Refresh & Restore — May 26, 2022


24 Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church, 25 of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, 26 the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints. 27 To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. 28 Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. 29 For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.

2:1 For I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you and for those at Laodicea and for all who have not seen me face to face, that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. I say this in order that no one may delude you with plausible arguments. For though I am absent in body, yet I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good order and the firmness of your faith in Christ.

Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.

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. For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, 10 and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority.[1]

Colossians 1:24-2:10

Refresh & Restore — May 26, 2022 (Jesus Over All 11) Refresh & Restore | A JustKeithHarris.com Podcast

This week, we go back and get some good context from previous passages to help us understand where Colossians goes next. You can find the full text of this Bible study, complete with links, here: https://justkeithharris.com/2022/05/25/refresh-restore-may-26/
  1. Refresh & Restore — May 26, 2022 (Jesus Over All 11)
  2. Refresh & Restore — May 19, 2022 (Jesus Over All 10)
  3. Refresh & Restore — May 12, 2022 (Jesus Over All 9)
  4. Refresh & Restore — April 28, 2022 (Jesus Over All 8)
  5. Refresh & Restore — March 31, 2022 (Jesus Over All 7)

Greetings Sojourners!

For me, this is a week of transitions. I am a public school teacher, so I have transitioned from the regular school year to summer. I will transition right back next week for summer school. I will also start my second trimester at William Carey next week.

This is also a good time to look at the transition Paul makes in the book of Colossians.

He spends so much time in the first chapter of Colossians sharing his love for them and the deep and beautiful Christological doctrines they need. I have tried to show how he moves out of those topics into why he was writing to them and the church at Laodicea in the first place: false teachers/false gospel had made its way into their churches. He has shown them Christ and shown them love because he was about to have to tell them some things that they needed to hear that they may not want to hear. Since this letter is also from the Holy Spirit to every believer from then on to Christ’s return, there are some things that we need that we may not want.

This did not get framed this way in my thinking until yesterday. Yesterday was supposed to be a quick and easy work day, wrapping up the 2021-22 school year and getting (just enough of a) head start on next year to dive into summer. I had met Jamie Harrison (he’s been the guy behind the guy as long as there has been a Just Keith Harris ministry) for coffee and to discuss the book we are reading together – Do You Believe? by Paul Tripp. Every teacher up and down the halls was laughing and jovial. There were just a few things on the agenda and the pace and atmosphere of the day reflected all of that. Until my phone starting ringing….

I had been discussing the last few things that needed to be done with our ELA specialist, so I silenced my phone. No sooner than I had hit the button, another teacher burst into my room: “Xander’s busted his head. He’s in Candice’s room. It’s bleeding pretty bad.”

I ran. My mind raced faster than my legs. There was a crowd around Candice’s door. Faces were pale – but, then again, seeing someone “bleeding pretty bad” will do that to you, especially with a head wound.

Candice had everything under control, of course. Xander, on the other hand, was in full blown freak-out. “Am I gonna have to go to the doctor?!?!” Our school nurse then arrived, checked him out, and, when we saw the wound, it was clear to everyone – we were headed to the doctor. We did our best to put our fear down and let just the mama- and daddy-ness show forth. With that, there had to be questions of what happened and how did it happen and how brother and sister had managed to produce such an emergency.

Long story short, what Candice and I had told both of them hundreds of times in their life – and Candice had literally just reiterated to them – was ignored. They were rough-housing. No one was angry (I am thankful that they do enjoy playing with each other), but the roughhousing ended with Xander’s hard head against a harder object with the skin of his forehead in between.

As I drove, faster than I liked – while Keri cried out of worry and Candice held a cloth and ice pack to his forehead – I could not help but ask the question that every parent (Lord knows my parents had to) asks: why didn’t they listen to us? I was not trying to assign blame or punish – it was an accident, after all, but I was scared myself. I could see Candice’s eyes in the rearview. She was scared. There were plenty of what-ifs. Our wonderfully precocious and hard-headed boy’s head is precious to us. That is why we tell him what not to do – and tell him again – and again – and will tell him some more once the wound is officially closed.

That is what God did for us in giving us his Word, what Paul was doing for the Colossian and Laodicean churches, and what God still actively does for His people through His Spirit when they read the Word or hear it preached. And that’s what we need to get today before we move on next week to Paul’s specific teachings regarding the false teachers in Colossae.

Context is Key

If you have been reading the Bible studies I send out or have begun and continue in them, you will notice that I talk about context often. I believe one of the most dangerous questions that a believer can ask is what a particular verse means to you. The Bible means what God meant. The original authors – inspired by His Spirit – meant what the context of the original writing meant. Jesus did not proclaim that He was a Truth or a Way to Life but the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6). The Bible means what it means.

Today, that is a difficult concept for us. The idea of truth today is divided between two filters or lenses: moral relativism and post-modernism. Basically, moral relativism means that each individual gets to define their truth, and post-modernism denies the existence of truth outside of how an individual sees their truth. Yet the Bible defines itself outside of those filters. Look at 2 Timothy 3:16-17: “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”

That sentence, in the context of the letter of 2 Timothy and that particular section shows us not only what that sentence means but, by doing just that, clarifies the importance of Scripture and context. Just prior to that sentence, Paul reminds Timothy of the “sacred writings” – Old Testament Scriptures – that he had been taught from by his mother and grandmother; Scriptures that “are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:15). This emphasizes how important the Word of God is for a person being saved, namely that it is a necessity (Romans 10:17). Immediately after Paul defined Scripture, he charged Timothy (and every other pastor after him) “in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus” to “preach the Word” (2 Timothy 4:1). Again, the context matters. Scripture is essential to salvation and it is clarified to be the only substance of preaching.

Look back at 2 Timothy 3:16-17 again. God “breathed out” Scripture. He produced it. Now, this is where a lot of people decide that this is too much for them. God’s Word – just like He does – must be understood in faith. If a person does not believe in Jesus, naturally they are going to deny any divine origin of Scripture. Likewise, if you deny God’s Word by ignoring it, not believing it, or simply refusing to let it interrupt your “best life” (I’m sorry, I couldn’t help sticking that in), you probably don’t believe in Him. God “breathed out” His Word to be “profitable” in the lives of His people. It is profitable for “teaching” (teaching right belief), “reproof” (correcting wrong belief), “correction” (Holy Spirit conviction of behaviors and lifestyles contradictory to God’s standard), and “training in righteousness” (teaching us how the Creator meant for life to be lived). It contains everything that can be known about God. It is enough, through the empowering of God’s Spirit, to make every Christ-follower “complete, equipped for every good work”.

Consequently, the book that Jamie and I have been reading, put this in a more beautiful way than I have ever heard. I can give you thick, theological answers as to why Scripture is important. I can try to break it down as best I can (which is what I was trying to do above). But, Paul Tripp put it in a way that brings tears to my eyes and in a way that absolutely reflects the context we need to see for why Paul was writing to the Colossian church: “When you get the word of God, you also get the God of the word, and that is a beautiful thing.”[2]

So, as we look at some key phrases in the verses that our last few Bible studies covered, we will be able to understand the context better. Hopefully, this will help us understand what God would teach us through this study.

Reteaching and Remediation of Colossians 1:24-2:10

There was a time when how I taught the Bible and how I teach English was more independent from each other. I tried to be what the school of Education at Ole Miss taught me to be in the classroom and what New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary taught me to be in the pulpit. Well, I just do not quite fit either mold. So, now, I just teach how I teach in hopes of helping whichever context learn what they need to learn. I say that because school-teacher-me is leaking over into our Bible study today.

I have standards that cover various facets of 10th grade English. Whenever I teach the standards (central idea, theme, POV, rhetoric, etc.), it is not about my lesson; it is about what the kiddos need and whether they got it. In some cases where they do not get something, I just teach it again and try to change up my methods a little. But there are times when teachers need to break everything back down to square one and try a different approach. I am bringing a little reteaching and remediation to our Colossians study because God has allowed me a part in your walk with Him and I want to “present everyone mature in Christ” (1:28)!

I have picked out nine phrases or sentences from our passage from the past few weeks (you can find them here, here, and here) and what we started with today to help us have the opportunity to see what God wants us to get and the context that helps us get it the way He meant it. I’ll list the phrase or sentence and break it down as clearly and briefly as I am capable.

…in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of His body, that is, the church…. (1:24) Our last two Bible studies looked at Paul’s sufferings. We need to understand that he was not being punished. He also was neither complaining about his sufferings nor bragging about his endurance. These people had never met him. He was an apostle – a specific office that only existed at the beginning of the early church (beginning in Acts and going until they died). He was given authority to teach them and help them have the necessary foundation. He was willing to suffer for the church – for them specifically, and they needed to know that.

I know that if Candice was to be in need and me not be available that I have folks who would do what needs to be done. My brothers, Kevin and Erin, have each dropped what they were doing and have come to her aid when it would take too long for me to get there. They would suffer for my kids. I have brothers at church who bear my burdens even when they have more on them than they should, yet they add mine without a thought. Knowing that impacted my relationship with them all. The Colossian church needed that with Paul – they needed to know that Christ would take care of His bride.

…to make the Word of God fully known…. (1:25) That is the point of the ministry of Paul as an apostle and Epaphras as their pastor. That is my goal in these weekly Bible studies. Full disclosure, if your pastor has a platform for ideals and not a pulpit for preaching the Word, you need to move on. The Word of God – all of it, not just the parts that make your heart flutter or your toes hurt – “fully known” is what is needed to be mature in Christ. You can have a PhD in the world issues, your preferred national platform, or the soapbox of your choice, yet being ignorant of the Word will matter more than any of them in the long run because there is no long run for any of them.

Him we proclaim, warning everyone, and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. (1:28) Again, preaching and teaching the Word – and living it out through continual repentance and faith – is what is called for. If you want to grow closer to Christ, you need to be fed by His Word. If you do not want Him and His Word interfering with your life, that is a big deal – hence the “warning everyone” and “teaching everyone”. I hate being corrected. But I would hate it more to stand before Him and He tell me, “I never knew you; depart from me, you [worker] of lawlessness” (Matthew 7:23).

For this I toil, struggling with all His energy that He powerfully works within me. (1:29) The ministry of the Word – discipling other believers and helping them grow to maturity in their faith in Christ – IS WORTH TOILING. It is work. It is hard. But the strength comes from Christ.

…to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ…. (2:2) Preaching and teaching the Bible is not about knowledge. I mentioned earlier that I have things that my school kids need to learn. I help them get the knowledge they need, and that knowledge helps them on their way to the adult they are becoming. And I absolutely love teaching literature and writing. But the gospel is “riches”. I can take a Shakespearean sonnet and understand everything it has to offer. But reaching “all the riches of full assurance and understanding” is too lofty a goal for me to reach, yet it is so rich and valuable that I cannot help but pursue it and teach it and write about it.

I say this in order that no one may delude you with plausible arguments. (2:4) There is a seemingly inexhaustible supply of people trying to “delude you”. False teaching will make sense. This is why spending time in the Word is so important. It is a lot like being able to tell the difference between scammers on the phone and legitimate callers. The difference is that false teachers do not want your social security number; they are after your soul. This is a good time to remediate something I said above: if you are letting “preachers” speak into your life about worldly things that, to an earthly extent do matter, at the expense of preaching the Word, you are victim of a false teacher – or at the very least a preacher who cares more for whatever he wants to talk about than the sheep in his care.

…as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him…. (2:6) This reiterates the importance of the Word in the life of the Church. The church in America is currently being called out for not “so walk[ing] in Him”. Receiving Christ means living like He has taught in His Word. When Roe v. Wade is appealed, are you willing to foster or adopt (James 1:22, 26-27)? I am a Southern Baptist and just read the report of how too many in my denomination cared more about getting sued or earthly liability than in caring for people they could have protected and most definitely should have ministered to (James 2:13-17). Walking “in Him” means being hated as He was hated. It means loving like He loved. It means living like He lived. And it may mean dying like He died. If you have not “received Christ Jesus the Lord”, though – if you have not been saved, you will walk away.

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) Next week, we will dive in specifically to this and the rest of the paragraph that follows. It is our responsibility to “see to it that no one takes [us] captive”. This is important. We need to be testing the spirit of those claiming to preach the Word (1 John 4:1-6). We needed to be testing whether the Spirit be in us, too (Philippians 2:12-13). Test what you read here as well!

Wrapping Up

I hope this helps you understand the importance of the Word. I am praying for you, dear Sojourner. More than anything, I am thankful that the God of the Word is sovereign and omnipotent and cares for folks like you and me. Hallelujah, and amen!


[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. 2016. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[2] Paul David Tripp, Do You Believe?: 12 Historic Doctrines to Change Your Everyday Life Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2021, 38.

Refresh & Restore — April 28, 2022

15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 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. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 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. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.

21 And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22 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, 23 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.[1]

Colossians 1:15-23

Refresh & Restore — May 26, 2022 (Jesus Over All 11) Refresh & Restore | A JustKeithHarris.com Podcast

This week, we go back and get some good context from previous passages to help us understand where Colossians goes next. You can find the full text of this Bible study, complete with links, here: https://justkeithharris.com/2022/05/25/refresh-restore-may-26/
  1. Refresh & Restore — May 26, 2022 (Jesus Over All 11)
  2. Refresh & Restore — May 19, 2022 (Jesus Over All 10)
  3. Refresh & Restore — May 12, 2022 (Jesus Over All 9)
  4. Refresh & Restore — April 28, 2022 (Jesus Over All 8)
  5. Refresh & Restore — March 31, 2022 (Jesus Over All 7)

Greetings Sojourners!

I have thoroughly enjoyed working our way through the Colossian hymn. It has been good for my heart to focus so intently on who the Bible says Jesus is. There are so many things vying for lordship and supremacy in my life that it is good to be reminded – and to be reminded often – that Jesus is God, that He is supreme over everything He has created, that He is the head of His Church, that everything that is or has ever been comes from and is held together by Him, and that in love He reconciles sinners to Himself “by the blood of His cross” (v. 20).

I have tried to bring us back to “psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs” (Colossians 3:16) as to introduce each devotion as we have walked through this section of Colossians. But today’s passage is different. Colossians 1:15-20 is clearly the hymn; 1:21-23 is more of a transition out of the hymn back into the letter. The more I thought about how to frame this passage, the more my mind has been drawn toward the idea of an invitation to respond to the Word and the Spirit.

The idea of an invitation from God to man is seen throughout the Bible – in both the Old and New Testaments. As far back as Genesis 6:18, we see God establishing a covenant with Noah and inviting him and his family into the ark in the face of sure judgment all around. God invites his covenant people Israel through his prophets; look at Isaiah 55:1: “Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat!” And my favorite comes from Jesus Himself in Matthew 11:28-29: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

In all of those instances, you see a God who needs nothing offering aid to people who are in need. Noah and his family – and thereby the entire human race – would have died without God’s ark.

Isaiah caps off his prophecies about the Suffering Servant – Jesus – in chapters 53 and 54 with an invitation for people to receive the Servant and the benefits He brings.

And, when I read Jesus’ words from Matthew 11, I feel them deep within my soul. I know He was talking to a specific group of people when He spoke those words, but I am heavy laden in need of rest. I need to shirk that yoke and learn from Jesus. It is good news of the highest order to be invited by my King whose heart is “gentle and lowly” enough to condescend from Glory to give rest to a wretched sinner such as me if I come to Him.

The church heritage that I belong to – as does the church where I am blessed to serve, Christ Community – offers invitations at the end of sermons to respond to the Word as it has been preached. We believe that the Holy Spirit prompts both the preacher and the one responding to do so. I love the way my pastor introduces this time. He does not seek to play on emotions or to draw in masses. He reminds people that “this is [their] time”, theirs and Gods, to respond to what is preached. There are aspects that are specific to the day’s particular passage, but he always – always – makes sure to offer an invitation for people to come to Jesus.

As with the rest of this section, a hymn comes to mind. Look at this words, and ponder their meaning before we dive into today’s text:

“Come, ye sinners, poor and needy, weak and wounded, sick and sore. Jesus ready stands to save you, full of pity, love, and power.

“Come, ye thirsty, come and welcome, God’s free bounty glorify; true belief and true repentance, every grace that brings you nigh.

“Come, ye weary, heavy laden, lost and ruined by the fall; if you tarry till you’re better, you will never come at all.”[2]

Invitation 1: Be Reconciled to God

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…. (vv. 21-22)

Here we find the word “reconcile” that we focused on in the last Bible study in this series. It means “to restore harmony or friendship between two entities formerly divided”.[3] I mentioned that this word is often used to describe a relationship that was once in turmoil but now set aright. In the case of man and God, today’s passage gives a clearer picture as to just how much it meant for Jesus to make “peace by the blood of His cross” (v. 20).

Because of our sin, our default position is not friendship with God. I hear a lot of people say things like “we are all God’s children” and that everyone is basically good. I believe that people mean well when they say those things, but neither of those statements fit what the Bible says (Romans 3:10, 23; Galatians 4:4-5), and they actually make it seem like Jesus really did not need to die on the cross because humanity basically had this whole thing in check without Him.

Today’s passage clarifies that, because of our sin, we – that is everyone not in Christ – were “alienated” and “hostile in mind, doing evil deeds”. Both of these descriptions fit with Paul’s writing to the church at Ephesus. In Ephesians 2:1-3, he describes just how hostile we were and what our evil deeds produced in our lives:

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.

Then, in Ephesians 2:12, we get a picture of our being alienated from Him by our sin: “…remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.”

Just so we do not miss the weight of the seriousness of sin the Holy Spirit through Paul described it as producing death, following after Satan, being a child of wrath, being separated from Christ, and having no hope because we were without God. We had relationship troubles – as in, our relationship to Him was as His enemy (Romans 5:9-10). And the turmoil in our relationship was our fault. It wasn’t Him, it was us.

It still blows my mind that God could love a sinner such as me. I find it hard to believe that He would reconcile with me. I didn’t (and still don’t) deserve it. Yet, “God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). It is the testimony of every believer that our life is “live[d] by faith in the Son of God, who loved [us] and gave Himself for [us]” (Galatians 2:20). He loved me and paid the debt my sin produced – death (Romans 6:23) – so that I could live. He made His enemy His friend.

Look at the good news that followed both sections we just looked at in Ephesians! Right after he revealed that our trespasses and sins made us dead, he said (Ephesians 2:4-5): “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved….” There is perhaps no better news one could hear than death having been reversed. And He is the only One who has or can reverse it.

He also has good news for our alienation (Ephesians 2:13): “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” This is a much more beautiful picture than we realize. That word “alienation” means “to estrange, alienate entirely”[4]. That word “estrange” is not used in everyday language like it once was. It is the word that describes a husband or wife who has left their spouse. So, to be an estranged husband or wife is to be a spouse who has essentially decided that the relationship is over. But, rather than cutting us off, God chose reconciliation. He, “in His body of flesh by His death”, brought us near “in order to present [us] holy and blameless and above reproach before Him”. That is similar to the language that Paul uses to describe the love husbands should have for their wives – the same love that Christ has for His Bride, the Church (Ephesians 5:25-27):

“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.”

God loved His estranged Bride enough to reconcile – to cleanse and restore her. That is a powerful image that illustrates the powerful love He has. And it is that love that He offers.

So, this is your time. If you examine your life and know that you are dead in your trespasses and sins – that you are far off from God and desire to be brought near, the invitation is clear. Repent of your sin and believe upon Him who loves like no other. Ask Him whose mercy and grace are offered in place of His wrath to save you. Romans 10:9 tells us “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” The invitation is extended. Come, ye sinner, poor and needy. Come to Him.

Invitation 2: Continue in the Faith

…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. (v. 23)

Often, invitations are directed primarily toward people who are not yet saved. But that is not the case in Scripture. Any time that God’s Word exhorts – encourages, warns, commands – us to do something, that is an opportunity to respond. Will we do what the Word says, or will we try to remain willfully ignorant or simply disobedient? The way Paul closes this section does not seem to list those as options. He moves directly from talking about God presenting those who He has reconciled as “holy and blameless and above reproach before Him” to saying “if indeed you continue in the faith”.

Now, I want to clarify before I continue what I am and what I am not saying. I am not saying that not being perfect after being saved is how we know we have been saved. If that was the case, there has not ever been a saved person, except maybe the thief on the cross since he was in paradise moments after Jesus promised that as his destination (). 1 John 2:1-2 makes the position of the saved clear:

My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the Righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins….

But, looking at the way Paul worded this statement, there does seem to be an expectation – or at least a way to know if one is continuing in the faith.

This is usually where people begin touting “Thou shall not judge”. This ain’t that. I am inviting you – actually the Word is inviting you to examine your own life.

Are you continuing in the faith? Do you consider your faith “stable and steadfast”? Is your hope firmly fixed on Jesus as proclaimed in the gospel, or is it shifting because your worldly hopes fail and fall away?

If you are like me, your answers vary from time to time on these questions. My sin still causes issues in my life. My faith is more “stable and steadfast” when I am fully relying on God in the midst of a particularly difficult season of life. The hope I have in Christ transcends anything this world can offer.

To continue in the faith is probably illustrated best in Jesus’ words in John 15:4-6:

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.

Continuing in the faith means that you have placed your faith, your hope, in Jesus – what He has done, is doing, and has promised to do according to His Word. We are to be as dependent on Him for life as the branches of a grape vine are to the vine itself. Those branches are either connected, or they are not. Once a branch falls to the ground, it looks alive for a brief moment, but it doesn’t take long before the reality of its death is apparent.

Is the new life that comes from Christ evident in your life? Not perfection. Not imitation, either. Does your life bear the fruit of His life in you? Is it evident that you are His?

These are difficult questions. They are tough and sometimes frightening. I have been saved for twenty years, and I still find myself doubting. But those doubts are always with me, not Him. You see, I sometimes try to alienate myself because of some sin I have committed. The difference is that I am never “without hope and without God in the world” anymore; I never will be again because He has reconciled me.

What about you?

This is your time. Whether you have been saved twenty years or two years or eighty, examine your life. Paul ended v. 23 with a testimony to say that he “became a minister” due to the gospel – the good news – of what Jesus has done, the faith in Him that came from it, and the bedrock foundation of hope that can only be experienced in Him. Come, ye sinner, poor and needy. By the riches of His merit, there is joy and life in Him!

Wrapping Up

Getting to sit under the teaching of God’s Word is a valuable thing and not to be taken lightly. It is easy to fall into thinking that an invitation to respond to the Word is for those who are not yet saved or those who have not responded before. But they are for whomever the Spirit prods. I love the refrain, the chorus, of the hymn I have been referencing throughout today’s Bible study:

“I will arise and go to Jesus. He will embrace me in His arms. In the arms of my dear Savior, oh, there are ten thousand charms.”

Know this, beloved Sojourner, the beauty of invitations to come to Christ lie not in the offer. They lie in what we find when we truly come to Him. He is the reward. He is our hope. He is our help. He will surely save.

So, I urge you: come to Him.

This is your time.


[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Col 1:15–23.

[2] “Come, Ye Sinners, Poor and Needy” — Jean Jacques Rousseau | Joseph Hart © Words & Music: Public Domain

[3] Barbara E. Bowe, “Reconciliation,” ed. David Noel Freedman, Allen C. Myers, and Astrid B. Beck, Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans, 2000), 1112.

[4] Spiros Zodhiates, The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 2000).

Refresh & Restore — March 31, 2022

15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 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. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 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. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.

21 And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22 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, 23 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.[1]


Refresh & Restore — May 26, 2022 (Jesus Over All 11) Refresh & Restore | A JustKeithHarris.com Podcast

This week, we go back and get some good context from previous passages to help us understand where Colossians goes next. You can find the full text of this Bible study, complete with links, here: https://justkeithharris.com/2022/05/25/refresh-restore-may-26/
  1. Refresh & Restore — May 26, 2022 (Jesus Over All 11)
  2. Refresh & Restore — May 19, 2022 (Jesus Over All 10)
  3. Refresh & Restore — May 12, 2022 (Jesus Over All 9)
  4. Refresh & Restore — April 28, 2022 (Jesus Over All 8)
  5. Refresh & Restore — March 31, 2022 (Jesus Over All 7)

Greetings Sojourners!

I hope this week’s Bible study finds you well and safe. As I write this today, I am at home, sitting and writing where I can see out my window. Torrential winds are going to come, or they will not. A massive thunderstorm may come, or it may not. I am reminded of Jesus’ words in Matthew 7:24-27:

“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”[2]

Jesus spoke those words as a close to the greatest sermon ever to be recorded, the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). There are two reasons why I think they have come to mind right now: 1) I am trying to organize my thoughts to continue walking through the Christ-centered hymn in Colossians 1:15-23, and 2) I am a bit scared. The first reason is obvious as it is what I am doing now. The second is for many reasons. If the forecasted weather comes through, it is likely that my home could be damaged or the home of family, friends, and neighbors could be damaged. More than that, my family is with me here now, so, if the wind and the rains come, I could lose one or all of them. Yet somehow, I continue to sit here and type.

That somehow is faith – faith in the One who “upholds the universe by the Word of His power” (Hebrews 1:3), the One through Whom “all things hold together” (v. 17). And, thinking about what we are studying today and all that we have studied previously, faith is essential in understanding how it all works together. We are jaded and skeptical by nature, and it takes faith to believe that Jesus is Who He says He is in His Word. It takes faith that is birthed out of the belief that we are sinners in need of a Savior – belief that He is the only Savior, “our blessed hope…, our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us to redeem us” (Titus 2:13-14).

We began walking through what we are calling the Colossian hymn last week. Verses 15-17 lay the foundation for everything we are looking at today. Verse 15 tells us that Jesus is God and, rightfully, has all authority, dominion, and power. Verse 16 illustrates how there is nothing in all of Creation that can remotely hope to attain to His power and glory; in fact, all creation finds its beginning and continuation in Him. And verse 17 clarifies that everything He created is still held together by His power.

Today, we will tackle verses 18-20 and see how last week’s verses point us to the reconciliation of God and sinners like you and me.

Diving In

And He is the head of the body, the Church. (v. 18a)

One of the aspects about Jesus and beliefs about Him that I believe is often overlooked is what those beliefs mean to those who believe them versus those who do not. First and foremost, it must be understood that, while we hold that the Word of God is important and the truths it holds are of the utmost importance, God’s Word is true whether we believe it or not. For the Church, His Word is where we find everything that can be known about Him (2 Timothy 3:16-17). But, for the unbelieving world, it seems like foolishness (1 Corinthians 1:18).

The beginning of verse 18 helps us to see how this Colossian hymn fits into the lives of believers. Those who are saved are part of what is known as the Church, or the body of Christ. Simply put, Jesus is the head of the Church; He is, ultimately, its sole leader and guides it through His Word and His Spirit.

Look at the “and” at the beginning of this verse; it points us back to verse 17 which says that “He is before all things” and “in Him all things hold together”. The “and” here in verse 18 tells us that, just as He is set over all of creation and is actively holding all of it together, it is the same in the Church. Look at the way that Paul describes it to the church at Ephesus: “…we are to grow up in every way into Him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love” (Ephesians 4:15-16).

The church at Colossae – and our churches today – need to remember this! We are not the necks that turn the head. Christ, the head, is in the lead. The image created here is a body with members (parts), so if we find ourselves following something else (idolatry), we can no longer call ourselves part of the Church as we have dismembered it by severing ourselves from it. There were false teachers seeking to do that in Colossae, and there are those today who seek to tear down and ravage the body of Christ (1 Peter 5:8-9, Matthew 7:15-19, 2 Peter 2).

We would do well to look to the head, to Jesus, and remember His words from Matthew 7 that we looked at earlier: the wise man, the man whose house is not washed away in the torrents of the storms, is only wise because he “hears these words of mine and does them” (Matthew 7:24).

He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything He might be preeminent. (v. 18b)

I write often about how we have no ability within ourselves to save or to receive glory. But Jesus is worthy of His titles, not just because of His status before the foundation of the world, because He continually proves Himself to be worthy. To say that He is “the beginning” points to Him being the origin of everything we know, but to say that He is “the firstborn from the dead” highlights what He has done for His Church.

I recall David Platt recounting a conversation between a Christian missionary and two religious leaders, one Muslim and the other Hindu. They were concerned that some of their people were forsaking Islam and Hinduism and following Christ. They presented the missionary with a metaphor they believed would convince the missionary to leave the territory so that everyone could just keep on believing what they were before he arrived. They were in agreement that religion can be understood through the metaphor of a mountain. Life is man’s journey up the mountain trying to get to god in his lofty paradise. There are many paths, they argued, to get up the mountain but that the destination was the same. They felt quite confident in their presentation until the missionary told them that Christianity was not at all like that. Christianity, he told them, was different because man was completely and utterly unable to make it up the mountain, and God, rather than condemning them for their inability to make it to Him, came down the mountain and made a way for man, basically carrying them up the mountain to be where He abides. The religious leaders were disappointed and left to continue trying to make it up the mountain.

Jesus is “the firstborn from the dead” because, in Christ, God “became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). He lived a full and sinless life on the earth despite encountering all the temptations we do (Hebrews 4:15). And “for our sake God made Him to be sin Who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21) – that is, He died the death we deserve to make a Way for us (John 14:6)! More importantly, He did not stay dead but “He was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:4)! He is “firstborn from the dead” because death could not hold Him, and His Life is the source of our eternal life!

That is why He is “preeminent” – supreme, sovereign, superlative! Paul illustrates this beautifully in Philippians 2:9-11:

Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.[3]

He has always been worthy because of Who He is to everything that exists. He remains preeminent because He never changes and proves Himself again and again. That’s good news!

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. (vv. 19-20)

We have already seen that Jesus is fully God in verse 15, but here we see an example of why that is so important: reconciliation.

Reconciliation means “to restore harmony or friendship between two entities formerly divided”.[4] When we use this word in the present day, we use it to describe a relationship where some wrong done by one of the parties has caused a rift in the relationship and the rift is somehow healed. It could be as simple as two friends allowing a misunderstanding to come between them and, upon clearing the issue up, reconciling and renewing their friendship. It could also be used to describe a married couple deciding to stay together and weathering the storm of some indiscretion or issue that could have ended the marriage. In the case of God and man, we caused the rift; our sin did the dividing.

Romans 5 does a better job than I ever could painting the picture of God’s love despite our sin and what His desire to reconcile cost Him:

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. 11 More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.[5]

Our sin made us enemies of God. He has wrath toward sin and toward His enemies. Now, I know this is a scary prospect (not to mention very unpopular), but it is necessary to understand what He did for us – and why it is so important that in Christ “all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell”.

You see, God would have been absolutely just if he had wiped the slate clean when Adam and Eve sinned in the garden (Genesis 2:16-17, 3:1-13). He could have smoked them right then and there and been done with the whole lot of humanity in one righteous and just smiting. He did not have to rescue Noah and his family from His wrath in Genesis 6. He would be totally righteous and just if He would have not forgiven me of my sins or reconciled me to Himself. I am a sinner. He has wrath toward sin and toward His enemies. But instead of being only righteous and just, He provided a means for reconciliation that would not compromise what is right – He decided on grace, mercy, love, and propitiation. God Himself paid the penalty for the sins of the world on the cross (1 John 2:1-2).

There is a price to pay for sin. It has a cost. It is different than merely declaring that the stormy sea be calmed because He has already laid out penalty for sin all they way back in the beginning – death. Yet Jesus, in whom “all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell”, cancelled the “record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands” and set it aside, “nailing it to the cross” (Colossians 2:14). God did it all!

Think on it like this:

“…[A]n altered relationship now exists between God and sinners by Christ’s interposing sacrifice on behalf of fallen humanity. The point of the reconciliation is that God, for Christ’s sake, now feels toward sinners as though they had never offended him. The reconciliation is complete and perfect, covering mankind both extensively and intensively—that is, all sinners and all sin. The cause of rupture between God and sinners has now been healed, a truth wholly independent of humanity’s mood or attitude. While sinners were still the objects of God’s just wrath, Christ, in full harmony with the gracious will of his heavenly Father, interposed himself for their sakes, for the restoration of harmony.”[6]

Or as the hymn of old[7] put it:

“Jesus sought me when a stranger,
Wandring from the fold of God;
He, to rescue me from danger,
Bought me with His precious blood.”

All I know is that He could have poured His wrath out upon me but loved me instead. He could have made war on me as His enemy but instead made peace “by the blood of His cross”. That kind of love at such a cost as “the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot” (1 Peter 1:19) is worth singing about. More than that, a God like that is surely preeminent because there is none like Him in all of existence.

Wrapping Up

I keep thinking back to Jesus’ words from beginning of today’s Bible study (Matthew 7:24-27). They came to mind because of thoughts of wind and rain, but Jesus was talking about so much more. He says that we will either build on a bedrock of faith – a foundation that is not determined by our own ability or strength but His, or we will build a foundation determined by what we can (and cannot) accomplish on our own. He says that His words – listening to Him and, most importantly, obeying what He tells us – ensure that when the rains, floods, and winds come – and they will, the foundation of His Word will never fall away. Those who build on Him will not fall because they have been founded on the rock!

Look at the beautiful words of the hymn “Be Still My Soul”[8] (1855):

“Be still, my soul; the waves and winds still know
His voice who ruled them while He lived below.”

What amazing truths are held in those lines! He has rebuked storms, telling them to be still, and He has allowed storms to rage. He has parted a sea, piled a river into a giant heap, and walked across water like it was solid ground. There are many who are skeptical of such things, but I believe them. I have faith, and that faith is rooted in my rejoicing that I am a sinner who has been reconciled to God by the blood of His cross. Without Him, there is no hope. Without Him, I am just dead in my sins. The more I read of Him in His Word, the more I see my sin. And, the more I see Him for Who He is and me for who I am, I am thankful and humbled that He would love one such as me. The storm is still raging outside my window, and the storms of life still rage as well. But the words of the Colossian hymn – words that proclaim a God who died yet lives, a Messiah who took the wrath I deserve while giving me love and grace – giving me hope. I pray they do for you also.


[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Col 1:15–23.

[2] ESV, Mt 7:24–27.

[3] ESV, Php 2:9–11.

[4] Barbara E. Bowe, “Reconciliation,” ed. David Noel Freedman, Allen C. Myers, and Astrid B. Beck, Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans, 2000), 1112.

[5] ESV, Ro 5:6–11.

[6] Walter A. Elwell and Philip Wesley Comfort, Tyndale Bible Dictionary, Tyndale Reference Library (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2001), 1113.

[7] “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing”, John Wyeth | Robert Robinson © Words & Music: Public Domain

[8] Franz Dickerson | Joel Chernoff © 2002 Galilee of the Nations Music (Admin. by Music Services, Inc.)

Refresh & Restore — March 24, 2022

15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 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. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 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. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.

21 And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22 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, 23 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.[1]

Colossians 1:15-23

Refresh & Restore — May 26, 2022 (Jesus Over All 11) Refresh & Restore | A JustKeithHarris.com Podcast

This week, we go back and get some good context from previous passages to help us understand where Colossians goes next. You can find the full text of this Bible study, complete with links, here: https://justkeithharris.com/2022/05/25/refresh-restore-may-26/
  1. Refresh & Restore — May 26, 2022 (Jesus Over All 11)
  2. Refresh & Restore — May 19, 2022 (Jesus Over All 10)
  3. Refresh & Restore — May 12, 2022 (Jesus Over All 9)
  4. Refresh & Restore — April 28, 2022 (Jesus Over All 8)
  5. Refresh & Restore — March 31, 2022 (Jesus Over All 7)

Greetings Sojourners!

I have started this week’s Bible study over and over in my head.

Have you ever set out to complete a task and realized that you are woefully inadequate for the task? That is how I feel about this section of Colossians. It is magnificent. It is glorious. It is full to the brim of amazing truths about Jesus. The more I study it, I find myself praying along with the tax collector: “Have mercy on me, O God, a sinner” (Luke 18:13).

The more I learn of Jesus – the closer I get to Him, the more I learn about myself. He, of course, does not change, but my perception of Him grows the more time I spend in His Word. The greater my perception of Him becomes, the worse I realize I am. The more grace I experience from Him, the more I realize the dangers of my sin. Understanding the cost of His sacrifice illustrates how woefully in debt I would be had He not redeemed me.

The good news (for me and for you) is that He is not dependent on the skill of anyone to make Him great. He already is. He does not need me to be eloquent or convincing. He is worthy. And I get to simply point you toward Him.

The Greatest Hymn Ever Written

This passage has long been one of my favorites. Every time I read it, it is like drinking ice-cold water when you are parched and hot. It is refreshes me. Looking at and processing how big and great – how preeminent, supreme, and sovereign – He is gives me indescribable relief.  

The general consensus of many theologians, writers, and preachers over the centuries is that this passage was a hymn in the early church. Since it is recorded in Scripture and all Scripture is “breathed out by God” (2 Timothy 3:16), this hymn is perfect. This hymn does not sing about the Word or what the Word says. This hymn is part of the Word! That, in and of itself, is enough to make it beautiful, but the way that it testifies to Who Jesus is adds depth and beauty that no human mind could think.

This explains why singing songs of the faith (“psalms” – singing Scripture, “hymns” – singing doctrine or what the Bible teaches, and “spiritual songs” – singing testimonies[2]; cf. Ephesians 5:19, Colossians 3:16) are important: they help us carry our beliefs, our theology, from our hearts and minds to our mouths.[3]

There are many beautiful modern hymns that help us communicate deep truths about Jesus. “Praise to the Lord, the Almighty” (1680) highlights His care and strength:

“Praise to the Lord, who will prosper your work and defend you;
Surely His goodness and mercy shall daily attend you.
Ponder anew what the Almighty can do,
If with His love He befriends you.”[4]

“How Great Thou Art” (1949) illustrates His greatness by reminding what He has done for us:

“And when I think that God His Son not sparing
Sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in
That on the cross, my burden gladly bearing
He bled and died to take away my sin”[5]

And, more recently, “In Christ Alone” (2001) reminds us to hope in Christ alone:

“In Christ alone my hope is found
He is my light, my strength, my song
This Cornerstone, this solid ground
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm
What heights of love, what depths of peace
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease
My Comforter, my All in all
Here in the love of Christ I stand”[6]

But, as beautiful as these songs are, they are not enough. Theology is important – sound theology is very important, but it all pales in comparison to Jesus. And the Colossian hymn – if it helps you to think of it that way – in 1:15-23 is better than the sum of every lyric of every worship song ever written about Jesus because it comes from Jesus Himself, the Word of God. He is more noteworthy than every note ever sung or that will be sung in worship of Him. Let’s dive in and seek to know Him more as we embark on today’s passage.

Diving In

In the last devotion, I tried to illustrate why Paul begins with this section on Jesus: to lay down the essential Truth of Who He is before he deals with the issues of false teaching that plagued the church at Colossae. There is false teaching today that still attacks Who Jesus is – Who the Bible proclaims Him to be. So, I want to be as careful as I possibly can – more carefully even than usual with my handling of this passage.

I always seek to take each passage (whether in my writing or while preaching/teaching) and treat it with the same care that Ezra did when they read from the Law – the Scriptures – for the first time when they came back home out of exile: “They read from the book, from the Law of God clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading” (Nehemiah 8:8). On that day, all of Israel stood and listened. They were attentive to the Word because they had starved without it in exile. Dear, Sojourner, we are in exile, too, for “our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:20). Let us walk through this hymn together, verse-by-verse, looking at what is clearly seen, giving a sense so that we may understand our reading – that we may see Him.

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. (v. 15)

There are two descriptions of Jesus in this verse that are very important: “image of the invisible God” and “firstborn of all creation”. They run parallel to each other to help build our understanding of Who He is.

When I see the phrase “image of…God”, my mind is drawn back to the Creation account in Genesis:

“Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’ So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” (Genesis 1:26-27)

I love the language in that passage. If you look at the Greek translation of the Old Testament and the original language of Colossians, the word for “image” is the same. It’s the word eikon (pronounced and similar to our word icon). That word is used in other places in the New Testament when Jesus asks whose “likeness” is on the Roman currency (Matthew 22:20) and later on to describe the “image [or statue] of the beast” in Revelation 13:14.

Basically, this is the word used to describe a picture (2D or 3D) that represents something real. The eikon is a visible representative of the real thing. It might be helpful to think of the icons for apps on our phones or computer screens. Think of how broad and vast the internet is, yet all you need to do to access the web is to click on the icon. It seems to simple to look at Jesus on the terms of an app, but there is Scripture to back this up. Hebrews 1:3 is a beautiful picture of this as the author writes that Jesus is “the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of His nature”; Jesus is the literal embodiment of God’s glory and possesses God’s nature because He is God! Jesus said as much Himself in John 10:30 (“I and the Father are one”) and 14:9 (“Whoever has seen Me has seen the Father”).

Man was created in the image of God, but that image was disfigured by sin in the Fall. That is the reason that in salvation God begins restoring that image. How does He do that? In salvation, when the old flesh is replaced with “the new self” we begin being “renewed in knowledge after the image of [our] Creator” (Colossians 3:10), to “be conformed to the image of His Son” (Romans 8:29). It really is a beautiful picture of God’s grace! He creates man in His image, but man tarnishes that image by continual sin. Rather than ending mankind, God made a Way for us by coming to earth in the Person of Jesus, living a sinless life, dying the death we deserve, and raising Himself from the dead that we can have eternal life in Him (John 1:14, 3:16, 14:6; Romans 6:23; 1 Corinthians 15:3-4; 2 Corinthians 5:21). He, “the image of the invisible God” gives the most beautifully visible representation of God – His love and His justice, His mercy and His wrath – making visible the “King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God” – may He receive “honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.” (1 Timothy 1:17).

The second phrase in this verse describes Jesus as “the firstborn of all creation”.

This phrase has been used to present all kinds of false teaching throughout church history and even today. People try to take this and twist it to say that Jesus is a created being, that He is God’s firstborn. You can look back at the lists of Scripture in last week’s devotion or look throughout the Word for yourself. To say that Jesus is created is align yourself with people like Arius or modern-day Jehovah’s Witnesses or Mormons and not align yourself with the Jesus of the Bible who has always been, even “before the foundation of the world” (Ephesians 1:4).

To understand why Paul refers to Jesus as “the firstborn of all creation”, you have to understand the context. For example, God tells Moses to explain to Pharaoh that Israel is His “firstborn son” (Exodus 4:22). God was not saying that He was the literal father of the nation of Israel. He was referring to the status, the position of a firstborn son. All right and authority over everything a father had – the best of the estate and all status that comes with it – went to the firstborn. This matches with how God spoke of David in Psalm 89:27 when he said that He would “make Him the firstborn, the highest of the kings of earth”.

To say that Jesus is the firstborn of all creation is to say that He is indeed the King of kings and Lord of lords. It shows the authority He had on earth – that He has today.

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. (v. 16)

Look at the way that the verses in this hymn build on each other. Jesus, being the “image of the invisible God” establishes Him as God in flesh; His being the “firstborn of all creation” establishes His authority. Now, we see that He is the source of all that is, all that has ever been created! We have already traced Him being the image of God back to Genesis 1:26-27. But His presence at the dawn of creation can be traced back even farther. In fact, nothing can be traced farther back – He predates time and the existence of everything we can see!

Genesis 1:1-3a – the beginning – shows us the magnificence of God in His Trinity:

“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. And God said….”

We see the Father and the Spirit clearly. The Son shows up in the speaking – the Word. That’s also where we see His authority. He says “light”, and light shines days before any source of light is invented!

We already looked at Hebrews 1:3 to affirm Jesus as the eikon of God. Now, we see it affirm His bringing all that exists into existence. He, being “the exact imprint” of God’s nature, “upholds the universe by the Word of His power”! That same voice that brought things into being is the very same power that keeps everything together. That creative power keeps the earth spinning at just the right speed, keeps it orbiting the sun at just the right distance and rate, and keeps it tilted at just the right angle to make all of life continue.

John 1:1-3 puts all of this together more beautifully than I could hope to explain:

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him was not any thing made that was made.”

All of creation, everything we can see on earth and all that we hope to see in heaven, everything from the majesty of the mountains and vast oceans to the microscopic atoms that are working below the surface of them all, all of it exists because of Him. There is no throne of man, vast dominating empire, or ruler – earthly or spiritual that can lift a finger against Him because they all originate from “the Word of His power”! Everything that is, was, or will be was created through Him. And everything that is, was, or will be belongs to Him – is “for” Him.

Verse 17 ties verses 15 and 16 together eloquently: And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.

Just as our Bible study title suggests, Jesus is over all, and He is all. And, just as His words were enough to light up the darkness in the beginning, they are enough to keep all of creation together. They are also better suited to tell us Who He is; in Revelation 22:13, Jesus says, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.”

Wrapping Up

I plan on continuing to walk through this passage a few verses at a time. Nothing could serve our time together better than in “looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2).

It is my prayer that I grow closer to Him in the writing and you in the reading. If you don’t know Him, I’m thankful to get to introduce you to Him.

I want to close out with some beautiful words about Jesus that, although written in the fourth century by Gregory of Nazianzus, still hold truth today:

He who gives riches becomes poor; for He assumes the poverty of my flesh, that I may assume the riches of His Godhead. He who is full empties Himself; for He empties Himself of His Glory for a short while, that I may have a share in His fullness.[7]

Hallelujah, and amen!


[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Col 1:15–23.

[2] This breakdown of the terms from Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16 draw on conversations with pastor friends of mine many years ago and has evolved and grown over the years. I am not entirely sure where this particular breakdown came from, but the group effort and community of faith have been foundational in my understanding of this.

[3] This is also why we need to be vigilant in singing songs with good theology because they are saturated in God’s Word. I plan on writing on this more at a later date, but in the meantime, you can look at the Songs for Sunday section of the website for examples of looking at the Scriptures represented by songs sung in corporate worship.

[4] Catherine Winkworth | Joachim Neander, © Words: Public Domain; Music: Public Domain

[5] Stuart Wesley | Keene Hine, © Copyright 1949 and 1953 Stuart Hine Trust CIO Stuart K. Hine Trust (Administration: USA All rights by Capitol CMG Publishing, except print rights for USA, North, Central and South America administered by Hope Publishing. All other non USA Americas rights by the Stuart Hine Trust. Rest of World – Integritymusic.com.)

[6] Keith Getty | Stuart Townend, © 2001 Thankyou Music (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing)

[7] Elliot Ritzema, 300 Quotations for Preachers from the Early Church, Pastorum Series (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2013).

Refresh & Restore — March 10, 2022

15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 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. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 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. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.

21 And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22 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, 23 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.[1]

Colossians 1:15-23

Refresh & Restore — May 26, 2022 (Jesus Over All 11) Refresh & Restore | A JustKeithHarris.com Podcast

This week, we go back and get some good context from previous passages to help us understand where Colossians goes next. You can find the full text of this Bible study, complete with links, here: https://justkeithharris.com/2022/05/25/refresh-restore-may-26/
  1. Refresh & Restore — May 26, 2022 (Jesus Over All 11)
  2. Refresh & Restore — May 19, 2022 (Jesus Over All 10)
  3. Refresh & Restore — May 12, 2022 (Jesus Over All 9)
  4. Refresh & Restore — April 28, 2022 (Jesus Over All 8)
  5. Refresh & Restore — March 31, 2022 (Jesus Over All 7)

Greetings Sojourners!

We are moving into the most important part of Colossians – the beautifully Christ-centered hymn-like section of Colossians 1:15-20 (and 21-23, too)! I thought I would have this ready by last week, but it is too important to rush.

Why is it so important? It’s important because it is a passage of Scripture devoted to exalting and explaining Who Jesus is! It’s also important for the Colossians (and us today) because it presents the Biblical Jesus – God in flesh – as the response to the false teaching that had begun to infiltrate the church in Colossae. He – Who He is, what He has done, and what He is doing – is better than any possible response to false teaching because He is Truth – and represents the truth of the gospel as the only Way to salvation (John 14:6). Also, He is the best response because false teaching typically errs by presenting a false version of the gospel and lies about Who He is and What He has done.

False teaching is literally as old as time itself. But, praise God, Jesus has always been and always will be – before time and after it ends!

Heresy (False Teaching) v. Truth (Jesus)

Think back to the earliest false teaching by the oldest false teacher, Satan, in Genesis 3. The question that he asked Adam and Eve in the garden is the same basic outline of all false teaching (Genesis 3:1b): “He said to the woman, ‘Did God actually say, “You shall not eat of any tree in the garden”?’”[2] That “Did God actually say ___” is more dangerous than they knew. He was calling into question what God had actually said. He literally spoke a command – a Word – to Adam. Adam was responsible for sharing that command with his wife. Look at her response (Genesis 3:2-3): “And the woman said to the serpent, ‘We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, “You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.”’”[3] The problem, then, was that God did not actually say “neither shall you touch it” when He spoke the command to Adam in Genesis 2:15-17. She lied (or was misinformed by Adam). More false teaching regarding what God actually said is a poor response to false teaching. It was a dangerous response that led to breaking God’s command by eating of the forbidden fruit and opening the door to sin and death into their lives and all their descendants (that’s us) for the rest of time.

I have been thinking about this a lot because it has been the subject of discussion for the past few weeks in a Historical Theology class I am taking. If you look at the battles over what teaching is false and what is true in the early church, most of the big debates (Council of Nicaea, Council of Ephesus, Council of Chalcedon) centered around Who Jesus is – specifically Who the Bible says He is. Multiple heretics (false teachers whose teachings have been clearly and categorically ruled unbiblical) were challenged by believers, church leaders, and pastors from everywhere the gospel had been preached, and Who the Word says Jesus is was eventually affirmed time and again.

This matters because (again, I am showing my nerdy nature) over the course of Church history, the same heresies kept popping up as false teachers continue to do what they do. Similar heresies still pop up today, they just use different names like Scientology, Mormonism, or the Watchtower (Jehovah’s Witnesses)[4]. Satan is still bringing confusion regarding what God actually said.

Now, as excited and nerdy as I get over things like early church councils, I will not bore you with facts – because there is no salvation in historical facts. Instead, I want to do my best to present to you the same type of response that Paul did in our passage for today: I want to present to you Jesus – the Word Himself. And I want you to see various passages (honestly, I will barely be able to scratch the surface in a single Bible study) from the Word that present Him. These passages – not my explanations – have power! These passages show us Him – not Who He is to me, Who He says He is!

Who Does the Bible Say Jesus Is?

To start, let’s look at a simple summary of Who the Bible says Jesus is: “Jesus Christ was fully God and fully man in one person, and will be so forever.”[5] We will use this summary as a basis for understanding what we are to see in the Bible. I will format it as questions with Scripture[6] passages as the answer. This is what God actually said!

What does the Bible say about Jesus being “fully God”?

  • Colossians 1:19 – For God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in Him….
  • Colossians 2:9 – For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form….
  • John 1:1 – In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
  • John 1:18 – No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made Him known.
  • John 8:58 – “I tell you the truth,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!”
  • John 20:28 – Thomas said to Him, “My Lord and my God!”
  • Romans 9:5 – Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of Christ, who is God over all, forever praised! Amen.
  • Titus 2:13 – …while we wait for the blessed hope – the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ….
  • Hebrews 1:8 (which actually quotes Psalm 45:6 about Jesus) – But about the Son He says, “Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever, and righteousness will be the scepter of Your Kingdom.
  • 2 Peter 1:1 – Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ have received a faith as precious as ours….

What does the Bible say about Jesus being “fully man in one person”?

  • Colossians 2:9 – For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form….
  • He was born – specifically born to a virgin according to Old Testament prophecy.
    • Genesis 3:15 – And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; He will crush your head, and you will strike His heel.”
    • Isaiah 7:14 – Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a Son, and will call Him Immanuel.
    • Matthew 1:18 – This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit.
    • Matthew 1:20 – But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.
    • Matthew 1:24-25 – When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. And he gave Him the name Jesus.
    • Luke 1:34 – “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”
    • Galatians 4:4-5 – But when the time had fully come, God sent His Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive the full rights of sons.
    • Romans 9:5 – Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of Christ, who is God over all, forever praised! Amen.
  • He had a human body, mind, emotions, and soul – people are noted as recognizing Him as a man.
    • Luke 2:7 – …and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped Him in cloths and placed Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
    • Luke 2:40 – And the child grew and became strong; He was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon Him.
    • Luke 2:52 – And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.
    • Matthew 26:38 – Then He said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”
    • John 12:27 – “Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour.
    • John 11:35 – Jesus wept.
    • Matthew 13:53-58 – When Jesus had finished these parables, He moved on from there. Coming to His hometown, He began teaching the people in their synagogue, and they were amazed. “Where did this man get this wisdom and these miraculous powers?” they asked. “Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t His mother’s name Mary, and aren’t His brothers James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas? Aren’t all His sisters with us? When did this man get all these things?” And they took offense at Him.
           But Jesus said to them, “Only in his hometown and in his own house is a prophet without honor.”
           And He did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith.
    • He was able to become tired (John 4:6). He was able to be thirsty (John 19:28) and hungry (Matthew 4:2). He even had to physically carry the cross on which He was crucified up to the point where His body was too physically exhausted from receiving torturous beatings to bear the load (Luke 23:26).
  • But He was the only human to ever be sinless.
    • Isaiah 53:7-9 – He was oppressed and afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth; He was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so He did not open His mouth. By oppression and judgment He was taken away. And who can speak of His descendants? For He was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people He was stricken. He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in His death, though He had done no violence, nor was any deceit in His mouth.
    • Luke 4:13 – When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left Him until an opportune time.
    • John 8:29 – The One who sent Me is with Me; He has not left Me alone, for I always do what pleases Him.”
    • John 15:10 – If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in His love.
    • John 18:38 – “What is truth?” Pilate asked. With this he went out again to the Jews and said, “I find no basis for a charge against Him.
    • Romans 8:3 – For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering.
    • 2 Corinthians 5:21 – God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.
    • Hebrews 4:15 – For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have One who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet was without sin.
    • 1 Peter 1:19 – …but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.
    • 1 John 2:1-2 – My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense – Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.
    • 1 John 3:5 – But you know that He appeared so that He might take away our sins. And in Him is no sin.

Why is it important that we believe Jesus is Who the Bible says He is? Well, if He is not, we “have hope in this life only” and “are of all people most to be pitied” (1 Corinthians 15:19).

  • Romans 10:9 – That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.
  • Hebrews 13:8 – Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.
  • John 1:29 – The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!
  • 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 – For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures….
  • Philippians 2:5-8 – Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross!
  • Hebrews 2:16-17 – For surely it is not angels He helps, but Abraham’s descendants. For this reason He had to be made like His brothers in every way, in order that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that He might make atonement for the sins of the people.
  • John 3:16 – “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.
  • 1 John 2:1-2 – My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense – Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.
  • 1 John 4:10 – This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.

What’s the Point of All This?

If Jesus is not Who the Bible says He is, nothing I write matters. And nothing I could write about Him could remotely hope to testify to Who He is, yet His Word can!

As we move into this section of Colossians next week, let me challenge you to take the apostle John’s advice: “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1). Test the spirits next to Jesus. Next to His glory and magnificence, nothing false can stand. After they are long gone, He will still be Who He says He is. Hallelujah, and amen!


[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Col 1:15–23.

[2] ESV, Ge 3:1.

[3] ESV, Ge 3:2–3.

[4] Notice that this list does not contain denominations. Denominations are often differences between secondary and tertiary doctrines and teachings from the Bible that lead to differences in interpretation. If one differs on who the Bible says Jesus is, that is a primary issue and a different Jesus presents a different religion – essentially cults or heresies. If you look up Arius and Arianism, it is very similar to the way that Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses teach a different Jesus. In the case of Scientology, some aspects are similar to a heresy known as Gnosticism.

[5] Wayne A. Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; Zondervan Pub. House, 2004), 529.

[6] These passages come from The Holy Bible: New International Version (1984).