Our Text – Colossians 1:14-23
Our key verse – Colossians 1:18, “And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence”
Our theme – “Jesus is preeminent above all created things”
When studying about Jesus Christ, it’s not difficult to emphasize the unique and incomparable role of our Lord and Savior. Kenneth Scott Latourette, former chairman of the department of religion at Yale Graduate School, wrote, “That short life of Jesus has been the most influential ever lived. Through Him millions have been transformed and have begun to live the life which He exemplified. Gauged by the consequences which have followed, the birth, life, and death and resurrection of Jesus have been the most important events in the history of man.” Nave’s Topical Bible lists about 250 names or designations for Jesus Christ such as: Creator, Pre-Incarnate God, the Incarnate God, Master Teacher, Savior, Messiah, King, High Priest, Mediator, Intercessor, Advocate, Lawgiver, Prophet, Head of his church, Head of his Body, Head of his house and Judge. All of these designations point to Jesus Christ as the Preeminent One. Herein you are invited to “Come Meet Jesus as the Preeminent One.” What do we mean by “preeminence”? Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary defines “preeminence” as “having paramount rank, dignity, or importance.” A Greek dictionary defines the word for “preeminence” as “to be in the first position, with the implication of high rank and prominence – ‘to be the first, to have superior status’”.
I. Christ’s Incomparable Person (Colossians 1:14-19).
At Caesarea Philippi, Jesus asked His disciples, “Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?” (Matthew 16:13). After hearing their answers, He asked, “But whom say ye that I am?” (v. 15). Peter promptly replied, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God” (v. 16). The question Jesus posed to His disciples is the most significant question anyone can face, and Peter’s response was the most significant answer anyone can give. Jesus is “the Christ, the Son of the living God.” The apostle Paul affirmed in his letter to the Colossians that Jesus is the Son of God (1:13). Then Paul elaborated on the person and work of God’s Son Jesus Christ, which includes:
A. His Preeminence as Redeemer.
Colossians 1:13, “For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins”. The apostle Paul identified Jesus Christ as the One “in whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins”. Redemption is the act that involves paying a price to acquire something. The New Testament concept of redemption stems from words meaning to buy someone in the slave market, to rescue him/her from the slave market, and to set him/her free. Specifically the word “redemption” in Colossians 1:14 means “to set free from.” Although Jesus Christ led a sinless life on earth, His sinless life didn’t provide redemption for us. His blood was the price of our redemption and because the blood He provided perfect redemption for us, we are no longer condemned sinners. We are now pardons sinners and forgiven members of God’s family.
B. His Preeminence in Creation.
Colossians 1:15, “The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation”
(1) Christ is before all things (Micah 5:2; John 1:1, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God”; John 8:58, “Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am”; John 17:5, “And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was”; Revelation 22:13);
(2) Christ created all things (John 1:3, “All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made”; Ephesians 3:6; Colossians 1:16; Revelation 3:14);
(3) Christ upholdeth all things (Psalm 75:3; Colossians 1:16; Hebrews 1:3, “Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high”)
In verse 15 the apostle Paul described Jesus as “the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature.” Eternally the image of God, Jesus shares the essence of deity with the Father and the Holy Spirit. He is not simply like God; He is God. The Incarnation did not make Him the image of God; it simply made it possible for people to behold the image of God. When Jesus lived on earth, He did not lay aside the essential attributes of deity; but He did lay aside the independent use of those attributes. He lived in dependence upon the Father and fully complied with the Father’s will. Anyone who wants to know what God is like can discover what He is like by examining the life of Jesus Christ. The apostle John wrote that when Jesus lived among men, Jesus’ disciples gazed upon His glory and saw a perfect picture of grace and truth. He also wrote that Jesus, the Son of God, declared the Father. Also, the writer to the Hebrews reported that God has revealed Himself to us through His Son.
In Colossians 1:15-17, Paul asserts that Christ is the Lord of Creation. If you look at verse 18, there Paul asserts that Christ is the head of the Church. Additionally, in verse 19, Paul asserts that Christ is the fullness or that the fullness dwells in him, and in verse 20, Paul says that Christ is the Reconciler, He is the one who reconciles the world to God. I want to look further at some phrases between Christ as Creator and Christ as Redeemer. If we were to lay out this passage side by side and put verses 15, 16, and 17 in one column, and verses 18, 19, and 20 in another column, we would see a beautiful parallel. In each of those passages, we would see Paul repeat 4 phrases.
(1) In verse 15 and 18, he uses the phrase “who is” to open that section. In verses 15 and 18, he speaks of Christ as the first-born. In verse 15, he calls Christ the first-born of creation. In verse 18, he calls him the first-born of the dead.
(2) In verses 16 and 19, he speaks of the phrase “for in Him” in Christ, and
(3) In verses 16 through 20, he uses the phrase “in the heavens and on the earth.” In each of those phrases, he parallels Christ’s lordship in creation with Christ’s lordship in redemption. And he sees those as going together, being inseparably connected. Christ’s lordship in creation enables Him to be a Redeemer who can redeem us from any force, for if He created creation, and if He is the Lord Of creation, what is there in creation that He is not capable of redeeming us from, or of exercising dominion over? So Paul says Christ is both Creator and Redeemer.
C. His Preeminence as Sustainer.
Colossians 1:16, 17, “For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together”. The Gnostics reasoned that matter is evil and that only immaterial things are good. Because Jesus created a material universe and took upon Himself a human body, they would not believe that He is truly God. Instead they chose to regard Him as a mere emanation from God, perhaps an angel or low rank. Paul contradicted this Gnostic heresy by insisting that Jesus Christ created everything, including all the ranks of angels. The apostle John affirmed the fact that Jesus Christ is the creator. In John 1:3 he affirmed, “All things were made by him (Jesus Christ); and without him was not anything made that was made.” Not only did Jesus create all things, but all things were created “for him.” This, too, must have rocked the Gnostics back on their heels. They erred in worshiping angels. Only Jesus Christ is worthy of worship, adoration, and service, because He alone created all things for His pleasure.
Colossians 1:17 portrays Jesus Christ as existing before creation and as sustaining the universe. Contrary to what Jehovah’s Witnesses teach, Jesus Christ is not a created being; He existed before all things. Contrary to what pantheism teaches, nature is neither God nor Mother Earth; it is part of God’s creation. Contrary to what evolutionists teach, nature does not progress by natural selection. Everything owes its existence to the sustaining power of Jesus Christ.
D. Preeminence in His position.
Colossians 1:18, “And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy”. Jesus Christ is not only the creator of all things; He is also the head of the church, which is His new creation. Furthermore, He is “the beginning”; that is, He existed before the church, and the church owes its existence to Him. Christ is also “the firstborn from the dead.” Having risen from the dead, He lives forever as the preeminent head of the church. He is not a low-ranking demigod, as the Gnostics taught; He is the exalted Lord of the church. Thus, Jesus Christ:
(1) has authority over nature – Jesus stills the waves. (Matthew 8:27, “But the men marveled, saying. What manner of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him”)
(2) Has authority over heavenly powers (1 Peter 3:22, “Who is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him”)
(3) Is the King of Glory.
(4) Is equal with God (John 5:18, “Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill him, because he not only had broken the Sabbath, but said also that God was his Father, making himself equal with God”; John 10:30, “I and my Father are one”; Philippians 2:6)
(5) Is heir to the throne of David (Isaiah 9:7; Jeremiah 23:5)
(6) Is the head of the Church (Ephesians 1:2; 5:23)
E. His Preeminence in His resurrection. “the firstborn from the dead”
(1) Christ proved that Hell couldn’t hold him (Acts 2:27, 31; Revelation 1:18)
(2) Christ proved that the grave couldn’t hold Him (Acts 2:31)
(3) Christ is the only one ever who raised Himself from the dead (John 2:19-21; John 10:17-18)
(4) Christ is the only one who will never die again (Romans 6:9)
The women who sought to anoint the dead body of Jesus are to be commended for their tender love and regard for the Savior. Yet, as they came near the place of burial, the practical difficulty of moving the heavy stone that sealed His tomb brought them unnecessary anxiety. Their fears were groundless; it had already been moved. So too, we are often needlessly concerned over prospective difficulties that God graciously removes or help us overcome. Let us exercise greater faith in facing possible obstructions on the pathway of duty. We may be sure of the Lord’s assistance in such matters when we press on in His name and for His glory.
F. Fully God.
Colossians 1:19, “For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him”. The Gnostics taught that the spirit of Christ descended upon the man Jesus at His baptism and departed from Him as the crucifixion. They denied that two natures, divine and human, resided in Jesus. Paul assaulted the Gnostic heresy by affirming that “it pleased the Father that in him [Jesus] should all fullness dwell”. Jesus, the eternal Son of God, possessed all the attributes of deity even though He was truly human. The Incarnation did not mark the beginning of the divine fullness in Jesus; it simply marked the beginning of the divine fullness in human flesh. Jesus was Deity before, during, and after the Incarnation. On one occasion during His life and ministry on earth, Jesus took three of His disciples … Peter, James, and John, to a mountaintop. There He was “transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light” (Matthew 17:2). Where did the light that brightened His face and clothes come from? Liberal theologians allege that unusually bright moonlight settled upon Jesus. They fail to explain how Peter, James, and John escaped the moonbeam. The word “transfigured” indicates that the brilliant light came from Jesus Himself. He transfigured Himself! The glory of His deity shone through His humanity.
II. Christ’s Incomparable Work. (Colossians 1:20-23)
Jesus’ personality is distinct and He alone was perfect God and perfect man, the Redeemer, Revelator, Creator, Head of the church, our true friend, our guide, our hope. In this world there is nothing but gloom and despair. But Christ offers hope. He is our hope in this dark world. He gives us hope of being one day with Him and having everlasting life, our light “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life (John 8:12), our life John 10:10, “The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly. He is the One who gives meaning to our lives. He is One who gives us eternal life, and God incarnate. Jesus’ work is distinct too. No one is qualified to do what He did, is doing, and will continue to do, such as:
A. Reconciling sinners.
Colossians 1:20-21, “and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior”
God created people to fellowship with Him and to glorify Him. However, the human race rebelled against God, thereby disrupting their fellowship with God and destroying their opportunity to glorify God. Since the Fall in Eden, sinful mankind has been alienated from God (Ephesians 4:18). People have been traveling for centuries down a road that leads away from God (Isaiah 53:6), and they do not seek God (Romans 3:11). Nevertheless, sinners can be reconciled to God through the blood of His Son (Colossians 1:20). At Calvary, Jesus shed His blood as the perfect sacrifice for our sins. He bore our punishment so all who trust in His Son as Savior can have peace with God. Sin had erected an insurmountable barrier between mankind and God, but divine grace and love removed it. Not only did God reconcile us by the blood of His Son, He also secured the reconciliation of the universe, “all things” (Colossians 1:20).
B. Reconciling the World.
When Jesus Christ died on the cross, He made it possible for us to be reconciled to God and restored to fellowship with Him by faith in Christ. Enmity is turned to friendship, alienation to son ship, hostility to faith, and hatred to love because of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross (Romans 5:1, 10; 2 Corinthians 5:18-20; Ephesians 2:16; Colossians 1:20-22). At the end of each month, many banks issue statements to all their depositors who have checking accounts. The purpose of such statements is to assure that our own record of deposits, checks, and charges agree with that of the bank. Occasionally a person may find that his figures do not agree with those on the bank’s statement. When this happens, he has made a slight mistake somewhere. Reconciliation takes place when the balance according to his figures is brought to conform to the balance furnished by the bank. And so it is with God … reconciliation removed the barrier that existed between God and man.
There are two categories of reconciliation. The first is what Jesus Christ accomplished on the Cross for all mankind in reconciliation and the second is what Jesus Christ provided through the Cross for all believers at salvation. Reconciliation is our Lord’s salvation ministry toward man. In reconciliation, mankind is reconciled to God. God is never reconciled to mankind. This is why you cannot be saved by any other means than faith alone in Jesus Christ. Reconciliation is also an important concept in relationships between persons. The destructiveness of sin causes two people, who were once in fellowship and harmony to become alienated, hostile, estranged from one another. This is the relation between man and God because the sin nature moves every man to disobey, to rebel against, and to deny God.
Thus, to be reconciled means to replace such enmity, hostility, and opposition with a new relationship of peace, acceptance, and goodwill. The definition of reconciliation supplied by John F. Wallwood summarizes this concept; “It is the work of God through the death of Christ by which sinful man is brought to spiritual fellowship and moral harmony with God.” It’s important to note that every reference to the doctrine of reconciliation in connection with salvation speaks of man as the one reconciled, changed. God is never said to be reconciled to man, for His standards and demands of holiness and righteousness are changeless. Reconciliation is man ward. Through Christ’s work of redemption, the price for sin has been paid. God the Father accepted this sacrifice; His demands have been satisfied. This is propitiation. Because of redemption and propitiation, the relationship of man to God has been changed. Man has been reconciled; he has been made savable. It is now possible for God to bestow salvation upon the believing sinner because of Christ’s finished work on the cross.
C. Perfecting saints.
Colossians 1:22-23, “But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation — if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant”
By dying for our sins, Jesus made it possible for us to stand in God’s sight “holy and unblameable and unreproveable” (Colossians 1:22). In Heaven He will present us to the Father as sanctified, unblemished, and free of charges. Anticipating that occasion, Paul wrote in Ephesians 5:25-27 that “Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.” Colossians 1:23 suggests that Paul was confident that Christ would perfect the Colossian believers. According to this verse, he believed that the Colossians would continue in sound doctrine (“the faith”). He believed they would stand like a well-constructed building (“grounded and settled”) against the winds of heresy and would not depart from “the hope of the gospel,” which had been preached throughout the Roman Empire. He assured the Colossians that he had been made a minister of the gospel (v. 23)
Who is Jesus? Observing the ways He is portrayed these days, it’s almost impossible to recognize Him as the Jesus of the Bible, whose name is above all names. Some groups add to what the Bible says about Him, while others diminish Him to simple humanity, claiming that He was merely a wise teacher and some would like to make Him disappear altogether. As believers in Jesus Christ, I submit to you a brief summary of what He is to us and why He is the preeminent One. Thus, the Bible, God’s breathed Word, with simple clarity states that:
(1) Christ is our God the second person of the Trinity. Thomas confessed to Christ saying “My Lord and my God!”
(2) Christ is our Lord. He alone is worthy! (Philippians 2:9-11, “Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father”)
(3) Christ is our Creator. Who is the One who made you in the womb? Who is the One who made the Heaven and the Earth? It is none other but the Lord Jesus! (Colossians 1:16-17, “All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist”)
(4) Christ is our Redeemer. He is the one who redeemed us from our sins and made us free and who ransomed us by his blood. (1 Peter 1:18-19, “Knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot”)
(5) Christ is our Savior. He is the One who died for us and saved us from our sins. Matthew 1:21, “And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins”)
(6) Christ is our Advocate and Mediator. Christ is our attorney before God our Father. He pleads our cause before God. (1 Timothy 2:5, “For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus”)
(7) Christ is our High Priest. He ever lives to make intercession for us. He sympathizes with us and prays for us. “Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted.” (Hebrews 2:17-18; 4:14-16; 7:25)
( 8 ) Christ is our King and Prophet. He is the “King of Kings” and “Lord of Lords” (Hebrews 1:1-2, “God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds”)
(9) Christ is our Shepherd. He cares for His sheep and He gave His life for His sheep. He seeks us out and brings us back when we go astray. (John 10:14-15, “I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own. As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep”)
Jesus Christ is the Good Shepherd of your life and He will never leave you nor forsake you. In fact, He will leave the ninety and nine to go after the lost sheep. Luke 15:3-7, “Then Jesus told them this parable: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.” What a powerful scripture! Believe that Jesus, the Shepherd is going after your lost spouse this weekend or that co-worker and neighbor you have been witnessing to. He is calling their name each and every day and saying, “No, Don’t do that or go that way! Stop and turn around!” The Lord needs us to continue fervently in prayer for that spouse, co-worker, neighbor and those who have fallen into the trap of sin. Jesus Christ is the only one who can set them free from the bondage of sin and deception from the master deceiver (satan) who is also known as an angel of light!
(10) Christ is our Head. Christ is our Head and He is the Head of the church. Don’t let anyone deceive you saying that the Pope is the Head of the church. No! The bible says that Christ is the Head of the church. “But I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.” (1 Corinthians 11:3); “And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church.” (Ephesians 1:22); “And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence.” (Colossians 1:18)
(11) Christ is our resurrection. This is a key doctrine of our faith. No other doctrine of the Scriptures has been more persistently attacked than the bodily resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. And no wonder, for it is the keystone in the great arch of all Christian doctrine. With the resurrection of Jesus, the whole structure of Christian doctrine stands or falls. If the resurrection could be disproved, Christianity would crumble in the dust and have less credence than the wildest myths of ancient Greece and Rome. satan knows this, and so his earliest and most frequent attack on the truth of Christ is against His bodily resurrection. Thus, the credibility of our Christian faith rests on the “many infallible proofs” that Jesus is alive.
(12) Christ is our security. There is no security in this world but uncertainty. Christ is our security. He gives us eternal security and no one who believes in Him will perish or be snatched out of His hand. “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand.” (John 10:27-29)
(13) Christ is Truth – “What is truth?” Pilate said in John 18:38. Jesus is the truth. Ever wonder which religion is the truth? Jesus is the embodiment of truth. He is “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6); “Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6); “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14) “For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”
(14) Christ is our peace. Like the bumper sticker says: “No Jesus, no peace; know Jesus, know peace.” He is the One who gives us peace in our hearts in this world full of trouble and anxiety. “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”” (John 16:33) “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” (John 14:27)
(15) Christ is the One who gives us joy and lifts us up when we are down. “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.” (John 15:11)
(16) Christ is our example. Need a role model? Look no further! Christ is our great role model. He is perfection embodied. He is pure and spotless. “Following Him I know I’m right,” as the song says. “He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked.” (1 John 2:6); “By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.” (1 John 3:16). “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”” (John 13:34-35); “Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ.” (1 Corinthians 11:1)
(17) Christ is our all! He gives meaning to our lives. Without Him life is empty and worthless. “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21); “But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith;” (Philippians 3:7-9)
I’m reminded of 2 Corinthians 9:15, “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift”. Someone has said, “The kindest thing that God ever did was to become a man.” What magnificent glory Christ left and what utter humiliation He suffered so that He could offer us the riches of salvation! We will never be able to understand it completely. It’s hard to fathom the truth that when we receive His gift we claim an eternal inheritance as adopted children of God. Who can estimate the preciousness of God’s gift of salvation through His Son the Lord Jesus? All we can do now and throughout eternity is to fall down in adoration before the Lord, praising Him for a salvation so wondrous and so free! One of the crowning joys of heaven will be to look on the wonderful face of our Lord and Savior – the face that was bathed in tears of sympathy for a sick and dying race. The face that was full of compassion for a lost world. The face that bore the shame that our face might wear the glory of God. The face that grimaced in agony on Calvary for our sins that we might see the smile of God’s eternal forgiveness. Let us live in keen anticipation of that day when faith shall be turned into sight! With eyes bright with hope and expectation, let us sing the refrain, “When by His grace I shall look on His face, that will be glory, be glory for me!
Jesus Christ – a wonderful name,
Eternal, unchanging, always the same;
He’s the beginning and He’s the end,
He’s my Savior, my Lord, and my Friend.
If we could merit our own salvation, Jesus would not have died to provide it.