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The Supremacy of Christ

 

Colossians 1:15-20

 

I: — “Doesn’t revelation occur today?  Surely revelation is ongoing.”  I hear this all the time.  It’s not so much a question as an assertion, a vehement assertion.  Someone is maintaining that it would be arbitrary to restrict revelation to a First Century figure like Jesus, and spiritually harmful as well. It’s spiritually harmful in that just as God spoke through Abraham, through Moses, the prophets, John the Baptist, and Jesus of Nazareth, surely the living God continues to speak – through humanism, the Enlightenment, through feminism, the Green Earth movement, and so on.  People who challenge me on this issue insist that unless revelation occurs today God is dead, or at least inert.

Such people I startle by agreeing with them: unless revelation occurs today, God is indeed inert if not dead.

Revelation, according to the logic of scripture, occurs when God-in-person acts upon us and then illumines us concerning the truth and meaning of his action. He delivers his people from slavery through the Red Sea , and then illumines them through his servants, the prophets, as to what it all means and what its consequences are for his people.  He raises his Son from the dead, and then informs the apostles throughout the “Forty Days” what the event of the resurrection means concerning both them and their Lord.

In light of the scriptural understanding of revelation, does revelation occur today? Certainly.  For God still acts and illumines today.  Even tonight don’t we expect him to seize someone here, shake her, startle her, and send her home with new understanding, newly captivated by truth?

Is there a preacher among us who doesn’t expect all this and more to happen next Sunday morning at 11:00 ?

As I said a minute ago, I agree with my interlocutor (regardless of her motivation) that revelation occurs today.

At the same time, I suspect her motivation.  For in putting the matter as she has, she wants to deny the supremacy (and therefore the sufficiency) of Jesus Christ.  She wants to say that Jesus Christ can be superseded.  She wants to say that revelation, in terms of its content, advances beyond Christ. She wants to deny that the God who is sole creator of heaven and earth has rendered himself incarnate in Jesus of Nazareth, and done this precisely for the purpose of reconciling and restoring his creation, gone awry through the sin of humankind.

Since there can be no advance beyond God (by definition; to suggest anything else is absurd), and since God has incarnated himself in the Nazarene, then the so-called advance of “on-going revelation” is impossible. When the hymn-writer cries, “What more can he say than to you he has said?”, the only answer possible is “Nothing”.  God can’t ‘say’ anything more than he has said and done in that Nazarene whose life is identical with God’s life.  There’s no advance on the conclusive, definitive act of God.

For this reason Paul doesn’t hesitate to declare that Jesus Christ is “the image of the invisible God”.  To speak of him as “image” is to say that God’s being and nature are perfectly revealed in him.  Jesus Christ, as the eikon or image of God, mirrors God’s word and work, will and way.

Yet as the image of God, Jesus Christ is more than this; in him God’s word and work, will and way are operative.       In everyday life, “mirror image” is merely a reflection of substance, never substance itself. When you and I look into the mirror we do not see ourselves; we see only a reflection of ourselves.  Strictly speaking, we see only a reflection of ourselves in place of ourselves, instead of ourselves. If we reach out and poke what we see in the mirror, does our face feel pain?  Of course not. Then what we see isn’t ourselves but only a reflection.

How different it is with that image of God which Jesus Christ is.  He isn’t merely a reflection of the Father lacking the Father’s substance; he isn’t a reflection of God that we apprehend instead of apprehending God. As eikon, image, Jesus Christ is God-with-us operative.

In light of this, there can be no advance beyond him.  “Surely revelation is ongoing” – no, it isn’t ongoing if “ongoing” means that our Lord can be superseded.

To think we can advance beyond him is to fall short of him.  To add to him is to subtract from him.  To augment him is to diminish him.  All whom the Incarnate One has seized and brought to faith in him know this. And who better than Thomas Cranmer, author of the Anglican Book of Common Prayer? I used to chuckle at the prayer of consecration for Holy Communion that Cranmer has penned wherein he speaks of Christ’s atoning death: “…who made there, by his one oblation (i.e., sacrifice) of himself once offered, a full, perfect and sufficient sacrifice, oblation and satisfaction for the sins of the whole world….” It seemed unnecessarily redundant. Why did Cranmer have to say the same thing three times over?  I don’t chuckle any longer, since too many people seem to have overlooked the crucial point Cranmer is concerned to make.  Listen to the cumulative force of it all.  “Who offered there, in that place.” Jesus Christ is the venue of sacrifice. Everywhere in the older testament the altar is the venue of sacrifice, the place where God meets with sinful people without having to annihilate them.  (Never let the word “altar” be heard in a Reformed Church except in reference to Christ alone.)  “ Who offered there”; plainly Christ is priest.  “Who offered there himself”: Christ is himself the sacrifice that he offers. Our Lord is simultaneously sacrifice, priest and altar, the place where sinners can meet with God and survive God’s holiness.  Jesus Christ needs no supplementation whatever.       His one oblation of himself once offered – adequately, definitively, conclusively – it cannot be repeated. The newer testament rings with the consensual apostolic recognition and affirmation and confession of Jesus Christ in this regard.  He, he alone, is the image of the invisible God.  In him God-with-us is savingly operative.

 

II: — There’s more to be said.  Anyone who hears the expression “image of God” immediately recalls Genesis 1. Humankind is made in the image of God. Here, of course, “image” assumes a different meaning.  You and I can’t be God operative; can’t be God at all. Still, as made in the image of God we are summoned, in our obedience to God, in our daily “doing”, to be God’s faithful, cheerful, human covenant partner. As his human covenant partner we are created to reflect his faithfulness, patience, integrity, constancy.

Created in the image of God though we are, however, the Fall means we are now hideously deformed. Nothing about us resembles the image in which we were created.  The image is so thoroughly defaced as to be unrecognizable.

To be sure, we haven’t ceased to be human. The Fall has defaced the image.  It hasn’t effaced the image, even though the image that remains is wholly unrecognizable. Because the fallen human remains human we can still think: the structure of reason remains unimpaired. But the integrity of reason is devastated. Now reason – perfectly logical still – serves to excuse sin when sin is conscious and rationalize sin when sin is unconscious.

Sinners haven’t ceased to be human, and therefore we can still love. Regrettably, however, what we should love we now hate; and what we ought to hate (sin) we have come to love.

Sinners haven’t ceased to be human, and therefore we can still will. But will what?  We can will only our disobedience; we can never will ourselves out of our disobedience. The will can still will, but now it never wills, because it cannot will, God’s righteousness.

Sinners were created in the image of God.  We can’t sin this image away.  Yet thanks to our sin, the image is nowhere recognizable in us.  We remain human, even though our humanness is nowhere evident.  Fallen human beings are incapable of informing themselves as to what it is to be human.

“Surely not!” someone objects.  “Surely our humanness is evident everywhere and is described by biologists and social scientists, as well as novelists who probe the human.” Let me say right now that I esteem the work of the life scientists and the social scientists, plus any and all who shed light of any kind on human conundrums.

I teach a course called “Theology of the Human Person”.  Because it’s a course in theology (albeit theological anthropology) and I’m a theologian, students frequently assume I dismiss any non-theological discipline as worthless.  I don’t. Since we humans are embodied, inescapably embodied, I want to know what the biologists are saying. Since we humans are embedded in societies, I listen to the social sciences.  From time to time I startle students with such questions as “What’s the suicide rate in Canada ? What is the socio-economic profile of the convict? What are the three most commonly prescribed anti-depressant medications?” (I want students to know that jokes about Prozac are never funny to the people who need Prozac. And since more people in any one congregation are using Prozac or Zoloft or Paxil or similar anti-depressant than is commonly thought, no such joke should appear in any sermon.) “What’s the average age of onset for bi-polar mood disorder?”  I want the students to know that I deem such knowledge important, especially if the theology student plans on being a pastor.  I remain convinced that the social sciences have much to tell us about the human situation.

As much as the social sciences can do for us, however, they appear clumsy compared to literature. The best social scientist wields a clumsy, blunt instrument compared to the skilful novelist. The able novelist has in her hand a dissecting knife that exposes inherent human complexity as well as self-willed self-contradiction, not to mention fortuitous victimization. What’s more, the able novelist lays bare the manner in which complexity, complication and contradiction are multi-faceted and inter-related.  The result is a profundity and a subtlety that the social sciences can’t approach. Still, life-scientist and social scientist and novelist (or poet) together describe the human situation.

But none of them, nor all of them together, describes the human condition. The human condition is much deeper, and much more perverse, than the human situation.  The human situation is that level or dimension of human existence accessible to human wisdom. The human condition, on the other hand, is known only to God, and thereafter to those whom God’s Spirit renders beneficiaries of the gospel.  The human condition, in other words, pertains to the Fall; it pertains to our sinnership. Human wisdom, however genuinely wise, knows nothing of this.

Since sin is the contradiction of what God created us to be, we must come to know God’s intention for us if we are to understand our predicament as sinners. We were created in the image of God. Jesus Christ is the image of God. Therefore we must look to him if we are to understand ourselves, how perversely we have falsified ourselves, and what our glorious destiny is by God’s appointment. In a word, only Jesus Christ can inform us as to what it is to be a human being.

In Genesis 1 we are told that we were created on the same “day” as the animals. They are our cousins (albeit not our brothers and sisters).  Since God loves all that he has made, he loves the animals as much as he loves us. Then wherein do we differ from them? While God loves them and us, God speaks to us alone.  Having spoken to us, he expects us to speak to him in return; to respond. Because he speaks to us we are response-able, able to respond.       And because we are response-able, we are response-ible; we must respond. Our capacity to answer renders us answerable to him, accountable.  The tragedy, of course, is that as sinners we do respond, and our response isn’t fit to print. “Shut up.  I didn’t ask to hear from you.  Buzz off. Mind your own business. Leave me alone.”

Since God gives us what we want (contrary to what most people think), what we want he ensures we are going to have.  We don’t want intimacy with him?   Then we are going to have estrangement.  We disdain right-relationship with him?   Then we shall remain sunk in unrighteousness.  In the words of Paul’s letter to Ephesus , we are “…strangers to the covenants of promise, have no hope, and are without God in the world.” In case we don’t get the point he amplifies this two chapters later where he speaks of humankind: “[living] in the futility of their minds, they are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart.   They have become callous and given themselves up to licentiousness, greedy to practise every kind of uncleanness.”  In less prissy language the apostle is saying that as a sinner I am a person of beclouded wits, ungodly, a numbskull, spiritually insensitive, vicious and a dirty old man. That’s the human condition.

We learn of it not by looking in on ourselves; we learn of it only by looking away from ourselves to Jesus Christ, for he exemplifies before us what it is to be a human being created in the image of God.  We are meant to be the faithful, obedient, righteous, glad, eager, cheerful, human covenant partner of the Holy One of Israel.

Not only does Jesus Christ exhibit all this before us, as image of our humanness he renders all this operative within us as he brings us to faith in him. “He”, says Paul, is the image of the invisible God.”

 

III: — The apostle tells us as well that our Lord is the “first-born of all creation, for in him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or authorities – all things were created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”

All things on earth and in heaven? Yes, contrary to what most people think, heaven is part of the creation.       Specifically, heaven is that aspect of the creation that isn’t visible, that remains much more mysterious.  Invisible and mysterious though it might be, it is creaturely and not divine. Heaven, in other words, is the utmost mysterious depth of the visible creation.

When Paul speaks of Christ as “first-born” he isn’t referring to temporal priority (as if Jesus of Nazareth had been born before anything else came to be – an absurdity.)  He’s speaking, rather, of logical priority: Christ is the one by whose agency the whole creation – earth and heaven – was fashioned.

“First-born” means even more.  In the ancient world the first-born in the family inherited everything the head of the family owned. Say that Christ is the “first-born” is to say that he is the sole inheritor of the creation. Not only is he the agent in its coming-to-be, he also has exclusive rights to it. He is the heir of the entire universe. The cosmos is his by right, and rightly he claims what’s his.       He made it and he owns it. Therefore he is nowhere an intruder in it. He is lord of all of it.

From another perspective, as agent Christ is the ground of creation; as “first-born”, he is the goal of creation.       Christ is creation’s ground and goal; he is its “whence” and “whither”. He “book-ends” the creation. He fashioned it in accordance with his purposes, and he remains its hidden truth and meaning. He guarantees the “open secret” of the universe as his possession and himself as its truth; he guarantees that all this, known to believers now but disputed by everyone else, will one day be rendered indisputable.

Many Christians in the ancient city of Colosse , however, thought otherwise. They had become infected with the heresy of gnosticism.  The Gnostics thought themselves to have special knowledge, privileged knowledge. They were “in the know” whereas “ordinary” Christians weren’t. The “knowledge” of which the Gnostics boasted was actually a Platonic corruption of Christian doctrine. Gnosticism maintained that matter was evil, inherently evil.  Because matter was evil, God couldn’t have created it.  Then who had? The demi-urge had. The demi-urge was the agent of creation, even as the demi-urge was considerably less than God.  Since God had nothing to do with matter, God had nothing to do with the human body. And since all human beings are embodied, God had nothing to do with human history.  History can’t be the theatre of God’s revelation.  Then the Incarnation couldn’t have occurred for two reasons: one, Incarnation is an event within history, and God scorns history; two, Incarnation entails embodiment, and God scorns bodiliness.  Since Incarnation is impossible, Jesus of Nazareth can’t be God incarnate; history isn’t important to God; and therefore history isn’t important to Christians. Then what is important to Christians, according to Gnosticism?  Gnosis is. Gnosis is knowledge, privileged information. Christians, according to the Gnostic heresy, are those who have come to understand that God acts on people only in the sphere of the intellect, the mind.  God equips his people with special insight and privileged information – thoroughly imbued with the presuppositions of Plato.  It’s important that Christians have the right information, said the Gnostics; it’s not important that Christians act, act in history, “do the truth”, in John’s splendid phrase. It’s not important, said the Gnostics, that Christians regard history as the theatre of their obedience, since history is never the theatre of God’s revelation. Obedience to God doesn’t entail our doing, according to the Gnostics; obedience to God entails only our thinking (even as their thinking was skewed).

Paul wrote his Colossian letter in order to address the Gnostic heresy that had made inroads in the congregation there.       Paul insists that Christ, and Christ alone (forget the demi-urge) is God’s agent in creation just because Christ is God. Paul insists that as the (visible) image of the invisible God, Jesus Christ is God incarnate. (Just in case the Gnostics are slow to get the point, Paul repeats himself in Colossians 2: “In Christ the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily.)  Therefore Paul plainly maintains that matter isn’t evil, bodiliness is important, history matters, history is the theatre both of God’s revelation and of the Christian’s activity.  It’s gathered up in one point: Christian obedience isn’t a matter of acquiring abstract notions (wrong notions in any case); Christian obedience is a matter of concrete doing.

Doing what?

 

IV: — Paul gives us a clue where he’s going when he tells us, “In him [Christ] all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or authorities – all things were created through him and for him.”

Exactly what are the principalities, powers, thrones, dominions, authorities?  For centuries many Christians have equated these with angels, now fallen, and therefore demons. To be sure, scripture speaks of the demons, demons whom Christ has to subdue.  Scripture speaks also, however, of the principalities, principalities whom Christ’s cross has reconciled.  (Please note that while the demons are exorcised, the powers are reconciled to Christ.) The demons and the principalities or powers plainly aren’t the same.  The demons are the demons and I shall say no more about them tonight.

The principalities and powers, on the other hand, are very different. Paul speaks of them again in Romans 8. He uses much the same vocabulary in 1st Corinthians 2.  In 1st Corinthians 2 he speaks of “the rulers of this age”. The rulers of this age aren’t individual humans. They are institutions, social entities, identical with the powers.  The rulers of this age, he tells us, “crucified the Lord of glory”.

To be sure, we can name the individuals most immediately involved in the crucifixion: Pilate, Caiaphas, Herod, and so on.  At the same time, these individuals represent, exemplify the force of, those powers that they happen to speak for: Pilate, Roman jurisprudence; Caiaphas, religious institutions; Herod, civil government amidst occupation.

Admittedly, the powers can work evil: they crucified the Lord of glory. But they aren’t inherently evil, since God created them.  The powers (principalities) are the link between God’s love and visible human activity and experience.       The powers are meant to be sinews, the ligatures that keep all the dimensions and aspects of human existence together, and keep it all together in God’s love.

Law, for instance, is meant to do this. Law conserves social order and fosters social intercourse.  Social order and social intercourse are impossible without law.  Therefore law as a power, a principality, has a divinely mandated role as a sinew of God’s love for his creation.

The economic order has a similar role.  While it’s true that we humans don’t live by bread alone, without bread we don’t live at all.  Since God wills our bodily life, God wills the economic order.

Education is a crucial principality.  We can’t love God with our mind as long as we are ignorant.  Therefore the apparatus needed to educate citizens is divinely mandated, and it too is another sinew of God’s love holding his people together.

Think of health care. In view of our Lord’s concern for healing throughout his earthly ministry we had better not say that God is indifferent to human health.  Then no Christian should doubt the importance of the apparatus required to foster human health. And no Christian should doubt the divine mandate of this particular principality and its role as a sinew of God’s love.

 

Christians, however, are aware of the Fall. We know that since the Fall affects the entire creation, the powers are fallen too. As fallen the powers, the authorities, no longer fulfil their mandate unambiguously.

Civil government, for instance, is divinely-mandated to prevent social dissolution and secure justice. However bad the governments might be that we are acquainted with, there is something that would be worse by far: no government at all.  No government at all would guarantee chaos.  Human existence is impossible amidst social chaos.       When threatened with social chaos, people immediately grasp the remedy which is most ready-to-hand: tyranny.  Life under a tyrant may be thoroughly miserable, but at least life under a tyrant is possible. Still, tyranny is tyranny and we rightly loathe it.  And however bad governments might be in Ottawa or Queen’s Park, they are preferable to Saddam Hussein, preferable to Moamar Khadafi, preferable to Josef Stalin or Chairman Mao.

Yet because the principalities and powers are fallen, governments work evil as well. Most important, because government, by definition, has a monopoly on power, the fallen principality of government is always in danger of doing what is unspeakably evil, what is out-and-out murderous.  In fact governments do. And therefore it is always the task of the Christian and the church to recall this principality to its vocation in Christ, through whom and for whom it was made.

Boards of education are mandated to educate, divinely mandated to educate, since God doesn’t wish ignorance to thrive.       Boards of education do educate — to some extent.  I myself have profited immensely from the educational resources of our society. At the same time, boards of education do a great deal besides fulfil their mandate to educate. They provide, for instance, a political stepping-stone for those whose real concern isn’t education at all but rather political self-promotion.  Most important: educators — history tells us over and over — educators, when pressed, turn education into propaganda.  Propaganda is falsehood disseminated for the purpose of achieving a social end. We can never inspect too closely everything that our children bring home from school.  Let’s not forget that in Nazi Germany schoolteachers had the highest proportion of Nazi party-members in their ranks of any social group.

The health care system is mandated to keep people healthy.  It does. A cardiologist brought my mother back from the edge of death, and the hospital harboured her for 75 consecutive days. For this I was billed no more than my income tax. Yet the health care system lends itself to games of political football, and as the football game intensifies less health care is delivered, even as misappropriation, corruption and scandal proliferate.

Because the powers are fallen they don’t accomplish unambiguously that for which they were created. They are now compromised, to say the least, in their acting as links between God’s love and different aspects of the created order. Worse yet, Paul tells us in Galatians 4 that the powers, now in revolt against God, deify themselves.  They claim an allegiance and adulation from humans that God never mandated them to have. Fallen, the sinews of God’s love have perverted themselves into idols, lethal idols.

Not only do the powers revolt against God; in their hostility to God they set themselves against one another.       They savage each other. Education blames business for everything that’s wrong in the society.  Business blames the criminal justice system.  The criminal justice system blames health care.  They slander and falsify each other.       This being the case, why doesn’t the creation spiral down into chaos? Paul tells us why: Christ is supreme – and therefore sufficient for the task of preserving the cosmos. “In Christ”, Paul announces in defiance of powers run amok, “In Christ all things hold together.”  Colossians 1:17 assures us that however fast, however violently, the world spins (metaphorically speaking), it can never fly apart.  “In him all things hold together.” Why doesn’t the creation fly apart (metaphorically speaking)?  Why doesn’t human existence become impossible?  Why don’t the countless competing special-interest groups, each with its “selfist” savagery, fragment the world hopelessly?  Just because in him, in our Lord, all things hold together. What he creates he maintains; what he upholds he causes to cohere.  “Hold together” is a term taken from the Stoic philosophy of the ancient Greeks. But whereas the ancient Greek philosophers said that a philosophical principle upheld the cosmos, Christians knew it to be a person, the living person of the Lord Jesus Christ. He grips the creation with a hand large enough to comprehend the totality of the world.

 

V: — Having declared the supremacy of Christ as creation’s agent and creation’s preserver, Paul declares the supremacy of Christ as the church’s Lord.  “He is the head of the body, the church; he is the first-born from the dead, that in everything he might be pre-eminent.”

Let us be sure to note that our Lord is head of his own body. Strictly speaking the church is the earthly-historical manifestation of Christ’s glorified body. We are called to be the earthly-historical manifestation of his glorified body, functioning as his hands and feet throughout the world, particularly where there is suffering, ignorance and spiritual destitution.  In all of this he remains head.  Jesus Christ is Lord of the church as surely as he is Lord of the cosmos.   We must never think that he transfuses himself into the church so as to become the essence of the church.  To say the least, he is sinless while the church is not.  Let us always remember that the church is Christ’s body sheerly by grace; of itself the church is a fallen principality as nasty as any other.

When Paul speaks of Christ as head of the body he doesn’t mean what the ancient Stoics meant. The ancient Stoics spoke of a divine power that inheres the universe, thereby divinising the universe. For the past 250 years the Romantic Movement in the West has spouted the same notion of a divine power or essence inhering the universe, with the result, of course, that the universe is divinised.  The New Age movement says as much today.  We must always be aware that if the universe and all its aspects are divinised, then there is nothing in the universe whose essence isn’t God. If there’s nothing whose essence isn’t God, then sin and evil are no more.  Now you understand why the New Age movement and Romanticism are ceaselessly popular: they define sin out of existence.

Having sounded the warning that must be heard we may cheerfully go on to relish the force of Paul’s pronouncement concerning the church, the body of Christ. Christ is present to the church at all times and in all circumstances.  His risen life always and everywhere animates it.  Since the church alone acts in his name and on his behalf, the church does what no other institution, aggregation, group or party can ever do.

Christ ever remains Lord of his people, indisputably.  Still, they are his people unquestionably.  In Romans 8 Paul tells us that Jesus Christ is “the first-born among many brethren”. To be sure, he can be first-born among many brethren only because he is first-born from the dead. Still, because he’s precisely this he is “elder brother” to all of us who once were “dead in trespasses and sins” and who are now, by his mercy, the beneficiaries of his resurrection.

What’s the result of Christ’s being both first-born of all creation and also first-born from the dead?  The result is that he is pre-eminent.  Pre-eminent in the church, yes; but no less pre-eminent in the world (even though the world isn’t aware of it.)  Pre-eminent in the church for the sake of the church’s making known his pre-eminence in the world.

 

VI: — All of which brings me to my last point.  In the last portion our text announces that all things have been reconciled to Christ, just because he has made his peace with all things through the blood of his cross. Since Christ has reconciled all things to himself, therefore the church, Christ’s body, is summoned to announce his victory over the rebellious principalities. Since Christ has reconciled all things to himself, the church is summoned to inform the powers that their effort at contradicting their mandate has been defeated.  The powers have been stripped of their capacity to damage the creation ultimately. Since Christ has made his peace with the cosmos through the blood of the cross, the capacity of the principalities to function as they were meant to function has been restored.

Then the church must rebuke the principalities today; rebuke them and testify to them what their mandate is, how it has been restored, and why their revolt is futile. The church must testify on behalf of Christ to the principalities and hold them to account, correcting them relentlessly.  If we think, for instance, that Egerton Ryerson’s vision for public education now resembles a nightmare in some respects, then we are summoned to call public education to account, to recall it to its vocation, to inform if of its shabbiness where it is shabby and to declare its glorious place in God’s economy.

The Gnostics in Colosse, we saw minutes ago, thought differently.  The Gnostics maintained, erroneously, that history, so far beneath the purity of God, couldn’t be the theatre of God’s activity and therefore couldn’t be the theatre of the church’s obedience.  The Gnostics were wrong. History is the sphere of the church’s obedience.  And since Christ has reconciled all things to himself – thrones, dominions, principalities, authorities – the body of Christ had better not think it knows better than the head and retreat into privatized abstractions where its religious head-games are a substitute for concrete, earthly obedience.

There is no excuse for discouragement or inertia or despair among Christians in this matter. If we lack zeal in rebuking the powers, we haven’t yet discerned their corruption. If we lack confidence in addressing the powers, we are denying that Christ has reconciled them to himself, however much we pretend to believe the gospel.

Earlier in the sermon I mentioned that “heaven” means (at least in many places in scripture) that aspect of the creation we don’t see, the aspect that underlies the creation we do see.  “Heaven and earth”, then, are the entire creation in all its aspects. In Ephesians 3:10 Paul announces the goal of his ministry; his goal is that “through the church the manifold wisdom of God might be made known to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places.”

All of this occurs, of course, just because Jesus Christ, first-born of all creation, first-born from the dead, is supreme now, sufficient, and will be eternally.

                                                                                                      Victor Shepherd                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          August 2005