We’re done with the old self, and we have put on a new nature which bears an ever-clearer insignia of our creator, Jesus Christ.
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John Piper: “Jesus Christ is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn from the dead. 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. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that in him all things hold together. He is the head of the body, the church, that in everything he might be pre-eminent.” Colossians 1:15-18
If you have a Bible and you want to see where my thoughts are going to come from, I encourage you to turn there with me. Let’s pray. Lord Jesus, we want to magnify you now and see your glory through your word, by your Spirit.
That’s what I ask for. Beyond these friends, give them ears to hear beyond me and grant me to speak in the power of your great majestic name. Guard me from error. Keep me close to your word, advance your cause and magnify now your son. Father, in his name I pray. Amen.
So, Jesus Christ is the image of the invisible God. Verse 15, he is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature. Hebrews 1, “In him, all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell.”
Verse 19, “In him, the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily.” Chapter 2:9, “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” Therefore, he is before all things. Truly, truly I say to you before Abraham was, I am.
Long before the universe existed, if you can talk about time, before there was space and time, long before the universe existed, Christ existed with the Father. And when that time was full, he created everything. “Christ created all things.” Verse 16. He was in the beginning with God and all things were made through him, without him was not anything made that was made.
There is one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist. In these last days, God has spoken to us by His son whom He anointed, appointed heir of all things and through whom He created the world.
So, Jesus Christ, our Lord, our savior, our friend, created the universe. He created you and me. We and everything we see in this world, in the solar system, the galaxies, in the universe, has no independent existence.
We are made. made by Christ as a potter makes a pot. And not only everything you see was made by Christ, but Paul says, “By him, all things were created, visible and invisible, whether thrones, or dominions, or authorities or rulers, they were all made by Christ.”
Now, those rulers and authority show up again in Chapter 2:15, and they are demons. They are disarmed at the cross. So, they were not created in vain. These demonic forces were made by Jesus and then he disarmed them at the cross, triumphing over them in him.
They were not created in vain. Their rebellion did not have the last word. All things were created through him and for him. So, demons were created for Jesus by Jesus.
The rulers and authorities have served their purpose and they will serve their purpose. These archenemies were created for Christ, for all things were created through him for him.
But not exactly like a potter makes a pot. Because Christ did not just make them, and you and me, he keeps them in being. Verse 17, “In him, all things hold together.”
So, every moment, every movement of a demon’s existence is sustained by Christ. Every electron in your body, your muscles, every electron flying around its nucleus in the Milky Way stays in its orbit because of Christ.
It holds together by Christ. Every molecule, every brainwave, every heartbeat, every mysterious motion of your immaterial soul is kept in existence, millisecond by millisecond, by Christ.
In him, all things hold together. So, all things are created by Christ, all things are held in being millisecond by millisecond by Christ and they are created and sustained by Christ for Christ.
“For Christ.” What does that mean? In what sense did Christ create the universe for Christ? Which is what Paul says he did. In what sense did he do it for Christ? God is not served.
The son of God is not served by human hands as though he needed anything, for he himself gives to all people life and breath and everything. He didn’t need the universe. He didn’t create it for himself because there was a deficiency that needed supply.
So, what does “for Christ” mean? From all eternity, the Father, and the Son in the perfect fellowship of the Holy Spirit have been supremely, exquisitely, infinitely blessed and happy. They didn’t need us to make them happy, and full, and completely God.
So, what does it mean in verse 16 that Christ created everything for Christ? And I think the answer comes 10 verses later, verses 26 and 27 in these words. “This is the mystery hidden for ages and generations, but now revealed to his saints. To them, it is to the church. To them, God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of his glory, of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.”
So, here’s my paraphrase. Christ created all things so that he might take up his dwelling in a people and become their glory. That’s my paraphrase of verses 26 and 27.
Now, note two key words in verse 27. And these two keywords, clarify the meaning of “for Christ,” “created everything for Christ.”
One, riches of glory, Christ. Two, hope of glory, Christ. So, riches of glory, the infinite, objective, real outside of me, existing whether I exist or not, treasure of the universe.
Riches of glory. Out there. He is it, I’m not. I go out of existence. It’s still glory. And hope of glory, that cavernous, longing, aching yearning of our souls finding every tremor of Christ-created desire, satisfied subjectively in the glory of Christ.
So, riches out there, hope in here. Glory there, glory here, Christ there, Christ here. That’s why he made the universe. Christ created all things so that he might share his glory with his people, his church, in such a way that his glory would become the greatest treasure of our knowing minds, and the greatest pleasure of our hoping hearts.
And as our knowing minds are filled with the riches of the glory, and our hoping hearts are filled with the pleasures of his glory, we are being changed. 2 Corinthians 3:18, We are being changed from one degree of what? “glory” to another, into the image of the one who created us.
That’s why he showed us his glory. That’s why he came in and became the hope of glory. Until this transformation of one degree of glory to the next is happening, until, please God we, as a people, in some measure, shine with his glory for the sake of the world and then in the age to come, shine like the sun in the kingdom of our father.
And all of this knowing the riches of his glory. And all of this, tasting the pleasures of his glory becomes the Christ-designed showing of his glory, meaning for Christ. He granted us to know the riches of his glory and to hope in, and taste, and enjoy, and be filled by the pleasures of his glory so that in this knowing and this feeling, there might erupt a showing of the glory.
Which is why he made the universe. For his fame, for the display, the pageant of his glory. That in everything, he might be pre-eminent.
That’s why he made us. That’s why he made Memphis. That’s why he made the universe. That in everything, he might be pre-eminent, magnificent, beautiful, supreme, glorious, greatest treasure of all. And to that end, he must create a new humanity, a new people.
He must redeem from the great rebellion, the great treason of humanity. Every human treasonous, no hope of that goal being fulfilled at all with that humanity.
It isn’t going to happen. Therefore, Christ, the son of God came. And Paul says, “All the fullness of God was pleased to dwell in him,” verse 19.
Verse 9:2, “In him, the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily.” Because you can’t nail a spirit to the cross, not even a divine spirit.
You can only nail bodies to the cross. And the cross is the only place where the treason can be paid for and a new humanity purchased.
So, the eternal divine son clothes himself with flesh, that he might fulfill the purpose for which he created the universe for himself.
As the riches of glory can be known and the hope of glory to be enjoyed. How do you do that? Incarnation, yes. Had to be an incarnation.
How’d he do that? We’re just working our way through Colossians. So, here we are in Chapter 2 now verse 14. This is one of the greatest verses in the Bible. You want to explain to somebody, what happened to your sin? Go here. What happened to your treason?
Colossians 2:14 happens “by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This, he set aside, nailing it to the cross.” So, God took the record of our rebellion.
It’s a pretty long document. The sworn affidavit of our treason. And as it were, folded it up, put it in the hand of Jesus and drove a nail through it. And through his hand and into the cross.
That’s what it says. This record of debt, he put aside nailing it to the cross. I’m not making up word pictures. It’s in the Bible. So, God took our rebellion and he nailed it to the cross.
What does that mean? I mean, what does that mean? That the record of our debts, the affidavit of our treason that totally unfits us for fulfilling the purpose of the universe is nailed to the cross. What does that mean? It means those debts are paid. It means the capital sentence for treason is executed.
It means the curse of the law is endured. It means the sin has been condemned in the flesh. It means Christ has been smitten by God. Christ has been smitten by God. Pierced for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities, and on him, the Lord has laid the iniquity of us all and then drove it through his hands with nails into the cross.
God made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God, as by one man’s disobedience, many were appointed sinners. So, by one man’s obedience, many will be pointed righteous.
And now, having died for his people and having paid their treason payment, having risen from the dead, Christ is gathering a people from all the peoples of the world.
That’s what he ransomed. One of the most important verses in the Bible with regard to the effect of the atonement and the nature of its global impact is Revelation 5:9. “you were slain and by your blood you ransomed people…from every tribe, and language, and people, and nation and you’ve made them a kingdom” “priests to our God and they “will “reign on the earth.”
That’s what he bought. What he buys, he has. Nobody can keep his purchase from him. He bought a people from all the peoples. I’ve many people in this city, go find them. And now, he is gathering them through the worldwide preaching of the gospel.
“My sheep hear my voice and I know them and they follow me.” “I have other sheep.” in all the people groups of the world.
“I have other sheep that are not part of this fold. I must bring them also. They will hear my voice and there will be one flock and one shepherd.” Jesus is sovereign.
He gets his work done. He said so. That’s John 10:27. What an authority he has. I call my people. They know my voice. I bring them.
They follow me. There will be a flock. Don’t worry about it. We will get this done. And now, as they come, as they come from every tribe, people, tongue, nation, thousands, maybe 12,000 people groups.
As they come, what does he say to them? We’re still moving. Now we’re at Colossians 3:10. What does he say to them? To us?
Here’s what he says, You, my ransomed people, “you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on a new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.”
Renewed in knowledge. Knowledge of what? Knowledge of the riches of his glory. What renewal? Being transformed from one degree of glory to the next as we behold the glory.
What image? What image are we being conformed to? The image of our creator, our double Creator, Jesus Christ created everything at the beginning, made us totally new in the new birth.
Doubly created by Jesus. So, all the redeemed have put off the old nature. That’s the definition of belonging to the ransom. They have put off the old nature, the sinful pattern of feeling, and thinking, and acting, and relating like an old, ratty, smelly garment.
They’ve put it off. That’s not me anymore. It’s not you anymore. You are a new humanity and a new creature that you might fulfill the purpose of the universe in exalting the one you are being conformed to, by beholding and treasuring his glory above all things.
So, we’re done with that old self. That’s not us anymore. And we have put on a new nature which bears an ever-clearer insignia of our creator, Jesus Christ.
That’s how we know each other. I know you. I see the insignia. You have put on a new self, being shaped, conformed to the image of the one who created it, Jesus Christ.
There’s this big, glorious, Jesus insignia on yourself. We know each other that way. And then comes the reason for this event, verse 11.
It starts with the word here, and you should say, “Where?” It’s really there. That word is there. Here. Here, where all the clothed with a new nature, bearing the insignia of our creator are.
Jesus Christ. Here. Not in the world, no, no. Not in the world. Here, in the church. The new humanity, the new creation. Here, those who have put on Christ.
Big insignia, defining their self, the new person. Here, there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free. But Christ is all and in all.
Oh my. Not Jew and Greek. The age-old focus, some with covenant privileges, the rest unclean latecomers. Not that. Not circumcised and uncircumcised, those who conform to all those traditions of the privileged people and those who bear no marks of the privileged.
No barbarians here. Foreigners, uncultured, foolish by Greek and Jewish standards. Weird languages, bar, bar, bar, bar, bar, bar barbarians. That’s where we get the word. They sound weird. No Scythian. Distant north of the Black Sea, the epitome of unrefinement and savagery of whom Josephus wrote, “Scythians, who delight in murdering people and are little better than wild beasts.”
Slave and free. Opposite poles of the economic strata of society. Here, in this new humanity where we have been stripped of our sinful old, ratty, smelly self with its thinking, and feeling, and doing and relating, and all the old ways, been stripped of that and had been clothed with a new self being renewed after the image of its Creator, Jesus Christ, with a big insignia, Jesus on our self.
There is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free, but Christ is all and in all. What does that mean? He is in all his people.
And from the inside out, he is conforming us to his image, the new ways of thinking, and feeling, and doing, and relating.
And as he from within, conforms us to himself, he becomes everything for us. Which I take to mean this, whatever a Jew, or a Greek, or a barbarian, or a Scythian, or a slave, or a freedman brings to the body of Christ, it will be made new in accord with Christ to serve the pattern of Christ, to serve the supremacy of Christ, or it will go.
The dynamics of indignity. In all these relationships, the dynamics of indignity like slave /ree will be undone. Christ is all. Everything conforms to Christ, his pattern, his pre-eminence.
Which means no Jew, no Greek, no barbarian, no Scythian, no slave, no freedman remains unchanged here. Here. And, none is obliterated. I can see your Jewish nose. I can see your Greek forehead. I can hear your barbarian accent. I hear it. I can see your Scythian gestures.
I can see the hole in your earlobe. I can see the refinement of your bearing. You have not ceased to be here, except that you’re all wearing Christ. And everything about you and me, please God, is being renewed after Christ.
Shining as the mark of your new humanity, is the insignia of Christ, the new self, the new you.
It is precisely because we call all… I’ll say that again. It’s because we can still see who we are, that the unifying insignia of Christ shines so brightly with his glory.
If I had to cease to be a Scythian to be saved, if you had to cease to be a Jew to belong to Christ, if she had to cease to speak her mother tongue in order to have a seat at the table of the king, Christ would not be pre-eminent in glory.
He would be parochial. He would be a tribal deity. Christ is not a tribal deity, he is the creator of the universe. The incarnate God, the incarnate God, the redeemer of a new humanity, ransomed from all the peoples of the world that in everything, he might be pre-eminent.
And that in the church, the purpose of the universe happens. Let me close with an exhortation, especially to the younger among us. As a very young southerner growing up in Greenville, South Carolina, 1950s and ’60s.
My sin, aroused and shaped by the toxic segregationist, racist air I breathed, blinded me to the truth and beauty of the racial, ethnic unity and harmony, and justice of this text. It was as though Colossians 3:11 didn’t exist in the Bible.
And I am thankful to God that He made Martin Luther King the main human instrument in the renovation of that world. And with that same human instrument, struck a blow of conviction across my blind conscience. Mine was a pervasive and inexcusable blindness.
Fifteen years earlier, the sin of another young southerner aroused and shaped by the toxic modernist, skeptical air he breathed at Crosier Seminary, was blinded to the truth and beauty of Christ’s majesty as creator of the universe, blinded to the glory of Christ’s grace in suffering, imputed guilt from others, blinded to the all-encompassing authority of Christ that he received when he rose bodily from the dead.
In his early 20s, Martin Luther King turned away from these great objective, biblical realities, and you can read about it with sadness in many of his papers in those days. And I don’t know if he came home. Many believe he did.
Mika, on the panel, documented the point at which he thought he came home. Remember that? His house was bombed, got up at midnight, put his face in his hands and met God in a profound way. I hope so.
Here’s my exhortation. Don’t try to put the blindness of young Piper and the blindness of young King in the balances and weigh them hoping to find one less deadly than the other.
You will not succeed. You didn’t come to this conference looking for help in choosing which blindness to die by. Instead, look to yourselves. The remaining sin in every believer puts you and me in constant danger, constantly liable to be blinded by old and new, broad and narrow, left and right, progressive and passé, innovator and traditionalist, crusader and coward.
You have one hope, young people. You have one hope to find a path that exalts Christ and does justice. An infallible, spirit-illumined Bible in a colorful community of the redeemed. Don’t try to make a case that the blindness to Colossians 3:11 is less or more deadly than the blindness to Colossians 2:14 or 1:16.
The double root of Christ’s eternal deity, objective, outside of me, not just a reflection of my own aspirations, the double route of Christ’s deity and Christ’s substitutionary atonement, 1:16, 2:14 yields the fruit of 3:11, A new people in whom there is no Jew or Greek, “circumcised”or “uncircumcised, Scythian, barbarian, slave or free.”
And you know, these are not alternatives. Root and fruit can never be alternatives. Christ created all things. He sustains all things. He bought a multi-ethnic people by his blood.
He rose bodily from the dead. He is making us one. All of this, all of this is his glory. Not some of it. Not 1:16 alone, or 3:11 alone, or 2:14 alone. All of it is his glory. So, young people, hold fast to the whole glory of Christ and God may grant that we who are older may look down from heaven someday and see better days.
Amen. Father, come. Come. And as we close, do this work that every message that has been spoken bear fruit for decades to come until Jesus arrives.
Don’t leave us to ourselves, oh God. We need you because we want to display the glory of your son. In his name, we pray, Amen.