Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Christ Alone

It seems it is always a temptation for the Church to make the gospel about Christ AND something else.  We know Christ is important (if we didn't, we wouldn't even bother with the title of "Christian") but it seems we often want to set something else up along side of Christ.  Paul corrects the Galatians for making it about Christ and works of the Law, the Corinthians for making it about Christ and their spiritual gifts.  While it is difficult to say exactly what the situation was in the Colossian church, it seems Paul is facing a similar problem there as well.  In this letter, Paul says things like
"See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ."  - 2:8
 "Therefore, let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath... Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God." -2:16, 18-19

Paul goes on with similar admonitions in the verses that follow.  This seems to indicate that the Colossians have doubts about whether or not Christ alone is really sufficient for their salvation.  Paul's answer to those doubts is the magnificent Christological statement of Colossians 1:15-20.
"He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn from 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 trough him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of the cross."  
 Many scholars believe that these verses were an early Christian hymn which Paul did not write but has used here to remind the Colossians of the foundation of the Christian faith.  Paul is in essence saying "Remember, this is what you believe: Christ is God.  He is the invisible God made visible in human flesh.  As God, he is the creator and redeemer of all people."  As such, the God who is Christ is sufficient for our salvation.  As Paul says in v. 13-14
"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."
Of course, this is Christian Faith 101.  We know that to be Christian is to confess Christ as Lord and Savior. Yet one might ask how deeply we have allowed this truth to pervade our lives.  Is Christ really sufficient for us?  We, too, often want Christ AND something else; Christ AND success, Christ AND happiness, Christ AND the respect of others, and the list goes on.  How many of us can really claim to have decided, as Paul said he did, "to know nothing ...except Christ and him crucified"?