In his brilliant satire on how the devil works, C. S. Lewis has Screwtape writing to his sometimes witless nephew, Wormwood, about the fundamental problem as Satan sees it. Listen to just a portion of one of those imaginative letters: My Dear Wormwood, “The real trouble about the set your patient is lining in is that it is merely Christian. They all have individual interests, of course, but the bond remains mere Christianity. What we want, if men become Christians at all, is to keep them in the state of mind I call “Christianity And.” You know — Christianity and the Crisis, Christianity and the New Psychology, Christianity and the New Order, Christianity and Faith Healing, Christianity and Psychical Research, Christianity and Vegetarianism, Christianity and Spelling Reform. If they must be Christians let them at least be Christians with a difference. Substitute for the faith itself some Fashion with a Christian colouring ….”1
Our text today is one of the more challenging statements to be found in Scripture regarding the nature of Christ — who He is in reference to creation and who He is in reference to redemption. Its challenge may be matched only by its relevance, for Lewis was right — we are far too prone to “Christianity And” rather than “mere Christianity.”
The essential question of today’s sermon is this — is Christ sufficient? I hope that you would answer that question with a resounding “Yes!” Before we leave this morning, I hope you will have more reason than ever to say that “Yes!”
Two fundamental issues are ascribed to the nature of Christ in this text: His relationship to creation and His relationship to redemption.
In regards to creation, in Him all things were created. He is the image of the invisible God. “By seeing Me you have seen the Father” is how Jesus described this very idea to His disciples. What had been forever invisible from the time Adam was thrown out of the Garden could now be seen in the person of Jesus Christ. He is the icon of God. Not just a resemblance, but the pure representation of the real thing. To see Him was to see God.
While in Albania last summer, I visited a newly reopened Greek Orthodox Church that had been built in the twelfth century, but had been used as a storage barn during the Communist rule in that land. The priest there was explaining the beautiful icons across the front of the sanctuary, which had been preserved for centuries. He was quick to explain that they did not worship those paintings, but the God they represented. He continued by saying that these paintings, these icons, are sacred only to the extent that they bring us to God.
In a far greater way than that, Paul is saying to us about Christ: what sets Him apart from all others, the prophets of the Old Testament included, is that when you see Him, you see God.
If that is true, then what else is needed?
Beyond that idea, we are also reminded that He is the firstborn of creation and in Him, all things were created. His place in creation is one of unquestioned preeminence. He and He alone is first. That is so true, Paul suggests, that there simply isn’t a single thing in this world that wasn’t created by Him. All things is how he says it, and then he describes that idea with a list that pretty well covers the whole subject.
That He is creator of all things implies, beyond any reasonable question, that all things belong to Him. As the Gospel of John emphatically reminds us, not one single thing has come into being apart from His power.
If that is true, then what else is needed?
But there is more, for He is before all things, and all things are held together in Him. Our Lord is not dependent on the universe for His existence; rather, the universe depends upon Him. It is in Christ that this world finds its consistency, its cohesiveness. What that idea must ultimately mean is that you and I need not worry ourselves about the future of the universe in terms of its longevity — for Christ is the One who holds it together. As long as He wants the world here, it will be here. When He determines that the time of this universe has come to an end, it will end. Of all the things a believer might be concerned about — this isn’t one that should bother us.
If that is true, then what else is needed?
It isn’t, however, just a matter of creation, for Jesus also occupies a Unique place in the story of redemption.
He is not only the firstborn of creation, He is the firstborn from the dead. Clearly the issue isn’t “firstborn” in reference to time, but firstborn in terms of preeminence. Why is that true? It is true because unlike every other person who was ever raised from the dead — including those Jesus Himself raised — those people had to die again. But not Jesus, His resurrection was the vanquishing of death. In Jesus Christ, and Jesus alone, God defeated Satan at his own game, and the power for you and me to live eternally broke forth into this mortal world in a mighty way. So mighty that Satan, with all his power and all his demons and all his wickedness, is no match for it.
If this is true, then what else is needed?
As the firstborn from the dead, Paul describes Jesus as the beginning. In Romans 1:4 we are told that His resurrection declared with power that Jesus was the Son of God. As “the beginning,” we are reminded that He is not the “only one” but the beginning you and I can follow! His resurrection was not a gift of grace reserved for God alone; it was the first of what would become many resurrections, mine and yours included.
The great hope of mere Christianity is that in Christ Jesus, the firstborn from the dead, the beginning of this new life, there is this promise that we can truly defeat death. When Jesus stood in the graveyard where His dear friend Lazarus had been buried, He told Martha: “I am the resurrection and the life, he who believes in Me shall live even if he dies.” He then asked her, “Do you believe this?” She answered Him by saying, “Yes, Lord; I have believed that You are the Christ, the Son of God, even He who comes into the world” (John 11). It was then that Jesus called forth Lazarus from the grave, an act which would be but a prelude to the greatness of His own resurrection and the resurrection we anticipate in glory.
If this is true, then what else is needed?
Because of His preeminent status, Jesus is the head of His body, the church. The imagery of this statement reminds us in no uncertain terms that the relationship between Jesus and the church is intimate. For every believer, we recognize that the church belongs to Him, and that all the church attempts to do must flow from the head to the body and not the body to the head.
If you are wondering why Christ occupies such a relationship with the church, Paul reminds us that it was God the Father’s good pleasure to have all the fullness of deity to dwell in Him. This Jesus, the head of the church, the One from whom all that we are and all that we do must flow, is not some sort of ‘sub-god’ who was merely filling in where God did not want to go. He is God! No view of Jesus that lessens that fact can be tolerated by those who would call themselves Christian.
If this is true, then what else is needed?
We live in an age where theology is thought to be less than practical. Thus we must ask ourselves how, if at all, such heavily theological statements as this can have an impact on our lives.
The answer to this question is not as pedantic as some might think!
In regards to the relationship Jesus has with creation, we should find great comfort for daily living. If you are reasonably current with the world situation in which we live, there is great reason for concern. As is becoming more and more obvious, there are lots of functional atheists in our culture. People in all kinds of disciplines — politics, education, science, social sciences of all kinds, entertainment, the media and many others — are often less than committed to the idea that God is creator and this world belongs to Him.
In addition to those ideas, we rightly express concern about the proliferation of nuclear weapons; ethnic wars in many places of the world, including Europe where the last century’s major conflicts began, the elections of tyrants in places that should know better, global warming, limited natural resources and population growth in some areas that is mind boggling to say the least.
If your confidence in the future is based upon the status of the world in which we live, then you have reason not to sleep well at night! How could one have much hope for tomorrow, when today is so uncertain?
But we don’t have to let that disturb us; for in the person we know as Jesus Christ, God created this (world and He holds it together. Because of Christ, I know that as long as God wants the church to be in this world, then the world will be here, and when He is ready for it to end, I am His child and utterly safe in the arms of my Shepherd.
If that is true, then what need do we have to worry?
In regard to redemption, God again has provided all that I need. He loves me so much that He was willing to die in my place. If He loves me that much, then how could I ever think that He won’t protect me throughout eternity? God Himself died on that cross, and in the power of His resurrection, the first-born and beginning resurrection, I know that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.
Are these ideas practical? Let me ask you this: is peace of mind practical? Nothing seems to be desired as greatly by most folks as peace of mind, and in Jesus and Jesus alone we can discover a peace that passes all understanding. Please don’t think that these two great theological ideas are somehow impractical. They are among the most practical things you will ever learn.
If this is true, then what need do we have to be hopeless?
I don’t think that it is a stretch at all for us to think that all the while we have been talking in such glorious terms about Jesus, Satan has been whispering in our ears, saying, “Jesus isn’t enough, Jesus isn’t enough. It’s Jesus And.” Remember Screwtape’s advice to Wormwood.
My sophomore year at Atlanta Christian College, the Winter Lectureship was led by a scientist from Oak Ridge, Tennessee. His name was George Schweitzer. If I remember correctly, he was a distant relative of the great Albert Schweitzer. He came to ACC to talk about science and the Bible. While I don’t remember all that he said, there is one thing he said that has stuck in my brain and had great influence on my thinking.
It was during a question and answer time, and many students were asking questions and appeared to be a little uncomfortable by some of his answers. I got the impression that he was getting just a little frustrated with it all, and he finally said, “You stand firm on the Jesus event, and everything else will work itself out okay.”
I’m not too sure that isn’t exactly what Paul is saying in this text. He couldn’t answer all the specific questions they had about life and its issues. He surely couldn’t anticipate all the questions that we have. But here is the message: stand firm on Jesus. He is Creator and Redeemer, and all else will work out okay.
Are you standing firm today? I hope so, for that is our only hope! Jesus is all you need. He answers all your questions.
1From The Screwtape Letters in The Best of C. S. Lewis. New York: The Iversen Associates. Christianity Today Edition, 1969, page 87.

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