The Gospel’s Black Backdrop

Would we have had the beautiful description of Christ’s true deity in the Nicene Creed and Athanasius’ On the Incarnation if it was not for Arianism?  Would Augustine have spoken so clearly or the Council of Carthage so definitively if not for Pelagianism?  Would the Canons of Dordt ring so purely with the Biblical truths of salvation without Arminius’ teachings having spurred them on?

Though heterodoxy and heresies plague the church, the Lord of the church uses all things to His glory.  Just as the night darkness of the heavens make the stars shine more brightly, or a black cloth makes the sparkle of jewels more brilliant, so often false teachings first bring renewed clarity to the church’s thinking and then result in the glory of the gospel being conveyed in a manner even more wondrously than it had been before.

I was reminded of this last week as I taught my New Testament Survey students from Colossians.  In trying to summarize the main components of the heresy from Chapter 2 the Colossian church was battling, I put them into the following table for the students.  Like trying to explain Mormonism, the task was not easy.  Thankfully the heresy is not the emphasis of the book, but rather the backdrop.  For the glory of Christ in Chapter 1, seen at the bottom of this post, is the true gospel and confession of the church.  In each phrase Paul is highlighting the truths of Christ that run counter to the falsehoods of the heresy.  As Paul stated, Christ will come to have first place in everything! So even when a false teaching arises and the church has to endure a period of confusion and further shame cast on her Lord, we do know that the gospel will ultimately triumph.   Hallelujah!

For He rescued us from the domain of darkness,

and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son,

in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. 

And He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.  

For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth,

visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—

all things have been created through Him and for Him. 

He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. 

He is also head of the body, the church;

and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead,

so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything. 

For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, 

and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself,

having made peace through the blood of His cross;

through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven.

-Colossians 1:13-20

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