Blessed be the name of the Lord
By Charles Qualls
You know, there’s something about a song that can do powerful things for us. A song. Have you ever had one get inside your soul in a special way? Maybe because the tune was catchy. Maybe because the words spoke to you in a powerful way. Sometimes, no one even knows why a song connects with our souls.
The apostle Paul is writing to a church as we read Colossians 1:15-20. This letter is to a small congregation in the province of Phrygia in Asia Minor. Now, we would call the region modern day Turkey. The person he addresses in this letter is Epaphrus. Paul has never been there to this church. But this is a friend in the Gospel, he says.
Epaphrus was a faithful but relatively unknown minister, just like many of us who toil in pulpits across America. We may not be famous. May never be. The apostle is writing this letter not because he knows them. Nor because he founded this church, but because he has a name they’ve heard. There is a chance they may listen to him. The Colossians probably sought out Paul first, much like you might a consultant if you had a need.
This particular stretch of the letter to the Colossians actually quotes from a hymn, or is Paul composing a hymn for them to use. Songs do a similar thing to a letter. They evoke things from within us.
We are missing congregational singing these days at our church out of prudence in the COVID-19 era. These words to hymns and songs of the faith, and the music, they touch us. They reach inside us. They tug memories into focus. They access parts of our souls that we didn’t know needed attention. Sometimes they even pull together thoughts, and give words to movements of our souls.
One of the biggest questions the believers at Colosse were wrestling with was, “Who is Christ?” Paul uses this piece of a song to establish a few things. Jesus Christ is the image of the invisible God. He is head of the church. God was pleased to reconcile all things to Godself through him. Sooner or later, we have to see Jesus for who he is in order to know we need him. Blessed be the name of the Lord. That’s what the apostle was working to do here.
One person has observed that so many of our conceptualizations of God in Christ can be too small. We can tend to focus on just one thing and ignore all the others. For instance, Jesus saves. Or, Jesus loves. Maybe Jesus rose again or Jesus taught. All of these are important. Vital to our faith. But we may tend to limit Jesus if we just pick one and major on it. This hymn forces us to consider a big Jesus Christ.
Paul’s understanding of faith in this Christ was so big that all of life was to be reconciled with Jesus. This wasn’t a faith that was going to be set aside the first time a business opportunity needed it to either be bent or moved out of the way. This wasn’t a faith that was going to be laughed off with a phrase like, “But in the real world … .” This wasn’t a faith that was going to be ignored when a long-encultured political belief, or the latest sound-bite from a favorite political pundit, gave him something to be espoused that ran directly opposite of the priorities and practices of Jesus Christ.
Christ, as Paul saw him, was so big that our living, our beliefs or anything we might say had to be squared with him, and not the other way around. Paul will not let us stay in a small view of Christ here. For the Christ that these believers at Colosse needed, and any others right up until our time, was the bigger Christ who is still doing cosmic things.
Whatever Paul is responding to here, he wants them to get in touch with our Lord. Maybe for the first time or maybe to get reacquainted with, but he wants to show them a big vision of Jesus Christ. A substantial identity of a Christ that is able to go with us when life takes us off-road. That is able to accompany us when we are imprisoned. One that is able to take the beating along with us when we are assailed in life.
Blessed be the name of the Lord.
THE REV. DR. CHARLES QUALLS is senior pastor at Franklin Baptist Church. Contact him at 562-5135.