The Supremacy Declared: The Supremacy of the Gospel Part 1 (Col. 1:1-5)
We are going to dive right into the text of Colossians. We have 95 verses to cover (don’t worry, not all today) in the next few weeks as the Lord gives us. Thanks for allowing me to lay the foundation last week. It is important to do that so that we can get a feel for the Colossian situation before we can apply it to ours.
The title of our message today is, “The Supremacy Declared: The Supremacy of the Gospel, Part 1.” The title of our series is “The Born Supremacy: Restoring His Rule in Our Lives.” My prayer is that during and after this series we will have a deep head-heart-hands understanding of the supremacy of Jesus Christ. That’s the theme of this book: The total supremacy and complete sufficiency for Jesus Christ. The bigger view we have of the Lord Jesus, the better perspective we will have of life and the purpose of it. I believe most of our problems stem from the fact that we have a small view of Christ and a big view of ourselves. We don’t pray like John the Baptist, “He must increase and I must decrease” (John 3:30). May that change as we meet Christ in this book!
Who has ever been to a victory parade? I have never been to one, but whenever I watch a sports parade on tv, I can’t believe the number of people that show up rooting for their teams in their city. It is an exciting time and if you are lucky, you can get a good shot of your favorite players. (Show slides). There is a sense of supremacy about it. Our team is number one! We have the trophy to prove it. We are talked about all over the world. There is no team like our team.
Victory parades are not anything new. Do you know in biblical times, there would be battles. And
everybody in the city would be waiting to hear news from the battlefield. There wasn’t any tv or internet, obviously, but they did have messengers. After a great battle, everyone just waited around when all of a sudden there on the horizon, the messenger would appear, returning to the city from the battlefield. “He would come flying into the city and usually by his appearance it would become very, very obvious what the news was. If his face was shining, if his spear was decked with a laurel wreath, if his head had a wreath on it and he was swinging a palm branch then joy would automatically fill the city and he would cry out We had won. And the word that is used to describe that is euangelion, the good news, the news of victory. And that is indeed the gospel. It is the news of victory.” (John Macarthur)
Today we are going to look at the supremacy of the gospel. There is nothing like the gospel of Jesus Christ in the world. Nothing else has solved the problem of sin and death and no one is like Jesus in his life, death and resurrection. We are going to find out what is so supreme about the gospel, but did you know it is a word found 97x in the New Testament and most of the references have to do with our responsibility to the gospel:
2. Defend it like Paul (Phil. 1:17)
3. Labor/Work at it (Phil. 1:27)
4. Enjoy the fellowship of it (Phil. 1:5)
5. Suffer for it (2 Tim. 1:8)
6. Don’t be ashamed of it (Rom. 1:16)
7. Don’t hinder it (1 Cor. 9:12)
8. We are divinely empowered to proclaim it (1 Thess. 1:5)
It is the message of the Bible!
I. Introduction (Col. 1:1-2)
We will go fairly quickly through the first two verses, which is a typical Pauline introduction. Actually all letters in that day pretty much followed the same pattern, though Paul Christianizes it as well as modifies it for the congregation that will receive the letter. Such introductions had a function similar to that of business cards in today’s professional world. Business cards make introductions and help to establish relationships with potential clients. The pattern is author, recipients and greeting.
a) Author: Paul. His Jewish name is Saul, but Jews in Greek-speaking areas often took Greek names that sounded close to their Hebrew names.
Remember Paul had never been to Colossae (2:1). This is why he says, “we heard” about it (1:4). A man by the name of Epaphras had been converted through Paul’s ministry in Ephesus and had brought the gospel back to Colossae (1:4, 7-9). Epaphras went to Rome, where Paul was in prison, to get help when false teachers had infiltrated the congregation.
He starts off with the title, “apostle of Christ Jesus.”
Quick survey of Paul:
1. Jewish, but also had Roman citizenship
2. Formerly a Pharisee (Phil. 3:5)
3. Persecutor of the church—watched Stephen die
4. After a miraculous conversion on the road to Damascus, he became a tireless missionary, powerful preacher of the gospel and writer of over 50% of the NT and still influences the world today for Jesus Christ.
5. We may imagine Paul as this tall well-built powerful long-haired preacher. But actually there is description of how Paul actually looked:
A description of Paul’s personal appearance has come down to us from a very early book called The Acts of Paul and Thecla, which dates back to about A. D. 200. It is so unflattering that it may well be true. It describes Paul as “a man of little stature, thin-haired upon the head, crooked in the legs, of good state of body, with eyebrows meeting, and with nose somewhat hooked, full of grace, for sometimes he appeared like a man and sometimes he had the face of an angel.” A little, balding, bandy-legged man, with a hooked nose and shaggy eyebrows—it is not a very impressive picture, and it may well be that the Corinthians made great play with it. 
By calling himself as an apostle, he is calling attention to his authority. An apostle is literally, “one who is sent on a mission.” While He was ministering on earth, Jesus had many disciples (“learners”), and from these He selected 12Apostles (Mark 3:13–19). To write a letter as an apostle is equivalent to saying that the author of the letter is God Himself. If you and I read letters which come from the IRS or the government, surely we should pay careful attention to a letter which originated from God.
Paul is saying that he is an official representative of Jesus Christ. Apostles today? Acts 1: 20-25 sets forth the qualification for an office. 1) Chosen by Jesus during earthly ministry 2) eyewitness of the Resurrection. 3) and he did possess special miraculous powers given to authenticate apostles
We don’t have the office of the apostle today, but we are all apostles in the sense that we are sent on a mission. Jesus said “Go” not “Sit.” Not called to keep score and watch the game, but to get out on the field and play.
But Paul is careful to say that he is apostle “by the will of God.” He had attained his high office neither throughaspiration (see Acts 9:11), nor through usurpation — that was not like Paul! —, nor yet through nomination by other men (Gal. 1:1, 16, 17), but by divine preparation (Gal. 1:15, 16), having been set apart and qualified by the activity of God’s sovereign will (I Cor. 1:1; II Cor. 1:1; Gal. 1:1; Eph. 1:1; II Tim. 1:1; cf. Rom. 15:32; II Cor. 8:5). As apostle, he has the authority to teach (cf. 1 Tim 2:7) and to deal pastorally with congregations in his care (2 Cor 13:10). Throughout the letter, we see Paul exercising his ministry in both teaching and pastoral care.
He says he is with Timothy, his protégé. Timothy is probably the guy who was his scribe for this letter, as Paul says in 4:18 that he wrote the final couple of lines with “his own hand.” This also means Timothy is willingly with Paul in prison.
I am always encouraged by Timothy. He is called a brother here, which means more than a Christian friend, but a helper and co-worker (in this context). Paul had a special love and confidence for Timothy ever since picking him up during his second missionary journey (read Phil 2:19-23 to see his love). Despite his strengths, Timothy was delicate (for lack of a better word). He was often sick, timid, cried a lot, hesitant, needed constant encouragement and strength (2 Tim. 1: 5-14). Nevertheless he was Paul’s child in the faith (1 Cor. 4:17) and wrote his last two letters to him and passed on to him the mantle of leadership (2 Tim. 4).
b) Recipients: “saints and faithful brothers”: “holy” (NIV)…set apart/dedicated to God. It is a word used to emphasize position, not condition. In other words, all true believers are saints…not just statues from 1532. The language is saints, even the faithful brothers. Faithful, though a word that means reliable, here means the believing family of God. So “saints” are referring to their relation to God and “faithful brothers” refer to their relation with the believing community.
The believers have two addresses: one down here, one up there. The believer always moves in two spheres; in the world, but not of the world. J. Vernon McGee says, “the important question is not where are you at? But who are you in? that might not be good grammar, but it is good Bible.” We are in two places at once. We are placed in the world to be good stewards of our time, talent and treasure, but it is all shaped by the fact that we are in Christ. We may move from place to place, but we are inseparable from Him.
c) Greeting: He combines Greek and Jewish salutations. Grace-God’s favor and Peace—a healthy condition of life. He makes sure the source of that is clear, God our Father. Notice the familial language throughout this: “our brother, brothers, our Father.” Grace is the root of Christian life. Peace is the fruit of the Christian life.
II. The Supremacy of the Gospel (Col. 1:3-8)
In Col. 1:3-14, we get a sneak peek into Paul’s prayer life. We would be challenged if we saw Paul’s prayer list. You should read Romans 16 sometime and see the extensive amount of names mentioned, and the Roman church was another church Paul had never visited. He had a large capacity for relationships. Here says “we” instead of “I’ give thanks. Can you imagine Paul and Timothy there in the dark prison cell kneeling and praying for these people? Do you pray for people you never met? He says every time he prays for the Colossians, he thanks God for them. So often every time we think of people, we gossip or are critical for them. Is there any attitude of gratitude in our heart? His prayers are specific, continual, people instead of event focused and Christ-centered. The triple name “Lord Jesus Christ” expresses Jesus ’divinity, humanity, and messianic office. He is divine Lord, he is the man Jesus, and he is the Christ (the Messiah). In verses 3-8, we see Paul thankful for the Gospel, which literally means, “Good News.”
a) The gospel’s simplicity: by faith (Col. 1:3-4a)
Faith is mentioned first, because apart from it, we have no Christian existence. It means to be persuaded by and to trust in it. One translator once called it, “to put your whole weight upon the Lord.” You had faith this morning as you came and sat in the chair without making sure it was stable. You are exercising faith when you drive on roads you have never driven before and eat at restaurants you have never eaten before. Everybody has faith in something. But it all depends on what your faith is in. Let me say this morning that the gospel is received by faith. You cannot earn it or be born into it. You don’t need any secret formulas or take a trek to some city or chant some mantras. This is what the false teachers were saying and all religions say. Jesus says, “come unto me.” Just as you are, believe on the Lord Jesus. A little child can do it. You can come from any background, race, or economic status. Just as you are! You need a story where you threw your weight completely on the Lord Jesus. This is why the Gospel is supreme. All religions say “Do.” Jesus says, “DONE!”
|Religion is man’s quest for God; the Gospel is the Savior God seeking lost men. Religion originates on earth; the Gospel originated in heaven. Religion is man-made; the Gospel is the gift of God. Religion is the story of what a sinful man tries to do for a holy God; the Gospel is the story of what a holy God has done for sinful men. Religion is good views, the Gospel is good news.|
Do you have saving faith?
Paul goes on to say that he has noticed the gospel at work in them because of the way their hope of Heaven has enabled them to love their fellow believers (brothers here include brothers and sisters). Both words are misused today. Love is mere sentiment: I love chocolate and I love football. Hope is wishful thinking: I hope it doesn’t rain tomorrow. But biblical love and biblical hope are different. First, their love. I know, I know, “pastor, you don’t know what kind of people I have to put up with! The more I get to know them, the more I love my dog!” Unfortunately, this is how many believers act and believe. Godly people, but they hate their fellow brethren. But if Jesus can boldly look at his ragamuffin band of disciples made up mostly of tax collectors and fishermen and say, the world will know me by your love, then we have no excuse. We need to love the brethren. Notice, it was sacrificial. The word is “agape” love. Look at that small word, “unto” or “for.” It is love expressed. It is action. It is practical expression of care and concern. So it is not necessarily love if we all got into a circle and started singing “Kumbaya.” Second their love was indiscriminate. Because of this, this kind of love is supreme. “This is what made the early church so amazing and so enticing to the ancient world. Barbarian, Scythian, slave and free, male and female, Jew and Greek, learned and ignorant joined hands and sat down at one table. They knew themselves to be all one in Christ Jesus. There never had been anything like it. The world began to babble about sorcery and conspiracies and complicity in unnameable vices. But Christians were only living out their “love … for all the saints.” A new thing had come into the world—a community held together by love and not by geographical accidents or common language or by the iron chains of the conqueror. The world wondered, and not a few were drawn to Christ. Genuine love for all was cause for Paul’s joyous celebration of the apostolic Church, and it is cause for celebration today, for the results are the same. They were also a community who hoped. Hope is more than wishful thinking, it is a absolute, confident, deep-seeded assurance of what God has promised. Here, it is “laid up,” a word meaning “to be reserved, set aside for someone.” It was often used to talk about money that was hidden and stored away. We have a divine layaway plan. It is in the present tense, meaning at this moment is being guarded for them where neither enemies, nor Satan, nor rust can destroy. 1 Pet. 1:1-5 says that we ourselves are being guarded as well to be in Heaven. They were not caught up with accumulating treasure and being absorbed with the things of this world. We are as John Macarthur says, sacrificing the future at the altar of the immediate.
1) Do you love the people of God? How do you show care for them? Do you let them know your prayer requests? Do you have prayer requests of people? I know, I know, “pastor, you don’t know what kind of people I have to put up with! The more I get to know them, the more I love my dog!” Unfortunately, this is how many believers act and believe. Godly people, but they hate their fellow brethren. But if Jesus can boldly look at his ragamuffin band of disciples made up mostly of tax collectors and fishermen and say, the world will know me by your love, then we have no excuse. Jesus gives us the Spirit to love (v.8).
2) Is your love non-selective/indiscriminate? Or do you choose to show love to people who have the personality that gels with yours or people who are popular or make you feel good?
3) Do you wake up in the morning thinking that Jesus might come that day? Do you sacrifice the future at the altar of the immediate? If you are honest, are there things you want to get done on earth and you really hope he doesn’t come just yet…because you want to do those things? (climb the corporate ladder, get married, get a job, buy that car or house, etc). You are like a kid on the street adopted by a really wealthy family who choose to dig through the dumpster for leftover French fries, not realizing how great a feast our God has prepared for us. Are you crazy? You want to stay in this dump, this pigsty? Let us repent of putting our hope in this world, which will fade away. Remember only what we do for Jesus will last. In Heb 11, it says Moses denied the fleeting pleasures of sin and chose to suffer (Heb 11:25).
4) You see Paul’s favorite triad of Christian virtues here (faith, love and hope). It would do us good if this is our goal for our lives. We usually measure our Christian life by quantity. How many souls have I won? How many chapters did I read? How long did I pray? But God is interested in quality. Am I more loving person today than yesterday? Do I love the saints more…my wife more, my children, my parents, my neighbors, my unbelieving friends more and more? Am I increasing in faith? Do I have a deeper longing to be in eternity? These are the measurements of the Christian. This is what God is looking for and the world will be amazed to see. This is the Supremacy of the Gospel in skin!
A man fell into a pit and couldn’t get himself out:
- A SUBJECTIVE person came along and said: “I FEEL for you, down there.”
- An OBJECTIVE person came along and said: “It’s logical that someone would fall, down there.”
- A CHRISTIAN SCIENTIST came along: “You only THINK that you are in a pit.”
- A PHARISEE said: “Only BAD people fall into a pit.”
- A HINDU said: “This pit is for purging you and making you more perfect.”
- MATHEMATICIAN calculated HOW he fell into the pit.
- A NEWS REPORTER wanted the exclusive story on his pit.
- CONFUCIUS said; “If you would have listened to me, you would not be in that pit.”
- BUDDHA said: “Your pit is only a state of mind.”
- A REALIST said: “That’s a PIT.”
- A SCIENTIST calculated the pressure necessary (lbs./sq.in.) to get him out of the pit.
- A GEOLOGIST told him to appreciate the rock strata in the pit.
- AN EVOLUTIONIST said: “You are a rejected mutant destined to be removed from the evolutionary cycle.” In other words, he is going to DIE in the pit, so that he cannot produce any “pit-falling offspring.”
- The COUNTY INSPECTOR asked if he had a permit to dig a pit.
- The COUNTY TAX ASSESSOR came along and figured the taxes he owed on the pit.
- A PROFESSOR gave him a lecture on: “The Elementary Principles of the Pit.”
- An EVASIVE person came along and avoided the subject of his pit altogether
- A SELF-PITYING person said: “You haven’t seen anything until you’ve seen MY PIT!!”
- A HEALTH AND WEALTH PREACHER said: “Just CONFESS that you’re not in a pit.”
- An OPTIMIST said: “Things COULD be worse.”
- A PESSIMIST said: “Things WILL get worse!!”
- JESUS, seeing the man, took him by the hand and LIFTED HIM OUT of the pit.
 The Letters to the Corinthians, ed. William Barclay, lecturer in the University of Glasgow, The Daily study Bible series, Rev. ed., 242 (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 2000, c1975).
John F. Walvoord, Roy B. Zuck and Dallas Theological Seminary, The Bible Knowledge Commentary : An Exposition of the Scriptures, 2:669 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1983-c1985).
William Hendriksen and Simon J. Kistemaker, vol. 6, New Testament Commentary : Exposition of Colossians and Philemon, Accompanying biblical text is author’s translation., New Testament Commentary, 42 (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1953-2001).
 J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible Commentary, Based on the Thru the Bible radio program., electronic ed., 5:334 (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1997, c1981).
Bruce B. Barton and Philip Wesley Comfort, Philippians, Colossians, Philemon, Life application Bible commentary, 147 (Wheaton, Ill.: Tyndale House Publishers, 1995).
R. Kent Hughes, Colossians and Philemon : The Supremacy of Christ, Preaching the Word, 18 (Westchester, Ill.: Crossway Books, 1989).