Andrew Fountain - The Song hidden in Colossians

Sermon notes - The Song hidden in Colossians

  • There are a number of songs in the New Testament. (e.g. a couple in Revalation)
    • Today we’re going to look at the longest, the most exalted and I think the best
    • And as far as I know it has never been translated into English
      • So I have done it, and we’re going to sing it today!

0. The Story so far

  • There are some damaging errors creeping into the churches in this area
  • Instead of answering them 1 by 1, Paul’s responds by making sure they understand the truth
  • He gives a beautifully compact and exquisitely constructed presentation of Jesus and salvation
  • He wrote it for more than just the Colossians —at the end he says “pass the letter on”.

Tree and Roots

  • The first half is the roots
    • Comes together in the trunck
    • and the second half spreads out and brings fruit

Truth that brings life

Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord,

so walk in him, rooted and built up in him

and established in the faith (2:6–7)

…bearing fruit and growing (1:6)

Quick overview

From the bottom up:

4:2–18 Among outsiders

3:18–4:1 In our extented family

3:8–17 Among Christian Community

2:20–3:7 Inner Spiritual life

2:8–19 Core of the Truth: Union with Jesus

1:24–2:7 How this Truth comes to Us

1:9b-23 Jesus & the Big Picture

1:1–9a This Truth Changes Us

Brief summary of first layer

  • We saw how the truth is like a seed that brings fruit
    • Just like in the old creation, God created the seed and it spread over all the earth...
  • Then he prays that they will be filled

1. Paul’s Prayer:

Colossians 1:9-11

Colossians 1:9-11

  1. and asking
    that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will
                in all spiritual wisdom and understanding
  2. so as to walk worthy of the Lord,
          in all ways to please him,
          in all good work bearing fruit and increasing in the knowledge of God,
  3.       in all power being empowered, through his glorious strength,
          in all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father
  • In order that they may be:
    • pleasing God
    • fruitful
    • strengthened with all power
    • patient and longsuffering
  • Would you like those things?
    • Most Christians want more power...
  • So what do we need to do to get these things?
    • be filled with knowledge, spiritual wisdom and understanding
  • We saw that Paul is not talking about some cold and indifferent knowledge of God
    • but a penetrating insight that leads to a change of life
    • e.g. knowledge can save lives: many children die in Africa when a simple rehydration can save them
  • This then is the first story of the building Paul is erecting
    • It leads us to ask, “What is this great truth, Paul, that is so life-transforming ?”
  • And so for the next three sections, Paul unfolds this truth.

2. The Song

  • The passage we will look at today is [1:13–22]
    • But first we will look at the verses that form the core of the passage, [15–20]
  • We can be pretty sure that originally these verses were a song
    • The Greek is in a similar poetic style to other songs we have
    • There are a number of features in it that mark it out as poetic
    • Unfortunately we don’t still have the tune!!!
  • Nowadays we put our songs into verses and choruses
    • This actually has 2 verses and middle-choruses
    • The song is often called “The Song of the Firstborn”
    • It is probably the highest decription of Jesus Christ in the entire Bible
    • One of my very favourite passages (as you can probably tell)

Colossians 1:15-20 as a Song

  • Jesus, Lord of the Old Creation
    • Short middle summary
    • Short middle summary
  • Jesus, Lord of the New Creation

Colossians 1:15-20 as a Song

  • Sing the song now
  • Why in poetry
    “Someone who writes in this way wants his or her readers to stop and think.” (NTW: p.66)
  • v.15 He is the Image of the Invisible
    • God is not just invisible (yet audible etc.), he cannot be perceived in any other way but through Jesus Christ,
      • and here it is the man Jesus Christ.
    • We can only know God through him. No other way. No back door.
    • He is the total, complete and absolute revelation of him
      • (Jesus tells us not only what man should be like, but what God is: “Indeed, it is only in Jesus Christ that we understand what ‘divinity’ and ‘humanity’ really mean” (Wright, p.70)
    • We know God through creation, but only because creation is in Jesus Christ
    • We know God in the providential dealings of history and our own lives, but only because Jesus Christ is holding all things together.
    • But pre-eminently we know God because Jesus Christ became a man
  • And so what he reveal God to be like?
    • He came in poverty and was born in an animal feeding trough
    • He loved the scum of society, he associated with the homeless and prostitutes, even letting one wash his feet with her hair. Is that God?
    • He was characterized by compassion and mercy, even humbling himself to wash dirty feet. Is that the image of God??
    • The highest revelation of God was on the cross: he hung in the shame of nakedness because he loved his people. He sacrificed himself for those he loved. Is that the character of God? —it is at the very core of what it means to be God.
    • We are also to be the image of God (not the express image Heb 1:3). Christ tells us in 1 John 3: “By this we know love, because he laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.”
  • v.15b “Firstborn” (e.g. Isaac was the fb)
  • v.16 How was he involved in the creation?
    • John 1:3 “All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.”
    • Image in Rev. 1:16 of Christ with his words like sword coming out of his mouth: 19:15 he uses it to strike the nations, just with his words he cuts them down. So in Genesis 1 I believe it is Christ who is doing the speaking.
    • Heaven and earth: literally “the heavens” or the sky. But figuratively to mean everywhere. Figure of speech to take two opposites when you want to show universality. The same with visible and invisible.
    • Powers: What are the powers? (visible? Invisible?) —includes the demonic powers that stand behind the visible. Why the list of four? —Again, a figure of speech to stress completeness.
  • Created For him!!!
    • That is indeed the reason for our creation. We exist for him.
    • Just as Eve was created as a bride for Adam, so we were created as a bride for Christ.
    • That is our sole purpose, to be pleasing to him—we exist for his pleasure, as does the whole of creation.
    • We cannot fail to achieve this purpose. Sometimes we can worry that we are failures.
      • I was talking to a pastor who was frustrated in the ministry because God didn’t seem to be answering his prayer for the outpouring of the Spirit.
      • But that is getting it all the wrong way around. We are a gift to Christ from the Father. He won’t be disappointed!!
  • v.17 We sometimes call this Providence —God being in control
    • Creation and providence are like twins: the two pillars of what we call general revelation.
    • (cf. Acts 17:26–28; Acts 14:15–17)
  • v.18 New Creation
    • Very similar idea in 2 Cor 5:17–19 “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”
  • v.18 “firstborn from the dead”
    • cf. Acts 13:33 “God has fulfilled this for us their children, in that He has raised up Jesus. As it is also written in the second Psalm: ‘You are My Son, today I have begotten You.’”
    • Paul clearly understands this to be the resurrection, not the Jesus’ birth.
    • Picture of old cre/Adam, new cre/Christ
  • v.18 the beginning (arche) = first principle, source
  • v.19 fullness
    • difficult to translate. It is all the divine fullness
  • v.20 reconcile
    • even inanimate things? What things in the heavens are reconciled?
  • This is the amazing Jesus Christ!
    • Let’s sing the song again

3. Surrounding Verses

Colossians 1:9–23

  • Prayer to be “filled with the knowledge of his will… wisdom, and understanding” So our lives will be transformed [9–11]
    • Rescued us from old kingdom of slavery to new kingdom of love [12–14]
      • “The Song of the Firstborn” [15–20]
    • Reconciled us from sin and hostility to holiness & acceptance [21–22]
  • But stay anchored in the truth and not moved away [23]
  • The song is wrapped in some key ideas
    • The statement of how critical the truth is for changing our lives
    • What has happened to us, in power terminology
    • The Song
    • What has happened to us, in relationship and status terminology
    • Restatement of how critical the truth is for changing our lives
  • We’ve already looked at 9–11
  • Lets look at 12–14

Colossians 1:12–14

  1. who has made you sufficient to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light,
  2.       who has rescued us from the dominion of darkness
          and transferred us into the kingdom of his Son, the dearly loved one,
  3.       in whom we have redemption, the freeing from sins.
  • Categories of power and freedom
    • Jesus can do this because he is “lifted high over all”
    • Jesus has created all things, including
      • thrones, dominions, rulers, authorities
  • Lets look at 21–22

Colossians 1:21–22

  1. And you, who once were alienated
          and hostile in mind, [engaged] in evil deeds,
  2. now he has reconciled
          in his body of flesh through death
    so as to present you holy, and blameless,
          and above reproach before him,
  • Jesus has made a new beginning and
    • is reconciling all things to himself


  • Keep your eyes on this person, focus on who he is!

Updated on 2016-10-12 by Andrew Fountain