Recognize Christ’s Vital Place
“All authority has been given me in heaven and on the earth.”—Matt. 28:18.
1. What questions might one who professes to be a disciple of Jesus Christ ask himself? (John 15:8-10)
ARE you a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ? Do you recognize his vital place in God’s arrangement? If so, does your daily life reflect appreciation for the Son of God and what he has done in your behalf?
The preeminent one among God’s intelligent creatures
2, 3. (a) In what sense is Jesus Christ the “image of the invisible God”? (Heb. 1:3) (b) How did Jehovah God use his firstborn Son, and so what place does this one occupy among all intelligent creatures? (John 1:1-3)
2 The apostle Paul helps us to see just how important the position of Jesus Christ is. In his letter to the Colossians, Paul wrote: “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; because by means of him all other things were created in the heavens and upon the earth, the things visible and the things invisible, no matter whether they are thrones or lordships or governments or authorities. All other things have been created through him and for him. Also, he is before all other things and by means of him all other things were made to exist.”—Col. 1:15-17.
3 According to these inspired words, the firstborn Son, the start of God’s creation, is the preeminent One among all intelligent creatures. He is the image of his heavenly Father in that he is a spirit person who perfectly reflects such admirable divine qualities as love, wisdom, justice, mercy, graciousness and long-suffering. (Ex. 34:6, 7; Ps. 33:5; Rom. 16:27; 1 John 4:8) Through him, Jehovah God brought into existence millions of angelic sons, the vast universe with its billions of galaxies and the earth with its abundant variety of plant and creature life. Additionally, “thrones,” “lordships,” “governments” or “authorities” came into existence through the Son. What are these?
4. Why could the “thrones,” “lordships,” “governments” or “authorities” created through the Son not be worldly governmental positions or offices, and so what must they include?
4 They could not be worldly governmental positions or offices, for such are referred to in Scripture as human and not divine creations. (1 Pet. 2:13, 14) Hence, the “thrones,” “lordships,” “governments” or “authorities” must include those forms of rulership for which Jehovah God is responsible through his Son, including the kingdom of Melchizedek and that of David at Jerusalem.
5 As to the place of Jesus Christ in relation to the congregation, the apostle Paul states: “He is the head of the body, the congregation.” (Col. 1:18) Hence, the congregation rightly looks to him and not to any human as the preeminent one, the head.
6. (a) What can happen when Christians begin attaching undue importance to men? (Mark 9:33, 34) (b) How is this seen from what developed in the Corinthian congregation?
6 A failure to recognize this fact results in disunity. This is well illustrated by what happened in ancient Corinth. The apostle Paul had to write to the brothers there: “Disclosure was made to me about you, my brothers, by those of the house of Chloe, that dissensions exist among you. What I mean is this, that each one of you says: ‘I belong to Paul,’ ‘But I to Apollos,’ ‘But I to Cephas,’ ‘But I to Christ.’ The Christ exists divided.” (1 Cor. 1:11-13) Because of giving undue attention to men, members of the Corinthian congregation split up into factions. They failed to appreciate that men taking the lead among Christians were but servants of God and Christ, slaving in behalf of their brothers.—1 Cor. 3:5-9.
7. (a) Were Paul, Apollos or Peter responsible for the wrong view existing in the Corinthian congregation? (b) How can elders be like the apostle Paul, and so what should they guard against?
7 Happily, Paul, Apollos and Cephas, or Peter, were not responsible for the situation that developed in the Corinthian congregation. They personally set the example in looking to Jesus Christ as head. The apostle Paul, for instance, was able to say: “Become imitators of me, even as I am of Christ.” (1 Cor. 11:1) And certainly elders today should want to be like Paul. This requires that they speak in agreement. (1 Cor. 1:10) Once elders publicly express widely divergent personal views, members of the congregation will be inclined to look to those whose opinions are more in line with their own thinking. The situation becomes especially serious when an elder downgrades his fellow elders, perhaps implying that he is more zealous and more faithful than they are or perhaps more discerning, understanding and sympathetic. (Compare 2 Samuel 15:2-6.) This can result in his building up a following within the congregation and in his undermining the efforts of the body of elders to care for the spiritual interests of the flock.
8. How is the congregation benefited when elders set the example in submitting to Christ’s headship? (Eph. 4:11-16)
8 On the other hand, when elders strive to speak and act unitedly, allowing themselves to be guided fully by the Scriptures in their decisions, there will be unity in the congregation. The whole congregation will then be encouraged to look, not to individuals, but to Jesus Christ as the head of the congregation.
9. Besides Jesus’ being the head of the congregation, what other reason does Colossians 1:18 give for the preeminence of the Son of God, and what should this mean to us?
9 Continuing his discussion of the vital place of Jesus Christ, the apostle Paul presents yet another reason for the preeminence of the Son of God. We read: “He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that he might become the one who is first in all things.” (Col. 1:18) No one prior to Jesus Christ was raised to immortal life in the heavens. Because he was the first to experience a resurrection to perfection of life, he is “the firstborn from the dead.” He prepared the way for his joint heirs to share with him in a heavenly inheritance by being raised to immortal life as he was. (Heb. 6:19, 20; Rev. 20:6) For a person to participate in that resurrection, he must recognize the headship of Jesus Christ over the congregation. In fact, anyone who would become a recipient of divine blessings must do so.—Phil. 2:9-11.
‘All fullness dwells in him’
10. How is it that ‘God saw good for all fullness to dwell in the Son’?
10 Recognition of Christ’s headship, however, is not just a matter of acknowledging his foremost position in the congregation. Note that the apostle Paul continues: “God saw good for all fullness to dwell in him.” (Col. 1:19) According to God’s good pleasure, Jesus Christ occupies the foremost place in the congregation, not only as regards preeminence and authority, but also in having the “fullness” of everything that Christians need. The Son of God is the embodiment of divine qualities, including wisdom. Hence, he, not any human on earth, is the one to whom true Christians look as their exemplar and the appointed source of guidance and instruction.
11. Since all “fullness” dwells in Christ, what can be said about the need for human philosophies and traditions?
11 Jesus Christ’s perfect example and teachings do not have to be supplemented by human philosophies and traditions. In his letter to the Colossians, the apostle Paul developed this aspect further when he wrote: “Look out: perhaps there may be someone who will carry you off as his prey through the philosophy and empty deception according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary things of the world and not according to Christ; because it is in him that all the fullness of the divine quality dwells bodily. And, so you are possessed of a fullness by means of him, who is the head of all government and authority.”—Col. 2:8-10.
12. (a) What are the “elementary things of the world”? (b) Why could Paul refer to faith-destroying reasonings and teachings as “empty deception”?
12 Back in the first century, Christians were in danger of being led astray by the “elementary things of the world,” that is, the primary or fundamental principles of the world alienated from God. These elementary things included the unscriptural concepts of the Greeks and other non-Jewish peoples as well as the non-Biblical traditional Jewish teachings. On the surface, some of the philosophies and teachings may have seemed very plausible. They may have been accompanied by reasoning and argument that had a certain appeal to human thinking. But they lacked a solid foundation. These baseless teachings—whether on doctrine, on human conduct, or as to how things should be done in the congregation—were really “empty deception.” So, there was good reason for Christians to be on guard against becoming the prey of some false teacher and being turned aside from the way of the truth.—Compare 1 John 2:26, 27.
13. According to Colossians 2:16-19, what false instruction were certain ones promoting, and why were these teachings dangerous?
13 Discussing still other wrong views that were prevalent, Paul says further: “Let no man judge you in eating and drinking or in respect of a festival or of an observance of the new moon or of a sabbath; for those things are a shadow of the things to come, but the reality belongs to the Christ. Let no man deprive you of the prize who takes delight in a mock humility and a form of worship of the angels, ‘taking his stand on’ the things he has seen, puffed up without proper cause by his fleshly frame of mind, whereas he is not holding fast to the head, to the one from whom all the body, being supplied and harmoniously joined together by means of its joints and ligaments, goes on growing with the growth that God gives.”—Col. 2:16-19.
14. (a) How might a Christian wrongly let himself be judged regarding eating and drinking or the observance of certain days? (b) Why were those who were making such judgments in error?
14 Christians at Colossae were thus being urged not to allow others to sit in judgment of their faith and righteousness, claiming that they could not gain salvation unless they became circumcised and began following the law of Moses. Individuals judging in this way were going back to the “elementary things,” the ABC’s of true worship, ignoring God’s further development of matters and denying that “all fullness” now dwells in Christ. Hence, such persons were not holding fast to the Head, Christ, and were sidetracking individuals from sound doctrine that was essential for them to grow spiritually.
15. What could Christians at Colossae lose by accepting the arguments of false teachers?
15 For Christians at Colossae to yield to the persuasions of a promoter of false doctrine could result in their being deprived of the “prize” set before them. What was this prize? It was the glorious reward of immortal heavenly life.—1 Cor. 9:24-27; Phil. 3:14; 2 Tim. 4:7, 8; Rev. 2:7.
16. According to Paul’s words at Colossians 2:18, what kind of appearance might a teacher of error make?
16 As the apostle Paul pointed out, a man who would deprive a Christian of the valuable prize of life might seem quite innocent of wrongdoing. The apostle described him as one “who takes delight in a mock humility.” (Col. 2:18) So, to all appearances, he was a man of great condescension. Yet this condescension, or humility, was only a false front.
17. (a) What did the apostle Paul mean when describing a false teacher as one who had ‘taken his stand on the things he has seen’? (b) How was such a false teacher “puffed up without proper cause by his fleshly frame of mind”?
17 What he was in actuality is evident from Paul’s referring to such a one as “‘taking his stand on’ the things he has seen, puffed up without proper cause by his fleshly frame of mind.” (Col. 2:18) What did the apostle mean by saying this about a teacher of falsehood? The expression “taking his stand on” was a phrase anciently used in connection with the initiation rites of pagan mysteries. Not satisfied with the complete and simple truth revealed through Jesus Christ, he took pride in the belief that he had attained wisdom and holiness superior to what his Christian brothers shared generally. By trying to supplement Christian truth with false, speculative reasoning, he actually deviated from the faith. In his estimation, the Son of God was not the sole depository of knowledge and wisdom. Such a person did not believe the inspired words: “Carefully concealed in him [Christ] are all the treasures of wisdom and of knowledge.” (Col. 2:3) He insisted that there were depositories of knowledge and wisdom other than God’s Son that could be looked to by the congregation for direction.
A Christian’s position today
18. When it comes to unscriptural personal viewpoints and philosophies, what must all Christians, especially elders, guard against?
18 Today God’s servants do not face precisely the same situations that prevailed in the first century. Nevertheless, there are vital lessons for us to draw from what Paul wrote to the Colossians. For example, all Christians, especially elders, must exercise care not to inject themselves into the private affairs of others and not to put any unscriptural personal viewpoints and philosophies on an equal footing with the truth revealed in the teachings and example of Jesus Christ.—Compare 1 Timothy 1:3, 4; 2 Timothy 4:1, 2.
19. (a) On what should spiritual counsel always be based, and why? (b) What would a Christian be denying if he failed to stick to the Scriptures and advocated personal philosophies as a guide for others?
19 Whatever spiritual counsel or advice that a Christian may give to others should be based, not on personal preference, prejudice or on worldly principles, but on the example and teachings of Jesus Christ. Since everything that the Son of God taught harmonized fully with the inspired Scriptures, the complete Bible can and should rightly be used for giving spiritual help. (2 Tim. 3:16, 17) A person’s failure to stick to the Scriptures would constitute a disregard for the Head of the congregation. (Compare Matthew 7:24-27; 15:3-9; John 17:17.) It would also imply that all “fullness” does not dwell in the Christ but that Christ’s “lack” must be supplemented by personal opinion and human philosophy.
20. As is evident from Hebrews 5:14, why is it dangerous to let the personal opinions of others act as our guide?
20 What of Christians who accept the personal philosophies and opinions of others as a guide for determining the rightness of a particular course? They may well injure their conscience and hinder their spiritual growth. Why? For one thing, the Bible shows that ‘perceptive powers must be trained by use.’ So, when others are unduly influencing or even controlling an individual’s decisions, this person is not going to grow spiritually but will remain a babe, unable to distinguish right from wrong.—Heb. 5:14.
21. How can efforts to conform to the unscriptural personal opinions of others give rise to feelings of guilt about things that are proper in themselves?
21 Moreover, because of trying to conform to what are merely the unscriptural personal opinions of another Christian, some persons may get needless feelings of guilt about caring for personal affairs, wholesome entertainment, recreation, and so forth. For instance, a respected member of the congregation may openly express the view that the “last days” are absolutely no time for God’s servants to be thinking about making major home improvements. While many may recognize this as a private opinion and remain unaffected by it, some could begin to feel guilty about their plans. Those who allow themselves to be unduly influenced by the personal opinion of someone else may later experience problems and inconveniences that could have been avoided by going ahead with their reasonable plans. Similarly, in other areas of life, whenever God’s Word is displaced by the views of imperfect men as a source of guidance, serious problems can result. But we are always safe when we make decisions based on the example and teachings of the perfect Son of God.
Submit to Christ as head
22. (a) In view of Jesus’ exalted position, how should we view his commands? (b) What questions might we ask ourselves in connection with Jesus’ commands found at Matthew 28:19, 20; Luke 21:34-36; 22:19, 20 and John 13:34, 35?
22 In view of the exalted position of Jesus Christ, his commands should certainly be taken seriously and be heeded in a whole-souled way. Are you striving to share fully in bearing witness and in making disciples? (Matt. 28:19, 20) Are you keeping awake spiritually, not allowing yourself to become weighed down by the daily cares of life or by overindulgence in food and drink? (Luke 21:34-36) Do your dealings with others show that you really want to display the self-sacrificing love that identifies true disciples of Jesus Christ? (John 13:34, 35) When you obediently assemble with fellow believers to commemorate the Lord’s Evening Meal, do you think seriously about the benefits that have come to you through Jesus’ sacrifice? (Luke 22:19, 20; 1 Cor. 11:23-32) Are you moved to take careful note of your conduct so that you might maintain the clean standing that resulted from your accepting, in faith, the atoning benefits of Jesus’ shed blood?—1 Pet. 1:14-19.
23. How did we become reconciled to God, and so what should we continue to do?
23 We should never forget that as long as our sins were not atoned for, we were alienated from God. But, through Jesus’ blood shed on an execution stake, we have been reconciled to the Most High and are now at peace with him. (Col. 1:20) Nevertheless, after our initial cleansing from sin resulting to us from our acceptance of Jesus Christ’s sacrifice in our behalf, we must continue to put forth effort to remain in an unblemished state before Jehovah God. In his letter to the Colossians, for example, the apostle Paul sets forth clearly what is required of a Christian in the way of conduct.
Control wrong desires
24. (a) Before becoming a baptized disciple to Jesus Christ, how may a person have used his body members and his power of speech? (b) What should he do now?
24 “Deaden” Paul writes, “your body members that are upon the earth as respects fornication, uncleanness, sexual appetite, hurtful desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.” (Col. 3:5) Before becoming a baptized disciple of Jesus Christ, a person may have used his body members in a way contrary to God’s purpose. The apostle even says: “In those very things you, too, once walked when you used to live in them. But now really put them all away from you, wrath, anger, badness, abusive speech, and obscene talk out of your mouth. Do not be lying to one another.” (Col. 3:7-9) Yes, misuse of the body members and the power of speech is unbecoming to one with a clean standing before God. He should deaden wrong fleshly desires, not allowing them to cause his body members to sin. He should imitate the example of the apostle Paul who said of himself: “I pummel my body and lead it as a slave, that, after I have preached to others, I myself should not become disapproved somehow.”—1 Cor. 9:27.
25. (a) Why is covetousness idolatry? (b) How can recognition of this fact help us to gain the mastery over wrong fleshly desires?
25 One thing that can help us to gain the mastery over wrong fleshly desires is a recognition of the seriousness of covetousness—an inordinate desire for something to which a person is not entitled. As Paul stated, covetousness is idolatry. This is so because the object of a person’s wrong craving begins to take on too much importance in his life. It becomes an idol to him and so interferes with his giving Jehovah God exclusive devotion. It also prevents him from being wholehearted in his love for God, as his selfish craving prods him to disregard divine law. The Bible shows that one of the ways in which we display our love for Jehovah is by our loyal obedience to his commands. (1 John 5:2, 3) Therefore, when a Christian becomes aware that wrong desire is building up within him, he does well to call to mind how precious his relationship with God is and how senseless it would be to forfeit this by making himself an idolater.
Positive action toward fellow believers
26. Is our remaining in an unblemished state before Jehovah God just a matter of refraining from wrong conduct, and how is this shown at Colossians 3:12, 13?
26 Our continuing in an unblemished state before Jehovah God, however, involves more than refraining from wrong conduct and unwholesome speech. Positive action is also required. So the apostle Paul went on to urge his Colossian brothers: “Clothe yourselves with the tender affections of compassion, kindness, lowliness of mind, mildness, and long-suffering. Continue putting up with one another and forgiving one another freely if anyone has a cause for complaint against another. Even as Jehovah freely forgave you, so do you also.”—Col. 3:12, 13.
27. Why should we treat fellow Christians in a brotherly way and manifest a forgiving spirit?
27 Consider what Paul is here saying. As Christians, we have been cleansed by the blood of Jesus Christ and are spiritual brothers and sisters. We should therefore treat one another in a brotherly way. Being imperfect, all of us repeatedly fall short of reflecting the fine qualities of our heavenly Father and of his Son. Rightly, then, we should not be overly severe with fellow believers, treating them harshly. It would be wrong for a Christian to set himself up as a judge of his brothers, proudly asserting his claimed right to punish them for their failures. No, he should willingly put up with their shortcomings and not hold back from showing compassion, kindness, humility, mildness and long-suffering. True, a person may have a valid complaint against a brother. But he does well to ask himself, Is my brother’s failing really so grave that I cannot forgive him? Then, when the one having the complaint views his own shortcomings, he will be far more inclined to be forgiving, just as Jehovah has been forgiving toward him.—Matt. 18:21-35.
28. (a) What is “the peace of the Christ”? (b) How does its control of our hearts affect our relationship with fellow believers?
28 But what if the failings of others put our heart in a state of agitation? How can we calm it? The apostle Paul provides this inspired counsel: “Let the peace of the Christ control in your hearts.” (Col. 3:15) This “peace” is the tranquillity, the calmness, that we gain upon becoming disciples of the Son of God. It results from our knowing that we are loved and approved by Jehovah God and by his Son. When this peace is the controlling force in our hearts, we will do our utmost to speak and act in a way that will preserve it. We will safeguard our precious relationship with Jehovah God and Jesus Christ by treating fellow believers in a kind, loving manner. This will lead to the furtherance of peace in the congregation and prevent us from becoming agitated to the point of sinning against our brothers.—Eph. 4:26, 27.
29. What good will result from heeding the inspired counsel, “show yourselves thankful”?
29 Next, Paul recommends: “Show yourselves thankful.” (Col. 3:15) Yes, a spirit of gratitude contributes much toward the preservation of the peace that we enjoy as Christians. Persons who genuinely recognize God’s undeserved kindness toward them and fellow believers are happy and content. Because they deeply appreciate what Jehovah God and Jesus Christ have done in making it possible for them to be cleansed from sin with everlasting life in view, they do not quickly take offense when others fail in some way but forgive them freely, from the heart. How different it is with thankless persons! They often voice complaints, are never satisfied and are most unhappy. Their selfish, unloving attitude is discouraging to those who are brought into association with them and gives rise to quarrels and strife. So, we do well to cultivate a spirit of gratitude.
30. What does it mean to ‘let the word of the Christ reside in us richly in all wisdom’?
30 After encouraging Christians to be thankful, Paul writes: “Let the word of the Christ reside in you richly in all wisdom.” (Col. 3:16) What does this mean? “The word of the Christ,” or the message from Christ, the whole deposit of Christian teaching, should become a part of us. (The Bible in Living English; Good News Bible; Weymouth, margin) It should be as if the entire body of teaching as given by Christ has taken up residence within us. For that to be the case, we must be fully absorbed with the message of Christian truth, meditating upon it. When the “word of the Christ” is actually a part of us in all its fullness or richness, it will serve as a guide to us, helping us to make our way successful. That word will move us to act wisely. When we are filled with the “word of the Christ,” we will be encouraging and upbuilding toward our brothers.
Our whole life is involved
31. According to Colossians 3:17, what should we do with reference to all aspects of our life?
31 The factors that can contribute toward the preservation of peace with fellow believers are also essential for finding joy and contentment in all other aspects of life. Never should we lose sight of the fact that we are disciples of Jesus Christ every day, yes, every hour of the day. The apostle Paul wrote: “Whatever it is that you do in word or in work, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, thanking God the Father through him.” (Col. 3:17) So, in all matters of life, we should speak and act in the name of the Son of God, that is, as representing him, and we should be grateful to Jehovah God for the capacity he has given us to speak and to work.
32. (a) What counsel will wives, husbands, fathers and children be heeding if they have a proper regard for Jesus Christ? (b) In what way should Christian employees perform their work, and why? (c) How should Chrisitan employers deal with employees, and why?
32 Really, then, it is regard for Jesus Christ as Lord that should make Christians fine husbands and fathers, good wives and mothers, obedient sons and daughters and exemplary workers and employers. That our family life and secular employment should give evidence of our being Christians is manifest from Paul’s counsel: “You wives, be in subjection to your husbands, as it is becoming in the Lord. You husbands, keep on loving your wives and do not be bitterly angry with them. You children, be obedient to your parents in everything, for this is well-pleasing in the Lord. You fathers, do not be exasperating your children, so that they do not become downhearted. You slaves [today, employees], be obedient in everything to those who are your masters [today, employers] in a fleshly sense, not with acts of eye-service, as men pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, with fear of Jehovah. Whatever you are doing, work at it whole-souled as to Jehovah, and not to men, for you know that it is from Jehovah you will receive the due reward of the inheritance. Slave for the Master, Christ. Certainly the one that is doing wrong will receive back what he wrongly did, and there is no partiality. You masters [today, employers], keep dealing out what is righteous and what is fair to your slaves [today, employees], knowing that you also have a Master in heaven.”—Col. 3:18–4:1.
33. (a) Recognition of whose role should be evident in the lives of Christians, and how is this recognition manifest? (b) What confidence can we have if we observe the commandments of Jesus Christ?
33 So, if we profess to be Christ’s disciples, our lives should demonstrate a recognition of his vital role in God’s arrangement. This means that we should obey his commands and look to his teachings and example for guidance. If we do, we can rest assured of his love and the love of his Father. Jesus himself said: “If you observe my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have observed the commandments of the Father and remain in his love.” (John 15:10) As persons loved and approved by Jehovah God and Jesus Christ, we can be confident of gaining the reward of everlasting life.—1 John 2:25.