THE IMAGE OF THE INVISIBLE GOD
The chapter for this week is Colossians 1.
When we read the New Testament- for the most part we are reading ‘crisis letters’.
The apostle Paul wrote the majority of the letters that make up the New Testament- and his life was spent proclaiming the gospel of Jesus- and refuting the false teachings that the early church had to deal with.
In this letter to the church that lived at Colosse [a city in the days of Jesus] the error that the apostle combated was Asceticism.
Which simply means the idea that the way we gain favor with God is thru strict self denial- to the point of injuring your self.
Now- in the bible we do read that we should deny ourselves- practice habits of self denial [fasting] and ‘keep our bodies in subjection’.
But in the church at Colosse they took it too far.
So- in chapter one Paul presents the reality of God- that he created all things- visible and invisible- and he declares unto us a mystery- something that was hidden until the time of Christ.
What is it?
Paul says ‘Christ in you- the hope of glory’.
Often times you hear the phrase ‘Jesus is in my heart’- well- in a sense- that is true.
‘Christ in you’ simply means that the Holy Spirit [Christ not only denotes the person of Jesus- but it was his title- he was the anointed one who was to come- Christ means Anointed One].
So- Paul tells us the Spirit of God dwells in the heart of the believer- that Christianity is not simply obeying rules- or self denial [the problem Paul is refuting].
But it is a new way of life made possible because God’s Spirit lives inside of us.
Paul also refers to God as ‘Our father’.
Jesus shocked the religious world of his day when he referred to God- as not only his father- but ours too!
If you remember- the Jewish people at the time said ‘he is making himself equal with God- because he claims to be the Son of God’.
Now- was their accusation true?
Was Jesus claiming deity for himself?
Now- this is indeed where it gets tough for some.
I have lots of friends of other faiths.
And most of the time I try and take an open minded approach.
But- in this area- this is what makes Christianity unique among the other religions of the world.
Jesus did indeed claim deity- that he was the Son of God.
The critics say ‘see- he was crazy’.
The followers say ‘no- he was telling the truth’.
The apostle Paul refers to God as our father- and this ‘new’ way of seeing God- has remained with the followers of Christ ever since.
A short note;
Many approaches to God/religion are based upon the same belief that the Colossians were being influenced by.
That God is a mean judge- that if we try hard- to obey- we will escape his wrath.
But if we mess up- and stumble- he will judge us.
Okay- the basic reality of God as judge is true- to a degree.
When people are ‘outside of Christ’ [do not embrace him as the Messiah].
They are indeed under the judgment of God- the apostle Paul said ‘if your approach to God is based solely on law- then you are mandated to keep every point’.
The legalistic approach to God- which many good people embrace- sort of views God as someone who might have grown up in a harsh home- or maybe a home without a dad.
This view- though well meaning- still sees ‘dad’ as the mean guy who you better watch out for.
The view Jesus gave us was a different one.
That God is our father too- and because Jesus- as our ‘elder brother’- took the Cross for us- we now have the ability to approach God based on Grace- not based on our strict obedience to the law.
This ‘family’ view of God is indeed unique to Christianity- and of course I embrace this view myself [when I pray- I do indeed approach God as my father- like Jesus taught us in the model prayer- the Our father].
Okay- that’s just a brief overview of chapter 1.
Try and read that chapter before the week is out.
Meditate on the reality that God created all things- invisible- and visible.
He is the creator of it all.
Jesus is ‘the image of the invisible God’.
The way we know- see the character of God- is by seeing and learning from the life of Christ.
The disciple Philip asked Jesus ‘Show us the Father’ [in John’s gospel].
Jesus said ‘have I been all this time with you- and you still don’t know what the Father is like- if you have seen me- you have seen the father’.
Jesus was ‘God in the flesh’ [we call this the Incarnation- God become man].
If you want a view of God- a ‘lens’ to see him by- then look at Jesus.
Jesus said ‘take my yoke upon you- and learn of me- for I am meek and lowly- and you shall find rest for your souls’.
Christianity offers an approach to God that says ‘come unto me- all you who labor and are tired- you will find rest’.
NOTE- Christianity in the first century was not born in a vacuum.
Of course the major World View was Judaism- but the second- very strong influence/philosophy of the day was Greek wisdom [thus my quote in the last post ‘The Greeks seek wisdom’].
In the letter to the Colossians- the Apostle refutes Asceticism- which was indeed a belief of the Greek philosophers.
Greek wisdom taught that the material realm was evil.
Way back about 6 centuries before Christ- you had the famous Philosopher Socrates.
His most famous student was Plato.
And Plato’s most famous student was Aristotle.
When Socrates was put to death- because of his supposed bad influence on the youth of his time [he taught them to questions stuff!].
It is reported that he calmly drank the Cyanide- because he believed that when he would die- be released from his body [the so called evil realm of matter] that he would finally ‘be free’.
Now- do Christians believe this?
Yes and no.
Because our bibles were written in Greek [which shows you how strong the Greek influence effected the early church- our first New Testaments were written in Greek- though the Roman Empire was the world Empire of the day.
But Alexander the Great- the famed Greek conqueror who came a few centuries before Christ- he instituted what we refer to as Helenization.
A form of conquering where you let the people you conquer keep their culture- but you also use parts of your culture [in this case the Greek language] to permeate the vanquished.
So- the Roman Empire of Jesus day [who at one time were under the rule of the Greek Empire] continued to write in Greek.
It wasn’t until around a few centuries after the time of Christ that the first Latin bible was written [by Saint Jerome].
But even his bible [the Latin Vulgate] used the Greek Old Testament [called the Septuagint] instead of the Hebrew- for his Latin translation.
Ok- the point being- the Greek world did indeed have a strong influence on the early church.
And the church had to refute the belief that all matter was evil.
The Christian doctrine of creation [developed under saint Augustine- the 4th-5th century bishop of Hippo- North Africa].
Was the teaching that matter was good- that God created the material realm- so it is not inherently evil.
But- after the fall of man [Genesis 1-3] a curse did indeed come upon the earth [some times when the bible says ‘the world’ it is speaking of the earth- but other times it is speaking of the fallen order- the sinful realm of man. That’s why there is some confusion- till this day- among Christians. They might read verses like this- and think the bible is saying the earth itself- the planet- is wicked. Actually in those verses it is speaking about the fallen order of sinful men. See? ‘For all that is in THE WORLD- the lust of the flesh- the lust of the eyes and the pride of life- is not of the father- but is of the WORLD- and the WORLD is passing away’- this is one example from the epistle of John- here the World is not saying the planet- but the world of sinful man- a fallen ‘world’ order.]
So- in conclusion [if I ever get there!] we- as believers- reject the belief that all matter is evil.
No- man was created in the image of God- and God is the creator of all things- both visible [earth- man- etc] and invisible [mentioned in the above chapter].
The evil we see in the ‘world’ today is simply a result of mans sin- mans choice to live in rebellion against God.
We can’t escape ‘this world of sin’ by simply denying ourselves [though that is one aspect of the Christian life].
But God sent his Son into the world to redeem man- Christ died for all men- and this is the Divine act of Salvation.
When we as humans partake of this Salvation- we are then free- free to enjoy this life- that God gave us- and we don’t have to have the mindset of a Socrates- who saw this natural life as evil.
The apostle Paul says in his letter to the Romans;
‘Present your bodies as a living sacrifice- HOLY and acceptable to God’.
Our bodies- the actual flesh we live in- can be Holy- sanctified- when submitted to the will of God.
Note- Do me a favor, those who read/like the posts- re-post them on other sites as well as the site you read them on. Thanks- John. Don’t forget to scroll down on the timeline [FaceBook] - I have posted lots.