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Pastor DeYoung (intro): It’s my pleasure to introduce our preacher this morning. Dr. Albert Mohler serves as president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, the flagship school of the Southern Baptist Convention, one of the largest seminaries in the world. Dr. Mohler is probably not a stranger to many of you. Though he hasn’t met you and you haven’t met him, you may have seen him on Dateline NBC, ABC Good Morning, America, Fox News, CNN, PBS, MSNBC, any number of programs. In a day where you never know who might be representing Christians on TV, I’m always relieved when I see Al and I think “okay, someone’s going to say something intelligent and thoughtful and helpful,” so I’m very glad that he takes time to be a spokesman for us in that way. He’s a theologian, an ordained minister, he is an author of several books, some of which we have at our own book table, books on preaching, books on the Ten Commandments, books on leadership and other topics relative to the culture. I commend to you not only his books, but he has a daily program called “The Briefing” which is probably the best analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview and I commend it to you. He also has a program called “Thinking in Public,” a series of conversations with the days’ leading thinkers. There’s many more things I could say about Dr. Mohler. We have worked together on the Gospel Coalition and I have been privileged to be a part of “Together for the Gospel” which he helped to co-found. He’s married to Mary, they have two children, and now they have two grandchildren, which he would be very happy to show you some pictures [laughter] of after the service, but I just want to say before I give Dr. Mohler the pulpit that it is a privilege to have him here. As much as I get to introduce him to this wonderful congregation, but also get to introduce you to him. He’s a brilliant mind and speaker and leader and even more than that, I’ve been privileged to have him as a my friend for these last ten years and to learn from him and so grateful amidst his many demands and busy schedule that he would take time to be with us for this weekend and to bring God’s Word to us now. So would you join me in welcoming Dr. Mohler. [applause] Thanks, Al. Thank you.
Rev. Al Mohler: I greet you in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is wonderful to be here in Charlotte, wonderful to be at Christ Covenant, wonderful to be here with you, and more wonderful than words can describe to be joining with you in the worship of the one true and living God. It is a great joy for me to be here, particularly, because even though I have not had the opportunity to be with you on the Lord’s day before, I know much about you and thank God for you as a congregation. I’m thankful for your ministry here in Charlotte and I’m thankful for the extended influence of this church felt throughout the world, and so having many friends in this congregation, I do look to this congregation as a friend. And the first of those friends among many is your pastor, Kevin DeYoung, and I have the opportunity to say something I just want to say, which is that this is not just a matter of greeting, it’s a matter of exhortation. I just want you to know how thankful I am for him as friend and how thankful I am that the Lord is in His kind providence brought him here as pastor, and I just want to tell you as someone who comes from outside, though a friend from outside, as we share concern for the Gospel and for the health of Christ’s Church, I just want to tell you how thankful I am for the voice of your pastor, and for his influence, and I just want to exhort you to see the ministry of this church in part in not only cherishing that voice but sharing that voice, because it is so desperately needed in Christ’s Church in this hour.
So, I’m thrilled for the fellowship. Got to meet many members of your staff, some of your pastoral interns, to spend time with pastors here in the community, and that’s just all joy. I, I don’t know what the secular world thinks joy looks like, but for those who love the Lord and have the stewardship of the ministry of the Word, that’s just about perfect.
I have been speaking at your conference entitled “Faithful,” which is both the statement we pray of fact and of aspiration. As we come together in conferences like this in order that by the ministry the Word, by the fellowship of those who are gathered together, we may be indeed more faithful. Christ’s Church would be more faithful. Together we look to the work of Christ, especially as defined by the three offices of Christ: Christ as prophet and Christ as priest and Christ as king.
The text of the morning is found in Colossians chapter 1, and as you are turning to Colossians chapter 1, and we’ll begin reading in verse 13 and conclude the paragraph, I want to remind you that back in the year 1952 the bestselling religious book was by a British churchman named J. B. Phillips. The book was entitled “Your God is Too Small,” and it has had vast influence, and it’s one of those interesting phenomenon in the publishing world, it is far more impactful for its title than for its content. The content was overshadowed by the title, the truthfulness of which is just so apparent. We tend to have a reductionistic view of God. Your God is too small.
I want us to think about the fact that our Christ is too small, and the main corrective to any kind of faulty view of God or Christ is scripture, and thus we turn to Colossians chapter 1, where I read beginning in verse 13:
“He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things and in Him all things hold together. And He is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in Him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of His cross. And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, He has now reconciled in His body of flesh by His death in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before Him, if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.”
This is the Word of the Lord.
This text, sometimes identified by New Testament scholars as a hymn. It has a certain hymnic structure, there’s a certain literary structure very much like a hymn, the majestic hymns that we have sung together in congregational worship. Some are suggesting that Paul then borrowed this hymn and by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit included it here in his letter to the church at Colossae. That, that’s not a perfect argument. There are parts of this text that appear very much like a hymn and then there are parts of this text that, that don’t look like a hymn quite at all. In any event, what we know is the Holy Spirit inspired Paul to write these words, and these words are so majestic, there is the instinct that we want to sing them.
As, as we sang “Fairest Lord Jesus” and “Beautiful Saviour,” we want to sing our confession of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. We want to sing about the Christ who has redeemed us by His blood and by His resurrection from the dead. We, we want to sing.
But we actually need an even more comprehensive song. Phillips was right. It’s an indictment of any finite human view of God, our God is too small and his point was the culture at any given moment tends to constrict our understanding of God. The God of popular culture, the God of the popular imagination, pales infinitely over against the God of the Bible.
But I want to suggest that the same thing is true of, of Christ. I’m a student of history and of leadership and one of my favorite types of literature to read are historical biographies. I’m also a creature of my own time. I’m very glad to read biographies and have dozens of biographies of George Washington, but I was not alive as his contemporary. The Presidents of my own lifespan, and especially when I was a teenager and an adult, they tend to have a bit more fascination to me. I watched them on television and had close observation. When Jimmy Carter was elected President of the United States in 1976, most Americans did not know who he was. He seemed to come out of nowhere, the governor of Georgia, serving only one term, and he won the Democratic nomination and then he’s elected President of the United States. So journalists do what journalists do, they had to go back and try to backfill the story of Jimmy Carter, and so a part of the backfill of the story of Jimmy Carter was of course his belief in the Lord Jesus Christ, his born again experience, his identification as a Christian.
But that didn’t answer the question that many Americans wanted to know, which is what kind of leader is he going to be? And in trying to backfill the story, a reporter went to his classmates at Annapolis, and they interviewed the classmates and said, you know, “Who is Jimmy Carter? What kind of, what kind of leader will he be?”
My favorite section in the biography that cites this has one of Jimmy Carter’s close friends at Annapolis saying “Well, you know, our professor of leadership and command said that humanity is divided between tree people and forest people. Forest people see the big picture, tree people, they see the specific, the particular.” The journalist, thinking he was catching on, said “So you’re saying Jimmy Carter is a tree man.” The guy leaned back and he said “No, that’s not what I’m saying at all. Jimmy Carter is not a forest man, Jimmy Carter is not a tree man. Jimmy Carter is a leaf man.” [laughter] Okay, well that tells you something about how young Jimmy Carter was perceived.
And you know, there are times in which, let’s just be honest, we need someone who sees the forest. We need someone who sees the trees. Sometimes we need someone who sees the leaf. Now, I don’t mean to be political here, but it turns out not seeing the forest is not really healthy for geopolitics. [laughter] But it turns out not looking at the trees and seeing the leaves is equally problematic.
After his presidency, Jimmy Carter has given himself generously and with amazing focus to the eradication of one disease most Americans have never heard of, Guinea-worm disease, a scourge in Africa. And thanks to his personal effort, now over decades, that horrible disease has just about been eliminated. He didn’t focus on every disease, or even a family of diseases, just one disease, that the World Health Organization says now does not exist because of that attention.
Theologically, we need the forest in our perspective always. The Bible shows us the forest, the grand meta-narrative of Scripture, the explanation for the universe, and God’s ways revealed to us. The Scripture also reveals to us, and theology demands attention to the tree, specific doctrines and the history of those doctrines, the biblical background of those doctrines, the rightful definition of those doctrines, but at times even within those doctrines, we really do have to look at the leaves.
Yesterday in the conference your pastor was discussing the communication of properties as we speak of the divine and human natures of Christ. That is not something that we usually cover in vacation Bible school. That is something that I dare guess, and by this I mean no insult, that most of the people in this congregation did not give any attention to, no conscious attention to, this week.
But, the theological health, the doctrinal fidelity of the Christian church, depends at times on looking at the leaves.
The apostle Paul will do that, the apostle Paul does that quite regularly. Not just the forest, not just the trees, but the leaves. The apostle Paul gives us by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit in so many of his letters specific theological arguments and it’s right down to the words, as he will say to Timothy “retain the pattern of sound words.” Timothy, watch my lips. Say the same thing. Don’t change a word.
But in the passage we just read, it’s the biggest of big pictures. Among evangelical Christians, one of the dangers is a certain Christological reduction, and let me, let me encourage you to see how you would notice it. Here’s how you’d notice it: When you speak of Christ, the temptation, because of our love for the Gospel, and our understandable urgency to get to the Gospel, our temptation towards a Christological reduction is to speak of Christ basically in what we might imagine is just an outline of the four Gospels. He was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary, and you just follow through. And we speak of His crucifixion and His resurrection and His ascension and so we, we basically from birth and nativity and promise to ascension.
But the Scripture reveals to us the pre-existent Christ. The eternal Son of God. The everlasting King of Kings and Lord of Lords and places the story of the Gospel within the context of God’s own self-existence, the triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and within the eternal, indeed timeless, scope of God’s plan.
In this text we are telescoping back and there’s a, there’s an historical occasion for this text we ought to know which was theological confusion within the Colossian congregation. But not only that, it wasn’t just kind of a generalized confusion, it evidently was certain specific heresies. At least a part of the false teaching about Christ that Paul was trying to correct has to do with whether or not the human nature of Christ was genuine. In order to address that question and all the other issues he addresses in this Holy Spirit inspired letter to the Colossian congregation, he telescopes back. And in the passage we just read, he, he presents to us a cosmic Christ. He wants us to understand the biggest of big pictures. As he telescopes back in order to see the big picture, this is the biggest of all pictures we could imagine.
First in this text I want us to see the preeminence of Christ in the cosmos. We’re going to begin in this respect in verse 15. He, Christ, is the image of the invisible God. The firstborn of all creation. Now elsewhere, as in Hebrews chapter 1, even as we also heard, Christ is identified as the icon. It’s not that we don’t need icons, it’s because we have an icon. We dare not make an icon because God has shown us the icon. He is not just an approximate image of the invisible God, He is the exact representation of the invisible God. He is in His incarnation God to us, towards us, revealing God perfectly. This is, when we want to know what God is like, we look to Christ, we listen to Christ, we are taught of Christ. The sufficiency of Christ is underlined here to reveal all to us of the invisible God that we are to know. He is the firstborn of all creation and the most important issue here is the repeated use, not only in Scripture but in Greco-Roman literature of the time, firstborn means preeminent. When in verse 18 we, we hear of the exhortation that Christ would be preeminent in all things, firstborn is another way of saying preeminent. This is not just first in some kind of temporal order; that’s not the point. It is preeminent.
And then in verse 16 we read just as an explanation of what it meant for Him to be the firstborn of all creation, He is not Himself created, He is begotten, not created, but as the One who was begotten not created He is the instrument of creation, as John helps us to understand in the Gospel of John chapter 1, “in the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. All things were made by Him.”
Now that’s interesting, isn’t it? Because here we have to do some quick biblical theology, but it comes pretty easily to us because we’ve read the Bible. And so in Genesis 1, we come to understand that God creates by His Word. When He creates, He says “let there be.” It’s verbal creation. God speaks and it is. What does He speak? He speaks His Son, He speaks His Son and it is. In the beginning was the Word, logos.
And now here in Colossians chapter 1, verse 16, we are told “for by Him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible.” All things. Here’s all you have to know to understand all things: It means all things, all things. That, that, that is, that is one of the most important apologetic refutations that the Holy Spirit led the apostle Paul to reveal here.
One of the most ancient primal heresies that you see throughout various paganisms of the world is a dualism, the fact that there is a material world and a spiritual world, and that dualism means two different gods, a god of the spiritual world and a god of the material world. Sometimes in this dualism you have a good god and a bad god, a benevolent deity and an evil deity, but in any event, or light and darkness as you have in ancient Zoroastrianism as you think about even some of the ancient symbolism that you have seen.
But here, Paul tells us that the Word, the preeminent Son who made the world and brought the world into existence, is the sole explanation for the existence of all things, visible and invisible. But there’s something else here that’s subtle, and our familiarity with the text sometimes makes it, we can actually lose, we can actually lose the obvious, because we’re not first century Corinth and we’re not hearing this for the first time, so notice what should be a little more shocking to us, in verse 16, “For by Him all things were created in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible.” Well, that makes perfect sense to us, we knew that already. But look at what follows. It, it’s what follows is not about stuff, but about power. “Whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities, all things were created through Him and for Him, and He is before all things and in Him all things hold together.”
So, so don’t miss the fact that when, when the apostle Paul here is writing to the Colossians and thus by the Holy Spirit to us and he’s describing the biggest of big pictures in understanding in Christ and he makes very clear that Christ is not only the firstborn, preeminent in all of creation, but He’s the sole explanation for creation itself. He brought all things into being, all things visible and invisible, in heaven and on earth, including the powers that be. The powers that be.
This is one of the most politically subversive texts in all of Scripture. Why exists any throne? Any dominion? Any ruler? Any authority? They believe themselves to be self-created. They believe their power to be derived from some kind of political claim, some kind of historical explanation, even perhaps rationalized as the will of the people or the general will of society, but we are told that all things, visible and invisible, including thrones and powers and dominions and principalities, and remember that means in heaven and on earth. It is all explained by Christ.
And not only that, but He is not only behind all of these things, the sole explanation for all that exists, He is again preeminent.
Verse 17: “And He is before all things and in Him all things hold together.”
In intellectual change there can be almost no doubt that no century has yet equaled the 20th century in the scope of, of intellectual change. The way human beings, especially in western nations, look at the world at the end of the 20th century is just remarkably different, spectacularly different than the way most people understood the world in the beginning of the 20th century. At least one explanation for that, of course, is the rise of modern science, and in particular the discoveries made in astronomy, cosmology, physics, and biology. In the beginning of the 20th century, there was not even total understanding of exactly which part of the body did what, in the human body and how and how it all ties together. Germ theory was a controversial theory; let’s be thankful that we don’t have to argue whether or not germ theory is correct. We’re in a different world.
We tend to look at the world differently than we did before, at least in part because of the claims of modern physics. In the, in the early decades of the 20th century, Albert Einstein in developing his special theory of relativity and his general theory of relativity, predicted that within a relatively short amount of time, and this was backed up by other physicists, Max Planck and others, who said in a short amount of time we will be able to understand everything, all physical explanations of the universe and how the universe operates will be in our hands.
It is interesting that by the end of the 20th century we didn’t have it. It’s also interesting that this far into the 21st century we don’t have it. But, but one of the intellectual marks of the 20th century was the attempt to find a theory of everything. And you can understand why. A theory of everything is necessary to explain, well, everything. So, if you don’t accept the biblical explanation and you want to explain things merely in terms of what can be, what can be discovered and explained and argued by modern physics, you need a theory of everything.
The late Stephen Hawking, some of you may remember, he did not believe in God, but he did believe in stuff. And for most of his lifetime as one of the world’s most famous scientists, he argued for the eventual discovery of a theory of everything, a theory that would explain all physical reality, and would explain the entire cosmos and would uniformly be able to take into account everything that exists or everything that might exist and all the properties of the cosmos, and by the time he came to the last years of his life, he had admitted that he didn’t think science would ever come up with a theory of everything. He affirmed what he called the, it came from Godel, the incompleteness theorem. Don’t you love that? The incompleteness theorem. It means that our thought will always be incomplete. You have the Bible, you knew that already. But it was quite controversial and still is, in modern physics, to suggest that someday we will not actually account for everything.
It’s fully understood by most that modern physics right now holds, in its stable form, to two irreconcilable understandings of how the universe works. The theory of general relativity and quantum field theory. Most physicists hold to both, but they’re absolutely incompatible. But they’re also, in terms of modern physics, absolutely necessary, so you have modern, modern scientists, especially in physics and cosmology, saying one day we’re going to understand everything, but right now we’re holding to two different theories and we know they’re an absolute contradiction but both of them appear to be necessary, so we’re looking for the theory behind those two theories that must explain how those two theories are unified and one theory that will explain everything. [laughter] Class dismissed. [laughter]
We understand why we want a theory of everything. We want to explain why anything exists. That, that’s one of the most fundamental questions. How does anything exist? And in all of modern secular science trying to explain why anything exists can’t get behind anything in order to explain why anything and everything exists. It can’t get back there.
I was reading one popular work, influential work, in the Academy in Modern Physics just a few weeks ago, and again the guy says straightforwardly “physics can account for everything except for what existed before anything.” [laughter] Which means something.
Well, here we have it. Just, again, look to the text. Notice how straightforward it is. “For by Him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through Him and for Him and He is before all things and in Him all things hold together.” That, brothers and sisters, is the theory of everything. [laughter] The theory of absolutely everything, because it explains the real before the created, the uncreated who then created the Word, the Son, who brought all things into existence to the glory of the Father.
And you’ll also notice, here’s where the grand unifying theory comes together, in verse 17 those last words “and He is before all things and in Him all things hold together.” Why does anything hold together? Again, I don’t mean to preach physics this morning, I’m not claiming to be a professor of physics, but you don’t have to know much about physics to know that physics explains why all these energy forces somehow hold together in matter, in atoms and molecules, how do you explain that? What holds the atom together? How are all these irreconcilable forces held together in an atom and then in a molecule and then in stuff? How do you trust that pew on which you are sitting? That it doesn’t just fly apart into nonexistence, or you for that matter fly apart into nonexistence. Something’s holding everything together. And that something is someone, Jesus Christ, preeminent in the entire cosmos, preeminent in creation, but secondly preeminent in the Church.
This text speaks so clearly of Christ’s preeminence in the church, and that begins right here as you see in verse 18, He is the head of the body, the church, He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead that in everything He might be preeminent for in Him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of His cross.
Calvin understood this well. The, the most radical truth claim about all of creation, as he makes very clear, is that all of creation exists for only one purpose, and that purpose is the redemption of Christ’s Church. The display of God’s glory in the redemption of Christ’s people, the Church. If you think about it, that is the most astounding thing we can tell people. Why does a tree exist? Why does a forest exist? Why does Charlotte exist? Why, why does planet earth exist? Why does the cosmos exist? Why the stars? Why, why the moon? Why the sun? We sang about those two. Why do they exist? In order that on this little planet, this pale blue dot, the drama of redemption would take place to the glory of God, the salvation of a people, Christ’s people for eternity.
That’s why Calvin referred to the cosmos as the theater of God’s glory. That’s what it is. Now, you want to offend some secular people? Just tell them, “look, the only reason anything exists is so that Christ’s Church would be redeemed and the saints would reign with Him forever.” Try that on CNN. [laughter]
But you’ll notice how this turns to the Church, because Paul’s not writing to the city of Colossae, he’s writing to the church at Colossae. And even as Christ is preeminent in the cosmos, He’s preeminent in the Church. He’s the head of the body, the Church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead. Not only our existence is entirely dependent upon Christ, our, our salvation entirely dependent upon Christ, He is the author of our salvation. This isn’t our idea He accomplished, it is His work.
There in the early chapter so Acts the apostles beginning to preach the Gospel made very clear this was the predetermined plan and purpose of God. This is God’s ordained purpose, even before the cosmos came into existence. Again, He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead. He’s not only preeminent in creation, He is preeminent in resurrection. As He was raised from the dead, so shall we by His power, those who are His be raised also to life everlasting, that in everything He might be preeminent. Again, the sole explanation for the cosmos, the sole explanation for our salvation, the sole explanation for our hope, the sole explanation for the Church, and obviously also the head of the Church, Jesus Christ. And the incarnation is affirmed in verse 19, “for in Him all of the fullness,” the pleroma, “all of the fullness.” Exactly again as seen in the opening verses of Hebrews, “all of the fullness of God was pleased to dwell.” An interesting word “dwell.” And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.
Tonight, your pastor is going to turn your attention to Exodus and the tabernacle. A type of what it might for God to dwell with His people.
Jesus tabernacled among us. For in Him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell and through him to reconcile. What a powerful word, reconcile. He, he didn’t negotiate, He reconciled. He, he didn’t, he didn’t bring about, you know, a peace treaty by means of a peace conference, He reconciled, he accomplished definite atonement. How did He do so? On a cross, by the shedding of His blood. How do we explain that? Substitutionary atonement. How do we explain its result? A double imputation. It’s all right here in this text, “through Him to reconcile to Himself all things.” All things? What does that mean? It’s cosmic. This is also very clear in, in the teaching of Scripture. Christ’s work of reconciliation will eventually mean a new cosmos, a reconciled cosmos, a new heaven and a new earth, a new Jerusalem, in which there will be no question about His preeminence.
And the cross is here. How did this take place? Whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of His cross.
Finally, Christ is preeminent in the Christian. The only explanation for how any of us have come to be reconciled with God. Paul directs this so personally to the Colossians, beginning in verse 21, “and you who were once alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, He has now reconciled in His body of flesh by His death,” there’s the cross, “in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before Him if indeed you continue in the faith.” There’s a warning. There’ll be false believers who are going to fall away, their falling away is going to reveal their false belief.
“But if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the Gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation.” Cosmically proclaimed. That doesn’t mean that yet every single human being has heard the Gospel. That’s not what Paul means. Look at Paul writing in Romans chapter 10 about why we must go, why we must send, why we must preach the Gospel. But he means here that there is not one atom or molecule of matter in the entire cosmos to whom it has not been announced that Jesus Christ is the resurrected Lord.
“And of which I, Paul, became a minister.” Paul says okay, so I’m writing you this letter on apostolic authority. I’m writing this letter by the authority of Christ. And as we know, this means that it came by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. The apostle Paul says “how do you explain how I, Paul, originally Saul, a persecutor of the church, now has the authority to write to you, Christians at Colossae and correct your heresies and point you to Christ?” It is because the sole explantation for Paul is the preeminent Christ, and He made me His minister.
The reduction of Christ comes with an infinite cost. There are ancient heresies, the gravitational pull of those ancient heresies still always with us. There are modern heresies. But the apostle Paul here points us to the only correction, which is the Christ revealed in Scripture.
There is a reduction of His person, the argument that He is something other than fully divine. There is the argument against His work. There’s the reduction of Christ to a moral teacher, or to some kind of safe, tame prophet. But the Christ of Scripture will not be tamed. And He will not be reduced.
You may say “well, you began the text with chapter 1 verse 13, but you’ve only really dealt with verses 15 and following,” so very quickly, just to look back at the verses 13 and 14. Verse 15 begins with “He,” but that “He” is Christ. You’ve got to follow the He’s carefully and the grammar and syntax and the flow of this passage, because in verse 13 “He” is the Father, because it’s the Father of whom he has been speaking before, as Paul writes to them in verse 11, “May you be strengthened with all power according to His gracious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father who has qualified you,” isn’t that a wonderful way to describe election? Redemption? “He has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.”
Then verses 13 and 14: “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son.”
Oh, my goodness. I want to find a way to sing that. Why isn’t that a hymn? He has delivered us from the domain of darkness. We can’t deliver ourselves. There is no plan of deliverance. We don’t even know exactly in our lostness from what, or from whom, we must be delivered. But in Christ, and in Christ alone, the Father has delivered us from the domain of darkness. And what does that mean? Transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son.
What gives you joy this Lord’s day? Well, this is what should give us greatest joy: We’re here to declare that by the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ we have been rescued, delivered from the domain of darkness. That would be precious enough, wouldn’t it? But we haven’t been rescued from somewhere bad to nowhere. We’ve been rescued and then delivered to be transferred to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption. Not in whom we might have redemption, in whom we have redemption, the forgiven of sins.
I appreciate so much how you in your worship this Lord’s day have followed through, a recognizably, genuinely Christian order of worship. It included the confession of sins and the assurance of pardon. Do you feel that this morning? Do you understand that we can only walk through and confess together and worship together in this biblical order of worship because He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved son?
Finally, I want to ask you something. How are you holding yourself together this week? In this hour of worship, just looking over the past few days of your life and probably the past few hours of your life, how well do you rate yourself at having held yourself together? How well do you rate yourself in holding yourself to Christ? The earliest terror in my life was wondering how as a child, as a little boy, I could believe in Jesus when I slept. I was terrified as a child of sleep because I could not hold on to Christ when I slept. I was further terrorized because I could not hold onto myself when I slept. What if I am only what I am conscious of being, and how can I sleep?
This is a huge apologetic challenge. Every parent in the room is thinking “oh, my, that’s a huge parenting challenge. How exactly do you say goodnight to that?” [laughter]
But our confession is not that we can hold ourselves together at all, and we can’t hold ourselves to Christ at all. He holds us fast. He holds the cosmos together by the power of His Word, every atom and molecule, the planets and the spheres in their places. He holds His Church together, praise be to God. He holds His Church together and holds us secure for eternity, and yes, brother and sisters, fellow Christians, He and He alone holds us together. For He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. As we sing “He Shall Hold Me Fast.”
Let’s pray. Our Father, we confess that we hold to You only because You loved us, to hold us, first and fast. Thank You for this text, thank You of this word from the apostle Paul. May your Holy Spirit use us to conform all of us, each of us as believers to the image of Christ. For it is in Christ’s name that we pray. Amen.