‘Creating All Things’ – Colossians chapter 1:9–23
This talk was given by Dr Andrew Faraday on .
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Thank you very much for playing, Margaret. It’s always appreciated when you do.
Maybe you can guess what the theme is today from the hymns I chose. Or maybe you can’t.
Can you see what they all had in common? Better get my notes out. Today we’re starting a series on “All Things.” It’s a term in the bible for everything God’s made in creation so, you saw in the hymns we had and I think the last one too, plenty of the old hymns that talk about the creation. The modern ones don’t tend to do it as much sometimes. It’s nice to have a few of the old ones occasionally. I like the new ones very much, but it’s nice to have some of the old ones.
I was going read the passage that I was basing what I was going to talk on and it’s from– Where are we? Yes, there its. I can’t find it because I’ve got J.B Philip’s version and it has the verses a bit funny, but I thought I’d read it from that because I think it’s easier to follow than … t his is from Colossians, the rest of the Colossians is chapter 1, beginning at verse 9.
It’s Paul talking to the members of this church he’s heard about that are following Jesus and he’s writing to encourage them and he says,
The reading, part of Colossians 1:7–23 in J B Phillips’ New Testament in Modern English, is available to read at the Bible Gateway. It cannot be included here because of copyright restrictions. During the reading, Andrew points out that, where J B Phillips has ‘everything was made,’ the NIV has ‘all things.’
It’s a fairly long passage, but I hope it helps us understand things and see things and, as I say, this is the first talk about “All Things.” We’re going to have two more talks on it which Paul’s going to do in two weeks and three weeks on how God sustains his creation and then how it’s renewed with the culmination of that last day when Jesus comes again. As I said, that passage from Colossians you just read, I think gives a wonderful summary of God being the author of creation, but we also notice that it’s Jesus who has the role of creator.
He’s the member of the Godhead involved in our physical world. Remember Jesus is also called the creator by John at the beginning of John’s gospel. Through Him, meaning Jesus, the word, all things were made. Without Him, nothing was made that has been made. As it says in that passage, Jesus created all things in heaven, as well as Earth, both visible and invisible. Now many people today, take heaven and earth to mean, heaven, that vast space out there, enormous space, and it’s planet earth where we’re here, but to us as Christians, heaven also is that mysterious abode where God and the angels are and it’s not a location in space, it’s everywhere. It’s all around us, just that we can’t see it and can’t get to it. Talking of the creation, we can read the account of creation in Genesis 1, but I thought we get a better view of creation if we read it in Psalm 8 because that’s got the emphasis better.
I think in Genesis Chapter 1, we just see each of the days as sort of equivalent, as though everything’s equally important, but if we read Psalm 8, we see it slightly differently.
O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens.
From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise because of your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger.
When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?
You made him [for] a little [while] lower than [angels, for the] heavenly beings [it says here] and crowned him with glory and honor.
You made him ruler over the works of your hands; you put everything under his feet: all flocks and herds, and the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas.
O Lord , our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!
I say that’s a contrast to the general view of creation of the universe that you get if we read books and watch the TV because TV, what they do, is they’re sort of extolling this universe. How it’s so enormous, 13.7 billion years old and 13.7 light-years across and absolutely gigantic with all those 10 to the power of 22 stars and everything else. Then, what else do you get on the television and the books? You get all these books about animals and aren’t they lovely, Lonely Planet and so on.
We study them and we see how fantastic all these animals are and what they can do and all the things that go on and the plants as well and then we don’t have the same sort of thing about man on the television, about the wonder of man. You just get illnesses and trying to make him better and all these sort of things and we all want to live forever because we’re going to die and that’s it. That’s the attitude of the television isn’t it? It’s also, the other thing, is all of the politics, how man’s made such a mess of it and everything’s awful and it’s all going wrong.
Again, it’s very negative about man, but that, Psalm 8, is totally the other way round. It starts with, creation, so what? It’s man that’s the total focus. I thought of it as a picture of the creation story. It’s a bit more like preparing for a play. All that huge vast universe, well, that’s just the scenery and planet Earth, that’s just the stage and then you can say, “What about all the animals?” Well, they’re just the props and the supporting cast and it’s the main performer, us. It’s us, mankind. Then, who’s the hero? Jesus. Who is the heroine in the play, the church? If we focus it that way around, we see the relative importance of us as the centre of creation which the world doesn’t see at all. A s Christians then, we don’t need to argue too much about how long it took to make the scenery whether it’s 13.7 billion years or a few thousand. I don’t think that really matters anything like as much, does it, as the fact we’re the centre of the play.
Then we’ve got even more because Paul, so the Apostle Paul, I’ve to say that because we think of Paul as something else, don’t we? The Apostle Paul talks about the invisible things that were created. He talks about thrones, powers, rulers, and authorities. Again, it’s not the way we tend to think these days. By thrones and rulers, he means those governing us and the hidden power behind them.
I suppose you could say it’s all the powers of politics, the unseen influences that govern decisions: everything it goes on like that that we don’t really know about it and nobody knows about it. It’s just people’s interactions, isn’t it? What Paul is saying, the way he sees it, there’s a spirit world out there that’s influencing as well with both good and bad spirits. We know about fallen angels that he talks about in the Bible. In heaven, there’s two thoughts of heaven really, as well as the heaven and I’ll talk about the heavens and the heaven where God dwells.
There’s obviously a heaven where the devils are too, this bad spirits as well as good spirits and then there’s the real heaven, the lovely heaven where God is. It’s very complicated, but it is beyond us to understand them. There was old Paul talking about being taken up to the 7th heaven or something. He says you wouldn’t understand it, so I’m not going to tell you. [laughs] We just know it’s going to be lovely in the ultimate, don’t we?
It just struck me that science thinks that we’ve understood nearly everything . There’s far more to it, far more. W e have only understood a tiny part of this world of ours. When we think about all these influences and things that go on within us. I was thinking too that it’s amazing this God of ours that He did the creation. What was the main thing and the most wonderful thing he created? Us. He created creators. He wanted to expand this creation and in this whole lot we’re the only things in the universe that has got creativity, that can do things, interact, talk.
It’s amazing what we’ve got here and yet often people in the world they don’t see that, do they? They say it all the wrong way round. They talk about knowing and understanding nearly everything, but if you take the big bang or whatever, we don’t know what happened outside time. We can’t get beyond that. We’re completely constrained by that. We can never know everything. Of course, the other thing that people argue about is whether there’s guidance in the universe, you can believe that we’re here by some incredibly tiny small chance. Yes, there’s probably things like 10 to the power of 30 or even 10 to the power of 120 in it. The chance that we’re here it’s just utterly ridiculous and yet they want to believe that rather than believe there’s a guiding influence, t here’s a God behind it. Of course, if we look for the guiding influence, well, we can see it in some of those hymns, and to think how wonderful the universe is and the animals and everything else. Some people don’t want to see it there. As I was thinking, God hasn’t really left concrete scientific evidence of the guidance, and we can’t find it.
That’s part of His, not wanting to false belief on us. It’s the same thing as the Messianic secret from Jesus. When he didn’t really declare or was exactly straight who He was. Because he didn’t want to course complete chaos by convincing absolutely everybody because it’s not the way the plan is meant to work. The plan is meant to work through us changing the world.
As it says in the passage: “For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in [Jesus], and through Him to reconcile to himself all things,” There’s the ‘all things’ again. “Whether things on earth or in heaven, by making peace through His blood shed on the cross.” [Colossians 1:19,20 NIVUK] You see that’s a pretty amazing thing when you look into it. You see it’s not just mankind is the pinnacle of creation, but it’s Jesus in the flesh on the cross. It’s at one point in time in history is the Pinnacle of it all where it all comes together.
In that particular expression, if you notice, it says, “Whether things on earth or in heaven by making peace through His blood.” He doesn’t say “heaven and earth.” Usually in the Bible it talks about heaven and earth, heaven is a bit superior to earth. But he says “earth and heaven:” interesting, isn’t it? Because earth is where the action is. It’s here on earth we’re going to sort out heaven.
I talked about the bad heaven or whatever you want to call it and the fallen angels and all the rest of it; the serpent in the garden of Eden and the good heavens, but all that spiritual side has got to be sorted out as well as us here on earth. God’s plan, amazing as He is, is He’s created us to sort out heaven as well as earth. It’s amazing, isn’t it? That’s what Jesus’ death on the cross did, it changed all creation: the heaven, and the earth. What’s even again incredible is that when Jesus does come again, heaven and earth are going to be combined.
That means, we’re not going to have time any more, and that explains to some extent that at least we can understand it. How we’ll be able to live forever, because we sometimes worry about how on earth are we going to live forever without being bored out of our minds. Well, if we don’t have time, there’s no problem about that. As I say, this passage from Colossians, although, as I read it began at verse 9. Where Paul is saying he’s praying for the church and he’s asking God to fill them with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding.
We need the same, a lot of that passage I think could have applied to us, couldn’t it? We need that same knowledge and if we are part of God’s plan to restore creation, we need it. This is something else I want to just mention, if you like. It’s, how do we know God’s plan more fully and how to do it? Well, the part of the reason I had thought this way is that I was given some books by Alister McGrath, he’s a Christian philosopher and he’s really good to read. His wife’s a friend of Gill Morgan.
He was talking about one of the books about the Reformation, another one about doctrine and where we get it from and it’s really fascinating about the church and all the different churches and what’s all behind it and what we should be doing. Just to give you a bit of history, if you like. In the early church, they had the apostles and the Old Testament for guidance. Then they had the stories and sayings of Jesus. Then later, a few years later came the New Testament and the Creeds. They were agreed by the whole church.
The Creed’s are only very basic statements really just of Jesus is Lord and God raised Him from the dead. If you remember what we’ve … enough of us are probably Anglicans. You remember the Creed and know what it says, don’t we? Those basic statements that we all agree. More detailed teaching obviously came from the Bible as a whole and it’s more difficult with the interpretation sometimes, isn’t it? Because the Bible says one thing here and one thing there.
For a thousand years it was the church that interpreted the Bible, and then we came up to the reformation by the church that maybe drifted a bit in a few areas. The reformers wanted to change it and they wanted interpretation from everybody. Everybody could read the Bible and say what they felt and they wanted to stay in the church, in the Catholic church. but It just meant that opened the floodgates and it couldn’t happen. That’s the world we live in today where there’s lots of different interpretations and different ways of looking at it.
This is what the book from Alister McGrath was about. How do you choose the right one? What do we rely on? He says that, really, it’s a bit like the creeds and things. The core, it’s like the skeleton. I suppose, we all agree. Otherwise, we need to be slightly more open-minded and people haven’t been open-minded in the past. That’s why they’ve burnt people on the stake and called them heretics, and all the rest of it. Hopefully, we’ve moved from that.
It means that we have to be slightly flexible. We can believe one thing but realize that we can’t be absolutely sure it’s right. Nobody is completely right on this and nobody’s completely right on that. You say what are you talking about, Andrew? Can you give us some examples? Well, can a Christian lose his faith and place in heaven? Some passages say, yes, and some passages say, no. I could quote you, I have no time but I could quote you loads.
I’ve heard sermons on this which stay one side or the other. It’s unfortunate. But we’ve got it even in this passage in Colossians. We got one of the sides. It says, in verses 20 to 23, “But now he has reconciled you by Christ”s physical body through death to present you holy in His sight without” … “accusation – if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel.” [Colossians 1:22,23 NIV] Or as it said in my J B Phillips, “This reconciliation assumes, of course, you maintain a firm position in the faith.”
That’s definitely saying you can lose your faith, that one is, and what do we do about that? The point is that both are true. You can lose your faith and you can’t lose your faith, and you definitely can lose your faith and you definitely can’t lose your faith. You say, how can you cope? This is Christianity, we have paradoxes. We’ve got an amazing religion. We have irreconcilable truths. Jesus is the reconciler of what to us are irreconcilable. What do we do with that? Well, you see, it’s wonderful, isn’t it?
If you’re feeling worried and upset about it and worrying about it, well, there you are you can definitely never lose your faith. If you’re being very blasé about it and sinning a bit on the side, and this, that and the other, well, you need the other passage – “Watch out, maybe you could.” That’s fine, it’s wonderful and then God can speak to the right one to the right person. Just make sure you don’t get it the wrong way around. [laughs] You look worried, Ishbel. [laughter]
There’s loads of other ones of these examples that I could give you, but there’s one I should just today, because I was told it’s World Environment Day, on June the 5th. The focus is on plastics. Plastics is something that we can use wisely or use badly. Again it’s a paradox, isn’t it there? They’re a blessing, but look what they’re doing to the animal world in the oceans? Look at all the troubles that we just read all about that, about the troubles with them? There’s me, I’ve worked on plastics all my working life. Making cigarette wrapping – hiss! – but making X-ray film – hooray!. You see? We couldn’t live without plastics, and there’s good and bad in there, isn’t there? I think we should, for these things, campaign at both extremes. Hate the sin and love the sinner – extremely. I was just thinking of one example you could do, is buy double-size products – I do that myself – if you bought the big sizes of everything, half as often, you’d have 20% less packaging on the big package. Think about that. It means less trips to the supermarkets and less traffic. There you are, Andrew, you could campaign on that , it’s a good one, isn’t it?
About to get back to where I was, Jesus didn’t say much doctrine directly. We don’t get doctrine same as from Jesus, we just get irreconcilable opposites, don’t we? He taught through illustrations. The reason I just bring this one a bit, it came up again the other day. Often things I talk about in summons, things strike me the week before and they come forward.
The parables of Jesus I think help us understand God better sometimes than doctrine does. I’ve used the example of the prodigal son. Remember in the Bear’s Paw last Sunday. I thought about it. It taught me more about going to heaven than hell than any number of Bible verses. There’s the prodigal son, he stayed where he was in poverty and he realized his wretchedness. He came back on his knees to the father and he asked for the bare minimum, “Make me one of your hired servants,” didn’t he, “or slave,” as I was saying the other day, but what happened?
The father gave him a marvelous welcome, run out to meet him and had a great feast for him. That’s the picture of the repentant son coming to heaven, isn’t it, who might have stayed away. There’s always the elder brother. I think that’s just as important bit of the parable, isn’t it? He was among the chosen. He was staying with his father. he was, you would have thought, there already, but he didn’t want to go into the feast, did he?. “I’m not going in there where he is and having a lot fuss about him, I’m not going in there.” That’s where the parable ends.
Did he go to heaven, did he not? Jesus leaves it open, but w e don’t know if he was persuaded to go to that glorious heaven and that’s more of the challenge for us, isn’t it, than the other one, to think about. There’s Jesus he’s teaching, really, teaching me more of that. There other passage in the Bible – that one was saying, it’s people choose not to go to heaven – but there’re other passages in the Bible which talk about God sending people directly to heaven. Again, that’s all part of this paradox, that we have to cope with.
I think, this is in the side, I was thinking we should do more of this in our summons or whatever, and Bible studies and the rest of it, work ways through these paradoxes together. We’ve had the vote in Ireland, which way would way would you have voted? Some probably one way, some the other, but we need to talk about that understanding, understanding these positions. I’m dead against abortion, I hate abortion, but I love the poor person that’s stuck with it and troubled with it.
I would say that I can understand there are cases when maybe abortion’s the way, because you loving the person. And that’s the sort of paradox where we have to deal with it. Why would God send people to hell? Well, because even the tiniest amounts of sin is going to ruin heaven, isn’t it? This quote from C.S. Lewis, I thought that was good. He said, “There’re two sorts of people going to be at the end. Those to who say to God, “Thy will be done,” and those to whom God says, “Thy will be done.”
It’s quite interesting the pithy way he said it, isn’t it? That, some people are going to – God’s going to say, “Well, you didn’t want to go in, so you’re not going in.” Other people are going to say, “Lord I’m here. Whatever you want, I’ll accept it.” It reminded me also, of course, the other famous parable in Luke, The good Samaritan, because he loved his neighbour, didn’t he? We’re told to do that as the same great commandment. Love your neighbour.
It just struck me again that this is something our country could learn. Our neighbours are often the people we don’t like to associate with, even immigrants. Our country isn’t very good about that at the moment, is it? It’s struck me too that should we encourage our nation to be less self-centred and less belligerent, spending more on aid and less on arms.
If we’re part of this process of renewing all things, we should be maybe more outspoken in areas like that. Again, this is in the side, I went with John and Ruth to a lecture in Manchester the other day. T his doctor was there talking about the surgeon how he’d been out to battlefields and places like Syria and Libya where there is strife and healing people as a surgeon. Putting them back together again from explosions and bullet wounds and everything else.
It was interesting hearing him talk about that. How as a surgeon he’d had to learn to be able to do anything, like you have a lady who’s been shot but is also nine months pregnant. You have to give her a caesarean, while you’re doing it. Of course, modern surgeons are hopeless in that respect. They specialize on just doing one thing. He had to be able to do anything. He was teaching other surgeons to do that too.
The thing that struck me at the end was not just how wonderful he was, but why on earth do we have all these wars and troubles and everything else? Here is me going off track a bit. Our nation is just as bad. We didn’t need to fight in things like the Falklands War or half the things we fight. The First World War was totally unnecessary.
The Germans were pleading for peace by 1917. We refused it and totally ignored it. We wouldn’t have anything to do with it. Why? We didn’t love our neighbour, – “All those horrible Germans, we’re not going to have peace with them. They need to be taught a lesson.” Yet, we could have had peace. We didn’t want Germany having a little bit of France. We couldn’t cope with that. That’s just an example of the way things have gone. Maybe these are the things we should speak out about. I don’t know. I’ve gone on too much there.
Let me finish now, anyway. I was going to read another further verse in Colossians 1 I didn’t get to. It’s: Therefore, we proclaim Christ, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom so that you may be presented, everyone – and that’s all men, – perfect in Him.
Well, thank you, putting up with me. I hope you understood all I was on about. Thank you.
This talk is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License
The reading from Colossians chapter 1 during the talk is taken from The New Testament in Modern English by J.B Phillips copyright © 1960, 1972 J. B. Phillips. Administered by The Archbishops’ Council of the Church of England.
Scripture quotations marked NIV are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission.
Scripture quotations marked NIVUK are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version® Anglicized, NIV® Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.