||Defending the Faith
“[Christ] is the image of the invisible God, the first–born of all creation. For in Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the first–born from the dead; so that He Himself might come to have first place in everything. For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fulness to dwell in Him.”
A believer should defend the faith.
Despite the diligent labors of Epaphras, the Colossian church was in jeopardy. A serious heresy had arisen, and Epaphras was so concerned that he traveled to Rome to visit Paul in prison. The Colossian church had not yet been infected by that heresy, and Paul warns them against its dangers.
The heretics, denying the humanity of Christ, viewed Him as one of many lesser, descending spirit beings that emanated from God. They taught a form of philosophic dualism, postulating that spirit was good and matter was evil. Hence, a good emanation like Christ could never take on a body composed of evil matter. The idea that God Himself could become man was absurd to them. Thus, the false teachers also denied His deity.
Christ was also not adequate for salvation, according to the heretics. Salvation required a superior, mystical, secret knowledge, beyond that of the gospel of Christ. It also involved worshiping the good emanations (angels) and keeping Jewish ceremonial laws.
By far the most serious aspect of the Colossian heresy was its rejection of Christ’s deity. Before getting to the other issues, Paul makes an emphatic defense of that crucial doctrine. In Colossians 1:15–19 Paul reveals our Lord’s true identity by viewing Him in relation to God, the universe, and the church.
Perhaps you’ve met people who deny Christ’s deity, but you weren’t sure what to say to them. In the next few days, let Paul be your guide in showing you how to confront cultists in a biblical manner. By following his example, you’ll be able to defend our precious faith.
Suggestions for Prayer: Ask the Lord to teach you from His Word how to refute false teaching.
For Further Study: In verse 3 of Jude, what exhortation does Jude give to believers?
Life or Death
Whether by life or by death.
The apostle Paul didn’t know the details of God’s plan for his life, but he was confident in it, whether it meant life or death. Later he said, “I am hard–pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better. Nevertheless to remain in the flesh is more needful for you” (vv. 23–24). Paul preferred the joy of being in Christ’s presence in heaven, but apparently he thought the Lord would let him live because he knew the Philippians needed him.
Paul rejoiced because he knew that by either his life or death Christ would be exalted. If he lived, he would be free to preach and build the church. If he died, he would be executed for Christ’s sake, and his unwavering faith would serve as a trophy of Christ’s grace. For Paul the issue was not his troubles, detractors, or even the possibility of his death, but whether the gospel was advancing and the Lord was being magnified.
Like Paul, you don’t know the specifics of God’s plan for your life. But one thing you can be sure of: in life or death you can glorify Christ.
A NEW ORDER
For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind.
Amid all the world religions, only Christianity is able to proclaim the Bible’s good news that God, the Creator and Redeemer, will bring a new order into being! Indeed, that is the only good news available to a fallen race today. God has promised a new order that will be of eternal duration and infused with eternal life.
It is a promise from God of a new order to be based upon the qualities the exact opposite of mankind’s universal blight—temporality and mortality. God promises the qualities of perfection and eternity—qualities that cannot now be found anywhere on this earth.
What a prospect! …
God’s revelation says that Jesus Christ is the eternal Victor, triumphant over sin and death. That is why He is the Head of the new creation which has upon it the banner of eternity rather than of temporality and the mark of life forevermore rather than the mark of death. TRA139-140, 142
What a prospect, indeed! Thank You, Father, for the eternal victory of Jesus Christ. I worship You now and long for that day of completion. Amen. 
A Transaction Makes the Kingdom Personal
And from joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.—Matt. 13:44b
Some believers feel uncomfortable about the parables we have been considering, thinking they teach salvation can be bought. But Scripture always teaches that salvation is completely free. Salvation is “bought” only in the sense that one trusts Jesus as Lord and Savior and surrenders all to Him. The treasure and the pearl illustrate the spiritual transaction of surrender. In salvation, we exchange the old for the new.
Isaiah 55:1 describes salvation as God’s gift, yet refers to buying: “Every one who thirsts, come to the waters; and you who have no money come, buy and eat. Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost.” As in the two parables, the sinner gives up all the worthless things he or she has while receiving all the invaluable kingdom wealth. Therefore this does not depict a buying of salvation, because with God that is totally unacceptable (cf. Isa. 64:6).
Without surrendering everything, people’s professions of faith are meaningless (cf. Matt. 19:16–22). Jesus declared, “He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it” (Matt. 10:39). Our Lord also said, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me” (Matt. 16:24).
When confronted with the true gospel, most people don’t inventory all their possessions to see if Jesus is worth following (cf. Luke 14:28–33). When they see the infinite value of His kingdom riches, they simply yield to Him, surrender all, and faithfully follow.
|Are you holding anything back from God in your service to Him, hoping He won’t ask to touch or remove it? If the Spirit has made you aware of a habit, activity, or possession that restricts the free flow of your worship, seek your security blanket in Him alone. He will be more than enough—a blessed replacement.
CHRIST’S WORLD OF NATURE
Then the devil leaveth him, and, behold, angels came and ministered unto him.
Jesus Christ came into our world in the fullness of time, and His own world, the world of nature, received Him, even though His own people received Him not!
It is my own feeling that when Jesus came, all of nature went out to greet Him. The star led the wise men from the East. The cattle in the stable stall in Bethlehem did not bother Him. His own things in created nature received Him.
Dr. G. Campbell Morgan believed that when Jesus went into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil, He was there with the wild beasts for forty days and nights. Dr. Morgan held that there had been a wrong conception, as if Jesus needed angelic protection from the animals.
Jesus was perfectly safe there. He was nature’s Creator and Lord. Jesus was in total harmony with nature, and I am of the opinion that the deeper our Christian commitment becomes, the more likely we will find ourselves in tune and in harmony with the natural world around us!
Dear Lord, many people love nature, but they don’t yet acknowledge the One who created it and sustains it. Lord, do something to impress upon those people that there had to be a Master Designer who set the physical world in motion.
“We … see Him who has been made for a little while lower than the angels, namely, Jesus, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that by the grace of God He might taste death for every one” (Heb. 2:9).
Jesus Christ was born to die as our substitute.
At this time of year, it is difficult for us to see Jesus other than as a little baby. We, of course, know why He came, but we usually focus on His death on the cross at another time of year. But we must never forget that He came to die.
Those soft baby hands fashioned by the Holy Spirit in Mary’s womb were made to have two great nails hammered through them. Those little chubby feet were made to walk up a hill and be nailed to a cross. That sacred head was made to wear a crown of thorns. His tender body wrapped in swaddling clothes would be pierced by a spear to reveal a broken heart. The death of Christ was no accident; He was born to die.
Jesus died to remove the curse so we could regain our dominion. But to do that, He had to come as a man. Even though in doing so He temporarily became lower than the angels, He accomplished something no angel could: our restoration.
The first and foremost reason for the Incarnation is that Christ might taste death on behalf of every man and woman. He came to die in our place—to be our substitute. God had two options: Either let us die and pay for our own sins, or allow a substitute to take our punishment and die in our place. He mercifully chose the latter.
It is vital that we affirm the fact of Christ’s substitutionary death because modern liberal theology claims Jesus died merely as an example, like a martyr dying for some cause. But in reality He died as a substitute for you and me. As a result He freed us to live for and with God. Rejoice that the Creator of angels, the Lord of hosts, was willing to become lower than His creation for our sakes.
Suggestions for Prayer: Thank the Lord for His willingness to humble Himself to become a man in order to save you.
For Further Study: Read Psalm 22, and note which verses prophesy Jesus’ suffering on the cross.
COMPASSION: IN CHRIST IT WAS FULLY PERFECTED
And of some have compassion, making a difference: and others save with fear….
JUDE 22, 23
The word compassion is a vital New Testament word. Do you realize that compassion is an emotional identification, and that Jesus Christ had that in full perfection? The man who has this wound of compassion is a man who suffers along with other people. Jesus Christ our Lord can never suffer to save us any more. This He did, once and for all, when He gave Himself without spot through the Holy Ghost to the Father on Calvary’s cross.
He cannot suffer to save us but He still must suffer to win us. He does not call His people to redemptive suffering for that is impossible; it could not be. Redemption is a finished work!
But He does call His people to feel along with Him and to feel along with those that rejoice and those that suffer. He calls His people to be to Him the kind of an earthly body in which He can weep again and suffer again and love again. For our Lord has two bodies!
One is the body He took to the tree on Calvary; that was the body in which He suffered to redeem us. But He has a body on earth now, composed of those who have been baptized into it by the Holy Ghost at conversion. Paul said he was glad that he could suffer for the Colossians and fill up the measure of the afflictions of Christ in his body for the Church’s sake.
It is in that body now, on earth, that Christ would suffer to win men!
 MacArthur, J. (1997). Strength for today. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.
 MacArthur, J. (2001). Truth for today : a daily touch of God’s grace (p. 387). Nashville, Tenn.: J. Countryman.
 Tozer, A. W., & Eggert, R. (2015). Tozer on the almighty god: a 365-day devotional. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.
 MacArthur, J. (2008). Daily readings from the life of Christ (p. 369). Chicago: Moody Publishers.
 Tozer, A. W. (2015). Mornings with tozer: daily devotional readings. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.
 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1993). Drawing Near—Daily Readings for a Deeper Faith (p. 373). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.
 Tozer, A. W., & Smith, G. B. (2015). Evenings with tozer: daily devotional readings. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.