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A Hymn for the Ages

The Supremacy of Christ  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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We love greatness, don’t we? It’s magnetic, drawing us into things that we otherwise have no interest in. When Tiger Woods was dominating the world of golf in a way that I’ve never seen any athlete dominate any sport, people that didn’t know anything about golf suddenly found themselves tuning in to the Master’s to see whether or not Tiger could do it again. People that can’t even pronounce Tour De France were suddenly tuning in when Lance Armstrong was winning 7 consecutive titles. During the 2016 Olympics, even if you couldn’t tell a pummel horse from a sea horse or a saw horse, you were watching as Simone Biles or Michael Phelps were redefining greatness for their sports.
You see, we’re drawn to greatness because God has built us that way. God has so designed you and I that we would be left in awe of seeing something that is supremely greater than anything we could do ourselves. And, by designing us to love greatness, God has engineered us to love, exalt, and glorify the Supreme Greatness in all of the universe, the Lord Jesus Christ. This morning, as you kick off this series on Colossians that’s exactly what I want to talk about. I want us to look at the supremacy of Christ so that we might be provoked to worship by what we see.
The occasion for Paul’s writing to the church at Colossae is that false teaching has broken out within the church. The church has been started by a Colossian named Epaphras, and Epaphras had apparently appealed to Paul for help in addressing the heresy that had broken out. There is a great deal of debate about the nature of the false teaching in Colossae, but from what we can surmise from the book itself, these false teachers were adding to the gospel a number of ascetic requirements. In other words, they were saying that Christ alone was insufficient to both save and keep those He saved. So, Paul writes to them for the purpose of correcting the cheapening of Christ and his glory.
Most scholars believe that our text this morning is a first century hymn that was being sang among the people of God. But, brothers and sisters, this is not a hymn for the first century. This is a hymn for the ages! This is the hymn of our gospel joy! What I think we’ll see is that there are two stanzas in this hymn with parallel verses in each stanza. So, I want to make those two stanzas the two main points of my sermon and show you how these words sing of the supremacy of Christ!
“He is the image of the invisible God” At the heart of the Colossian heresy was the belief that Jesus was sufficient to cleanse you of your sin, but that He was insufficient for you to remain reconciled to God. For that, you must keep up certain festivals and ascetic requirements. And to dismantle that, Paul reminds them of something they likely already believed: This is God that we’re talking about! Jesus is the ‘image of the invisible God.’ That is, Jesus is God’s very essence, his character, nature and attributes, perfectly manifested in every way. He is, as says, the ‘exact imprint of God.’ In , when Phillip tells him that if they can just see the Father it will be enough for them, Jesus responds by saying, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.” In all of his ways, in his imminence and transcendence, in his communicable and incommunicable attributes Jesus isn’t like God, isn’t God close to God; He is God! There is nothing that you can say about God that you cannot say about Jesus!
TRANSITION: Paul testifies to the power and sufficiency of Jesus’ deity in at least three descriptions.
“For by him all things were created....all things were created through him and for him.” Verse 16 says that all of the Creation is ‘by him, through him, and for him.’ Let’s think about those phrases. If it is ‘by him’, then that means that all of creation is his idea. The sun has a diameter of 864,000 miles. You could hold the equivalent to 1.3 million earths inside of the sun, and it was his idea. The moon is in the perfect proximity to earth to keep us all from being flooded from out of control tides, and it was his idea. The very oxygen that you breathe is produced by plants which breath in the carbon dioxide that you breathe out, and it was his idea. There are a creatures surrounding the throne of God that are indescribable with human words, and they were his idea. Every year, a copious number of new plant and animal species are discovered around the world, illustrating that He is never out of ideas.
“through him” And, creation is not just by him, it is ‘through him.’ That is, it is by Jesus’ power and with Jesus’ material that everything is made. In other words, Jesus is the source. You see, source is the great question of the universe. What is eternal? What is the source of all that was? A formula of nothing X nothing = everything is senseless. It defies the first law of thermodynamics, which states that energy can be neither created nor destroyed. If you were to believe in the Big Bang theory which suggests that everything came to be as a result of a cataclysmic explosion, what set into motion that explosion? What was the source of the energy that led to such a thing? If we all originated through billions of mutations that began in a puddle and ended up as humans that can build skyscrapers and 747’s, how did the puddle get there to begin with? What is the source? There must be a source. Brothers and sisters, Jesus is the Big Bang! Jesus is the source! There was a time in which we weren’t, and there was a time in which earth wasn’t, and there was even a time in which there was no time, but there has never been a time in which Jesus wasn’t! He is the eternal God, the Beginning and the End, and ‘through him’ all things that are have come to be.
A formula of nothing X nothing = everything is senseless. If you were to believe in the Big Bang theory which suggests that everything came to be as a result of a cataclysmic explosion, what set into motion that explosion? What was the source of the energy that led to such a thing? If we all originated through billions of mutations that began in a puddle and ended up as humans that can build skyscrapers and 747’s, how did the puddle get there to begin with? What is the source? There must be a source.
“for him” And, brothers and sisters, it is not just by him and through him; it is ‘for him!’ That is, there is an end to which all of creation, visible and invisible is aimed. And, that aim is Christ! As John Piper says, “Nothing in the universe exists for its own sake! Everything from the bottom of the oceans to the top of the mountains, from the smallest particle to the biggest star, from the most boring school subject to the most fascinating science, from the ugliest cockroach to the most beautiful human, from the greatest saint to the most wicked genocidal dictator -- everything exists to make the greatness of Christ more fully known -- including you, and the person you have the hardest time liking."
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APPLICATION: Jesus is the eternal source of every humming bird and galaxy, Mt. Everest and Niagara Falls. He has created universes seen and unseen. And, this tremendous reminder of his great power to create reminds us of an even more glorious truth. Not only is He mighty to create, but He is mighty to save. And, whoever He saves, He mighty enough to keep and to sanctify, and to ultimately glorify.
“the firstborn of all creation” You’ll notice in verse 15 that Paul calls Jesus ‘the firstborn of all creation.’ Now, this text has been abused by heretics, both ancient and modern alike. They want to make it out as though this shows that Jesus is, in fact, a creature and not created. They point to ‘firstborn’ as evidence that Jesus is not eternal, believing that it speaks to chronology. But, this is totally miss the context of what Paul is saying. First of all, he is saying explicitly that Jesus is the eternal Creator of all things. Secondly, ‘firstborn’ is not being used here as a term referring to chronology, but rank and position. The Torah was often referred to as the ‘firstborn’ as was Israel. Not because the Torah is the oldest book or Israel the oldest rank, but because of the position which they hold. speaks of king sitting upon Davids throne as being the ‘firstborn’ and being the greatest king in all of the world. That’s what we’re talking about here. Jesus is the ruling the King!
I want you to especially note the terms heaven and earth. Paul is speaking here to the incomprehensible scope of Jesus' reign. On the earth are those things that are seen and known by us. It contains things that are concrete to us, physical, easily touched. And, yet ever here, as limited as you are, you will only behold even the smallest fraction of what is to be known and seen. Think of flowers that are to be found on the outer band of the Andes mountains in Patagonia or the glacial water the contains the whales in the arctic. In the rain forests, we are still discovering frogs and insects that have never been labeled by science before. The heavens represents everything else. It represents the worlds that are invisible and abstract to us. It represents the myriads and myriads of creatures that John could hardly describe in human words that are surrounding the throne of God. It represents the powers of darkness and demonic influence with which we war in our flesh. And yet, every single atom, every single idea, every single thing that is or could be are beneath the rulership and dominion of Christ. Every universe, seen and unseen, known and unknown, are within Christ's dominion.
I want you to especially note the terms heaven and earth. Paul is speaking here to the incomprehensible scope of Jesus' reign. On the earth are those things that are seen and known by us. It contains things that are concrete to us, physical, easily touched. And, yet ever here, as limited as you are, you will only behold even the smallest fraction of what is to be known and seen. Think of flowers that are to be found on the outer band of the Andes mountains in Patagonia or the glacial water the contains the whales in the arctic. In the rain forests, we are still discovering frogs and insects that have never been labeled by science before. The heavens represents everything else. It represents the worlds that are invisible and abstract to us. It represents the myriads and myriads of creatures that John could hardly describe in human words that are surrounding the throne of God. It represents the powers of darkness and demonic influence with which we war in our flesh. And yet, every single atom, every single idea, every single thing that is or could be are beneath the rulership and dominion of Christ. Every universe, seen and unseen, known and unknown, are within Christ's dominion.
“and in him all things hold together” And, Paul says that He holds it all together! He is not only the Source of All or the King of All, but He is the Sustainer of All. Without a drip of sweat on his brow, without even standing from his throne, our solar system, along billions of others just like it, are held perfectly in orbit. He is the glue that holds together every atom that makes up every material thing in the universe. In perfect control and without a shred of chaos, nothing is overlooked, nothing loses its place, nothing falls through the cracks.
APPLICATION: Brothers and sisters, you can rest in the supremacy of Christ. I don’t know what you’re anxious about this morning and what’s keeping you up at night, but this I know: You can rest in the supremacy of Christ. You can lay your head down at night knowing that Jesus isn’t pacing the golden streets of heaven. As much as your heart may race, Jesus isn’t frantic. Come to Jesus and rest this morning. Come to the One whose yoke is easy and whose burden is light.
TRANSITION: But praise be to God, that as glorious as everyone of these thoughts are, the Gospel declares them incomplete! Jesus is not only the Supreme Creator; He is the Supreme Redeemer. Jesus is not only Lord over the creation, but He is Lord over the New Creation.
“And he is the head of the body, the church” Jesus is not only the the eternal source; Jesus is the founder of an everlasting Church! Remember what Jesus did when humbled himself and became a man. He made the invisible God visible. He, as the exact imprint of God, enabled man to be able behold God in a way that they could survive. And, why did Jesus establish the Church? The Church exists to make the resurrected Christ visible to world. Jesus lives out the essence of God's character and nature, and the Church lives out the essence of Jesus' Gospel and mission. When we look to Christ, we are to see God. When the world looks at us, they are to see Christ.
APPLICATION: Just as Jesus arranges the universe perfectly, so He has arranged his church. Just as Jesus reigns over the universe with sovereign power and wisdom so He rules his church. Just as Jesus holds together the molecules of water and the nucleus of every atom, so He holds the Church together with the unbreakable bond of His adopting, sanctifying love. Brothers and sisters, we are the body of Christ. We are his everlasting church. It is against us that the gates of hell will not prevail! Do we look like it? Do we make Christ visible?
“He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent.” Brothers and sisters, Jesus is not only the ruling King; He is the risen King! You’’ll notice that in our second stanza that the word ‘firstborn’ pops up again. Paul isn’t finished singing yet about the Kingship of Christ. This time, he brings our eyes not to his rule over the creation, but to Jesus’ rule over death. He says that He is the ‘firstborn from the dead!’ In other words, his resurrection assures our redemption. In fact, it assures the truth of the New Covenant and the recreation of the world. The resurrection proves Jesus as Creator and exalts Jesus as King. The resurrection proves Christ’s preeminence. It holds up his supremacy.
The resurrection proves Jesus as creator and exalts Jesus as King.
You’’ll notice that in our second stanza that the word ‘firstborn’ pops up again. Paul isn’t finished singing yet about the Kingship of Christ. This time, he brings our eyes not to his rule over the creation, but to Jesus’ rule over death. He says that He is the ‘firstborn from the dead!’ In other words, his resurrection assures our redemption. In fact, it assures the truth of the New Covenant and the recreation of the world. The resurrection proves Jesus as Creator and exalts Jesus as King.
APPLICATION: Jesus' resurrection is the firstfruits of our own. It is Christ's resurrection that assures us final victory. This morning, there may be someone here who is skeptical about Jesus. You’re unsure what to make of all of these things that we’re talking about, and you’re wondering, “How can they be so sure? How can they be so sure that Jesus is all of these things?” Our confidence is found in the resurrection. We are confident that Jesus is the ruling King because He is the Risen King. This morning, if you find yourself doubting the truth about Jesus, then I’d ask you, where did everything come from? What is the source of all? Do you have a better answer than the one to whom history testifies that He was raised from the dead?
The resurrection proves Jesus as Creator and exalts Jesus as King.
For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of the his cross." Jesus is not only the sovereign Sustainer, but He is the Sovereign Peacemaker! Verses 19 and 20 are together in a way that is supposed to jar your mind. It's supposed to rock your soul. It shouldn't make sense. It shouldn't be as it is. These two verses, these two phrases should never compliment one another. How can it be that the One in whom the fullness of God was pleased to dwell would actually pour out his blood on the cross? O how this Hymn of the Ages sings of Christ mercy and grace! The eternal Source, the ruling King, the Sovereign Sustainer is gracious, merciful, and longsuffering. In his deity, He forfeited his dignity that we might be made righteous. You'll notice that Paul calls it 'his' cross. Think of it. The owner of universe, the creator of all things is the bearer of a cross. Not only does He own the Milky Way, but He owns a cross upon which He shed blood. And the scandal of the gospel is that his cross should have been your cross.
“to reconcile to himself all things” Jesus is reconciling everything to himself. All that was created and broken, will be recreated and made new. By Jesus and through Jesus and for Jesus everything was made, and by Jesus and through Jesus and for Jesus everything will be made new! Jesus has come to put things back in order again. He will wipe away our tears, and He will bring us home at last. says that the wolf will dwell with the lamb and the leopard will lie down with goat. Lions will be led by children, and babies will play with cobras. Jesus is reconciling it all, and sorrow and pain, sadness and dread will ultimately and finally evaporate.
Won’t you look to the supremacy of Christ this morning and worship? Won’t you look to the preeminence of Christ and make sure that He is the greatest part of your life? Won’t you look to the supremacy of Christ and rearrange your families and your marriages and your jobs and your hobbies and your children so that they all have Him as their supreme, preeminent center?
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