Monday, May 13, 2019

Who is Jesus Christ? By Dr. Steven J. Lawson



         


    We come now to the time to look together into the word of God. I invite you to take your Bibles and turn with me to the book of Colossians, Colossians 1, and before we step back into our ongoing series on the Gospel of Mark, I want to follow-up last week's message in which we talked about is the Bible just another book, which was a very basic, elementary, foundational, entry level type of message. I want to follow that up and I want to bring a message to you this morning that also is very foundational, very essential for our Christian faith at the most basic point. I want to speak to you this morning on who is Jesus Christ. Colossians 1, I want to begin reading in verse 15.



15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 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. 17 He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. 18 He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything. 19 For it was the Father's good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, 20 and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven.



   I want to begin by asking you the two most important questions I could possibly ever ask you. Question 1 is who is Jesus Christ? And question 2 is do you know him? Upon these two questions hang your eternal destiny. You cannot be wrong about these two questions and be right with God. There is no middle ground. It is all or nothing regarding Christ. Either you know who Jesus Christ is or you do not, and either you have a personal relationship with him or you do not. Upon these two questions hangs everything, everything about salvation, everything about abundant life, everything about the forgiveness of sin, everything about where you will spend eternity. The heart of Christianity is Jesus Christ. Christianity is Christ but to know Jesus, we must understand two great things about him. Theologians refer to it as the person and work of Christ. We must understand who he is and what he has done if we are to know about him properly and to know him personally.


   Now people give all kinds of answers regarding who is Jesus Christ. There is no lack of answers and some people answer that Jesus is who their sentimentalities make him out to be, the Jesus of their childhood fantasies, the Jesus of their youthful imaginations. Other people say that Jesus is who some shallow, sappy Christian song makes him out to be, the Jesus of the contemporary music industry, some pretty boy Jesus. Still others answer that Jesus is who some religious huckster makes him to be, the Jesus who wants you to have your best life now; the Jesus who wants you to be healthy and prosperous and successful in everything; the Jesus who would spare you anything that is not what the world would say is the best. Still others say that Jesus is who some new age spiritualist says he is, the Jesus of the positive force of the universe; the Jesus who is full of moral platitudes, who wants to become your life coach and give you some pep talk in life to put a plus on your A to help you get through the day, it even rhymes. Then, of course, there is the Jesus who is presented by the cults and by the religious elite of the world religions, the Jesus who is good but he is not God; the Jesus who is a role model but not a redeemer nor a reconciler. There are all kinds of opinions floating around out there but the problem is if you believe in the wrong Jesus, you don't know him and it is critically important for us that we have an accurate understanding of who Christ is.



   As Paul writes these words in Colossians 1:15, they were so familiar in the early church that these very verses are referred to as the Colossian Hymn. It's the first recorded, really, hymn that we have in the early church that was more than just singing the Psalms. A hymn is a compact collection of deeply theological truths that are set in a poetic-like structure; very concentrated. It's not the repetition of one truth over and over and over but it is a rich multifaceted display of theological truth that is succinctly stated. That's what we have here, we believe, beginning in verse 15, was an early hymn that Paul takes and probably enlarges upon a little bit and sets it right here, this is the true Jesus.



 Now in the church at Colossae, there was floating some wrong teaching, some bad teaching. Wherever the church gathers, it is always having to buttress her walls against the encroaching of false teaching that inevitably wants to come. Wherever there is light, there is always bugs and wherever there is the light of the truth, there will always seek to be an invasion of error. Every New Testament epistle was written to counter some false teaching that was already beginning to make inroads into the church and the church at Colossae was no exception. There was what was called the Colossian Heresy and it mixed together Jewish legalism and Greek philosophy and Eastern mysticism and asceticism with some Christian vocabulary, and in the mix of that you have the Colossian Heresy. Chapter 2 addresses all of that, but the fountain source of it all was the distortion of the Lord Jesus Christ and in this Colossian Heresy which was an early form of Gnosticism, it was believed that God is in heaven and we're here on the earth and in order to connect with God, there was a series of imminations that descended down from God like steps on a ladder and there was a created order of angelic beings that came down from God to man to connect with man and this would be our stair-step up to God. We would climb these rungs, so they said, and in the course of that, they were involved in angel worship because these stair-steps they saw as angelic beings, orders of angelic beings, and it led to a gross preoccupation with angels, and they saw Jesus as the greatest of the angels; they saw Jesus as the greatest of the angelic created beings. He was one more step on the ladder.


   So when Paul caught word of this, Paul is in Rome at this time, he is in his Roman imprisonment, and when he receives word about this, he sits down and he dictates this letter and front-loaded before he even gets into sifting out all of these other corruptions of what the Christian life is about with its mysticism and asceticism and legalism and philosophy and all of that stuff, he drops anchor right here in verse 15 as if to say, "We've got to get one thing straight. We must understand who Jesus Christ is because everything hinges with knowing who Christ is and being a follower of him." Isn't that truly the way it is with every cult and with every false religion? They miss it with the person and work of Christ. So what we're going to look at right here is absolutely essential because this is what separates us from every cult, every world religion, every religious movement that has gone astray. You miss it at this point, your ship is astray in the vast ocean of religiosity far away from the port of grace, but to be anchored in at this point, is to be anchored in at the cornerstone, at the very most important place.



   Now this is not the only place in the Bible, obviously, that the person and work of Christ is laid out for us but this is perhaps when you consider layer upon layer upon layer of phrases upon phrases upon phrases, this may be the most tightly worded, condensed statement that answers the question who is Jesus Christ. Now to answer that, we just want to dig into what Paul has written here and I want to give you five words, five words that will succinctly summarize the theological depths and profundity of what these verses are saying who is Jesus Christ? Every one of them is essential in our understanding of who the real Jesus is.



1.     God. Did you get that? Jesus Christ is God. The Apostle Paul begins in verse 15 at the most high level. He first declares the absolute deity of Jesus Christ. So he begins in verse 15 "He is the image of the invisible God." Now there's no question as to what "He" refers to. The antecedent is in verse 13, "His beloved Son," and verse 14, "in whom." That is the "He." It is God's beloved Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, and Paul states it in unmistakable terms that Jesus Christ is the image of the invisible God.



   Now this word "image" is the Greek word "ikon." It's carried over into the English language and pronounced the same although spelled differently. An icon means "likeness or copy," sometimes it meant an imprint on a coin or a reflection in a mirror, and this is saying that Jesus is the perfect image and the exact likeness of God.





Now God is invisible, right? No one has ever seen God. John 1:18, "no one has seen God at any time." John 6:46, "not that anyone has seen the Father." 1 John 4:12, "no one has seen God at any time." So the question is what does God look like? What does God sound like? And little children are always asking, "Mom, dad, what does God look like?" And there is a very simple answer: we point them to the Lord Jesus Christ who has come to be the revelation and the representation of God to us because he is God in human flesh. Did you get that? He is God in human flesh. He is fully God and fully man. He is the God-man. John 1:14 says, "The Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth." And in no way did he diminish any in his deity. He did not give up any of his deity, he assumed humanity such that Jesus is the image of the invisible God.



   Now a couple of other verses tighten this and make this abundantly clear. Hebrews 1:3 says Jesus is "the radiance" of God's glory and "the exact representation of His nature." Did you get that? The exact, the precise, the accurate representation of his nature. Now we are made in the image of God, are we not? Genesis 1:26-28. But we are a train-wreck of the image of God. Sin has defiled and corrupted the image of God in us and Jesus Christ was born of a virgin and lived a sinless and perfect life, he was without a sin nature, and he became the exact likeness and the perfect representation of the image of God. Even before Adam fell, it was but a partial representation of God, but Jesus Christ is the exact representation of his nature.



   You remember in John 14:8, Philip said, "Lord, show us the Father and it is enough for us." So which direction do you think Jesus pointed when he said, "Yeah, I'll show you the Father." And there's only one person who could ever make this response, Jesus said, "Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father." C. S. Lewis is famous for saying there is only one of three possibilities: either Jesus Christ is a liar or a lunatic or Lord, there are no other categories. And we believe because of the evidence that has been presented to us in the Scripture by the power of the Spirit that Jesus is exactly who he claimed to be, God in human flesh.

   Let me just drive this home just a little bit more. Look at verse 19 in Colossians 1. I just want you to see that this is not something we're forcing on the text, that this just leaps out of pages of Scripture. "For it was the Father's good pleasure," that means this was God's design, this was God's purpose, and it brought great pleasure to the heart of God. Now note this, "for all the fullness to dwell in Him." That word "fullness, pleroo," was a word that the Gnostics batted around in their teaching that spoke of deity and they said that deity was spread out among the various angelic orders and the various angelic beings, and the different angels had a little bit of deity and man has a little spark of divinity in him, and all of this is in this stair-step effect of degrees of deity in angels and in man and Paul says, "Rubbish." Paul says, "Anathema." He says in verse 19, "all," a-l-l, "all the fullness to dwell in Him," meaning all the fullness of deity; all the holiness of the Father is in the Son; all the sovereignty of the Father is in the Son; all of the truth, all of the power, all of the immutability, all of the grace, all of the mercy that is in the Father is in the Son. Jesus as the image of the invisible God, he is co-equal and co-eternal with the Father.



   Now look at chapter 2, verse 9. This states it yet even tighter. There is no wiggle room in this statement. In Colossians 2:9, "For in Him," we know who the "Him" is, the antecedent is the last word of verse 8, "Christ." "For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form." We sing a hymn that he lay aside the robes of his deity to become man, or he lay aside it all except for love, something sappy like that. He lay aside nothing. He came to this earth fully God and took upon himself the limitations of

Humanity by becoming a member of this race yet without sin. All of the fullness of deity in bodily form.



   Now what do you think the implications of this are? Well, number 1, whatever he did at the cross has extraordinary value, something that only God could do at the cross; something way beyond a mere prophet or an apostle or the best of men. That was God upon the cross dying in our place, suffering, bearing our sins, making an atonement that only God can make upon Calvary's cross. And this speaks volumes, does it not, of what should be our response to him, that when he speaks, he speaks with the authority of God to us and when he provides for us, he provides out of the abundance of what belongs to God.





   This is where this begins. Jesus Christ is God. Look at the end of verse 15, "the firstborn of all creation." Now that does not mean that Jesus is the first created being. That's where the cults take a wrong turn and they see this and they go, "Wow, Jesus was created." No. Verse 16 says Jesus has created everything, that it is all by him, from him, through him, and to him. He did not create himself. Now what this is saying, "the firstborn of all creation," is he has all of the rights and all of the prerogatives that belong to a firstborn child. It speaks not of being chronologically born first. For example, Israel is called the firstborn nation but it was not the first nation to be created on the earth. There were other nations long before God sired Israel. No, it meant that his covenants would come through Israel; the Messiah would come through Israel; the truths of Scripture would come through Israel. Firstborn of all creation means Psalm 89:27, "I shall make him My firstborn, The highest of the kings of the earth." Jesus Christ, in other words, has all authority in heaven and earth as a firstborn child would receive and inherit from his father. God has given to God. God the Father has given to the Son all authority in heaven and earth.



   That's where this begins. 1. God. And if we miss it here, every other step goes astray. If we miss it here, anything else that we have to say about Jesus Christ is corrupted and defiled but if we're right here, we're now ready to add the other key words and the second key word is "Creator." 1. God. 2. Creator. And in verse 16 Paul sets forth the creative power of the Lord Jesus Christ and he says that all that there is in the universe is by him and through him and for him. It sounds very much like Romans 11:36, "For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things." There is nothing outside of verse 16. The entire universe is self-contained within verse 16. There is not one molecule of the created order that is outside of verse 16.



   Now when he says by him, verse 16, "For by Him all things were created," literally the word "by" is "in." For in him, meaning the sphere in which the work of creation takes place. In other words, he didn't sub it out to another firm to do the work of creation. It was all done within his hands and within his spoken power. The preposition "in" is really, I think, more forceful and descriptive than even the preposition "by." It's an interpreters or translators decision. So creation was not out-sourced, it was all done within the confines of Christ's creative word. He was the one in Genesis 1 who said, "Let there be light," and there was light.

"For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth." Now when he says "the heavens," he's referring to the vastness of outer space, the planets, the suns, the stars, the galaxies, as well as the angelic realm, both elect and fallen angelic beings. Then when he says "on earth," he's referring to this planet of the oceans, the continents, the seas, the mountains, the trees, all plant life, animal life, human life, and the human race. Everything has been made by Christ. Sometimes when we buy a product it will say, "Made in China. Made in Taiwan. Made in Texas." All the foreign countries. But ultimately there has only been one who has made everything out of nothing and that is Jesus Christ.



   He says "visible and invisible." Visible refers to the physical world, invisible refers to the spiritual world. Then when he says, "whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities," these are subcategories of the angelic order and these are levels in the hierarchy of angelic beings.

Ephesians 1:21, Ephesians 3:10, and Ephesians 6:12, all three of those Ephesian passages kind of give different nuances to these strata of angelic beings.



   Now this is why Paul is be laboring this point and why we need to hear this. The Colossians were being drawn into idolatry in this sense, they were beginning to become preoccupied with angels and were even dabbling in angel worship, and what Paul is doing here is he is reasoning with him, one, stating the truth of who Jesus is, but secondly, reasoning with him, "Why would you worship a created being when you ought to be worshiping the Creator? Why would you worship what he has made when you should be worshiping him who spoke everything into being out of nothing?" That's the point here.



   Then he says, "all things have been created through Him." That is to say he is the agency, he is the mediator by which this creation has taken place and it has all come through him. Then notice, "and for Him." That means everything that has been made has been made for his own glory, for his own pleasure, for his own purposes. It's all about him, we would say in the vernacular. The one who makes it has designed it for his own purposes and that speaks volumes to our own lives, does it not? We didn't make ourselves. We're not the product of society or the culture. We here in the South region haven't arisen out of the sands of the South. We have been made by Jesus Christ in the womb at the moment of conception and we are fearfully and we are wonderfully made, and all abortion is rising up and attacking the very masterpiece of the design of the Lord Jesus Christ.



   J. Vernon McGee has a very pointed note, he says, "Friends, this is God's universe and so you're going to have to do things God's way. You may think you have a better way but you don't have your own universe in which to do it." McGee goes on to say, "Then just go and create your own universe and come up with your own rules and run it the way that you want to, but until then you're in God's universe; you're on God's planet; you're breathing God's air; you're drinking God's water." And we all have to function according to what the Creator has designed. Is that not basic?



   Jesus Christ is God. He is the God-man. Jesus Christ is Creator. Notice verse 17, in verse 17 he is sustainer. All that he creates, he sustains and maintains. In other words, he didn't just create it and then walk away from it. All that he has created has never left his hand and he upholds it by the power of his word. Look at verse 17, "He is before all things." Now what that says is that he has existed before the creation of all things. He is pre-existent. He is the eternal God, the eternal Creator who is before all things. Isaiah 9:6 calls him the eternal Father, meaning the Father of eternities. Micah 5:2 says his goings forth are from long ago from the days of eternity. In other words, he stepped out of eternity into time when he was born in Bethlehem. John 1:1, "In the beginning was the Word," which means before time began Christ was already in existence. John 17:5, "Father, glorify Me together with Yourself with the glory which I had with You before the world was." So this is an important statement. Paul is driving home yet again that Jesus is not a created being, he is the Creator, because he has existed before all things. He can't be created if you exist before all things or you would just be one more of the things that have been created.



   Then he says at the end of verse 17, "and in Him all things hold together." Do you know what's keeping the universe from exploding? Do you know what's keeping the earth in its rotation? Do you know what's keeping the earth on its axle? Do you know what's keeping the laws of gravity and the laws of first and second thermodynamics, the laws of inertia? Do you know what's keeping all of these physical laws going? It's the Creator God who is sustaining all things, the Lord Jesus Christ. He has the whole world in his hands. That's a mind-boggling statement. 


   He's also sustaining and maintaining your life. Now do you think he's qualified to keep up with your life? Do you think he might know what's best? Do you think he knows tomorrow? Do you think he can make the right calls? He's got the whole universe in his hands. He is upholding, sustaining, maintaining everything. The nations are but a drop in the bucket. What must we be? There is no prayer that we can ever bring before his throne of grace but that he is so abundantly able to do exceedingly beyond all that we would ask or think. With us things are impossible, with him nothing is impossible. With him all things are possible. He is the sustainer of all.



   There is a fourth key word that I want you to see and this really continues to strike at the heart of who Christ is. If I were to tell you who Christ is and I left this one out, this would be an incomplete study. 4. He is Lord. He is Lord. Now in verse 18 and it's hard to know where to stop it, I think it goes all the way through verse 20, he is setting forth the absolute Lordship of Jesus Christ. Now you will not find the word "Lord" per se, "kyrios," in this passage but the truth of Lordship is in every line and in every phrase. This is the Lordship of Christ and he has already spoken that Jesus Christ is Lord.



   Notice he says, verse 18, "He is the head of the body, the church." Now it's all good for us to know our place, is it not? And we are the body of Christ and some of us have been placed sovereignly by Christ into his body as an elbow, some a hand, some a foot, some a hip. We all have different places that we are assigned by the Lord and given different gifts and we are placed into different opportunities and it is all by God's design and none of us are a self-contained package and we all need one another. The hand needs the foot and the foot needs the elbow etc., but there's only one head and head here communicates the brains, and it communicates the direction and the decisions, and it conveys coming from the head and all that medically is implied in that. The entirety of life is coming from the head, the headship of Christ. This is to say he is the Lord of the church. He is the Lord of our lives. He controls every part of the church and every part of our individuals lives. There is no part of our lives that are not under the Lordship of Christ: our personal life, our church life, our family life, our work life, our recreational life. Hear me say it again: every component part of our lives is under his Lordship. And as our head, he gives grace, he gives direction, he gives power, he gives wisdom, all that we need is flowing from the headship of Christ.

   It says, "He is the beginning," the beginning of what? Well, he is the beginning of the body, he is the beginning of the church, and this really goes back to eternity past and it speaks of the fact that we are chosen in Christ; we are predestined in Christ; that our names were written in the Lamb's book of life from before the foundation of the world. He is the beginning of it all and this word "beginning" also speaks of primacy, "arche," that he has the highest rank and the chief position. How do you explain the unity in our church? Marvelous unity the Lord has given his church. We are a people at peace with one another and we are a people at peace with God. How do you explain that? Is it the colour of the carpet? Is it the palm trees? It is that we all find ourselves under the headship of Christ and we all submit and yield to him, and if there would ever be any dissension of any division in our church, it would be because someone or some group is no longer under the headship of Christ. And he mediates his Lordship through his word, by his Spirit, through his elders who are supported by deacons and it flows from top to bottom down to the congregation. Jesus is Lord.



   He goes on to say in verse 18 he is "he firstborn from the dead." The same word, "firstborn," that was used in verse 15 and again it carries the same meaning, and this makes the point even more clear. This is not saying, can't be saying that Jesus is the first born ever raised from the dead. There were people raised from the dead in the Old Testament, I would remind us all. This has nothing to do with chronological sequence. It has everything to do with prominence and pre-eminence and this is saying that of all of those who have ever been raised from the dead, Jesus Christ is the preeminent one.



   He says at the end of verse 18, "so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything." Did you get that, in everything? He must have first place in our families, first place in our marriages, first place in our professions, first place in matters of intellect, first place in time, first place in love, first place in conversation, first place in pleasures, first place in eating, first place in play, first place in athletics, first place in what we watch, first place in music, first place in worship, first place in art, first place in missions, first place in ministry. He must have first place in everything.





   Verse 19, again, just supports this and he uses the word I used earlier to buttress this point, "For it was the Father's good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him." Therefore who else could possibly be the head of the church but the one who possesses all the fullness of deity in himself? So do you know what? Here today at Christ Fellowship, we're not free to do church however we want to. We're not free to reinvent church. We're not free to invent a new way of doing church for this generation. That's not our prerogative. The head of the church, who died for the church, who is God, has told us in his word how his body is to function.



    Now verse 20, I believe he's still elaborating on the Lordship of Christ and you'll note that the sentence even continues in verse 20 in the New American Standard, there's not supplied period at the end of verse 19 and now the start of a new sentence, the word "and" indicates, I think it's the same flow of thought that really began in verse 18, we're still talking about the Lordship of Christ. "And through Him," we know who the "Him" is, that's the one who's the head of the church, Christ, now watch this, "to reconcile all things to Himself." Now the word "reconcile" means "to change the status of something; to bring about a dramatic change of condition," and for the most part it has meant two parties that are at enmity with one another and they are reconciled together, but at this point I think it's still general, it will become specific in verse 21 and 22, but in verse 10, it is to reconcile all things to himself.



   Now what are the "all things"? Well, I think the "all things" in context, look at verse 16, "by Him all things were created both in the heavens and on earth." Verse 16, "all things have been created through Him." Verse 17, "He is before all things, and in Him all things." That's four times "all things" has been mentioned in verse 16 and 17, and then verse 18, the alternate statement, "everything." So he has just said, "All things, all things, all things, all things, everything." He comes to verse 20 and says, "to reconcile all things to Himself." I think the "all things" are all things. Now this is not teaching Universalism, that everybody in the world ends up saved and some people, theologians, even little sects have said even the devil is saved at the end.


    Now what is he saying in verse 20? This is a critical point that through his humble obedience unto death, God has therefore highly exalted him and given him a name that is above every name; that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow and every tongue will confess whether in heaven or on earth – get this – or under the earth, that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father. What this is saying, don't miss this, this may be bigger than what you realized, that through the obedience of Christ unto death at Calvary's cross whereby he purchased the salvation of all of his people, it is by that final act of obedience unto death that God has exalted him to the heights of heaven and given him the name above every name and that at the end, all things will be reconciled to him in the sense that everything will be brought into submission to Christ and everyone and everything will rise up and say Jesus Christ is Lord. Not unto salvation, for many unto damnation, but every knee will bow. There will be no atheists in that day. There will be no agnostics in that day. There will be no liberals in that day. There will be no ecumenical people out there in that day. There will only be orthodox statements in that day.



   Jesus Christ is Lord. Every one of us here today will bow the knee to Christ. Has that thought ever registered in your head? It's just a matter of when. Either in this life you will bow the knee to Christ confessing your sins and surrendering your life to his Lordship and receiving his saving grace, or on that final day you will bow your knee to Christ and you will declare his Lordship and he will damn you and he will consign you to the pit of hell forever and you will descend into the abyss, into the bowels of hell saying, "Jesus Christ is Lord. Jesus Christ is Lord.



    "Verse 20 is one of the most extraordinary statements of the Lordship of Jesus Christ, that he will "reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven." Verse 20 puts its arms around the entire universe, not just around the elect, not just around those who are the redeemed salvifically, that's verse 22, but verse 20 is an enormous statement of the unrestrained parameters, the unlimited, infinite borders of the sovereign Lordship of Jesus Christ that the entire universe has been reconciled – listen – into a position of accountability to Christ; has been reconciled into a place of submission to Christ. This is Philippians 2:9-11 that I just quoted, that Jesus Christ will preside and is presiding and will forever preside over the entire created order. All that he created in verse 16 will be reconciled to him in verse 20 and it will be under his feet in a position of subjugation to Christ.



   Next Lord's Day, we will look at verses 21 to 23 and I will give you the final word and we will step into the ocean of saving grace and the mercy and forgiveness that has flowed to us through this one who is God, Creator, Sustainer and Lord. Only now are we ready to talk about Jesus as Savior.



   As we bring this service, this message to a close, I want to say to you that there is salvation in no other name; that there is no other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved. There is nothing in your head that can match what you just heard. There is no thought in your mind that can rise above what I just told you. There is nothing that you have that can displace what has just been presented to you. This is the Alpha, the Omega. This is the sum and the substance. This is the beginning and the end. This is the height and depth and breadth and length of truth and reality and there is not one drop of saving grace outside of the Lord Jesus Christ. I call you to confess your sin today. I call you to humble yourself beneath his mighty right hand. I call you to call upon the name of the Lord and if you have never done so, this very moment, this very second, throw yourselves upon his loving arms and he will receive you. He's come to seek and to save that which is lost. He has come not to be served but to serve and to give his life a ransom for many. Come and give yourself to Christ and be one of those many for whom the Saviour will receive with arms of forgiveness and grace.



    How could you live for anything else? How could you live for anyone else? How could you live contrary to the very purpose and reason for which you were made? It is incongruent, illogical and irrational to live for anyone else other than Jesus Christ. It is moral insanity, it's intellectual suicide for you to live for anyone else or anything else than the pre-eminence of Christ, that he would have first place in your life and in every area of your life. "What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world yet lose his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his own soul? For me to live is Christ and to dies I gain." Live for Christ. Believe upon Christ. Give your life to Christ. Adore him. Serve him. Worship him. Obey him. May your whole life be like an arrow that is pointed at the target of Christ. May you hit that target. May God by his grace direct your life to him. 



   As we come together to look into the word of God, we want to survey the cross and we want to delve more deeply into the death of Christ on our behalf. I invite you to take God's word and turn with me to the book of Colossians 1 and we want to bring to completion a message that we began last week out of this chapter entitled "Who is Jesus Christ?" Last time together, we looked at verses 15-20 and this Lord's Day we want to look at verses 21-23 and it's just a short, little, two-part message and today is the second part. Again, the title of this message is "Who is Jesus Christ?" This is part 2 and I want to begin by reading verse 21 and we will look through verse 23 today, and I don't know that there's really a more important subject matter that we could be looking at today than this focus upon the Lord Jesus Christ. If you find yourself visiting with us today or this is your first time to be here, this is a red letter day to be at Christ's fellowship as our whole focus in this exposition is upon the person and work of Jesus Christ.


   The word of God reads beginning in verse 21,
21 And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds, 22 yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach-- 23 if indeed you continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel that you have heard, which was proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, was made a minister.

  
We live in a world that presently has a population of some six billion people. Every day on this planet there are over 70,000 people who are born into this world and every month there are 2 million people born on this planet, every year there are another 25 million people who enter the human race. It has been estimated that in the history of the world from the beginning to this present hour, there have been a total of 60 billion people on this planet most of whom have lived very obscure lives. A few have made a small ripple effect upon the world scene and a very very few have been known in the annals of human history, but of all the people who have ever lived, of all the some sixty billion people who have ever entered the human race, there can only be one who is the greatest who has ever lived. No other human being in history other than this one has attracted more attention, has garnered more devotion, has been subject to more opposition and criticism, nor has become the object
of more worship than this one who is the God-man, the Lord Jesus Christ.
  
   He lived 2,000 years ago in a small little nation in a sliver of land known as Israel. He was born of relatively unknown parents and lived a life of very mundane and common existence, yet no one has affected the human race like this one individual, Jesus Christ. No one knows the exact date of his birth and yet the entire human history is divided by his time of entrance into this planet. He never wrote a book and yet more books have been written about him than anyone who has ever lived, no one else is even close. He never raised an army and yet millions have marched in his army and have given their lives for him. Except for one brief period of his childhood, his travels were limited to an area the size of Dallas/Fort Worth and yet today his influence is global and reaches around the world. He never spoke to more than a few thousand people at any time and yet this words have been translated into over 1,000 languages and are made available to some 2,000 people groups. He had no formal education yet today there are thousands of schools and colleges and major universities and seminaries that are founded upon his name. He never painted a picture, he never composed a song or poem, and yet today he is the subject of more paintings and the subject of more songs than any man who has ever entered the human race. It is absolutely impossible to overestimate the influence and the impact of this one solitary life that was lived by Jesus Christ.

None of us here today can afford to be even one or two degrees off on precisely who he is. It would be to live in ignorance. It would be to live in the shadows of darkness. For us to know precisely exactly who he is and our entire eternal destiny hinges upon our relationship to Jesus Christ. It's really not important that we know hardly anyone else or even anyone else if we do not know Jesus Christ. The entire Christian life is a growth in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. Eternal life is to know him.

   As we have read these verses in Colossians 1, Paul is writing for a specific purpose and that purpose is as he is in jail in Rome, word has been brought to him that there has been false teaching that has come into the church at Colossae regarding the person and work of Jesus Christ. You cannot recover from that. If you're wrong with the person and work of Christ, then everything else is wrong in your life in time and eternity. So in the first chapter on the very front doorstep of this book, Paul be labors the point of the person and work of Christ and are we not glad that he has because this is a treasure for us, this is such sacred ground for us to look at these verses and have spelled out for us in great detail who Jesus Christ is.

   We normally don't have such a concentrated section of Scripture where line upon line and layer upon layer and precept upon precept, it is jammed in together so tightly worded. In fact, I told you that it is believed that these are actually the words of an early hymn in the early church as they are singing their theology about Christ. There are hardly any verbs, there are prepositional phrases, there are nouns, there are clauses, and there is no wasted motion in this regarding who is Jesus Christ. If some Jehovah's Witness, some Mormon, some Christian Science person comes and knocks on your door or engages you in conversation, this is one of the choicest plots of Scripture to go to stake out our claim regarding who is the true Jesus Christ.

   Last time together, we looked at verses 15-20 and just to remind you, we noted four designations of Christ. Today's message will be the fifth and final designation of Christ that I want to just remind you, I want to make sure you got this, I want to make sure that you've written it down. If you wrote it on a piece of paper last time and that piece of paper is someplace, write it in the margin of your Bible. Why not?

   Now we noted four designations of Christ and what we will look at today will really stand on the shoulders of these first four. We saw, first, in verse 15, that he is God, "He is the image of the invisible God." Now there are so many passages that we could turn to that just point blank state that Jesus Christ is God. You could go to John 20:28, you could go to Titus 2:13, you could go to Romans 9:4-5, just straightforward, point blank Jesus Christ is God. Period. Paragraph. Here it is couched in these terms that, "He is the image of the invisible God." When you look at Jesus, you see everything that God is. That can only be said of one who is fully perfectly God. I would refer you to last week's message and the recording of that for all of the exposition and the exegesis of that.

   Second, he is Creator, verse 16. This is a staggering statement, "For by Him all things were created," and at the end of the verse, "all things have been created through Him and for Him." Everything in the universe has been spoken out of his mouth, all things exist by his will. He is the mighty God who has created everything out of nothing.

   Then, third, we saw in verse 17, he is sustainer, all that he has created, he maintains and upholds and oversees and governs and directs, and he is the great power of providence as he sustains and moves all that he has made to its appointed end. We see in verse 17 that, "in Him all things hold together." Were it not for the Lord Jesus Christ everything would just fall apart, everything would disintegrate, everything would unravel, everything would come apart, nothing would hold together. All the physical laws of first and second thermodynamics and gravity and inertia etc. etc., all of those laws, we would just be spinning in outer space in what would appear to be just random disorder and all of our lives, there would be no purpose, there be no aim, there be no intentionality. We would be reduced to living in a world of luck and chance and random occurrence and all of that, but Jesus Christ seated at the right hand of God the Father who has all authority in heaven and earth, he does continually moment by moment every day, he is upholding all things. He's got the whole world in his hands. He's got the whole universe in his hands.

   Then, fourth, we saw last time, he is Lord. In verses 18 through 20, he is the head of the body, the church; the beginning; the firstborn from the dead. All of these are statements of Lordship, supreme authority, sovereign authority, that through his death we read in verse 20, that he has reconciled all things to himself. That does not mean that he has savingly reconciled all things to himself, we'll get to that in verses 21 and 23 today, but inverse 20 it is saying that he has reconciled all things into a position of accountability before him; that every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father. He has – listen to this – he has brought all things into submission under his feet. That is what verse 20 is saying. Or if we take it in a redemptive way, then we're left with Universalism and he has reconciled everyone, even the devil, to himself. Verse 20 does not speak of that, it speaks of bringing all the created order into subjection and subjugation under his feet.

   So we have said he is God, verse 15; he is Creator, verse 16; he is sustainer, verse 17; he is Lord, verse 18-20. Now it is on the basis of this we come now to verses 21-23 and the fifth designation, Jesus Christ is Savior, or if you like, reconciler. This final designation is really the result of the four previous titles. No one can be Savior who is not God, who is not Creator, who is not sustainer, who is not Lord. Any other supposed Savior is only a wannabe impostor. The only one who can be Savior of sinners is one who is God, who has created all, who maintains all, and who is Lord over all. That one alone is qualified to bring about the reconciliation of sinners to a holy God.

   So as we look at verses 21-23, I'm going to give you three subheadings here. I want you to note in verse 21 our past alienation. Our past alienation and we read in verse 21, "And although you were formerly," stop right there. The "you" refers to believers in the church. Now this is true not only of believers in the church, it's true of everyone out in the world as well. For everyone out in the world it's present tense and past tense, for us it's only past tense. These are what we would call our BC days, Before Christ. Everyone's life here today could be written in two volumes, BC, Before Christ, and AC, After Christ, and this is true of everyone's life before they came to a saving knowledge of Christ.

   Now look at this triad. Alienated, that refers to our status before God. Hostile in mind, that refers to our attitude towards God. And engaged in evil deeds, that refers to our actions before God. Here's the total package right here. Everything tucks neatly into the set three headings. This was our status. This was our attitude. And these were our actions before God. And all of this is to underscore how desperately we needed to be reconciled to God in a salvific way.

    So let's look at each one of these very quickly. Alienated, and of course, this is a set-up for reconciliation. Alienation is the antithesis or the antonym of reconciliation. The only people who need to be reconciled are those who are alienated and alienated means to be estranged from; to be separated from; to be cut off from. And the object here is, from God. Everyone born into this world is not born into some covenantal relationship with God. Everyone born into this world is born alienated from God, cut off and detached and removed from God. That's why everyone needs to be born again because your first birth, you were alienated from God. Ephesians 2:12 says "you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world; you formerly were far off." This is a picture of Luke 15 and the prodigal son who went to a faraway country. That was us,far away from God, a long way from God. Even when we were sitting in church, even when we were sitting under the word of God, even when we had Christian parents, in our heart and in our soul we were alienated from God. And it speaks that God is a holy God and we are sinful creatures and there is an enormous gap that separates holy God from sinful creatures. Alienated.

   Then our attitude, notice, "hostile in mind." At the very core of our being, as a man thinks in his heart so is he. In the very depths of our soul, notice we weren't neutral, we weren't one foot in, one foot out, we were hostile in mind, every Christian for the entirety of their existence before they became a Christian. All unbelievers, let me just tell you this, hate God. You say, "No, they don't. They love Christmas. They love Easter." I'm going to tell you again: they hate God. They hate any moral restraint that is placed upon their lives. For further input on that, read Psalm 2 when you get home.

   So "hostile in mind." John 3:20, "everyone who does evil," alright, that covers the field of sinners, "everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed." So that's the state of every lost person and all of this is the black velvet backdrop to set up what he will tell us in the next verse. We didn't need just a plus on our A in order to get into heaven. We were alienated, we were hostile in mind towards God, and then finally, "engaged in evil deeds." No one had to teach us to be sinners. No one had to teach us how to be engaged in evil deeds. We were birthed into this world with a radically corrupt sin nature and there was a bent and an inclination and a propensity towards doing evil deeds and we did it to the full. That's what he's saying here, that evil deeds flow out of a hostile mind. This summarizes our past alienation.

   Now let me tell you, it's not just that we were at enmity with God, let me tell you something even worse than that. You may think, "What could possibly be worse than that I was at enmity with God?" God was at enmity with you. God is a holy God and God cannot look upon evil with approval and God is not some doting grandfather in heaven passing out birthday gifts to everybody. God is a holy God and God hates sin and God hates sinners who are outside of Christ. God even hates the elect before they come to faith in Christ. Psalm 5:5 says, "You hate all who do iniquity." Psalm 5:6 says, "The LORD abhors the man," not just the deed, not just the act but the man, the person, the individual, "of bloodshed and deceit." Psalm 11:5, "the one who loves violence [God's] soul hates." Romans 1:18, "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men."

   I was in a Q & A session at the Ligonier conference this past week and I was on the platform with R. C. Sproul and Al Moehler and Michael Horton and a pretty sharp group of people and I was trying to hide at the end, and sure enough, the first question and I hear R. C. saying, "This one is for Steve. How do you reconcile Psalm 5 and John 3:16?" You see, this was to get me prepared for you today. How do you reconcile, "God hates sinners," and, "God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son"? I said, "Well, there's a lot for us to talk about here. First of all, Romans 9:13, 'Jacob I loved and Esau I hated.' Eternally, redemptively, salvifically there is a discrimination in the saving love of God and the love of God is demonstrated only towards his elect." You say, "I don't understand how God could hate the non-elect." Listen, I don't understand how God could love the elect. That's the hard sell for me. But even within the elect who have been loved with an everlasting love, while they are in a pre-conversion state before they have even come to faith in Christ, don't think that God is in heaven with a smile on his face towards them. The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all unrighteousness and all P
ungodliness of men whether elect or non-elect, and before the elect become experientially the object of God's love, they are under the shadow of God's fury. That's how bad you, sir, you, ma'am, needed to be reconciled to God even though you are numbered among the elect of God, before you came to Christ, God hated your sin and God had holy pure hatred of your contaminated and defiled life. The love of God is found exclusively in Christ. There is no love of God redemptively outside of Christ. That's why we’re were chosen in Christ and predestined in Christ because that is the only way that our election could have even come to pass, it was that we were chosen in Christ.

   So not only did we need to be reconciled to God, but God if he is to enter into relationship with us, there must be reconciliation from his side as well. Now leads, second, to our present reconciliation. We've seen in verse 21 our past alienation, second I want you to see our present reconciliation. Verse 22, this speaks of the great change that has come about in our lives and as I look at verse 22, I want to break it apart this way, I want to use those familiar adverbs: who, what, where, how, why. I want that to be the headings for verse 22: who, what, where, how, why.

   We begin with the "who." "Yet He has now reconciled you." Christ is the "He." Christ is the reconciler. We cannot reconcile ourselves. We cannot meet God halfway. We cannot contribute anything to our reconciliation. The "who" is Jesus Christ. He is the great reconciler. Holy God, sinful man, enormous chasm that separates us and there is only one way that sinful man can be reconciled to holy God and that is by the person and work of Jesus Christ. There is no other reconciler. There is no other way to be reconciled. There is one God and one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus, and a reconciler is a mediator who brings two parties together.

   Now this leads, second, to the "what." "Yet He," now here's the "what," "has now reconciled you." This word "reconciled," let's pause just for a moment and consider what this word means. Literally it means to change. It's in the intensive form which means to bring about an enormous change. It means to change the status of the relationship of two parties that are estranged and have suffered a falling out, and their backs are turned toward each other, and to be reconciled means that there is the removal of this estrangement; there is the removal of this alienation. Reconciliation means the removal of the enmity between God and the sinner and the establishment of a new relationship of peace and acceptance and friendship between them, and it is all on the basis of the reconciler. Those once in dispute with God are brought into harmonious relationship with God. They have been changed from hating God to being sons and daughters who love God.


   Now, I want you to think of this illustration, I want you to think of a triangle. Watch me here. A triangle and at the top apex of the triangle is God, and over here on the left corner of the triangle is Christ, and on the right corner is the sinner. God, Christ and the sinner and they are connected by straight lines that form the triangle. Now our salvation is so multifaceted that no one word encompasses the whole of the miracle of salvation. I'm going to give you a couple of words. Propitiation. That goes on the line between God and Christ. Christ through his death has propitiated God, that means, has appeased the Page 6 of 11
righteous anger of God toward us. Christ by his blood atonement has satisfied the righteous anger of God. He has placated the wrath of God. That is why there is now therefore no condemnation for them who are in Christ Jesus.

   Now on the line that connects Christ and the sinner is the word "redemption," and Christ has redeemed us. He propitiated the Father and he redeemed us, meaning he purchased us, he bought us out of the slave market of sin at a great price. We have been redeemed not by corruptible things such as silver or gold but by the precious blood of a lamb. That is Christ towards us.

   Then on the third line between God and the sinner, on that line write the word "reconciliation." By the death of Christ, he has reconciled God to the sinner and the sinner to God. He has reconciled holy God and foul, offensive sinner and have brought them together in sweet reconciliation.

    Third, "where." That was "what." He has changed the status of our relationship, no longer alienated, now reconciled, now brought into right relationship with God. Now, third, "where." Where did this reconciliation take place. Look at the next four words, "in His fleshly body." That is where this reconciliation took place. Now there is a reason why he does not say the cross, that he says, "in His fleshly body," and it's unique to the false teachers at Colossae, they were the early seeds that were growing of Gnosticism and there was a form of Gnosticism called Docetic Gnosticism which comes from a Greek word that means "seems" or "appears," and what Docetic Gnosticism was teaching is that Jesus – well, behind it was there is this dualism in the universe between matter and spiritual things that are not physical matter, and Gnosticism said everything that is physical is evil and only what is spiritual is good. So therefore when applied to Christ, there was a total denial of the Incarnation. God could never become a man. God could never take upon himself a human body because all that is physical is evil in this dualistic Gnostic system. Now, they denied the full deity of Christ, they therefore denied the full humanity of Christ and you're left with a mere spirit-being, small "s," or a mere ghost of a person and Paul is wanting to stamp that out with a vengeance and you're in big trouble if you deny the Incarnation, if you deny the physical body of Christ because the wages of sin is, what? Death. Well, if Jesus is to die for our sins, God cannot die, he must become a man in order to die. No Incarnation, no crucifixion. No crucifixion, no reconciliation.

   So the "where" is, "in His fleshly body." As Jesus was lifted up upon that cross, Jesus was the reconciler and as he was lifted up upon that cross, nailed to that cross – listen to me – our sins were transferred to Christ and the Father's wrath fell upon Christ and upon that cross it was as if he took holy God with one hand and sinful man with the other and he has reconciled us and has brought us together by removing the enmity between us, and in that death placating the righteous anger of God towards us, there is now no wrath towards us. Christ has appeased it infinitely, perfectly, eternally, and he has bought us out of the sin market of sin and through his shed blood, he has now also reconciled us to God in his fleshly body. That is the "where." It wasn't enough that he shed his blood in Gethsemane, it was there upon the cross.

   Now, fourth, "how." The next two words, "through death." Death is the key word here and I really almost got a little bit ahead of myself. It wasn't enough that Jesus came, that doesn't save us. It wasn't enough that he lived here. It wasn't enough that he performed miracles. It wasn't enough that he raised the dead. It wasn't enough that he gave sight to the blind or healed the sick. It wasn't enough that he spoke as no man has ever spoken. It wasn't enough, it was not enough for my salvation that he reveal God to us. If I am to be reconciled to God, he must die. The wages of sin is death. The day that you eat of this fruit, you shall surely die. The soul that sins, it shall surely die. If Jesus is to stand in my place, he must die because the death penalty has been rendered upon my head by God in heaven, and do you know what? The death penalty is upon your head because the soul that sins, it shall surely die. Do you think God means that?

   So for Jesus to reconcile me to God, he had to die because without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sin. 1 Peter 3:18, "Christ died for [our] sins, the just for the unjust." 1 Corinthians 15:3, "Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and He was buried." Why the emphasis on burial? Because he really did die. He didn't just go to sleep. He didn't go into a state of swooning. He didn't just go unconscious. No, he actually died and the reason we know that he actually died is because they buried him. Romans 5:6, "Christ died for the ungodly." Romans 5:8, "Christ died for us." Again and again and again this emphasis upon the death of Christ in our place.

   Think of the finality of that death. He cried out, "It is finished!" meaning the reconciliation has been accomplished. Think of the sufficiency of it. There is nothing yet for us to do to add to this to bring about the reconciliation. Think of the exclusivity of it, that there is no other reconciliation by which I can be made right with holy God. Think of the eternality of it, that once reconciled I will never again be in a place of alienation from him. Think of the sovereignty of it, all for whom he died upon the cross, he reconciles to God.

   Here's the "why." Look in the middle of verse 22. Here's the "why." Why did Jesus die? Now theologically there are 10 answers to this. Here's one of those, "in order to," here is the intent of the death of Christ, here is the reason why he died, "in order to present you before Him." The "Him" refers to God the Father and the presentation has to do on the time of our arrival in heaven whether by death or by the Second Coming. It refers to an official presentation before the Father and all of us will be presented before the Father. None of us when we die will be able to crawl up into the grave and pull the dirt up over us and nail down the coffin and hide from God. There will be a presentation of every one of us to God before him on his throne.

   Now here is the glory of the Gospel. Here is the good news of the Gospel. This is as good as it gets. It can't be any better than this. We once who were alienated, hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds, solely because of the work of Christ upon the cross dying in our place, he will now present foul, unclean sinners like you and me, he will present us to the Father, notice these three words, this is the total antithesis of what we just read in verse 21, alienated, hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds, look at these three, you talk about a change, "holy and blameless and beyond reproach." Do you think there's power in the blood of Christ? Do you think there is power in the death of Christ for us? You can't have a bigger change than this. Impossible.

   Holy means to be cleansed from all defilement; to be cleansed from all impurities and to be clothed in the righteousness of Christ. Now without this, when we're presented before the Father, we would be rejected. We would be turned away. We would be condemned. We would be sentenced to destruction were it not for Christ, the reconciler, presenting us holy before God, pure, spotless, undefiled because of the blood of Christ. Listen, this is a true reconciliation. The next word blameless means without moral blemish. Beyond reproach. Faultless. No liabilities in my debit side of the T square. Blameless. Then beyond reproach. Do you know what that means? No one can bring a charge against us in heaven and let me tell you, the devil is accusing us every day in heaven day and night of our sin. We don't know the half of it. Romans 8:33, "Who will bring a charge against God's elect? God is the one who justifies; who is the one who condemns?" We are cleared of all charges. We are freed from all accusations. God says, "Come, let us reason together says the Lord. Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world."

   Now this work of reconciliation took place when we were enemies of God and hostile towards God. Christ by the power of his death at the cross has radically changed our status before God and it is all by our faith in Christ, by our trusting in Christ. Now some here today maybe are feeling a little uncomfortable and feeling like I'm going over the top, I'm going overboard on this thing. "I didn't come here today to hear about alienation, hostile. I want you to spray perfume on me. I want to hear something good. I want to hear something sweet." Fine, go to hell because this is the status of every one of us upon our entrance into the world and it becomes absolutely glorious to hear of a reconciler who has made us holy and without blemish and faultless before the Lord, and it means absolutely less than anything if were not alienated and hostile in mind and engaged in evil deeds. If you want someone to tickle your ears, be gone. We've not come here to play games and play church today. We've gathered for God to speak through his word. There was this past alienation, there is now this present reconciliation and it has been brought about by the God-man, the Lord Jesus Christ.
   Now our final verse, verse 23, our personal assurance. We all need to know this real in our lives, do we not? We can't just have our toes up to the narrow gate but never go through it. We can't just see others saved but not me, myself, being saved. I can't be deluded about this. I can't be self-deceived about this. I need to know that it is real in my life, don't you? So verse 23 speaks of our personal assurance.

   Now this answers the question, "How can I know if this reconciliation with God has taken place in my life? How can I know that my faith is saving faith? That it is real?" So Paul tells us in verse 23. He is doing the work of an evangelist as well as the work of a pastor so he says in verse 23, "if." Now that word "if" should capture our attention. You have been reconciled if... You are no longer in alienation if... This has been made real in your life and were you to die today, you would be presented holy and blameless and faultless before God if... If your faith in Christ is genuine, is authentic, is real. There is a counterfeit faith. There is a faith that falls short of true saving faith. There is a faith that is merely an intellectual acknowledgment and maybe even an emotional warm feeling, but if there is not the volitional commitment, it's not a true saving faith. James 2:19 says that the demons believe and they shudder.

   So what is the mark of true saving faith? There are many marks. We could turn to 1 John and find 11 marks that accompany true saving faith but here is one key component of what designates true saving faith as that which rightly connects me to Christ: if indeed you continue in the faith. Now "the faith" here refers not to our faith, it refers to the Christian faith; it refers to the Christian doctrine; it refers to the truth of the Gospel; it refers to the truth about Christ. It is objective faith, not subjective faith. To continue in the faith speaks of perseverance and endurance in the objective Christian faith, meaning if you are pulled away from the truth about the person and work of Christ and you become hoodwinked by this Docetic Gnostic teaching about Christ, it is clear evidence that you've never been saved to begin with and your faith was a self-imposed faith. It did not come down from above. It was not sired in you by the Holy Spirit because if you have true saving faith, you would continue in the faith in spite of the proliferation of false teachers around you. 1 John 2:19 says, "They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, so that it would be shown that they all are not of us." I told you before the faith that fizzles before the finish, you can finish this, has a flaw from the first. It goes up like a rocket and comes down like a rock. It's not real. It's not how you start the race from the outward human perspective, it's how you finish the race and if you don't finish the race, in fact you never began the race.

   So he says, "if indeed you continue in the faith." Perseverance, the bottom line, becomes the ultimate validation. MacArthur says truth and time go hand-in-hand. Over the long haul, continuing in Christian truth and pursuing that in personal holiness, then he says, "firmly established and steadfast." Firmly established means to be grounded like a building on a firm foundation in the Christian truth. That's why it's necessary for us to preach the faith, the truth, so that the true elect and those who truly know the Lord have a firm foundation for their faith. That's why we're not preaching how to have a happy vacation. That's why we're not preaching how to have your best life now. That's not the faith. It's too easy for you to give the appearance of being religious but you don't have the faith.

   Then he says, "and not moved away from the hope of the gospel," meaning not lured away to other strange teachings about Christ. "That you have heard, which was proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, was made a minister." The Gospel is for preaching. The Gospel is for proclamation. Oh, it can be passed on in a book, it can be read in the Bible, it can be passed on in a one-on-one witnessing, of course, parent to child and co-worker to co-worker, but ultimately it's a message to be proclaimed, to be heralded, to be announced, to be taught, and Paul acknowledges that and he says, "Listen, you are really saved if you have actually heard this message and you are anchored into the Lord by sovereign grace," and Paul says, "I was made a minister of this.

   "Reconciliation is the work of the Savior. He is God. He alone can save us from God, for God. He is Creator. He has made us for himself. He alone can make us a new creation. He is sustainer. He is Lord. He alone can reconcile us to the Father and present us holy and blameless before him.

   In the 1860's the US Government embarked upon a very monumental task. Their task was to connect the Atlantic coast with the Pacific coast by way of a train; no longer to have to sail around the lower straits of South America; no longer to have to sail down into Panama and to crawl across with the cargo and then come up to California. Now at last in1862, there was an Act passed by Congress to give millions upon millions of dollars to hire thousands upon thousands of people, most of them immigrants, to build this track and they began in Omaha, Nebraska and they started in Sacramento, California and there was a race to see who would win, and they met in Utah and there was a huge ceremony as the last spike was driven into the track and when they drove that last spike in, there was the news, "It is finished!" And it was telegraphed around the country that the two sides were now one. That is precisely what happened at the cross yet it was all the work from heaven. There was no race to meet in the middle. We were running away from God, we were at enmity with God, we were engaged in evil deeds, and yet God from heaven did all of the work and through his Son Christ at the cross, he has reconciled us to the Father. It is finished and there is no other way for the two to become one except through his death in his fleshly body.

   Our great Saviour, our great Saviour, our glorious Saviour, has undertaken the cause all by himself and through the shedding of his blood and as those spikes and nails were driven into his hands and the spear was thrust into his side, it was through that death in his fleshly body he was taking holy God and sinful man and reconciling us together and by faith in Christ, we who once were enemies, are now sons and daughters and friends of God through Christ. May you truly believe upon Christ and may you call upon him, and if you don't, all other ground is sinking sand.

Let us pray. Father, we are in amazement and astonishment that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us, while we were alienated, you had already accomplished the work of reconciliation, when we were hostile and engaged in evil deeds, you had already built the bridge to yourself through the cross of Christ. May those here today who have never believed upon Christ, may they do so this hour, this moment, this second, and may those of us who have believed upon Christ, give us a new astonishment, a new amazement, a new bewilderment. Do not allow us to be untouched, unmoved by this. Do not allow us to be so commonplace with this that it does not stir our hearts and put excitement into our soul for through the death of Christ in his fleshly body we have been reconciled to you. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.