Colossians 1:1-20, pt.1

This Tuesday we are starting our study of Colossians. If you haven’t joined us in a while, it’s a great time to start back, and it’s a great time to invite someone new. In preparation for this new book, please read your Bible’s introduction to Colossians or find one on the internet to gain an overview of what we will be studying over the next four weeks. I will also be using N.T. Wright’s book Paul for Everyone: The Prison Letters: Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon.

This week, as you read Colossians 1, focus on verses 15-20. These verses compose a great cosmological hymn concerning the origin and nature of the universe. Paul’s understanding of the role of the Son in creating and sustaining the universe is only exceeded by the Prologue to the Gospel of John found in John 1:1-18. We don’t know if Paul composed this hymn himself or borrowed it from an existing teaching, but the hymn draws heavily on the role that Wisdom plays in the Old Testament. Before reading Colossians 1, read Proverbs 8:22-31 and Wisdom 7:22b-8:1 (this book is in the Apocrypha and may not be in your Bible). You can also read Psalm 104:24, Proverbs 3:19-20, and Jeremiah 10:12 as to the role of Wisdom in creation.

Colossians 1:15-20 says that all things are created and held together through the Son, the Wisdom of God. Based upon this understanding that all things are created by and held together by the Wisdom of God (as incarnate in Jesus), a fifth-century Syrian theologian writing under the name of Dionysius held that therefore everything in existence is a theophany or manifestation of the Divine. Dionysius writes that “because God is in all things and sustains all things that to see anything is to see God in that thing. For all knowledge is the knowledge of God.” As he writes later, “Every sense-perception is an encounter with God” so that “the beauty seen in all things is simply the manifestation of God within them.” In other words to say something is Beautiful simply means that it more fully shows the Beauty of God. Over a thousand years later, Sir Isaac Newton wrote that nothing rejoiced him more about his work Mathematical Principles of the Natural Sciences, (wherein he lays out his eponymous Laws of Motion and Gravitation) than that men find it useful for the purpose of believing and seeing the manifestation of God. This understanding of God being revealed within his creation which the Son sustains led the great Puritan preacher Jonathan Edwards (Sinners in the Hand of an Angry God) to write an essay on Spiders so that we can “see the exuberant goodness of the Creator, who hath not only provided for all the necessities, but also for the pleasure and recreation of all sorts of creatures, and even the insects and those that are most despicable.”

Your homework this week, therefore, is to realize the manifestation of God in all things and through all things. (Read Philippians 4:8 for another list of these manifestations.) It is easy to see God in the beauty of a sunset or in the love of a child. But this week try to see the manifestation of the Wisdom of God in Newton’s second law of motion (Force=Mass x Acceleration) or E=mc2; in the most despicable of arachnids or serpents; or simply in the mundane such as the grass growing in a highway median whose purpose is live and to grow upwards towards the light, providing nourishment and protection for a myriad of life.

Dinner is at 6. Please bring a friend.

Him we proclaim, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man mature in Christ,  

Colossians 1:28

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