There is a passage found in 1 Corinthians where the Lord Jesus is explaining the unity of His church, His body, by showing the many members of the body, the church, are actually one in Him. Consider the following:
For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ (1 Cor. 12:12).
But the phrase that stopped me cold in my tracks is, “so also is Christ.” What does that mean?
Is Christ saying that He and His church are one?
Is Christ saying that He cannot be separated from His church?
Is Christ saying that He is His church? That they are united as one like He is with His Father?
To find out more, keep listening.
The following is study on the Body of Christ.
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One of the most glorious pictures of our Lord Jesus is found in the first chapter of Colossians. Here, in these few words, Jesus is revealed as God Himself. He is the imprint, the exact representation, the perfect image of the invisible God. Jesus is presented as the Preeminent One, the “firstborn of all creation” (Col. 1:15).
But what does that mean? What are the specific implications of these verses? And what impact does it have for me today?
Theologically or Devotionally?
Do you mean theologically? Or do you mean devotionally? Let me explain.
Sometimes, actually most of the time, I tend to look at things from a theological vantage point and not a devotional one. For example, when I view a passage of Scripture theologically I am wanting to know what it says and what it means. I want to define the original words and terms in the passage and I want to make sure I understand them in their proper contextual meaning. I then want to make sure my understanding of the truths of a passage fits within the framework of the other truths expressed elsewhere in Scripture on the same subject. It’s pretty much an intellectual study whereby I cognitively hope to comprehend new truths or understand old truths in a new way. And when I am done, I now intellectually know something new. Or I know something I already knew— better. Either way, it’s academic at best. Why? Because I may, or may not, be changed by what I have just learned. God’s Word may remain stuck in my mind as just theology and never be allowed to move down into the core of my being, into my soul, my heart, to the place where I live and feel and believe and trust. It remains lodged in my head, and not my heart. After all, theology is defined as “the study of God.” And the operative word is study. Academic. Mental. Sterile. Non-emotional. Simply the acquiring of knowledge and data and facts.
Is there Something I’m Missing?
But when I view a passage devotionally, I’m asking a whole new set of questions of God and the text. And those questions have to do with me personally. They may sound something like this:
“I believe that Jesus is God. But how can I become more like Him by just knowing that fact? Is there something I’m missing?”
“I understand the “just shall live by faith” (Rom. 1:17). But I’m not sure what faith really looks like. And how can I have more faith? (Luke 17:5). How can I be more like my Lord and trust in Him like He trusted in His Father? Is there something I’m missing?”
“I acknowledge the Holy Spirit as the third Person in the Trinity. I got that. But Who is He and how does He live in my life? How can I please Him and how can I keep from grieving Him? (Eph. 4:30). How do I turn my life over to the Holy Spirit and how do I let Him live through me? Is there something I’m missing?”
These are the “so what?” questions, the “how does that help me get through today?” questions, the never-ending “why?” questions. They are the questions we all asked in Algebra class in High School but never got an answer. “Uh, teacher. Why do I have to study this stuff? I’m never gonna have to use it. Geez. What’s the big deal?”
The Doctrine of the Trinity. Important? Yes. But why?
The Doctrine of Man. Important? Very much so. But why?
The Doctrine of the Atonement. Important? Absolutely. But why?
The Doctrine of the Church. Important. You bet. But why?
While I don’t, in any way, want to downplay the vital importance of understanding correct doctrine and theology (1 Tim. 4:16), I do want to point us to the opposite side of the continuum. I want to focus on the devotional meaning of the passage. I want for us to experience, deep down in the depth of our soul, where we live and breathe, what this says about our Lord and what that means for each of us on a day-to-day basis.
One and the Same
So, let’s put on our devotional hats and dig deep into Colossians. And pray, before we even being, that the Holy Spirit will guide us into a fuller understanding of Christ and we will see Him, maybe for the first time, in living color and not just in black and white.
Colossians 1:15 – He (Jesus) is the image (or, exact representation, the imprint, likeness, icon) of the invisible God (or, that which cannot be seen by the physical eye), the firstborn (or, preeminent) over all creation (or, that which is formed, created from nothing).
Let that single verse sink in for a moment. Then read it again. Slowly. Out loud. Can you begin to feel what our Lord is saying about Himself?
Jesus said that He, Christ, the One who walked on the water (Matt. 14:22-33), who broke bread with His disciples in the upper room (Matt. 26:26), who held little children in His arms (Mark 10:16)— He, Jesus, is the exact representation, the perfect replica, He is the “image of the invisible God.” He is the exact likeness of His Father, and our Father— God. He said, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father” (John 14:9). How? Because “I and My Father are one” (John 10:30). Jesus is the “express image of His person” (Heb. 1:3). In other words, all that God is, Jesus is, and all that Jesus is, God is.
But what does that mean for me today? How does that fact help me love Him more?
Simply this, God has chosen to reveal Himself to us in the person of Jesus. It was His choice, mind you, and not something we earned or deserved ourselves. Remember, He didn’t have to reveal Himself to us at all. It was a profound gift of grace that He wants to have anything to do with us since we’ve all “sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23). So when you see Jesus, you’ve seen the Father (John 14:9). If you want to know what the Father is like, look to Jesus. They’re one and the same. “I and my Father are one” (John 10:30). So when you’re alone, discouraged, and faced with your dark night of the soul and wonder aloud, Is God loving?— ask yourself this, Is Jesus loving? Yes. Then so is God. Or, will God forgive me for all I’ve done wrong? Would Jesus? Yes. Then so would God. Why? Because they are one and the same. When you see Jesus, you see the Father (John 14:9). When Jesus forgives, the Father forgives. When you pray to Jesus, you are, in effect, praying to the Father. They’re exactly the same. Jesus is the exact representation, the perfect replica, the express image, of the Father (Heb. 1:3).
So rejoice! For as much as you love and know and understand Jesus, you also know and love and understand the Father, the “invisible God” (Col. 1:15) the Great, I Am” (Ex. 3:14).
But the verse continues by saying that Jesus is “the firstborn over all creation.” What does that mean? What does being the firstborn imply?
First, the word does not mean, in this context, being chronologically born first as we would understand it today. It doesn’t mean Jesus was the first one born to a family of other brothers and sisters. No, the word refers to position or rank. It means preeminence. It denotes an exalted position, one “high and lifted up” (Isa. 6:1). It means a place of priority and sovereignty. In other words, Jesus is the firstborn, the preeminent, the One having priority. Jesus has the position and rank of sovereignty over all that was created or that ever will be created. He’s Number One. There’s no one greater than Jesus. Ever. Anywhere. At any time. There’s no one worthy of more honor, more glory, more praise, or more love. And Jesus, the “firstborn over all creation” (Col. 1:15)— that’s over the heavens and the earth, the sun, moon, and stars, the angelic realm, all life, you and me, everything!— this Jesus has chosen to reveal Himself to us, to fallen humanity, and to call us His friends (John 15:15). That fact alone should take your breath away. It does mine.
Why would Jesus, the exalted One, choose to stoop down and reveal Himself to something of so little worth and value as me? Or you, for that matter? Why would He do that? What does He gain? Where’s the payoff for Him?
And then He goes a step further and calls us His friends (John 15:15). Really? Jesus considers me His friend. Why? Being a friend of someone opens one up to the threat of betrayal and hurt and rejection. We’ve all suffered that from our own friends, haven’t we? So why would Jesus expose Himself to me, or you, like that? He’s sovereign and knows all things. Nothing gets past Him. He knows what I am and what I’m capable of and what a terrible, fickle and unfaithful friend I could prove to be (John 2:25). And He knows about you too. What type of friend are you committed to be to Him?
Jesus, who is the exact image of God the Father, has chosen to become a man like me in order that I may become like Him. He put on flesh so I may someday put on immortality (1 Cor. 15:54). He took my nature and replaced it with His nature so I would become the “image of the glory of the Lord” (2 Cor. 3:18). Just think, what Jesus was to the Father, the “express image of His person” (Heb. 1:3), He wants to be with me and you (Rom. 8:29). He offers us sonship, to be joint heirs with Him as the firstborn, the One who inherits all from the Father (Rom. 8:16-17). And He did all this for us for no other reason than the “good pleasure of His will” (Eph. 1:5,9). Or, to put it bluntly, because He wanted to.
But as overwhelming as all this may seem, there’s something even more amazing.
Christ Has Longings
Jesus, as God Himself, doesn’t have needs. How could He? For to have needs would imply that He is lacking something that must be supplied by someone else. For Jesus to have needs or longings or desires means He was incapable of being all-powerful and all-sufficient. Somehow, He comes up lacking. And God cannot lack anything.
But Jesus does say in His Word that He has a desire. And the object of that desire should again, take your breath away. Why? Because the object of Christ’s desires and longings is— you. That’s right, Jesus longs for those He loves and those He redeemed. Look at what Jesus said in His last prayer before the cross:
“Father, I desire (or, will, wish, purpose, seek, crave) that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, (why) that they may behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world” (John 17:24).
Did you read His words? Do you see what the longing, the desire, the craving of our Lord is? It’s for you and me to be with Him in heaven, where He is. And why would He want us with Him? Jesus said, “that they may behold My glory” (John 17:24). Jesus wants us, His friends, to come to His home that He is preparing for us (John 14:2) to behold His glory given Him by His Father. That’s an honor reserved for only the closest of family. And Jesus offers it to you and me.
Again, why? Because He wanted to. Because He felt like it. Because it made Him happy. Because He could. Just think, we are “chosen in Him before the foundation of the world” (Eph. 1:4) for no other reason than Christ wanted us to be with Him where He is (John 17:24).
That’s how much we are loved and chosen in Him.
What Do I Do Now?
So, tell me what problems you have that compare to this blessing? Tell me what you lack in this life compared to what you already possess in Him? You are the Almighty, Sovereign, Eternal God’s friend (John 15:15). You are His chosen child (Rom. 8:16-17), His special possession (1 Cor. 16:19-20). You have been redeemed by the blood of Jesus Himself (1 Pet. 1:18-19).
That’s who you are. And we have only looked at one verse, Colossians 1:15. Take a look at what else is in store for us:
Colossians 1:16-17 – For by (or, through) Him (Jesus) all things (or, the whole, in totality, all without exception, the entire, absolutely all, each and every one) were created (or, to produce from nothing) that are in (or, at, with the primary idea of rest) heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist.
But we’ll look at these verses next time.
When Jesus said, “I and My Father are one” (John 10:30), He revealed truth so exciting and profound that we dare not overlook it. When Jesus spoke these powerful six words, He was proclaiming that “All that God is, I am, and all that I am, the Father is.” Again, “I and My Father are one.”
But what does this mean? No, not just theologically, but devotionally. What does this truth mean to me and my everyday, intimate relationship with the Father? What does it say about what the Father is like? About His attributes, personality and characteristics? What can I know about the Father from Jesus?
The answers will change the way you live and pray… forever. To find out more, just keep listening.
The following is a study on John 10:30.
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Finally, it was done. He’d come clean and they had him trapped in His own words. The Pharisees accused Him of ducking the issue, of speaking in generalities, of not telling the whole truth. They said, “How long do You keep us in doubt? If You are the Christ, tell us plainly (or, clearly, publicly, openly)” (John 10:24).
“No more spin. Tell us who You are.”
And He did. He, clearly and for all to hear, said: “I and my Father are one.” That’s “one” in the neuter and not in the masculine. It speaks of one in substance, one in essence, one in character, and not just as one person. Jesus, in the clearest way possible, was saying that He and the Father are of one essence, one substance, are equal, are one and the same. In other words, all that God is, Jesus is, and all that Jesus is, God is.
But this really shouldn’t have surprised the Pharisees, nor anyone else for that matter. After all, Jesus had been telling them this for quite some time.
Who Are You, Jesus?
For example, from John’s gospel:
John 5:17-18 – But Jesus answered them, “My Father has been working until now, and I have been working.” Therefore the Jews sought all the more to kill Him, because He not only broke the Sabbath, but also said that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God.
Looks like the Jews understood exactly what Jesus was saying.
John 8:24 – “Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.”
Note, the He in your Bible is italicized. That means the He was added by our translators to make the Greek more understandable in the English. No big deal, they do it all the time and they let us know when they do by italicizing the word or word phrases they added in the English. But it actually reads, “if you do not believe that I am (the I AM of the Old Testament, the God of the burning bush), you will die in your sins.” Jesus is clearly identifying Himself with the God of the Old Testament, the “I Am that I Am” (Ex. 3:14).
Confused? Well, don’t be. There’s much less ambiguity just a few verses later when Jesus basically says the same thing. Only this time, the translators got it right.
John 8:58 – Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.”
That’s pretty point blank and direct, isn’t it? No confusion here. Jesus clearly and publicly states that He and the God of the burning bush are one and the same. He is, and always has been, God. But there’s more.
John 14:6-7 – Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. If you had known (1097, to know by experience, to be intimate with, to approve, to choose, to show favor towards, to know as in an intimate relationship ) Me, you would have known (1097) My Father also; and from now on you know (1097) Him and have seen Him.”
Wait a minute. I think I’ve got the know part down, but when have I ever seen the Father? In fact, when has anyone ever seen the Father? I thought that if we ever saw the Father we would die? Isn’t that what God told Moses? (Ex. 33:20).
That was the exact question Philip had. He said, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is sufficient for us” (John 14:8). In other words, Philip still has some issues with God and Jesus being one and the same. I mean, God the Father is in “His heavens and He does what He pleases” (Ps. 115:3) and Jesus was standing right in front of them, alive, in the flesh, in living color, and close enough to touch. I can understand some of Philip’s frustration. Can’t you?
Seen One, Seen All
When Jesus answered Philip you can almost feel the exasperation in His words. It was like He was saying, “Really, Phillip? Are you serious? Haven’t you been listening to anything I’ve been telling you?”
John 14:9-11 – Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known (1097 – to know by experience, to be intimate with, to approve, to choose, to show favor towards, to know as in an intimate relationship) Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on My own authority; but the Father who dwells in Me does the works. Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father in Me, or else believe Me for the sake of the works themselves.”
Jesus was affirming for Philip, and for you and me, that when we see Jesus we have seen the Father. That’s right. Jesus and the Father are one (John 10:30). So what’s the Father like? He’s like His Son. And what’s Jesus like? He’s just like His Father. He’s the exact representation, the imprint, the “image of the invisible God” (Col. 1:15). What Philip didn’t realize when He looked into eyes the of Jesus was that he was also beholding the Father, the infinite God, the Creator of the Universe, the Great “I Am” (Ex. 3:14). The God who no one could see and live (Ex. 33:20) has made Himself known to us. Why? So we can behold His glory, the “glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). I know it’s hard to understand, this idea of the Trinity, but it’s glorious to believe. Why? Because Jesus reveals to us, to fallen man, to you and me, who the Father is and what the Father’s like. And the Father’s like His Son and His Son is like His Father. If you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all. Isn’t that wonderful? Doesn’t that fill your heart with peace?
“Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?” (John 14:9).
Three True Statements
To understand, somewhat, this idea of the Trinity, we must recognize that the following three statements that summarize what the Scriptures teach about God are all true— even if they seem illogical or contradictory to us. It’s a glorious mystery that we will never fully understand. And that’s ok. After all, God is God and we’re not. And He says “My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts” (Isa. 55:8-9). In other words, it’s sheer foolishness for the creation, that which was created from nothing, you and me, to try to understand all there is about the Creator. Why? Because we can’t. We don’t have the capacity to fully grasp God and everything about Him. No created thing can ever know all there is to know about the Person who created them. It’s impossible and ridiculous to even try. Why? Because the Creator creates something, by definition, less than Himself. The One creating doesn’t duplicate Himself and create another Creator. No, He simply creates something less than Himself— you and me and the universe we live in. And we cannot fully grasp all there is to know about God the Creator because we are, by our very creation, less than God. The best we can hope for, as creations, is for God, our Creator, to choose to reveal some of what He is like to us. And He has. And when we struggle to make sense of what He has revealed to us about Himself, we must simply believe what our great God and Creator reveals to us about Himself as truth. We must accept what He says by faith. I mean, to not believe what the Creator reveals about Himself is to think we know more about the Creator than the Creator knows about Himself. And how stupid is that?
So here are the three seemingly contradictory, yet absolutely true, statements about God as revealed in the Scriptures. Your task is to either believe them or not. It’s your call, your choice. Your future.
God is three persons.
Each person is fully God.
There is one God.
Now read that again slowly and let the magnitude of this Biblical teaching sink in.
God is revealed to us in Three Persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. We’ve got that and we see it confirmed all through Scripture such as at the baptisms of Jesus when all Three Persons of the Godhead, the Trinity, made an appearance.
We also know the Bible teaches us there is only one God. Just one. Not many, not multiple, not a handful, not even three— just one. After all, the most familiar passage of the Old Testament is Deuteronomy 6:4-5 which states: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.” Got it? There is one God, and only one.
But some struggle with the second statement: Each person is fully God, and I’m not sure why. Over and over again the Bible confirms for us, by their attributes, characteristics and deeds, that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are indeed God. The attributes of God: omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient, eternal, infinitely wise, perfectly holy, infinitely loving, pure, etc. are all true of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit. After all, only God can do the things God can do.
Which brings us back to the last comment Jesus spoke to Philip. Remember? He said, if you can’t believe My words, then “believe me for the sake of the works themselves” (John 14:11). In effect, let My works point to Who I really am. Let what I do speak louder than what I say. If I do only what God can do then draw the logical conclusion about who I am and Who sent Me. Think. After all, if it walks like a duck, talks like a duck, and looks like a duck… well, it’s no great leap of faith to believe it is a duck.
Wouldn’t you agree?
Of course. But the Jews in Jesus’ day didn’t. In fact, they rejected the proof He offered and condemned themselves by doing so— just like so many do today, both in and out of the church. When Jesus boldly and confidently asserted that “I and My Father are one” (John 10:30)— well, the war started. And it still rages today.
Let me give you some homework before we tackle the claim of Jesus to believe in His works. It’s found in Colossians 1:15-17 and gives the clearest statement in all Scripture, at least for me, that Jesus is God.
He (Jesus) is the image (or, exact representation, the imprint, likeness, icon) of the invisible God (or, that which cannot be seen by the physical eye), the firstborn (or, preeminent) over all creation (or, that which is formed, created). For by (or, through) Him (Jesus) all things (or, the whole, in totality, all without exception, the entire, absolutely all, each and every one) were created (or, to produce from nothing) that are in (or, at, with the primary idea of rest) heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist.
Couple of Questions
What does it mean that Jesus is the image of the invisible God?
What does it mean to be firstborn?
Does this mean Jesus was the One who created all things in Genesis?
What are “thrones or dominions or principalities or powers”?
What does it mean “all things were created for Him”?
What is this verse actually saying?
Chew on these for a couple of days and we’ll pick up here next time.
Consider the standard for the Christian life, especially in how we treat each other:
Let nothing be done through selfish ambition (or, self-interest, rivalry) or conceit (or, empty pride, haughtiness), but in lowliness of mind (or, humility, meekness) let each esteem (or, value, consider, honor, treasure) others better (or, over and above) than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests (or, for himself), but also for the interests of others (Phil. 2:3-4).
Is it really possible to live like this? And, if so, who has ever done that? I don’t know of any church or any Christian who meets this standard, do you? I mean, who can we look to as our example? Did Christ leave us a model or a prototype of a church that truly looked “out not for their own interest, but also for the interest of others” (Phil. 2:4).
Where can I go to see this kind of love fleshed out in real life? The Scriptures give you the clear answer. Just keep listening.
The following is a study on Church Unity from the Book of Acts.
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