|December 28||The Inheritance of Christ|
“[Christ] is … the first–born of all creation.”
Christ is the preeminent inheritor over all creation.
Puritan minister Thomas Manton once said, “Heresies revolve as fashions, and in the course of a few years antiquated errors revive again, and that by their means who did not so much as know them by name.” He was right: false doctrines keep repeating themselves through the ages, only to reappear under different names. From the Arians of the early church to the Jehovah’s Witnesses of our own day, cultists have sought to deny our Lord’s deity. One of the favorite verses of such cultists is Colossians 1:15, which refers to Christ as the “first–born.” They argue that it speaks of Christ as a created being and hence He could not be the eternal God. Such an interpretation completely misunderstands the sense of prototokos (“first–born”) and ignores the context.
Although prototokos can mean first–born chronologically (Luke 2:7), it refers primarily to position or rank. In both Greek and Jewish culture, the first–born was the son who had the right of inheritance. He was not necessarily the first one born. Although Esau was born first chronologically, it was Jacob who was the first–born and received the inheritance. Jesus is the One with the right to the inheritance of all creation (cf. Heb. 1:2).
The context of Colossians 1:15 also refutes the idea that “first–born” describes Jesus as a created being. If Paul were here teaching that Christ is a created being, he would be agreeing with the central point of the Colossian false teachers. That would run counter to his purpose in writing Colossians, which was to refute them. Moreover, Paul had just finished describing Christ as the perfect and complete image of God (v. 15). In the following verses he refers to Christ as the Creator of all things (v. 16) and the One who “is before all things” (v. 17). Far from being an emanation descending from God, Christ is the preeminent inheritor over all creation. He existed before the creation and is exalted in rank above it.
Suggestions for Prayer: Use Psalm 93 as the basis of your prayer to worship Christ, who is preeminent in rank over all creation.
For Further Study: Read Revelation 4:8–11. According to verse 11, what is Christ worthy to receive? Why?
If I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor.
The apostle Paul considered that being alive in the physical world is synonymous with fruitful labor for Christ. His use of “labor” refers to his spiritual work for the Lord, which yields spiritual fruit. Spiritual fruit may be seen in people, deeds, and words—whatever is of eternal value. That kind of fruit comes from good hard work, which is the natural activity of the godly on earth.
Paul had a strong desire to bear fruit. He wanted the Philippians to be confident in Christ and strengthened for evangelism (Phil. 1:26–27). He is reminiscent of the psalmist who said, “O God, You have taught me from my youth; and to this day I declare Your wondrous works. Now also when I am old and grayheaded, O God, do not forsake me, until I declare Your strength to this generation, Your power to everyone who is to come” (Ps. 71:17–18). That elderly man wanted to live long enough to declare God’s strength and power to the next generation. May God grant you that same privilege.
BORED IN HEAVEN
And the four beasts had each of them six wings about him; and they were full of eyes within: and they rest not day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come.
I have been at funerals where the presiding minister preached the deceased right into heaven. Yet the earthly life of the departed plainly said that he or she would be bored to tears in a heavenly environment of continuous praise and adoration of God.
This is personal opinion, but I do not think death is going to transform our attitudes and disposition. If in this life we are not really comfortable talking or singing about heaven, I doubt that death will transform us into enthusiasts. If the worship and adoration of God are tedious now, they will be tedious after the hour of death. I do not know that God is going to force any of us into His heaven. I doubt that He will say to any of us, “You were never interested in worshiping Me while you were on earth, but in heaven I am going to make that your greatest interest and your ceaseless occupation!”
Controversial? Perhaps. But I am trying to stir you up, to encourage you to delight in a life of praise and spiritual victory! JIV067-068
May my worship on earth prepare me for the enthusiastic celebration that will be heaven. May I learn to delight in a life of praise. Amen. 
Principles of the Dragnet, Part 2
So it will be at the end of the age; the angels will come forth and take out the wicked from among the righteous.—Matt. 13:49
One way that God’s angels serve Him in the judgment is as instruments of separation and execution of final sentence (cf. Matt. 24:31; 25:31–32; Rev. 14:19; 15:5–16:21). This separation will be from among all the living and the dead of humanity from all time—“those who did the good deeds to a resurrection of life, those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment” (John 5:29).
During His earthly ministry, Jesus repeatedly warned about the horrors of hell (Matt. 10:28; 25:41; Luke 16:23) and pled with people to avoid such a terrible fate by fleeing to Him for salvation. Even though life will seem normal, our Lord predicts that one day the righteous and unrighteous will part ways:
For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so will the coming of the Son of Man be. Then there will be two men in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one will be left. (Matt. 24:37–41)
God does not want any sinner to perish (Ezek. 18:23; 2 Peter 3:9). Jesus wept over Jerusalem because its people would not turn to Him (Luke 19:41)—He does not desire anyone to experience hell.
|One way you see the distinction between the world and the church is how quickly the serene atmosphere of Christmas devolves into the bawdy recklessness of New Year’s Eve plans. Why are so many people content to treat Christianity like a part-time occupation?|
CHRIST’S PICTURE EVERYWHERE
Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power.
We try to sympathize with the writer John as he attempts to describe heavenly creatures in human terms in the book of Revelation. He knew and we know that it was impossible for God to fully reveal Himself and the heavenly glories to a man.
John tries to describe for us the four “living creatures” in Revelation 4. The first was like a lion; the second was like an ox; the third had the face of a man; the fourth was like a soaring eagle. Did you know that for centuries Christians have seen those same “faces” in the four gospels of the New Testament?
God has put Jesus Christ’s picture everywhere! Matthew’s is the gospel of the King. Mark’s, the gospel of the suffering Servant. Luke’s, the gospel of the Son of Man. John’s, the gospel of the Son of God. Four loving, adoring, worshiping beings, faithfully and forever devoted to praising God!
Make no mistake about it: The imagery is plainly the gospel of Christ. He is what Christianity is all about!
Lord, You are truly what this world is all about: You created it, You hold it together, and You have redeemed it! You are worthy to be praised every moment of every day!
|December 28||The Author of Our Salvation|
“It was fitting for Him, for whom are all things, and through whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to perfect the author of their salvation through sufferings” (Heb. 2:10).
Through His death, Christ became the perfect leader for His people.
As we look at what Christ has done, we must never forget that He was fulfilling the sovereign plan of God. The writer of Hebrews tells us it was “fitting” in God’s sight for Christ to bring “many sons to glory.” That means that everything God did through Christ was consistent with His character.
The cross was a masterpiece of God’s wisdom. It displayed His holiness in His hatred of sin. It was consistent with His power—Christ endured in a few hours what it would take an eternity to expend on sinners (and even then, sinners couldn’t atone for their own evil). The cross also displayed God’s love for mankind. And Christ’s death on the cross agreed with God’s grace because it was substitutionary.
To bring “many sons to glory,” God had “to perfect the author of their salvation through sufferings.” The Greek word translated “author” (archēgos) means “pioneer” or “leader.” It was commonly used of a pioneer who blazed a trail for others to follow. The archēgos never stood at the rear giving orders; he was always out front blazing the trail. As the supreme archēgos, Christ has gone before us—He is our trailblazer.
Life seems most anxious and dreadful when death is near. That’s a trail we cannot travel by ourselves. But the author of our salvation says, “Because I live, you shall live also” (John 14:19). Only the perfect pioneer could lead us out of the domain of death and into the presence of the Father. All you have to do is put your hand in His nail-scarred hand and He will lead you from one side of death to the other. Then you can say with the Apostle Paul, “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” (1 Cor. 15:55).
Suggestions for Prayer: Praise God for all His attributes—specifically for each one displayed in Christ’s death for you.
For Further Study: Read Hebrews 5:8–9 and 1 Peter 2:19–25. How do those verses expand on Hebrews 2:10?
SINGING AND PRAISE: SILENCE AND WORSHIP
Be silent, O all flesh, before the LORD: for he is raised up out of his holy habitation.
There is a notion widely held among Christians that song is the highest possible expression of the joy of the Lord in the soul of a man or woman.
That idea is so near to being true that it may seem spiritually rude to challenge it. However, it does need to be brought to the test of the Scriptures and Christian testimony.
Both the Bible and the testimony of a thousand saints show that there is experience beyond song. There are delights which the heart may enjoy in the awesome presence of God which cannot find expression in language: they belong to the unutterable elements in Christian experience. Not many enjoy them because not many know that they can.
The whole concept of ineffable worship has been lost to this generation of Christians. Our level of life is so low that no one expects to know the deep things of the soul until the Lord returns. So, we cheer ourselves by breaking into song.
Far be it from me to discourage the art of singing. Creation itself took its rise in a burst of song; Christ rose from the dead and sang among His brethren. But still there is something beyond song!
When the Holy Spirit is permitted to exercise His full sway in a redeemed heart there will likely be voluble praise first; then, when the crescendo rises beyond the ability of studied speech to express, comes song. When song breaks down under the weight of glory, then comes silence where the soul, held in deep fascination, feels itself blessed with an unutterable beatitude!
 MacArthur, J. (1997). Strength for today. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.
 MacArthur, J. (2001). Truth for today : a daily touch of God’s grace (p. 389). 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. 371). 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. 375). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.
 Tozer, A. W., & Smith, G. B. (2015). Evenings with tozer: daily devotional readings. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.