Back to the Basics: Jesus Christ, the Supreme Son of God (Col. 1:15-20)
I’m excited to be going through the next section in our statement of faith regarding our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ. In God’s providence, this section will lead us right into Resurrection Sunday. In this section, we will be looking at two points:
5. That Jesus Christ is the Son of God, sent by the Father, begotten by the Holy Spirit, and born of the virgin Mary; that He lived a sinless and obedient life, suffered and died on the cross vicariously for the sins of those who believe in Him; that God raised Him from the dead, exalted Him both as Lord and Christ, and gave Him the Holy Spirit for His Church.
7. That Jesus Christ is the only mediator between God and men; through Him and only through Him the believer has access to the Father.
Today we will look at the deity of Christ. The title of the message is “Jesus Christ, the Supreme Son of God.” We also said that when we talk about the person of Jesus Christ, we mean undiminished deity and perfect humanity united in one person forever. Last week we looked at the humanity of Christ: Jesus Christ as the Humble Son of Man. We saw His humility demonstrated by His selflessness, servanthood and His obedience.
A few years ago, the distinguished publishing house of Grosset & Dunlap called together a panel of 28 educators and historians and asked them to select the hundred most significant events of history, then to rank those events in order of importance. Here is a list of some of those events:
Writing of the Constitution of USA
Invention of movable type by Gutenberg
Discovery of America
Life of Jesus of Nazareth
Discovery of the Airplane
Development of Ether
Development of the X-Ray
Take a moment and rank them as you think this panel would have ranked them from first to fourth. Here are two clues: I will tell you that there are eleven events tied for third that are not listed here. So leave #3 blank. I will also tell you that five of these events tied for fourth. So your task is to identify #s1, 2 and 4 according to the panel and then to place all of these events according to ranking.
Here are the results. After months of labor, the panel reported that they considered the most significant event of history to be the discovery of America. In second place was the invention of movable type by Gutenberg. As I mentioned, eleven different events tied for third place, and five events tied for fourth place. The events tying for fourth were the writing of the Constitution of our country, the development of ether, the development of the x-ray, the discovery of the airplane, and the life of Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus tied for fourth.”
Now this does not come as much of a surprise to any of us right? Jesus Christ is often a mere after-thought for most of the world if not a curse word. Though He may be mentioned at a baptism or a wedding ceremony or at Easter or Christmas, He is lost in a list of priorities of most people.
But how about us? Where does Jesus Christ rank in our lives? If we had a DVD of all of our lives this week, how would God rank what was important in our lives? If we went deeper, was Jesus first in all our free time this week? How about finances? How about work time? School? Marriage? As we think about our future?
Paul in Colossians today is speaking to a small church struggling with making much of Jesus Christ. False teachers had come and taught that among other things, Christ, was not God. He was a created being (that He was perhaps a chief angel) and thus made Him smaller than He truly was. So Paul takes some time here to go over the resume of Jesus Christ. Supposedly like Phil. 2 last week, this was another hymn sung in the early church. There is no other passage in the Bible where we get such a full-length portrait of Jesus Christ. And as we see how awesome He is, we cannot but help to make Him first and supreme in our lives.
I love that word supreme: highest, greatest, most excellent, superior in power and exceeding all others. His thesis for this section can be found in Col. 1:18. Notice the word “preeminent.” This is another great word, which means “to hold the highest rank in a group, be first, have first place.” All the translations are good here to hit the point home:
KJV: that in all things he might have the preeminence.
NIV: so that in everything he might have the supremacy.
NASU: so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything.
NLT: So he is first in everything.
Paul gives the Colossians several reasons on why we should make Jesus Christ supreme, preeminent in their lives. First of all:
I. Jesus Christ is the revealer of God (v.15a, 19)
Let’s get into the text. Paul ends his prayer for the Colossians and before he can take another breath, he can’t help but to declare the supremacy of Jesus Christ. Look at the first part of Col. 1:15. Jesus is the image of the invisible God. This means that Jesus shows us what God is like. He made the invisible God visible for us. He is God in skin. That’s why He said, “He who has seen me has seen the Father.” (John 14:9). Heb. 1:3 says, “He is the radiance of God and the exact imprint of his nature.” It is not just similarity due to coincidence…like “hey, you look like so and so.” He is the exact, perfect representation of God.
For example, no one alive today has seen Abraham Lincoln in person. Neither have we met him. But how do we all know what he looks like? It’s because we have seen images of him on portraits. Pick up a penny and we see him. His image on the penny is his representation and manifestation. It is actually Abraham Lincoln we see there. In the same way, God, who is invisible, is represented and manifested in Christ. It is actually God we see.
There was a boy who looked up in the sky and asked his mother if God was up there. She assured him that he was. He replied, “Wouldn’t it be nice if he would put his head out and let us see him?” What Paul is saying here is that God has put his head out; we have seen him. Actually, God has done more than that. He has stepped out of heaven, became a man, and lived among us. He could not only be seen, but he could also be touched. Jesus is God in a body. He is the perfect picture of God.
Look over at Col. 1:19. Paul says all of God’s character and essence is in Christ. The word “dwell” means permanently abide. He is not some smaller god or angel. He is God! “Fullness” was a popular word among the false teachers and so Paul mentions that all of the fullness is nowhere else than in Christ. In fact, in Col. 2:10 he will say that we are “complete in Him.” That is why He is totally supreme and absolutely sufficient! You want to know what God is like? Look at Jesus! In Christ, God has come near. Put Him first in your life because when you look at Jesus, you see everything that you need in God. In Jesus we see that God is compassionate. In Christ, we see that God is sensitive to our needs. Do you want to experience all these things from God? Put Christ first for God to come close. Does God care about me? Look at Jesus! Jesus is the Revealer, showing us the Father. Put Him first. Notice that this shows His eternality: by the verb, “is,” not was or became, but always was, is and shall be the image of God. Notice also His exclusivity: Jesus is not “an” image, but “THE” image. There is no other perfect image of God except the one you see in Jesus Christ. So put Him first in your life. Secondly,
II. Jesus Christ is the ruler over all (vv.15b-16)
This latter part of verse 15 has often been misinterpreted for pretty much all of church history. Arians in the first century to Jehovah Witnesses in our day have taken this verse out of context. They look at this verse and say, “see, Christ is the first born, meaning he is created and not eternal God.” Interestingly, this same heresy is what Paul is trying to refute in this passage! Although the word for “firstborn” here can mean first chronologically, it primarily means first in rank and position. For example, Israel is called the firstborn (Ex. 4:22, Jer. 31:9). Though not the first nation to be born, it was unique and special in God’s sight. The first born in both Jewish and Greek culture was the one who had right to the inheritance. So here, Paul is saying Jesus is the ruler, the inheritor of all of creation. The word “of” is literally “over.” All creation belongs to Him! So you belong to Him! Put Him first. The following verses from 16-18 are an explanation of why he is the “firstborn” and reading those verses clearly show that Jesus is the Creator, not a creation.
Look at verse 16. Three reasons why He is ruler over all:
a) He is the architect of all creation
Notice in Col. 1:16: “by Him.” This means creation was his idea. In an ageless, timeless chaos, the second person of the Trinity stood and called it into being. It was his creative power and imagination. Pastor Sam Storms says, “He is the one in whose eternal mind the blueprints for every nook and cranny of the cosmos were conceived.”
Notice the word “all” repeated everywhere! He created everything (all things), everywhere (heaven and earth), even in every dimension (visible or invisible). Whether massive galaxies light years away or the dust mites beneath your feet, Jesus Christ created it all. Storms continues to say, “The “all things” includes what you can see and can’t see, whether visible but intangible, like a mirage or beam of light; whether invisible but tangible, like a summer breeze or the heat of the sun; whether visible and tangible, like an oak tree or a book or a baseball; even things invisible and intangible like a proton or gravity or a feeling or a dream. Think of all the colors of the spectrum---even aquamarine, electric blue, orange, saffron, vermillion. He conceived them all!” And He had no hat or rabbit, for He did it out of nothing. The “thrones,” “dominions,” “rulers” and “authorities” refer to hierarchy of angels. They have an organized structure in the angelic realm. Remember there were some people teaching the worship of angels? Well, Paul says, “Jesus created them too!” Don’t look at Jesus as an angel because He made the angels and they worship Him!
b) He is the builder of creation
Notice the phrase “through Him” in Col. 1:16. Creation was his idea and he also built it! Creation came to being through his power and ability. The apostle John wrote, “All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made” (John 1:3). The writer to the Hebrews wrote of Christ, “through whom [God] made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word” (Hebrews 1:2–3).
c) He is the owner of creation
Look at the phrase, “for him.” Literally, “for his benefit.” Everything exists to show off His glory and ultimately, he will be glorified by all creation. Storms again adds, “He is the reason, goal, the aim, the intent, the point, the purpose, the end, the consummation and culmination of every molecule that moves.” We are created for His glory.
Storms uses this analogy to drive the point home: “Consider the stages involved in building a home. The first thing you do is hire an architect who draws up the blueprints. He formulates the plan and lists the many specifications on how everything is to be constructed. You then contract a builder, the person who actually puts brick to mortar and nail to wood. The house is then put to the use for which it was built: you move in. You occupy it and enjoy the many special features it contains, whether a special den or a hot-tub on the deck. Finally, as its inhabitant and owner, you maintain it. You are careful to make timely repairs and perhaps a bit of remodeling here and there. Here’s my point. Jesus Christ is all of these in relation to the whole of the universe!”
Put Jesus first in your life because He is ruler over all. I liked what the musician LeCrae said this week: “God owns everyone and everything. All we have was entrusted to us for His purpose & glory. So basically sin is embezzlement.” God created you not just so that God could have you. He created you so that you could have God! And the purpose of our existence is not to make us look good, but to make Him look good! To make Him look glorious! Did you know that you exist for God. God doesn’t exist for us primarily. He saved us not so we can sit here and put ourselves on display, but to put Him on display! Are we putting Christ on display? Or are we on display? He is the ruler over all! Put Him first. Show Him off.
III. Jesus Christ is the sustainer of all (v.17)
If these things are not enough for you to believe that Jesus Christ is first in your life, Paul continues to give us more of the resume of Christ. He is before all things. So when Genesis 1:1 says, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth,” that was the beginning of all created things. But before there were created things, Jesus already existed (John 1:1). John 8:58: Jesus said, “Before Abraham was, I am.” Wait does that must mean He’s God? Amen!
The hymn continues to say that Jesus is not only the perfect revealer of the Father and not only the ruler of creation, but in verse 17, He is also the sustainer of the universe. Jesus Christ existed before any of the creation. We are locked in space and time, but God is transcendent. So we might be praying for something for 2 years, but God is eternal and has a different perspective.
The next phrase astounds me. Not only is He the architect, builder and owner of creation, He is the sustainer as well. He is the atomic glue of the universe. The verb “hold together” is in the present tense meaning Jesus is continually holding the universe together. If at any moment, He decided to “let go,” everything will fall apart. From every flutter of an eyelid, every heartbeat, every rustle of a blade of grass, every planet’s orbit to every star in its course, every breath that you breathe is sustained by Jesus Christ. That’s what keeps our universe as a cosmos and not chaos! Interestingly look at 2 Pet 3:10: But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. What is actually happening here is that Jesus is letting the glue come apart a little. His sustaining power is removed a little. He let go!
Pastor John Macarthur asks, “Do you understand that if the earth's rotation slowed down, we would alternately freeze and burn? He's got to keep this deal moving at the same speed all the time. Our globe is tilted at an exact angel of 23 degrees, which enables us to have four seasons. If it weren't tilted like that, vapors from the ocean would move north and south and pile up massive continents of ice on both ends and we would have some major problems in the rotation, to say nothing of seasons. If the moon didn't remain at the exact precise distance it is from the earth, the ocean tide would inundate all the land twice a day.”
Listen, beloved, if this Jesus Christ is the divine glue of the universe, holding everything together, stop trying to hold your life together! That’s why you need to put Him first. You can try to sustain your own life. You can drive your life the way you want, but if you are like me, eventually you crash, because you locked up the one person who not only made you, your life and sustains you, in the trunk of your life. All around my soul gives away, Jesus alone is my hope my stay! Come tsunami, come earthquake, come sickness, come pain, come heartbreak, Jesus holds my life together, even when I fall apart. Put Him first. Fourthly,
IV. Jesus Christ is the head of the church (v.18a)
Col. 1:15-17 showed us Jesus as Lord of the Universe, now in verses 18-20, we see Him as Lord of the Church. In the former, He is Supreme over the physical creation; in the latter, He is Supreme over the spiritual creation. There are a lot of metaphors to describe the church: family, kingdom, vineyard, flock, building and bride. But a key metaphor is that of a body. This metaphor of a head and body implies several things. First of all, a body has life. The church is a living organism. His life is lived out among the members. Secondly, unity: the church’s head is inseparable to the body. Also, control: The head controls the body; Jesus controls his church. In addition, guidance and direction. In the human body, the pituitary gland is housed in a small cavity located in the base of the skull. The growth hormone (and several other hormones) come from there. This hormone is known to be closely related to the health and growth of connective tissue, cartilage and bone. The growth of the body is directly related to the power provided by the head. Moreover, ruling authority: the head makes decisions. The body must submit. What is the job of your body? Your body has only one job description—to obey and carry out the instructions of your head, your brain. When your head says, “Right hand, move,” your right hand is supposed to move. If your right hand, or any other part of your body, refuses to move in response to a command from the head, better call a doctor. Something is wrong.
The point? In everything our church does, He is to have sovereign control. He is the head of this church. The pastors serve under Him, the elder serves under Him, the deacon board serves under Him, the servant team serves under Him. The Word is preached in Him, under Him and before Him. The church gathers and worships with Him as the Leader and object of our affection and praise. So we put Him before our needs. We put Him ahead of our grudges. We put Him above our likes and dislikes. The greater you see Christ as the Supreme head of this church, the greater your discipleship relationships will be. The greater you see Christ as the Supreme head of this church, the greater the youth ministry, children’s ministry, young adult ministry, worship ministry, outreach ministry will be. This is because you will be drawing your resources from Him and you will not make it about you and your glory, but His glory! The only ministry God will truly bless will be one where Jesus Christ is supreme. And the bigger He gets in our lives, the quicker our repentances will be. The bigger He gets, the more our gratitude will be. The bigger He gets, the fewer our whining and complaining will be. Magnify the Lord as the Lord of the church! Put Him first. Ultimately, what we need the most as a church is not better methodology for ministry, or a fancier children’s ministry or more resources or even more laborers (though that would be nice), but a greater Christology in us. A bigger view of Christ for the work! The bigger our view of Christ is, the better our work will be because God will bless such a ministry!
Remember putting your face above a headless frame painted to represent a muscle man, a clown, or even a bathing beauty? Many of us have had our pictures taken this way, and the photos are humorous because the head doesn't fit the body. If we could picture Christ as the head of our local body of believers, would the world laugh at the misfit? Or would they stand in awe of a human body so closely related to a divine head?
If we do not follow His dictates, the body is sick. What is a body without a head? It’s a corpse! We are dead without Christ. This is not really our church. This is Christ’s church and Christ’s ministry. As J. B. Lightfoot once wrote, Jesus "is the inspiring, ruling, guiding, combining, sustaining power (of the church), the mainspring of its activity, the center of its unity and the seat of its life.”
Put Him first because He is the revealer of God the Father, the ruler over all, the sustainer of all and because He is also head of the church. One last thought here of why He should be preeminent:
V. Jesus Christ is the conqueror over death and reconciled us to God (vv.18b, 20).
The hymn continues, calling Jesus “the beginning.” The church has its origins in Christ. He is the founder of the church. What qualifies Him to be the head? His resurrection! He was the first to break the hold of death and therefore supreme in the new spiritual creation. Again, the word “firstborn” is used, this time emphasizing Christ as first in rank over death. He is not the first to rise again from the dead: Lazarus, the son of the widow of Nain, etc. They all died again. But Christ rose from the dead, never to die again, leading the way for all believers to walk in His steps to do the same. It is interesting Paul uses “born” to refer to “death” b/c they seem opposed to each other. But the tomb was a womb from which Christ came forth in victory, for death could not hold Him (Acts 2:24).
And so believer, the moment you die, you will be more alive than ever before since you have trusted in the firstborn from the dead. Notice that Paul has a purpose clause here: “so that.” The purpose of Christ reigning as King of Creation and Christ ruling and Head of the Church through His resurrection is that HE MIGHT HAVE FIRST PLACE IN ALL THINGS. The “He” is emphatic; He alone, not angels or men. Christ has unshared supremacy. He has first place. He is in a class by Himself. He is eminent above all others. It is not enough for Christ to be present, nor prominent; He must be pre-eminent. The resurrection of Jesus Christ was so that “he, and only he, might be seen and savored, recognized and relished, exalted and enjoyed as the sovereign Lord, the one for whom all things were made and to whom all praise should be given.”
But before the crown of resurrection, there was the cross. Notice in Col. 1:20 that Christ’s work on the cross paid the debt we owed and in doing so, reconciled the entire universe with God. God is not reconciled to us, but we are reconciled to HIM. His payment for our sin made peace between us and God. By the way, this is not teaching that all people will be saved. But all things, willingly or forced, will be submit to Him. For at the name of Jesus every knee will bow in Heaven, on earth and UNDER THE EARTH and every tongue will confess He is Lord to the glory of God the Father (Phil. 2:10-11). I hope no one here will be forced that day to fall before Christ, for then it would have been too late! All of creation is also being restored since Christ died on the cross. All that was lost in the Fall is regained because of Christ’s work on the cross. Like the hymnwriter says,
No more let sins and sorrow grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make his blessings flow
Far as the curse is found.
We have a King again, a Ruler again, a lover of our souls! So put Christ first.
Author David Bryant says that Christ is more often a mascot than a monarch. Imagine a football stadium of 40,000 to 50,000 screaming fans. If the team is falling behind or losing momentum, often the coach calls a timeout. And this is when the mascot comes into view. The crowd needs to be stirred more enthusiastically for the team’s victory, so out comes a person in some kind of an animal suit, usually, and he does cartwheels, dances with fans or does other tricks to get the people excited for a couple of minutes. The mascot’s main job, Bryant says, “…is to stir up a certain kind of passion. But it's not really about him. It's really about the team, and even more about the fans. The team designs the plays, runs the patterns, throws the blocks, reaches the goal, claims the credit. The fans jump with joy, declare their superior identity over the losers…Then we all go home satisfied.”
Bryant insightfully continues to say, “In so many of our churches, I fear, Jesus is regularly deployed as our mascot. On Sunday we ‘trot Him out’ to cheer us up, to give us new vigor and vision, to reassure us that we are ‘somebodies.’ We invite Him to reinforce for us the great things we want to do for God. We look to Him to reinvigorate our celebration of victories we think we're destined to win. He lifts our spirits. He resuscitates our souls. He rebuilds our confidence. He gives us reasons to cheer. But then, for the rest of the week, He is pretty much relegated to the sidelines. For all practical purposes, we are the ones who call the shots. We implement the plays, scramble for first downs, and improvise in a pinch. Even if we do it in His name, we do it with little reliance on His person.”
Is Jesus just a mascot or is He monarch of our lives? Our ministry? Is He on the sidelines during the week and do we just bring Him out on Sunday to cheer us up for a few minutes? Is He Lord over your time? Your free time? Your money? Your friendships? Your internet and television viewing habits? Let’s worship Him as the Supreme Son. Worship Him as revealer, ruler, sustainer, head, victor over death and reconciler. Let’s magnify His name! The bigger He gets in our lives, the better we become. May He increase as we decrease (John 3:30) and sing with the hymnwriter, Be Thou supreme, O Jesus Christ, Thy love has conquered me; Beneath Thy Cross I die to self,and live alone to Thee.[16
Thielemann, Bruce. "Christus Imperator," submitted to www.preachingtoday.com accessed 30 March 2011.
Arndt, W., Danker, F. W., & Bauer, W. (2000). A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature. " Sixth ed. (892). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Anders, M. (1999). Vol. 8: Galatians-Colossians. Holman New Testament Commentary; Holman Reference (295). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.
Storms, Sam. “Praising Christ with Prepositions,” http://www.enjoyinggodministries.com/article/praising-christ-with-prepositions-116/ accessed 30 March 2011.
Tweet from http://twitter.com/#!/lecrae accessed 1 April 2011.
Macarthur, J. “Christ Above All,” http://www.gty.org/Resources/Print/Sermons/2135 accessed 31 March 2011.
Bernard, Dan from http://bible.org/illustration/headless-frame accessed 31 March 2011.
Bryant, David. “Jesus: Mascot or Monarch?” http://www.lifeaction.org/revival-resources/revive/first-love/jesus-mascot-or-monarch/ accessed 30 March 2011.
From http://www.hymnal.net/hymn.php/nt/367#ixzz1IIU9xsnH accessed 1 April 2011.