By John Stott, adapted from The Radical Disciple.
In the introduction to his book Knowing God, Dr. J. I. Packer writes that we are “pygmy Christians because we have a pygmy God.” We could equally say that we are pygmy Christians because we have a pygmy Christ. The truth is that there are many Jesuses on offer in the world’s religious supermarkets, and many of them are false Christs, distorted Christs, caricatures of the authentic Jesus.
In our own day, for example, we find Jesus the capitalist and Jesus the socialist in competition with each other. Then there is Jesus the ascetic versus Jesus the glutton. And of course, there have been the famous musicals—Jesus the clown of Godspell and Jesus Christ Superstar. There have been many more. But they have all been defective, and not one of them deserves our worship and our service. Each is what Paul called “another Jesus,” a Jesus different from the Jesus the apostles proclaimed.
So if we want to develop truly Christian maturity, we need above all a fresh and true vision of Jesus Christ—not least in his absolute supremacy which Paul sets out in the earlier half of Colossians 1, from verse 15 to verse 20. It is one of the sublimest Christological passages in the whole New Testament. Here is a loose paraphrase:
Jesus is the visible image of the invisible God (verse 15), so that whoever has seen him has seen the Father. He is also “the firstborn over all creation.” Not that he was himself created, but that he has rights of the firstborn, so that he is the creation’s “lord and head” (verse 16). For through him the universe was created. All things were created through him as agent and for him as head. Their unity and coherence are found in him. Also (verse 18), he is the head of the body, the Church. He is the beginning and the firstborn from the dead, so that in everything he might have the preeminence. For God was pleased (verses 19–20) both to have all his fullness dwell in Christ and also to reconcile all things to himself through Christ, making peace through the blood of his cross.
This is how Paul proclaimed Christ as Lord—as Lord of creation (the one through whom all things were made) and as Lord of the Church (the one through whom all things have been reconciled). Because of who he is (the image and fullness of God) and because of what he has done (the one who brought about creation and reconciliation), Jesus Christ has a double supremacy. He is head of the universe and head of the Church. He is the lord of both creations.
This is the apostle’s masterful portrait of Jesus Christ. Where should we be but on our faces before him? Away then with our petty, puny, pygmy Jesuses! Away with our Jesus clowns and pop stars! Away too with our political Messiahs and revolutionaries! For these are caricatures. If this is how we think of him, then no wonder our immaturities persist.
Where then shall we find the authentic Jesus? The answer is that he is to be found in the Bible—the book that could be described as the Father’s portrait of the Son painted by the Holy Spirit. The Bible is full of Christ. As he himself said, the Scriptures “testify about me” (John 5:39). Jerome, the early Church Father, wrote that “ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.” Equally, we may say that knowledge of Scripture is knowledge of Christ.
Nothing is more important for mature Christian discipleship than a fresh, clear, true vision of the authentic Jesus.
If only the blindfold could be taken away from our eyes! If only we could see Jesus in the fullness of who he is and what he has done! Why then surely we would see how worthy he is of our wholehearted allegiance, and faith, love, and obedience would be drawn out from us and we would grow into maturity. Nothing is more important for mature Christian discipleship than a fresh, clear, true vision of the authentic Jesus.
This post has been adapted from The Radical Disciple by John Stott, free this month from Faithlife Ebooks. And while you’re at it, pick up two more books by John Stott for under $8—Christ in Conflict and Baptism and Fullness.*
The headings and title of this post are the additions of the editor. The author’s views do not necessarily represent those of Faithlife.
* These deals are only available in the United States.