Christian Ethics 2022

The Foundation of Christian Ethics

May 16, 2023 10:10:26 AM / by H.B. Charles Jr.

This General Session was recorded live at the Shepherds 360 Church Leaders Conference in Cary, NC on October 18, 2022. For information about the next conference, please visit



This transcript was created by an automatic transcript generator, and may contain minor errors and mistakes compared to the original recording as a result.

Grace and peace be multiplied to each of you this evening in the knowledge of God and of Jesus Christ our Lord. Let me begin tonight by publicly expressing my gratitude to Dr. Davie and to all the team responsible for me having another opportunity to stand behind this prayer desk to be a part of this great conference and to open God's word with you and for you tonight. If you don't mind, I'm eager to preach if you get your copy of God's word, we'll get right to it. That means praying. And I want to point your attention to the New Testament book of Colossians. And then after we have prayed I want you to hear the reading of God's Word. Together, we'll consider tonight what God will say to us right out of what he has already said to us in His Holy Word. Let's pray.


Our Father in heaven you are indeed great and greatly to be praised. Your Greatness is unsearchable from the place where the sun rises to the place where the sun goes down. Your name alone is worthy to be praised. We have many reasons to praise you. Above all, we praise you tonight for the Lord Jesus Christ who is our all sufficient Prophet, Priest and King. It is our prayer tonight that our worship would go higher as you deepen our understanding of your word, open our eyes, that we may behold wondrous things about the Lord Jesus Christ. I pray that you would guide my thoughts, guard my heart and govern my words. So that I will only speak those things that are consistent with sound doctrine. Grant that I would not say anything that is untrue or unwise or unhelpful. And in all things we pray the Christ alone would be exalted as the word is explained. Amen.


Colossians chapter one. I want to talk to you tonight about the foundation of Christian ethics. from Colossians chapter one, verses 15, through 20. Hear the reading of God's Word. He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities, all things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things and in Him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church, he is the beginning, the first born from the dead, that in everything he might be pre-eminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. The Word of God. Amen.


In my hometown, a church building in the inner city was flattened by the 1994 Northridge earthquake. The church had money to purchase new property, in fact, right across the street from their collapsed building, and it would actually allow them to build a bigger building. The building process began and then abruptly halted. I never knew all of the details, but the story was that in the initial stages of the building process, soil treatment tests revealed problems that prevented them from laying the foundation With the money and the materials and the manpower, the project was delayed for years. Because they couldn't lay the foundation. That story of church building is a parable of church life. In some instances, a sad parable of church life. It reminds us tonight, friends, that the stability of the foundation determines the strength of the building. How should we live? That's the all important question of Christian ethics. How should we live? And I declared tonight the church of alone has the proper answers to that question. But we must not be so eager to erect the building that we don't do the proper soil tests. And make sure we are building on the right foundation. Belief, right belief, shapes, right behavior. Truth governs life. Christian theology determines christian ethics. And so tonight, I just want us to do a soil test and remember the foundation of Christian ethics nothing mysterious tonight. I want to just plainly declare that Christ Himself is the foundation of Christian ethics. It is rooted in Christ him elf. That's the message of Colossians chapter one verses 15 through 20. As I mentioned, it is in a real sense of soil test that reveals whether or not we are building on the right foundation. While under house arrest in Rome, the apostle Paul received news about the church at Colossae Epaphras reported to Paul good news basically about their faith in Christ Jesus and their love for all the saints. But there was also disturbing news. False teachers had infiltrated the church, and they were proclaiming a Christ, who though he may be prominent, he was not pre-eminent. They claimed that Christ was just one of many angelic emanations of God, and their errors about the person of Christ opened door, the door for confusion about the gospel, about the church, and about the Christian life. Various isms had infiltrated the church scholars are not sure how to distinguish whether true or ultimate problem was, and so it's just generally called the Colossian heresy. It was a multitude of isms that had infiltrated the church and no one in particular, was proclaimed to replace Christ worse, they were all presented alongside of Christ as if Christ is not enough. After receiving this report, Paul was moved to write this letter to the young church to declare and defend both the supremacy and the sufficiency of the Lord Jesus Christ. Let's be clear. Colossians is polemical, he confronts error. It exposes untruth but in this first text of the main body of the letter, before he refutes the error, he declares the truth. It is a reminder that our job as the church in the world is not merely to shout at the darkness we need to turn on the light. Colossians chapter one, verses 15 through 20 is one of the most essential statements about Christ in all of the New Testament. The text at the same time it's also one of the most debated texts in the New Testament because of its lofty language and its daring claims. It is suggested that these verses may record an ancient hymn that the early church saying good corporate worship, we're not sure about that. But even if this text is not derived from the worship of the church, it ought to result in the worship of the church.


Worship of Christ should overflow into witness for Christ. Colossians chapter one verses 15 chapter one, verses 15 to 20, declares, and defense, the foundational truth that we must hold on to that we must build on in Christian ethics. Namely, this Christianity is Christ, and Christ is God. Christianity is more than a doctrinal statement, it is more than a moral code. It is more than a religious ceremony. Christianity is Christ, and Christ is God, in our view of Christ, must shape must govern us must determine our view of everything else. Namely, in these verses Paul makes two big statements about the supremacy of Christ. I was given the time limit before I arrived, but pastor said I can preach as long as I want, so buckle up. But as quickly as I can to two essential, foundational truths about Christ in these verses. First, there is the statement about the supremacy of Christ over creation. The supremacy of Christ over creation. Verse 15, begins by saying He is the image of the invisible God. There are two affirmations here, one about God, and then one about Christ concerning God. The text says, God, in his opening phrase, God is invisible. John 4:24, says God is spirit. First Timothy Chapter 1:17, says, God is invisible. First John chapter four, verse 12, says, no one has ever seen God. There are theophanies in the Old Testament, these temporary and supernatural manifestations of God, but no one has seen God's essential nature. But after declaring that God is the invisible, that the phrase that lays the foundation for all else that will be said in this text is that Christ is the image of that invisible God. Image is the term from which we get our word, icon, it is the representation of a thing, the manifestation of a thing. Exodus chapter 20, verse four commands you shall not make for yourself any carved image, God says, don't speculate what my image is. Because nothing you create representing anything in the sea, on the land, or in the air, can faithfully or fully represent who I am. Genesis 1:27 says, that we were created in the image of God. And after his own likeness, being made in the image of God, we are rational beings with emotion and intellect and volition, but we do not share God's image, essentially, that there are incommunicable attributes of God that infinitely separates him from the created order of mankind. We do not share the image of God essentially. And we do not share the image of God morally. Romans 3:23 says, For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. But Paul says, There is one who is the image of God. Jesus Christ is the image of God, essentially, and morally. John 1:18 says no No one has seen God but the only God who is in the bosom of the Father has declared him has made him known. That's our term for exegesis, bring it out of the text, what's in the text rather than posting your own idea? On the text? Literally, John says that Jesus is the exegesis of God. You want to know what God is like? Look at Jesus. Hebrews one three, says that he is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature. Jesus is the image of God. Remember, in the upper room, Jesus kept my father this my father that and I guess the boys couldn't take it. And finally Philip says, Enough on this file to talk just show us the Father. And it will satisfy us. John 14, nine. Jesus says, Philip, have you been so long with me and don't know who I am? You? You are asking an elementary question on graduation day. You've been with me all this time, and don't know who I am. But whoever has seen me has seen the Father. Just think of the magnitude of that statement.


I am my father, son and namesake. He's been with the Lord many years. But when I go home to Los Angeles, I inevitably encounter those who say, “Boy, you remind me so much of your dad, you are just like your Daddy, when you preach, I just can't help but see your dad.” And that may be true, but I can never dare say if you've seen me you have seen my father. Think of the magnitude of what Jesus is declaring. He is saying, if you have seen me you have seen the Father Paul explains it here by saying He is the image of the end visible God, the firstborn of all creation. Jehovah Witness, twist this statement to suggest that Jesus is God's first creation. But that would be for Paul to agree with the false teachers. He writes, to rebuke and betray the content and context of the passage that we are studying tonight when he says that Jesus is the first born of all creation, He is not referring to first in order in that refer in that regard. Cain is the firstborn of creation. He is not first born in order, but this is a statement about him as first born in rank, in real estate since declaring that Christ has the father's sovereign birthright. Exodus chapter 4:22, God calls Israel My firstborn. Psalm 89, verse 27, he says of David, that he will be my firstborn, the king greater than all the rest of the kings. It's a statement of rank. And when the text here calls Jesus Christ, the firstborn of all creation, Paul is declaring that Jesus himself is Lord of Creation.


What does that mean? It means first of all, Jesus Christ created the world. In fact, verse 16, states Jesus's relationship to creation three ways. It says, first of all, Jesus is the source of creation. For by Him all things were created. Who made the world who piled up the mountains, who scooped out the valleys? Who gave the seas and the rivers and the auctions their course. Paul declares that everything in the created world is stamped with the same brand made by Jesus.


By him all things were created. He is the originator of all things. He is the architect of all things. He is the builder of all things. Jesus created the physical world. That's what he means here when he speaks up on Earth and visible. Everything in the physical world around us was created by Jesus. Robert Gromacki comments here, people should praise him, where they viewed the minute complexities of life through a microscope, or the vastness of the universe through a telescope. Glory should be attributed to him not a series of angelic emanations or to an impersonal Mother Nature nor to an Atheistic principle of evolution, Jesus made it off. He not only made the physical world but Jesus created the spiritual world. That's what Paul means when he says in heaven and invisible. And then just in case, that's not clear enough, he gets four categories: Thrones, dominions, rulers, and authorities. These over lapping terms declares that Jesus is the creator of not just the physical world that we can see around us, but the spirit beings in the unseen spirit realm. The false teachers, hear me tonight Church, the false teachers were claiming that Jesus was just an angelic emanation of God. Paul says, Now, that can't be true, he made the ancients. In fact, all of the fallen angels under the authority of Satan, were created by the Lord Jesus Christ and are subject to his sovereign authority. Don't discount the magnitude of that statement friends. Mark it down. Christian ethics is spiritual warfare. This is more than an intro intellectual or doctrinal or theological exercise, it is spiritual warfare against the flesh, the world and the devil.


We are victorious. Only because greater is He that is in us. And he who is in the world. Jesus is the source of creation. He is the agent of creation. All things still, verse 16, were created through Him. That's what John one three says All things were created through Him. And without him, nothing was made that was made. Hebrews chapter one, verses one and two says long ago. And many times and in many ways God spoke to our fathers by the prophets. But in these last days, he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the air of all things and through whom also He created the world. Jesus is the source of creation. Jesus is the agent of creation, and Jesus is the goal of creation. Look at the end of verse 16. All things were not just created through Him, all things were created for him. It's all for his pleasure, His purpose, His praise.


Oh, don't be discouraged because it doesn't look that way. Now. Just hold fast to Philippians chapter two, verses nine through 11. Therefore, God has highly exalted Him and have given him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus, every knee will bow in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father. All hail the power of Jesus name. Let angels prostrate fall. Bring forth the Royal diademed and crown him, Lord of all. Jesus is the creator of the world. Verse 16, then verse 17, says, Jesus is the sustainer of the world


He is before all things he predates and all creation. John one, verse one in the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. Jesus in John eight was arguing with unbelieving Jews. They lost track of the argument itself. They were offended, by the way Jesus was talking not just what he was saying. They were offended, by the way he was talking about Abraham.


Like you know him even dead for centuries and you barely 30 years old.


Remember his response? John 8:58: truly I say to you before Abraham was, I am.


He is before all things. I remember distinctively seventh grade was the first time I was confronted directly with the claims of atheistic evolution. I remember I can see it now. Seventh grade by junior high school.


It was my favorite teacher that year. And I was shocked in a science class. He began to deny everything that I had been taught and believed in the Bible.


I was shocked and I admittedly scared. I remember another young lady in the class, I knew that she also was a believer. And she spoke up and using scientific mumbo jumbo he shut her down.


I just determined I wasn't gonna say anything. But I think about that encounter all the time. You know, sometimes we real good at arguments after it's over, we can go back and think about what we should have said.


I just wished that day I just would just quit. Remember, the science doesn't have all the answers.


Science doesn't have all the answers.


Space consists primarily of matter explained that what science struggles with that question. Colossians answers how that's possible. Colossians 1:17 says, And He is before all things. and in Him all things hold together. Hallelujah. The Christ who is the sustainer there is the creator of creation is the sustainer of creation. He is the One who holds all things together. How is it that the world is a cast mass and not a chaos? He holds all things together. How is it that earth remains close enough to the sun that we don't freeze and far enough away that we don't burn? Let me give you the scientific answer. He holds all things together. How is it that the sun keeps rising in the east and going down in the West? How is it that winter, spring, summer and fall keep passing in their order? How is it that the flowers keep budding? blooming, fading and falling is because he holds all things together. That's no abstract statement either friends. That's the truth with which we need to view the rest of the world around us. You can't turn on the news without feeling that the world is falling apart. But beyond the breaking news, we need to look to the heavens and remember that the man seated at the Father's right hand is holding all things together. Sometimes we struggle with why things are as bad as they are. But can I flip the record over and play the other side and suggest that things are as well as they are? Because he's holding all things together. In fact, I'm talking to some pastors, some ministry leaders, you drugged yourself here for some encouragement to help you hang in there. May I suggest in your life and family and ministry, the only reason things aren’t utterly falling apart it because Christ is holding all things together. He is supreme over creation, but there is a second truth. Verses 15 through 17, Paul declares the supremacy of Christ over creation. But in verses 18 through 20, he proclaims the supremacy of Christ over the church. Verse 18, presents three titles for Christ. He is the head of the body of the church. It's interesting. In the New Testament, Paul does not define the church as much as he describes the church with picturesque metaphors, an army a family, a temple, and we find here the primary metaphor for the church in the New Testament, it is a body. The church is a body. It is a living organism, not a dead organization. Often when the church is presented as a body, the emphasis is on the mutual dependence of the members one for another bit here. Paul mentions the church as a body to declare the total dependency of the body on his head. He is the head of the body, the church and no head here does not merely mean source. It’s authority. When he says he's the head, he means Jesus is in charge of the church. Don't apologize for that truth, saints. Anything without a head is dead. Anything with more than one head is a monster. Christ is the head of the church, he is the beginning. So what he declares in Revelation 22:30, I am the Alpha and the Omega. The first and the last, the beginning and the end. He's the first born from the dead.


Revelation 1:17-18. Do not fear by him the first and the last, the living one. He’s the firstborn from the dead. He explains it in Revelation 1:17-18 He says I was dead. Hallelujah. Jesus, the only one who can die and live to tell about it. I was dead and behold, I am alive forevermore. He affirms these titles for this purpose to declare that in him all he has to have supremacy he in all things might be preeminent. That in all things He might be preeminent says that in everything that happens in the life of the church, Jesus has to have first place full control and final authority. Not just check first in creation, he has to be first in your life. This is a reminder though church that contains all kinds of trouble Paul has to correct in this letter, a lot of ethical issues to discuss. But he begins in the foundational statement of the main body of this letter by pointing them to Jesus.


The couple picked up a son from Sunday School teacher pulled him aside and said, You need to talk to your son. We were in class and I was doing an object lesson. And I asked what's small and furry and collects nuts in the winter and goes into a tree and stores them up. And your son answered Jesus.


They marched him to that car. And they first sat him all the way out of the parking lot on the way home. How dare you embarrass us like that in our Sunday school class, they think you have no home when he couldn't take it anymore. He said mommy and daddy, I knew she was talking about a squirrel but she should have been talking about Jesus.


I mean, that's the spirit of what Paul is doing in this text. We are preoccupied with a lot of things. But the answer to all of the problems we face is the same: Jesus. We should be talking about Jesus. He is to be preeminent. Let nothing in the church be treated as if it is more important than Jesus. Why? For two reasons he gives in the text. Why should Christ be preeminent in the church? First he says because of the Incarnation of Christ. For verse 19, In Him all the fullness of the God of God was pleased to dwell. What a statement. In fact, this is just as much of a statement about the Father as it is about Christ. It's the father's role in the incarnation of Christ, the Father dwelt in Christ, James, John 1:14, John 1:14, says, And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us and we beheld his glory, glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. God dwelt in Christ, God was pleased to dwell in Christ. In Matthew 3:17, he declares, This is My beloved Son, in whom I am what? well pleased. He dwelt in Him, He was pleased to dwell in him. And then Paul says, all of the fullness of God dwelt in Him. Paul flushes out that statement, in chapter two, verses nine and 10, where he says, For in him Christ, the whole fullness of the Deity dwells bodily. Hey, you have been filled in Him, who is the head of all rule and authority. Let me just make a connection from Colossians to remind you that the supremacy of Christ fuels the sufficiency of Christ because He is who He is, He alone is everything we need. You are completing him. So there is a statement here about the incarnation of Christ in verse 19. And then finally, he should be preeminent not only because of his incarnation, but because of his atonement.


Verse 20, is a statement about reconciliation. Reconciliation assumes that a relationship has been broken or ruptured or dislocated, this is the human predicament This is the real problem.


And it's more than political hold on racial and economic or educational or social. The problem is a spiritual one. Sin has separated man from God. Our sin makes us rebels against God. We live in a society that has declared war against God. Go to Psalm two and hear the psalmist ask, Why do the nations rage and the people's plot in vain? the rulers take counsel together and the king set themselves against the Lord and against his anointed. Yet it is the pleasure of the father to be reconciled to sinners and he has provided the means of that reconciliation. Verse 20. Through him Christ God was reconciling to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. You reconciled to themselves all things. Just note that all things, not just sinners. Praise God. Sinners are reconciled to God by the atoning blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. But the text says that through Christ God reconciles all things to himself. That does not mean that unrepentant sinners or fallen angels will enjoy heavenly glory. It means that the crucifixion and the resurrection of Jesus is God's declaration that he has everything under control. And all things will be ordered according to His good pleasure in Christ. He has done it by the blood of his cross. Interesting, Paul talks much about the blood of Christ, and often about the cross of Christ. It is a rare statement here where he blends them together, he mentions the blood of his cross. It is by the blood of the cross that all things are reconciled to God. So what is our response to that? What should our response to that be? Second Corinthians 5:20 and 21. Paul says, Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ.


God making his appeal through us. We implore you, on the behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake, He made Him who knew no sin to become sin for us. that in him we might become the righteousness of God. The novelists Lloyd Douglas told of living in a boarding house when he was in college.


He says on the first floor, there was a retired music teacher that he befriended. And they had a morning ritual. Before he left, he would come into the old man's rule. It just stick his head in the door next. What's the good news today? And the old man would take his tuning fork and tap it on the side of his wheelchair and say, young man, the good news today is that's middle C that you just heard. It was middle seat yesterday. It’s middle C today. It'll be middle C 1000 years from now. The tenor upstairs. Sings flat. The piano down the hall is out of tune. But this young man is middle C. Christ is the middle C of the universe. Tune everything by him. Let's pray.


Father, we praise You for Jesus. Your son, our Savior. You sent him to the world. He lived the righteous life without spot or blemish who died at the cross, to make atonement for our sins, rose from the dead triumphantly who was ascended to your right hand. Who even now is making intercession for us, who will return to rapture the saints consummate the kingdom and judge the world. We are distracted, we are troubled. We are burdened by so many realities in the God-ignoring God-forsaking society that we live in. So help us to set our minds on things above where Christ is seated at your right hand. May Christ alone in his supremacy in his sufficiency in His sovereignty, be the foundation upon which we build our lives and our families and our churches to the glory of your name we pray and may the transforming power of your rescuing grace in Christ advance in this sinful world. We pray rejoicing that no matter how bad things are around us, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.


The old has passed away and the new has come. Even tonight as we have beheld Christ, transform us from one state of glory to the next, by the work of your spirit, and for the praise of your glory we pray. Amen.

Topics: Christian Ethics, Ethics in Christian Ministry

H.B. Charles Jr.

Written by H.B. Charles Jr.

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