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The Preeminence of Christ Colossians 1b

Notes & Transcripts

Colossians 1:15-23

Stephen Caswell © 1999

Introduction

Is Jesus Christ able to meet all of our needs? Is His salvation sufficient? Or do we need something more? Do we need Christ plus an experience, or Christ plus special knowledge? This is the question that the Gnostics raised at Colossae. They reasoned that God was to holy to come into contact with sinful mankind. Because of this they claimed that Jesus Christ could not be God. He was a lesser god or angel, an emanation from the divine, but not totally God. They claimed that Jesus Christ alone was not able to complete our salvation. He was important, but you needed more. In fact they developed a complete philosophy of how this all worked. So the apostle Paul answered these arguments with one of the clearest passages in the Bible testifying to Christ's deity and His complete Salvation. Paul answers the question of Christ's position with three strong arguments.

I.  Christ's relationship to God.

II. Christ's relationship to Creation.

III.Christ's relationship to the Church.

Firstly we see Christ's relationship to God.

Colossians 1:15 a says: Who is the image of the invisible God,

Have you ever been asked, What is God like? It can be hard to answer, because He is so great. God is all powerful, all knowing, and everywhere. Three other characteristics are.

1. God is light. He is holy, glorious, pure, perfect, sinless, righteous.

God is love. He is gracious, merciful, kind, long suffering, forgiving.

3. God is life. He sustains, provides for,  and maintains creation. These are His attributes.

But what form does God take? God is Spirit and cannot be seen by man. God is holy and man cannot stand before Him in His glory. When the Lord appeared at Mount Sinai, He appeared in the form of thick cloud, fire, smoke and lightning and spoke through a trumpet earthquakes and thunder. These things have no form. Deuteronomy 4:15-16 Take careful heed to yourselves, for you saw no form when the LORD spoke to you at Horeb out of the midst of the fire, "lest you act corruptly and make for yourselves a carved image in the form of any figure: the likeness of male or female, God does not take any physical form that we could imagine. God is far beyond our imagination. Any attempt to make an image of God leads to idolatry. This happens all too often.

But Colossians 1:15 says that, Jesus Christ is the image of the invisible God. John 1:18 says: No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him. Through Jesus Christ God revealed His nature, His divine likeness to mankind. Jesus Christ revealed God perfectly to mankind. He showed us the Father's love and compassion through service and sacrifice. He demonstrated God's holiness and zeal for righteousness when He cleansed the temple of the merchants and money changers. He showed the Father's wisdom when He silenced those who tried to trap Him with loaded questions. He demonstrated the Father's power through His miracles His resurrection from the dead. 

Illustration From A Coin

When you pick up an Australian coin you see an image on either side. On one side is an image of the queen. How did it get there? All the coins carry the same image. How does this happen? The people at the mint make a die from which they press the coins. The master die contains the image of the queen and that is pressed onto the coins so that they receive an exact duplicate of the original die every time.

In a similar way Jesus Christ is an exact duplicate of God the Father. He perfectly represents the invisible God because He is God. In fact when Philip asked Jesus to show them the Father, Jesus said this. in John 14:9 : Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Shew us the Father?  What is Christ's relationship to God? He is the visible image of God! 

II. Christ's relationship to Creation. - Firstborn

Colossians 1:15 says: Who is the image of the invisible Godthe firstborn of every creature:

a. Firstborn Of Creation - His Majesty

Jesus Christ is referred to as the firstborn of all creation. Does this mean that He was created first and then He created everything else? The Jehovah's Witnesses claim this. The word prototokos [prwtotokos] means position of importance or placement rather than generation.

Illustration Of The Firstborn

In Israelite culture the firstborn received more privileges than the younger sons. They had greater responsibility in family affairs. They would take over as head of the family when the father died. They received a greater share of the inheritance, as much as two thirds of it. This is quite evident in the story of Esau and Jacob. Jacob cheated Esau out of the birthright and the blessing. Both of these belonged to the eldest son. Even though Jacob was a twin and born shortly after Esau, Esau still received the privileges of being firstborn. But this doesn't just speak of order, the term firstborn also carries the idea of placement. In Psalm 89:27 God says that He will make Solomon His first born. Solomon was not the oldest son. But the Lord placed him in the position of the firstborn. So Jesus Christ is first in position over all creation, He was not the first to be created. This is evident as we look at the following verses.

b. Firstborn Of Creation - He Made It

Colossians 1:16 says: For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him:  

1. He Made It All For Himself

Jesus Christ is the one that has the position of priority in creation. No doubt God the Father and the Holy Spirit were involved at creation but Christ was the one most greatly involved. Paul use three different prepositions to describe Christ's involvement.

Firstly Paul says For by Him all things were created. This really should read, Because in Him [en autw] all things were created. He was the sphere in which they were made. Secondly it says all things were created by Him. Through Him is the meaning here [di autou]. He was the divine agent that brought them into being. Thirdly it says they were created for Him [eis auton]. He was the one for whom they were made. Revelation 4:11 Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.

2. Things in heaven - Invisible - thrones, dominions, principalities, powers.

Jesus Christ made the things in heaven. He created the invisible spirit world. This includes the angels who dwell in the heavenly realms. He made the  Seraphim and Cherubim, Arch Angels, in fact all the heavenly beings and heaven itself. Paul goes on to list four classes of angels, thrones, dominions, principalities, powers. They have different rank or levels of authority. Psalm 104:4 says: Who maketh His angels spirits, His ministers a flame of fire.  Originally, they were all created good, though some fell with Lucifer.

3. Things on earth - Visible.

Jesus Christ made man and all the creatures on earth. In fact He made the earth and all that is in it. John 1:3 says: All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. Genesis 2:7 And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul. David speaks of God's intimate knowledge of himself . Psalm 139:13-17 says:  For thou hast possessed my inward parts: thou hast covered me in my mother's womb. I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well. My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being imperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them. How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God! how great is the sum of them!  

Jesus Christ made all creation. Hebrews 11:3 Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear. He was the one through Him it all came into being! He formed all creation and then gave it life. If anyone knows how we tick it's Jesus Christ. He made us, He knows how we think. He knows our needs and can meet them. Only the Lord can meet man's greatest need. He made us for Himself and we will never be fulfilled and complete without Him. God continued to love mankind even when they went their own way and became His enemies. He took steps to restore the relationship. We need Him, although He does not need us, even though He loves us!

Some people teach, God set the universe going like a big watch and left it to run on its own. This simply isn't true.  Because -

c. As Firstborn Of Creation - He Maintains It

Colossians 1:17 says: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.

1. He is before all things. Jesus Christ existed before the world began. He has always existed with the Father. He is before all creation in time, since He is the eternal Son. But He is also before creation in His placement. Jesus Christ is far superior to His creation. He is before creation in His worth as creation's Lord. He is sovereign over all.

2. By Him all things consist. Christ holds the creation together. The word consist [sunisthmi] means to place together, to have been permanently framed.

Illustration Of Building A Fibreglass Boat.

My brother worked at a boat factory for a number of years. Many boats are made out of fibreglass. But these boats in fact have many materials in them. The hull is made in a large mould out of fibreglass. Inside this they have a frame made out of timber. The two are joined together with fibreglass matting and resin. But a fourth material is needed called catalyst. The catalyst causes the resin to bind different materials together. It causes the resin to set hard. Without the resin the you would still have a boat but it would not hold together.

Christ is the glue that keeps everything from falling apart. Atoms are made up of a nucleus, protons and electrons and a lot of air. Scientists don't know why the protons and electrons keep going around the nucleus. They really want to fling away from the nucleus but some unseen force keeps them going around the nucleus. We know that this power is Jesus Christ, He keeps matter from falling apart. He also empowers it and keeps it running. Christ sustains His creation giving it life and power. If Christ were to withdraw His power everything would fall apart.

The planets in the sky continue their orbits year after year. The stars continue to shine yet don't burn out. God sustains it all. If God can sustain and provide for the universe He can certainly meet our needs. Christ has the position of priority in creation, He is the firstborn. Hebrews 1:1-3 gives a good summary of this: God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, when He had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the majesty on high.

III.Christ's Relationship To The Church.

Colossians 1:18 says: 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.

a. He Raised The New Creation

 

i. The Head of the Church

In verse 18 Christ is called the head of the body the churchWhat does this position involve? Rule and leadership. God Himself gave Him this position. Ephesians 1:22-23  And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, Which is his body, the fullness of him that filleth all in all. Jesus Christ is the head of the church. As head He provides for its needs. He enables it to grow. He decides the direction it takes and is its ruler. But how did He obtain this position? God gave this position to Him. But He earned it since He brought the church into being. He is the beginning the firstborn from the dead.

ii. Firstborn From The Dead

This is the second use of the word firstborn in this passage. It refers to Christ's position of priority in the Church. Romans 1:3-4 Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh; And declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead:  

i. He Raised Creation From Death - To Life

 

Colossians 1:18 says: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead;

Why talk about death? What has this got to do with being the head of the church? After the first creation was formed they were given dominion over the earth. They were told not to eat from one tree, the tree of knowledge of good and evil. God gave them one test. Unfortunately they disobeyed God and the consequences of sin was death. From that time forward death reigned over God's creation. Romans 5:12 says: Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned: This

is the present situation for the first creation. If a terminal cancer patient died in a car crash, reviving them would not help them much in the long run. They also need to be cured from cancer. Similarly Christ has conquered sin and death. He gives us victory over both!

Jesus Christ is the firstborn from the dead. He has conquered sin and death. God's intention is that others be raised in Him. He has founded a new creation. All who believe in Jesus Christ receive new life. Romans 8:29 says: For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. And  2 Corinthians 5:17 says: Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.

Jesus Christ is the head of the first creation because He is the creator. Jesus Christ is the head of the new creation because He is the Saviour. The old creation died in Adam. The new creation lives in Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 15:21-22 says: For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.   

I. Christ's Relationship To God In The Incarnation

And God the Father did this so that in all things he might have the preeminence. Jesus Christ is preeminent in Creation and Salvation. The word preeminent is only used here in the Bible. It means to hold first rank or highest dignity. Certainly Christ is worthy of such honour since He has saved the very creation that rebelled against Him. He was under no obligation to do anything. Except to bring judgement upon creation.

Colossians 1:19 says:  For it pleased the Father that in him should all fullness dwell; God was well pleased to indwell Jesus Christ on earth. The word fullness [plhrwma] means that which fills up, full measure, entire contents, full development. Paul uses the same word in Colossians 2:9-10 For in him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily. And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power: God the Father fully supported the redemptive work of His Son. The fullness of the divine nature embodied Christ. What then did He empty Himself of in Philippians 2:6-7? Certainly it was not His divine nature or power. He emptied Himself of His right to use these outside the Father's will.

b. He Reconciled Creation To God - Peace

Colossians 1:20  :And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven.

When Adam and Eve broke God's law they died spiritually that day. This lead to physical death many years later. But they also became God's enemies. They declared war on God when they went their own way. Man lost his spiritual life that he previously had, but he also lost his fellowship with God. He had made himself God's enemy. For man to enjoy fellowship with His creator he first needed to be reconciled. Someone had to make peace between Himself and God and man was unable to do it. So God provided a peace-maker between Himself and man, Jesus, the Prince of Peace.

Jesus Christ made peace between man and God by paying the debt that was incurred by sin. The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. He gave His life to pay our debt of sin. We deserved to die for our sin, to be eternally separated fro God in hell. But He died in our place. He paid the price of our sin. All who believe in Christ and accept Him as their substitute have their debt paid. So that God can justly pardon their sin. The debt of sin has been paid for by Jesus Christ.

1. Reconciled All Creation

Colossians 1:20 : And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven.

Does this passage mean that all creation will ultimately be reconciled to God? Yes and No! Some people use this verse today to teach universalism. They say that God will ultimately save everyone, demons included. To bring reconciliation means to make peace. God will ultimately rule over all creation and establish His kingdom of peace. But this does not mean that all will be saved. God will reconcile believers and the elect angels to Himself. They will enjoy peace and blessing forever in heaven. God will also reconcile the fallen angels and lost humanity to damnation and judgement in hell. They will not benefit from God's peace, even though they are under it. The cross enables God to condemn fallen angels and lost humanity to hell. Because God judged sin on the cross, He will place all rebels into hell and they will acknowledge His justice in doing so. But His grace and mercy will be seen in the redeemed.

2. Reconciled All Believers

Colossians 1:21 says: And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled  

Paul started with the broad extent of reconciliation. It would affect all creation. But now He deals with its work in the church. He highlights the fact that we were once God's enemies because of our attitudes and actions. Paul uses the perfect tense to show that we were like this and could not change the situation ourselves. But God could. He reconciled us to Himself by placing our sin and debt upon Jesus Christ. He carried it upon His body when He died on the cross for us. The sin has been removed so that we are no longer God's enemies. We have peace with God that gives us fellowship with Him.

Illustration From The Peace Child

Don Richardson was a missionary who worked among the Sawi people in New Guinea. He worked there a number of years learning the language and sharing the gospel. But he couldn't stop them from fighting with a neighbouring tribe no matter how hard he tried. The Lord touched one of the tribesmen with the gospel and he responded in an unusual yet wonderful way. He took his son and gave him to the other tribe. There was a custom that these two tribes observed. That if a child was given by one of the tribes, they could have peace. In fact the peace would continue as long as the child lived. This man and his wife had been unable to have any children for a long time. At last he had a son. But now he gave his son, his only son to bring peace between the two tribes. This is what God has done for us. He gave His Son, His only son to bring peace to mankind. Romans 5:1-2 says: Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.

Paul talks about God's great ministry of reconciliation in the world to the Corinthians. 2 Corinthians 5:18-20: And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God.   

If all the world is going to be reconciled regardless, why would Paul beseech people to be reconciled to God? Only those who receive the peace agreement will partake of it. Only those who receive Jesus Christ will enjoy eternal life and peace in heaven. The lost will receive a resurrection body, they will receive eternal life. But who wants eternal life in hell? It would be better not to have it, than have it in hell. Have you been reconciled to God? Have you allowed Jesus Christ to remove your sin? He longs to do it. Will you let Him tonight?

3. Results Of Reconciliation

Colossians 1:22: In the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight:  

Jesus Christ saved us to set us apart for God's use. This means that we are no longer sinful or common. Christ has completely removed our sin and given us His righteousness so that we are holy in God's sight. Do you live like a saint? I don't mean are you sinless. I mean are you living for God's glory. Are you set apart for His use? We will also be unblameable. This means perfect and without blemish. Christ's will complete His good work in us. We will stand before God in Christ's righteousness. We are also unreproveable. This means that no charges mad against us can stick. Satan accuses us day and night before God's throne, but the Father won't accept them because the debt has been paid for by the blood of Jesus Christ.

4. Response to Reconciliation

What Should be our response to such a wonderful salvation? How should we respond to Jesus Christ who created us and saved us? 

Colossians 1:23 If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister;

Paul says our blameless standing before God is dependant on our perseverance. He tells us to continue in the faith. This is in the present continuous tense and means to keep going. He then says not to move away from the hope of the gospel, which is the Lord's return. We are to keep living for the Lord Jesus Christ who is coming back. The word grounded is a perfect participle. This means that we were grounded in this faith start when we first heard the gospel with the result that we stayed grounded. The Lord does not take pleasure in those who withdraw from Him! So continue on, keep living for the Lord Jesus Christ and keep looking for His return.

Conclusion

Is Jesus Christ able to meet all of our needs? Is He able to complete our salvation? Is He just an emanation from God? Is he just an angelic being? No! He is God and can save us.

I.  His Relationship To God

He is the image of God. He represents God exactly, because He is God. He possesses the fullness of the Godhead in bodily form. To see Christ is to see the Father.

II. His Relationship To Creation.

a. He made it. He is the creator who made a complex and marvellous universe. He knows us intimately, much better than we know ourselves. He made us for Himself and we are empty without Him. Has He filled that empty space in your life?

b. He maintains it. He sustains and gives life to all His creatures. It is His power that holds everything together. He cares for the universe and provides for all.

III. His Relationship To The Church

a. He raised creation to life. Jesus brought eternal life through His resurrection from the dead. He provided life for people who were dead. Have you received His new life? You can be by believing in Jesus Christ to be your saviour.

b. He reconciled creation to God. Through His death on the cross He made peace between man and God. Will everyone receive the benefits of reconciliation? No Have you been reconciled to God through Jesus Christ? If not will you do this today?

c. The Results And Response to Reconciliation

He will present us holy and unblameable before God the Father.

As long as we continue in the faith. Have you continued in the faith? Or are you moving away from the hope of the gospel? This does not mean sinning, but departure from the faith.

Benediction Jude 24-25

Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, And to present you faultless Before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy,  To God our Savior, Who alone is wise, Be glory and majesty, Dominion and power, Both now and forever. Amen.

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