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Why Jesus Christ is Sufficient, Colossians 1:15-17

One of the soft points in our spiritual life, and especially in contemporary Christianity, is that we fail to truly understand all of the dimensions, aspects and implications of what it means to believe that Jesus Christ is sufficient. We understand from all of the other doctrines we have studied that not only is Jesus Christ sufficient but the Word of God is sufficient and God's grace is sufficient. Somehow we don't always grasp the significance of that word "sufficient" but this is a doctrine that runs throughout Scripture and it is particularly the focal point in Colossians. Colossians 2:10 NASB "and in Him you have been made complete…" From the opening prayer that we have been studying in the first chapter Paul begins to set a trajectory. As he comes out of his prayer in verse 12 he begins to focus on what God has done for us.

The first thing he mentions in verse 13 is that He has delivered us from the power or authority of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of the Son of His love. The future of the believer is to be in the kingdom, and so that kingdom and our role and responsibility in the kingdom is part of the inheritance and rewards that we will receive at the judgment seat of Christ. As Paul says that he begins to focus more and more on Jesus Christ. As he mentions the Son of His love at the end of verse 13 he then states in the next verse "in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins." Redemption focuses on the objective payment of a price and its application to the individual—the applied redemption. In that applied redemption we have forgiveness of sins, which means that our sins are wiped out in terms of the personal application so that that is not an issue. At the instant of salvation we are in fellowship with God, the slate is wiped clean. But that doesn't last very long before we sin and there needs to be subsequent cleansing, subsequent confession of sin so that we are forgiven in terms of our ongoing experience of forgiveness of sin on a day-to-day basis.

Now Paul begins to narrow the focus and hone in on who Jesus Christ is. Where his trajectory heads from this point on towards the end of the second chapter is on the sufficiency that we have in Christ—expressed clearly in this one sentence that we have in Colossians 2:10 that we are complete in Him. It is an interesting phrase that is used there, a perfect participle—completed action, something that is completed in the past with ongoing results. This is something that happened at the moment of our salvation; we become complete in Him. The word that is used there is the Greek word pleroo [plhrow] which means to fill or to fulfill, or in some cases to be made complete, to be fully provided for in our spiritual life. In Ephesians 1:3 Paul says NASB "Blessed {be} the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly {places} in Christ." So there is a reality that happens at the instant that we are saved/justified. We are made complete in Christ and blessed with every spiritual blessing. God doesn't leave anything out. God who is omniscient and knows everything that every believer will face in life has made provision for it and there is nothing that we are going to face in life that surprises God. God knew about it in eternity past and He made provision so that we could face and handle every kind of situation that we would face. So as He taught the apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 12:9, His grace is sufficient for us. That word "sufficient" is a word that often doesn't come across very clearly to a lot of people. In that particular verse the word that is translated "sufficient" is the Greek word arkeo [a)rkew] which means it is enough, it satisfies; but it means that there is nothing that can't be handled by God's grace. And that doesn't just relate to our spiritual life, it relates to every endeavor in life, everything under the sun, everything within God's creation; because if we believe God created everything down to the smallest minutia interrelates within a large macro whole, then we have to understand that a God who is so knowledgeable and powerful can handle not only every detail of our life in terms of how we handle things but that whenever we are engaged in trying to understand anything in His creation He has already given us clues as to how to address that. So we are not to somehow just restrict this idea of sufficiency to our relationship to God. We don't just limit it to our spiritual life.

The new believers at Colosse were being told something like this: it is really great that you have discovered Jesus, but don't forget that we learn a lot from philosophy that is really important and you need to apply those things; we learn a lot from mysticism and you need to apply those things as well; and there is a lot in terms of religious practice, observance of various days, various rituals, and we can't forget that also. It is the mentality of the sin nature to take Jesus and add Him to other things that help us make life work, or help us to understand God's creation. But that is not the Scriptural viewpoint. The Scriptural viewpoint is that it is Jesus alone or everything else. That is the conflict. We want to add Jesus other things that work and the Scripture says it is either Jesus or it is everything else but you can't just put Jesus on the shelf with all your other gods. We may not think of them as gods, we may think of them as things that help us understand life, things that make things work out for us, things that enable us to handle problems; but ultimately those become various forms of idolatry.

The problem that we have is a problem of what at the Bible really claims: exclusivity. It is either God's way or it is a wrong way. God's way is very narrow. The whole ideal of exclusivity is what is unique to the Bible: the sense that there is only one way. That is what really aggravates unbelievers. The problem is expressed in two verses in Proverbs. Proverbs 14:12 (Repeated in 16:25) NASB "There is a way {which seems} right to a man, But its end is the way of death." The word that is translated "way" is the Hebrew word derek which means a path or a road. There is a path, a road, a way of doing things that seems right to man. We can create a whole host of arguments supporting going in a particular direction. We can marshal ten thousand different pieces of empirical data that all indicate that this is the only way to go. We can look at history, science, any number of different things within the experience of man that all point in a particular direction but God says that there is a way that seems right to man but the end is death. The way seems right to man because what under girds the use of all that data or assumptions is that we operate in a closed universe and that God doesn't actually interfere in the course of history and in the affairs of men. So as Christians we have to understand that there is only one way and that is God's way, and that God has told us in His Word that His Word is sufficient, enough. The work of Christ is sufficient—enough for salvation, enough for the spiritual life, and the spiritual life includes everything in life, not just private devotion.

We live in an era today that has been impacted by 200 years of the kind of philosophy, thinking about life that came out of the late Enlightenment. That is, your spiritual life is over here and everything else in life over there: spiritual life is something private between you and God; physical life is over here and is something that is distinct. That is a fraudulent way of looking at that. When we look at that way what we try to do is to think of sufficiency as something that only applies to the spiritual part but not to the rest of life.   

"Sufficient" has the main idea of being enough or adequate. Word like "enough" and "sufficient" sometimes come across as not being as strong and as powerful as some other ideas. The words mean that something is as much as is necessary, you don't need any more. Sufficient means you have the required amount. In whatever we think of God has given us the required amount of information that we need in order to be able to truly pursue an understanding of the problem. It satisfies every need—not just some needs but every need. 

Colossians 1:15 NASB "He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation." In vv. 16, 17 we have several key words; in v. 17 we have these three prepositional phrases: by Him, though Him, and for Him. Verses 15-18 is one of the most significant sections in all of Scripture for understanding just who Jesus is and why we can say He is sufficient. The Jesus who is presented in the New Testament from the Gospels on is the Jesus who is not just a man but is the God-Man. He is fully God, therefore He is just as omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent as God the Father. And because He has that all-power and all-knowledge, and He is present to everything in His creation there is nothing He can't do, no problem He can't resolve, no area of life He is ignorant of and can't give us solutions for. Paul starts off by saying He is the image of the invisible God. The word "image" is the word eikon [e)ikwn]. We use it to apply to certain kinds of images today but the word in Scripture has a range of meanings. It is applied sometimes to idols, to physical images; at other times to the image of God in man. It is used several times by Paul to refer to the fact that Jesus is the exact representation of God. For example, in 2 Corinthians 4:4 at the end of the sentence where it talks about how the god of this age has blinded those who do not believe lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, "who is the image of God." This is not a new thought in Scripture. In John 17:5 as Jesus prayed to the Father, He said NASB "Now, Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was." Jesus understood that He had the same glory, the same attributes, as God the Father. This word "image" has two aspects to it. One has to do with a physical representation; the other has to do with the fact that an image is something that represents something. In Greek thought an image completely participated in the original so that an image of something had the same essence as the original. Also we have passages like John 1:18 NASB "No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained {Him.}" We don't see God directly. We do have a representation of God and a representative of God; that is Jesus Christ. To know what the Father is like we just have to understand what Jesus is like in the Scriptures. He is the visible manifestation of the invisible God. This is also expressed in Hebrews 1:3 NASB "And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature…" The word "radiance" is the idea that He is the reflection or flashing forth of the original, the reflection of God's glory. The word "representation" has to do with that which has made an impression or stamp and by looking at it you can understand the original. Jesus has the stamp of God's perfect essence on Him. Also the interchange between Jesus and Philip in John 14:7-9 where Jesus said: "If you had known me you would have known my Father also." To see Jesus and to know Jesus is to see the Father and to know the Father. John 14:8 NASB "Philip said to Him, 'Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough [sufficient] for us.'" The understanding of these three verses is that Jesus is the perfect reflection of God.

"…the firstborn of all creation." We can look at that phrase and think that seems to indicate that He is part of creation, but the word "firstborn," prototokos [prwtotokoj], can indicate either first in time, which it does in a number of passages, or it can mean first in rank, first in priority. The idea that is expressed here from the context has to mean that He is first in rank, not first in time, because the verses that come immediately after this tell us that He created everything. So He can't be part of creation because He creates everything. Secondly, it is inconsistent with the New Testament which states that Jesus is unique and is responsible for creation. Cf. John 1:3. Third, the idea of the meaning of the word prototokos emphasizes not only first in terms of priority but also the idea of sovereign authority—as in Psalm 89:26, 27 which is a meditation on the Davidic covenant, is messianic and looking forward to the Messiah. Speaking of the Messiah the Father says, NASB "…You are my Father, My God, and the rock of my salvation. I also shall make him {My} firstborn, The highest of the kings of the earth." "Firstborn" in Hebrew was a technical term for he who would receive the greater share of the inheritance. In some cases it did mean first in order but in other cases first in priority. Here it is clearly indicated as first in priority.

So we learn from Colossians 1:15 that Christ is sufficient for us because He is God. He has all the attributes of deity so that nothing is outside the realm of His knowledge, nothing is outside the realm of His power, and He is the preeminent one over all creation. 

Colossians 1:16 NASB "For by Him all things were created, {both} in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him." The first phrase "by Him" should not be translated thus. If we take the Greek preposition en [e)n] plus the pronoun autos [a)utoj] it indicates instrumentality; but dia [dia] plus the genitive at the end, "through Him," expresses the same idea. So that would indicate a redundancy there. "In Him" can also mean spacially, i.e. within Him, within His thinking. There is a plan there, within the thinking of Christ: before the first thing is created it is within Him, in His mind; He understood everything—totally, exhaustively—in all of creation. "… whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities" are all terms that refer to the rankings of angels. "…all things have been created through Him," He is also the actual builder, not only the engineer doing the design: "and for Him, i.e. in the end it all comes under His authority. There is not a concept here that is not included: "by Him, through Him, for Him." Once again, this places Him on equal part with the Father.

Some will say they always thought that the Father was the architect, Jesus was the one who created, and the Holy Spirit oversaw it. That is true. But remember there is an important doctrine that is related to the interpenetration of all members of the deity, so that what can be said of one can be said of all because if one does it they all do it. What this is identifying here is that everything that can be said of the Father can also be said of the Son. This is why He is sufficient. 

Colossians 1:17 NASB "He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together." The first "He" is in the emphatic position in the Greek, which means He and no other. This is specifically contradicting the false teaching that was popular in Colosse at the time. He and no other is "before all things," which indicates rank or preference; He is the preeminent one over all creation. "… in Him all things hold together ['consist' in some translations]"—the Greek word sunistemi [sunisthmi] is in the perfect tense which indicates completed action in the past. It is completed in the past and He holds it all together and that result continues all through the present. The word indicates pulling things together, uniting many different parts together as one whole in an organized manner. At the fundamental, smallest level of the universe what holds everything together is Jesus Christ.

Think about this. Whatever issue we are facing in life, whether it is in the arena of personal problems or challenges, or whether it is in the realm of academics, is there anything in any of that that is outside of these verses? Nothing! That is what sufficiency means. Whatever we are facing in life we have to start with the Scripture. That provides the foundation. We have to start with what the Scripture says and let that establish the foundation. It is not well I am going to study economic over here and then on Sunday and Tuesday night I'm going to study spiritual life issues over here. It's not like that; God didn't set it up that way. It is that as we truly probe the parameters of Scripture God gives us the framework to understand everything in life. It is not just about us and our life and our problems. Some people say it is all about their spiritual life and then the rest of the week they are going off into practicing law on some kind of a secular basis, evolutionary foundation. Or they are going off and are in some other filed of endeavor, maybe in science, in history, or in economics, and they are teaching areas of socialism. Or they are in literature and are not teaching literature on the basis of a literal interpretation of poetry or whatever it might be. What they have done is compartmentalize so that spiritual life only has to do with me and my relationship with God, it doesn't have to do with how I think about everything else that I face in life. Christ is sufficient for everything, there is nothing in our lives or that goes on between our ears that doesn't have its starting place with Christ and His Word.