the sun! The sun accounts for 99.86% of the mass of the entire solar system!
But then compare our sun to the star Betelgeuse, which is a part of my favorite constellation, Orion. Betelgeuse is so big that 1.6 billion of our suns (NOT Earths) could fit inside it.
When you look up at the night sky and see that hazy band of light we call the Milky Way, you are looking at the center of our galaxy. Although you cannot individually distinguish them, you are looking at billions and billions of these massive stars!
And folks, the Milky Way is a small galaxy in a universe full of galaxies. The observable universe is estimated to have between 200 billion and 2 trillion galaxies. The universe is so vast that we can’t even get a handle on how big it is!
And then we read Colossians 1:16 again:
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: (Colossians 1:16)
A college student once asked his pastor if there was life on other planets. The pastor said that he didn’t think so.
The student then asked, “But then why would the Creator go through all the trouble of making billions and billions of galaxies, stars, and planets?” The pastor didn’t miss a beat, and replied, “What trouble?”
Jesus is our great Creator! Not only is Jesus great because He created all things, but Jesus is also great…
4) BECAUSE HE IS THE PURPOSE OF CREATION
Colossians 1:16b all things were created by him, and for him:
Everything that was made was made for Jesus. Let that sink in. Everything—you, me, the animals, the Grand Canyon, the oceans, the mountains, the rivers and seas—all of it—was made by Jesus and for Jesus. He is the purpose of creation.
Let’s think about what that means. I am not a woodworker, but I have made things out of wood. I’ve built tables and bookcases and beds. Nothing I make is worth selling to anyone—I am not a woodworker.
But everything I make serves a purpose—it serves me. The bed I made serves me. I am its purpose for existing. The bookcase and tables I have made serve me. I am the purpose for their existence.
When I am gone, they aren’t good enough for anyone to keep, so their purpose will be finished. Someone will say, “We should throw that old piece of junk away or burn it for firewood.”
Do you see what I am saying? I give the stuff that I have made purpose. I am the reason it continues to exist.
Well, Jesus made everything good—very good, in fact. So that’s not a problem there. But still the reason that everything and everyone exists is because of and for Jesus.
People sometimes ask, “What’s this world coming to?” What’s the answer? It’s coming to Jesus, eventually. A great deal of Jesus’s creation is running around ignoring the purpose for which they were made—to serve and worship Jesus.
But Jesus is going to bring Creation back to Himself. Paul said in Philippians 2—
10 That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; 11 And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:10–11)
Jesus is great because He is the purpose of creation and Jesus is great…
5) BECAUSE HE HOLDS ALL THINGS TOGETHER
Colossians 1:17 And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.
The phrase, “by him all things consist [synistēmi],” means that He holds all things together. Not only did Jesus create the universe around 6,000 years ago, He continues to hold things together to this day!
Jesus provides the force and the energy to hold all things together. Adrian Rogers said that “Jesus is the glue of the galaxies”!
Rogers went on to tell a story about a nuclear physicist and his chauffeur. Together they travelled around the country where the physicist gave lectures on nuclear physics. The chauffeur heard him lecture so often that he had the lectures memorized.
One day, on a lark, the physicist and the chauffeur decided to switch places. The chauffeur would give the lecture. It would be a great joke between themselves.
Everything went fine, but the chauffeur, pretending to be the physicist and being a bit nervous, ran through the lecture so quickly that there was time for questions afterwards. One student stood and asked him,
“In the center of the atom there are protons, and both of them have a positive charge. And we know that positive charges repel one another, but the [center] of the atom…holds together. What keeps it from flying apart, sir?”
Of course, the chauffeur had no idea, but he was quick on his feet. First, he berated the student for asking such a foolish and simplistic question. “Anybody could answer that question!”
Then he said, “Look, even my chauffeur could answer that question.” With that, he turned to the nuclear physicist pretending to be a chauffeur and called him to the stage! (Adrian Rogers, “Jesus, the One and Only”)
What does hold the positively-charged protons of the atom together? They should repel one another! Physicists will say that a force called, get this, “the strong force,” holds the protons together.
But the Bible tells us that Jesus holds the atoms of the universe together. He holds all things together. By Him all things consist.
But one day, Jesus will let go of those atoms. He will let go and we will witness what will happen when atoms come apart—
…the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. (2 Peter 3:10)
Isn’t that incredible? Jesus is holding this entire universe together!
Jesus is great…
5) Because He Holds All Things Together;
4) Because He Is The Purpose Of Creation;
3) Because He Is The Creator;
2) Because He Is The Lord God Revealed;
1) Because He Provides Redemption And Forgiveness.
What do you think is the greatest of these things? I don’t know that we can narrow it down, but I do have to say that four of these great things largely require no input from you. They just are.
But one requires you to respond. Jesus is great because He provides redemption and forgiveness. But this is not automatic. Your sin will either pardoned by Christ through His blood or your sin will be punished in Hell for all eternity. But you have to decide which it will be.
Either way, at some point, you will recognize Jesus’s greatness. If you don’t accept the redemption and forgiveness that He offers, you will see His greatness in a very frightening way—as you stand in judgment for your sins before the Great White Throne.
Or you can recognize Jesus’s greatness the way I did. On July 3rd, 1990, in an old church building that had one of those altars with a kneeling rail, I bowed the knee to Jesus.
That was the first day that I really glimpsed the greatness of Jesus, and every day since then I have seen more and more of His greatness. You can also, if you bow the knee and place your trust in Him.
Levi Durfey—LDM-51-Colossians 1.14-17-20200426FBCAM-SERMON