“He is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation; for in him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or authorities–all things were created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”
Jesus has lots of spinoffs – words, expressions and titles which amplify the one name; grace, justification by faith, forgiveness, Mediator of a new covenant, the Vine, Lord, Lamb of God, Savior, Redeemer, and many more. They all say something important about Jesus, something to which the Bible bears witness. But what is truly non-negotiable when speaking of Jesus? Can we reduce what He means to any one or even a combination of some of these? I would say no. What is non-negotiable is the all-inclusive name of Jesus itself.
For example, you can squeeze an idea like ‘love’ out of Jesus until you don’t need Jesus any longer. You can find love mentioned in some other context, in some other religion, and conclude that the idea of love is what is central, that those who speak of love are speaking of the same thing. The same can be said of grace, faith, hope and so forth. To this way of thinking, religions are like a variety of fruits in a bowl, each can be squeezed for it’s essence and you end up with more or less the same thing.
But this is precisely what we must not do as Christians. The name of Jesus must never be discarded as secondary, go unheard or unsaid. Even to speak of God and the Holy Spirit are not adequate in giving expression to the heart of the Christian witness. Apart from the name of Jesus – and the entire Biblical witness to what he said and did – these other two names become ciphers and may be filled with any available content.
The name of Jesus is also non-negotiable because to speak of Jesus is bring into focus the center of everything. This is precisely what Paul is putting forward in the letter to the Colossians. The maturing of faith understands ‘everything’ in an expansive sense. First, everything in my life, then everything in the Church. From there everything means everything in the entire human community, then everything in the whole world until we see the name of Jesus reflecting that which underlies the cosmos and all reality. It is in the light of this awareness that the New Testament falls all over itself as the words, titles and expressions describing Jesus like a great waterfall cascade over the precipice of meaning in the attempt to speak in the widest, grandest, most inclusive terms of the name that is above every name.
“May the peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord.”