4. The Preeminence Of Christ (Colossians 1:15-19)Related Media
“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 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. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 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” (Col. 1:15–19).
Why should Christ be first place in our lives? Why should he be first in our churches, our communities, and our nations?
I think we can learn a great deal from this story about Leonardo da Vinci:
Leonardo da Vinci took a friend to criticize his masterpiece of the ‘Last Supper,’ and the remark of the friend was, ‘The most striking thing in the picture is the cup!’ The artist took his brush and wiped out the cup as he said, ‘Nothing in my painting shall attract more attention than the face of my Master!’1
Because Christ is supreme, nothing else should distract us from him. We must get rid of anything that keeps us from glorifying Christ.
Often in our lives, Christ is marginalized. He often isn’t first: schoolwork, hobbies, or family commonly take first place. In these verses, Paul gives us reasons why Christ should be first in our lives and in the entire world. He talks about how special Christ is and why he must be preeminent—first.
In the church of Colosse, a heresy called Gnosticism had crept into the church and was trying to marginalize Christ. It was a combination of mysticism, Jewish legalism, and Greek philosophy. The heresy taught that Christ could not be God. This belief was based on Greek philosophy which taught the spirit was good and the body was evil, and therefore God could not have become a human because God cannot mix with evil.
It also taught Jesus was an angel and that receiving him was not enough for salvation. One needed new revelation to be saved. That is where the name “Gnostic” comes from. The Greek word gnosko means “to know.” In order to be saved, one needed secret knowledge that only the Gnostics had experienced.
The heresy attacked the very foundation of the gospel because it attacked Jesus. Though Gnosticism is not attacking the church today, the remnants of it are. Jehovah’s Witnesses also do not believe Jesus is God; he is an angel, a created being. There are similar sentiments in Mormonism. Much of liberal Christianity attacks the deity of Christ as well, making him just a religious teacher and declaring he is not the only way to heaven.
We see these same attacks on Christ happening today in the church, only in different coverings. But before we look at the cults and the false teachers, we should also realize there are remnants of this in our hearts. See, if Jesus is God, if he is the only way to salvation, and if we declare his Lordship over our lives, then this is not just a matter of belief; it must be a matter of our daily practice.
If Christ is all these things, then he must be first in our life. He must be our daily meditation, and it should be our daily goal to please him and honor him. In the same way, Paul wrote to declare the preeminence of Christ to those in Colosse being tempted to withhold honor from him. We also must put Christ first, and we must remove anything that draws us away from him or takes his place. Like Leonardo da Vinci, we must take our brush and wipe away anything that detracts from his preeminence in our lives.
In this text, Paul makes the argument that Christ is the preeminent one. He is the supreme one, not only over our lives, but also over the entire world. We will see four reasons why Christ should be exalted in our lives, the church, and the world.
Much of the doctrines presented in this lesson are not new, and they were not new to many in Colosse. However, Paul’s hope was to challenge them to put Christ first by reminder of these truths, and also to correct any wrong doctrine they may have accepted. This is the hope for us as well. Let Christ be exalted in our lives, in the church, and throughout all creation.
Big Question: According to Colossians 1:15–19, what are some reasons why Christ should have first place in our lives, church, society, and in all of creation?
We Should Exalt Christ Because He Is The Revelation Of God
“He is the image of the invisible God” (Col. 1:15).
Why should Christ be exalted in our lives and throughout all creation? He must be exalted because he is the revelation of God. He reveals God to us. Paul says he is the “image” of the invisible God. The word “image” is eikon in the Greek, which means “an exact representation and revelation,”2 and was used of an idol, picture, or statue. It is the word from which we derive our English word “icon,”3 which are religious relics or pictures used in orthodox churches. “It is used in Matthew 22:20 of Caesar’s portrait on a coin, and in Revelation 13:14 of the statue of Antichrist.”4
Interpretation Question: What does Paul mean to infer about Christ by saying he is the “image” of God?
He seems to mean at least two things:
1. It Is Through Christ That We See And Learn About The Characteristics Of God.
Scripture teaches God is spirit, and therefore, he does not have flesh and blood and cannot be seen. There are times where he has revealed himself in the Bible through theophanies. This means that God took the form of something such as a fiery bush, a cloud, or even a man, to reveal himself to people in tangible, temporary ways. But theophanies did not fully depict God’s person or character.
It has always been the desire of mankind to see God. Moses cried out to God, “Show me your glory.” But because no one could look at the full display of the glory of God and live, God showed Moses only a portion of his glory (Ex. 33).
Therefore, how can man see God?
We can see God through Christ, and we can know him more as we study Christ. Look at what John said: “No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known” (John 1:18). Christ made God known.
Jesus said this to his disciples, “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?” (John 14:9). In Christ, God manifested himself in ways never clearly seen in the Old Testament.
Interpretation Question: In what ways did Christ uniquely demonstrate God the Father when he came to the earth?
- Christ revealed God through his teachings.
Listen to what he said to Philip: “Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work” (John 14:10).
When Jesus said God was “doing his work,” he referred to God’s “words” coming through him. Jesus claimed to say only what God said. Listen again to what he said: “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am the one I claim to be and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me” (John 8:28).
In fact, this is best illustrated by the name John gives Christ. John 1:1 says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
When John calls Jesus the “Word,” the name expresses one of the functions or purposes of Jesus. By using the name “Word,” it was meant to convey that Christ is the “expression of God.” He is the communication of God. One of the reasons Christ came was to give the words of God to mankind through his teaching.
When we look at the teachings of Jesus, we see the very words of God. When Jesus taught to love our enemy and pray for them, when he taught hatred as equivalent to murder, and lust as equivalent to adultery, we hear the very words of God. In these words, we find a standard much higher than our own because they come from the Father in heaven.
If we want to know how to live, how to be a good parent, how to be a good spouse, how to be saved, how to make decisions in life, etc., it all comes through God’s Word, and Christ came to reveal these words in a greater way. His teachings are not just seen in the gospels, but in the writings of his apostles in the epistles. These words reveal God.
- Christ revealed God through his person.
Jesus revealed many character traits not fully known about God through his person, and one of them is that God is a servant. Look at what Paul said about Christ: “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness” (Phil. 2:6–7).
The word “nature” used in verses 6 and 7 means “the outward expression of the inward nature.”5 Christ did not become God; he always was God. Jesus, the man, was an outward expression of who he always was as God, and it’s the same with his servanthood. God has always been a servant, but in Christ’s incarnation he demonstrated that outwardly. Jesus was the prototype of a servant; not only did he serve God, but he served us. Mark 10:45 says, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
In the incarnation, Jesus revealed God as a servant. It’s a phenomenal concept we could never understand without Jesus. He bent down and washed the feet of his disciples, something only the slaves did (John 13:1–17). Peter was so shocked he said, “You will never wash my feet.” He found this hard to understand about God.
In fact, Christ taught that he would serve us in the future kingdom. Look at the parable about a master and his servants that he taught his disciples,
Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning, like men waiting for their master to return from a wedding banquet, so that when he comes and knocks they can immediately open the door for him. It will be good for those servants whose master finds them watching when he comes. I tell you the truth, he will dress himself to serve, will have them recline at the table and will come and wait on them (Luke 12:35–37).
Here Christ gave a paradoxical story. He shared the scenario of servants faithfully serving their master while he was gone. When the master returned, you might expect a thank you, or simply for the master to go about his business. But not this master. The master dressed himself to serve; the servants sat at the table and the master came and waited on them.
This refers specifically to Christ’s second return when he will reward his faithful servants with crowns, authority, and property on the earth. As a master, he will refresh and serve his servants. We serve a “Servant–God.” This is a phenomenal concept not fully revealed until Christ displayed the “exact representation of God.”
What else does the word “image” say about Christ?
2. Image Also Conveys The Idea Of Representative.
The word “image” was used of Adam in the Garden of Eden since he was made in the “image of God.” God made Adam to represent him to all of creation. He was called to demonstrate this image by ruling over the earth as God ruled over the heavens (cf. Gen 1:26–28). Adam was to represent God by ruling with character and holiness. In a similar way, Scripture calls Christ the “last Adam” (1 Cor. 15:45). Where Adam failed to represent God as he fell into sin, Christ has not and will not fail God. He is the perfect representative of everything that God is because he is God.
We see Christ represent God specifically in having his authority.
Interpretation Question: How does Christ represent God’s authority?
- Jesus represents God’s authority by granting eternal life to those who come to him.
John 17:2 says, “For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him.”
God chose Christ to be the channel through whom salvation comes. He has authority to grant salvation.
- Jesus represents God’s authority by being the judge over all the earth.
John 5:22 says, “Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son.” In fact, Scripture teaches that because we are “in Christ,” we will judge the world with him. Paul declared in 1 Corinthians 6:3 that believers will even judge angels with Christ. Christ as the image of God is his representative to all the earth. Where Adam failed, Christ came as the perfect representative.
Application Question: What applications can we take from Christ being the “image” of God?
- Christ is worthy of our worship because he is the “exact representation of God.”
- Christ is worthy of our imitation because he is the “exact representation of God.”
- Christ is worthy of our meditation, which is why we study Scripture to better know and experience God. Christ has made the Father known. If we have seen Christ, we have seen the Father.
We Should Exalt Christ Because He Is Supreme Over All Of Creation
“The firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together” (Col. 1:15–17).
Paul then makes the argument that not only should Christ be exalted because he is the “image of God,” but Christ should be exalted because he is the “firstborn” or supreme over all creation.
This text has been misused by cults and false teachers throughout the history of the church. The Jehovah’s Witnesses interpret the term “firstborn” to teach that Christ was created and therefore is not God. However, not only is this a misunderstanding of the phrase “firstborn,” but it also neglects the context and the rest of Scripture’s teachings on Christ being God and not part of creation.
Interpretation Question: What does the term “firstborn” mean in Scripture and therefore in this context?
The term firstborn can mean one of two things in the Scripture.
1. Firstborn can mean first in birth or first created.
We see it used this way in talking about Jesus’s birth to Mary. Look at what it says: “And she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn” (Luke 2:7).
Jesus was the “firstborn” of Mary. He was the first chronologically. Certainly, this term can be used to mean this, but it doesn’t mean first chronologically in the context of Colossians.
What else can it mean?
2. Firstborn can mean first in position, rank, or to be supreme.
The way Paul uses the term “firstborn” means first in rank, the priority, or the supreme one. In Greek and Hebrew culture, the firstborn received the inheritance of the father. The firstborn was the special one in the family. However, just because one was born first chronologically didn’t necessarily mean he was the firstborn. Again, the firstborn meant the one who received the inheritance and who was the highest rank in the family under the father. For instance, we saw this with Jacob and Esau. Esau was the firstborn chronologically, but he lost the right of the firstborn, which went to Jacob.
We see the term “firstborn” used throughout Scripture to demonstrate priority or favor. Look at how God talked about Israel. He said, “Then say to Pharaoh, ‘This is what the LORD says: Israel is my firstborn son’” (Ex. 4:22).
Israel was not the first nation created, but they were God’s special nation. They were called to be a nation of priests to win the world to God. They were the firstborn.
We also see that Christ was predicted to be God’s firstborn among the kings of the earth. Psalm 89:27 says, “I will also appoint him my firstborn, the most exalted of the kings of the earth.”
Was Christ the first king on the earth? Absolutely not. He was, is, and will be the most exalted king on the earth. Right now he sits at the right hand of the Father and one day he will rule on the earth and all nations will submit to him (Ps. 2).
When Paul says “firstborn over all creation,” he is referring to Christ’s supremacy. He is over all creation. In fact, verse 16 says that he was the Creator of creation. “For by him all things were created” (Col. 1:16).
Christ cannot be the first created and the Creator of “all things.” “All things” has to include him if this were true. The context itself contradicts the teaching of the Jehovah’s Witnesses and other cults, and so does the rest of Scripture. Scripture clearly teaches Christ’s eternality. John 1:1–3 says,
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.
Christ was there in the beginning and he was God. It was through him that everything was created. Jesus also used language that declared both his divinity and eternality in his teachings. John 8:58 says, “‘I tell you the truth,’ Jesus answered, ‘before Abraham was born, I am!’”
By calling himself “I am,” Christ declared to the Jews he was God. This was the same name that God used when introducing himself to the Hebrew people who were in bondage in Egypt (cf. Ex. 3:14). This name (Yahweh in the Old Testament) expressed God’s eternality and independence. Christ cannot be created and still be the Creator. He has always existed and therefore is deserving of honor.
Next, Paul gives reasons why Christ is over creation and why he should be exalted.
Interpretation Question: Why does Paul say that Christ should be exalted over all creation as the firstborn according to Colossians 1:16–17?
For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together (Col. 1:16–17).
The word “for” at the beginning of verse 16 connects Paul’s next teachings with the reason Christ is the firstborn—the supreme over creation. Paul gives four reasons why Christ is the firstborn.
1. Christ Is Exalted Over Creation Because He Is The Creator.
We already briefly covered this one. Colossians 1:16 says, “For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him.” Paul says that “all things were created” by him.
It should be noted that another part of the heresy propagated by the Gnostics was that Christ was an angel and that angels were to be worshiped. We see something of this in Paul’s rebuke in Chapter 2. Look at what he says:
Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you for the prize. Such a person goes into great detail about what he has seen, and his unspiritual mind puffs him up with idle notions (Col. 2:18).
Some in this community worshipped angels. There was worship of angels going on in this community. They boasted about their experiences with angels in order to draw people into this cult, as well as declaring that Christ was an angel—an emanation from God. But Paul rebuked this. He said Christ is the Creator of angels. “For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him.”
Jesus created not only the visible world, but also the invisible world, which includes angels. In fact, when he talks about thrones, powers, rulers, and authorities, he seems to be referring to a ranking of angelic and demonic beings. We see these referred to several times in Ephesians (cf. Eph. 1:21, 3:10, 6:12). Christ created angels and therefore is over them.
In fact, the writer of Hebrews makes this same argument in teaching the Hebrew Christians, who were being tempted to fall back into Judaism. Angels had an exalted position in Judaism, and therefore the author seeks to demonstrate how much better Christ is over them. Look at what he says:
So he became as much superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is superior to theirs. For to which of the angels did God ever say, ‘You are my Son; today I have become your Father’? Or again, ‘I will be his Father, and he will be my Son’? And again, when God brings his firstborn into the world, he says, ‘Let all God’s angels worship him’ (Heb. 1:4–6).
Christ is superior to angels. God declared that all the angels must worship him and called the messiah his “Son,” which was never said about an angel. Paul, similarly, is making Christ’s standing over angels clear lest these believers be tempted to exalt angels or any other supernatural experience over Christ. Christ is to be exalted over creation.
Application Question: What are some applications we can take from Christ being the Creator of all things?
- Because Christ is the Creator, we should always give him thanks and honor.
Certainly, there is a sense in which all children should honor their fathers and mothers because they gave them birth. We owe our existence to them. How much more should we always give thanks to Christ, the Creator of all things? He did not need to create us, and he certainly did not need to save us after the fall of man. God uses this argument in Malachi 1:6. “‘A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If I am a father, where is the honor due me? If I am a master, where is the respect due me?’ says the LORD Almighty.”
Because he is our Father—our Creator—we should give him honor and glory.
- Because Christ is the Creator, we should seek to fulfill his purposes for our lives.
Every creator creates something for a purpose, and therefore our purpose is found and fulfilled in Christ. Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”
It would be foolish for man to live his life without knowing and submitting to the will of his Creator. The Creator ultimately knows what’s best. He knows what will fulfill us and in what ways we will be most useful in his service. He created each one of us for specific good works.
Even though this is true, many Christians still hold back the best of their lives. They still cry to God, “I want my will for my life; I want this path,” instead of submitting to God as Christ did. He said, “Thy will be done.” Most prayers seek to get God to change his will rather than to help us know and submit to his will.
Because Christ is the Creator of all things, we must seek to fulfill his will for our lives.
- Because Christ is the Creator, we should seek him for wisdom about everything.
We should seek his help and wisdom in everything including freedom from sin, righteousness, salvation, future plans, education, missions, government, etc. When you want help with something, wouldn’t it always be best to ask the Creator? Listen to what Paul said:
My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Col. 2:2–3).
In Christ is hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. This was especially important for the Colossians to hear as they were tempted to seek this special wisdom from the Gnostic cult. No, in Christ is all the wisdom we need for every situation in life. Listen to this story that one commentator shared:
Some years ago a South American company purchased a fine printing press from a firm in the United States. After it had been shipped and completely assembled, the workmen could not get it to operate properly. The most knowledgeable personnel tried to remedy the difficulty and bring it into proper adjustment, but to no avail. Finally the company wired a message to the manufacturer, asking that the company send a representative immediately to fix it. Sensing the urgency of the request, the U.S. firm chose the person who had designed the press. When he arrived on the scene, the South American officials were skeptical—the young man was obviously wet behind the ears. After some discussion, they sent this cable to the manufacturer: ‘Your man is too young; send a more experienced person.’ The reply came back: ‘He made the machine. He can fix it!’6
Because Christ is the Creator, we can go to him for everything. In him is hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
What other reasons does Paul give for Christ being the firstborn, the exalted one over us and all of creation?
2. Christ Is Exalted Over Creation Because He Is The Goal Of Creation.
Paul says, “all things were created by him and for him” (Col. 1:16). “For him” can actually be translated “to him.” Everything was created to give glory to Jesus. This is typical even of things we create. If a person makes a piece of art, not only is it made for others, it is meant to give glory to the creator. It shows the creator’s skill, wisdom, and creativity. In a similar way, everything Jesus created was made to bring glory to him.
Listen to what David said about creation: “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge” (Ps. 19:1–2).
David said the heavens are preachers. Every day they speak of God and bring glory to him. In the same way, because Christ is God, everything in creation was made for him and to speak of him. It was made to bring him glory. Romans 11:36 says, “For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen.”
All things were made to give pleasure to God and to bring glory to him. Christ is over creation because he made it and it was made to honor and glorify him. Listen to what Paul says about Christ in Philippians 2:9–11:
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Christ has been exalted to the highest place and given a name above all names so that everyone in heaven and on earth and under the earth will one day bow to him and exalt him. Man may not submit to Christ now. When the rest of creation obeys and brings glory to God, man turns and points his finger at God and says, “No.” Not only does man say “No,” but sometimes man will go a step further and declare that God doesn’t even exist (cf. Ps. 14:1). However, Paul declares that one day at Christ’s coming “every knee” will bow and call him Lord. Scripture declares Christ is preeminent and that he must be exalted because he is the purpose of all things. All things were created for him and to him.
Why else does Paul say Christ is the firstborn over all creation?
3. Christ Is Exalted Over All Creation Because He Is Eternal.
Paul said one of the reasons Christ is over all creation is because he was “before all things” (v. 17).
Interpretation Question: What does Paul mean by Christ being “before all things” (v. 17)?
- “Before all things” speaks of Christ’s eternality.
Again, Christ is not a created being. He existed before anything was created. He has eternally existed as part of the God–head. John 1:1 says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
The prophet Micah predicted that the coming messiah would be eternal. Micah 5:2 (KJV) says,
But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.
Micah predicted that the one to come would be from everlasting. Christ is before all things and therefore is worthy of being exalted. This is what makes Christ transcendent, meaning there is nothing like him. The heavens had a beginning, earth had a beginning, and humanity had a beginning, but not Christ.
He is over creation because he is before creation. He is God and therefore everlasting.
4. Christ Is Exalted Over All Of Creation Because He Is The Sustainer Of Creation.
When Paul says, “in him all things hold together” (v. 17), it is in the perfect tense, which tells us he continues to hold all things together.7 If he ceased to hold all things together, everything would fall apart. The writer of Hebrews says something similar: “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word” (Heb. 1:3).
Christ holds all things together by the power of his word. In the same way that the world was created through the spoken word (Gen. 1), it is now being sustained by the spoken word. It is Christ’s word that keeps the earth spinning on its axis. It is Christ’s word that keeps it revolving around the sun. It is Christ’s word that keeps the nations of the earth from destroying one another.
Christ is still speaking and working in the earth. Christ is not a clockmaker that makes the clock and allows it to run on its own. Though Christ is the one that has implemented scientific laws like gravity, he is the one who keeps those things running.
He is the battery, the power, and at the same time the power switch. While Israel was in the wilderness and God fed them manna, he said,
He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD (Deut. 8:3).
God allowed them to hunger in the wilderness and provided them manna every day from heaven so they would know it was not their strength providing for them, not the sun and the rain, and not the Egyptians. It was always God. It was the words of his mouth. He was their sustainer.
This is something important for us to understand as well. It is not our parents who provide for us; it is not our job that provides; it is not our scholarship, and it is not our relationship with a special someone. Scripture says, “Every good and perfect gift comes from above” (James 1:17). God is the one who sustains and provides us with every good thing. This is why we exalt him. Look at what else Paul says: “And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else” (Acts 17:25).
Christ is still sustaining every man, even those who hate him. He gives them breath by the power of his word. He gives them bread, job, and family. He gives them life. This is the continual work of Jesus—sustaining the creation by his mighty word. And it is for this reason that we must give him preeminence. He must be exalted in our lives.
- The fact that Christ is our sustainer means we should not worry.
Scripture compares us to sheep and God as our shepherd. The Psalmist said, “The Lord is my shepherd I shall not want” (Ps. 23:1). We shouldn’t worry because Christ has always provided for us, and he will continue to do so in the future. He may not always provide in the way we want him to, but he will provide. He is our sustainer.
- The fact that Christ is our sustainer means we should pray to him for our daily bread.
Christ taught in the Lord’s Prayer that we should pray for our “daily bread” (Matt. 6:11). Even though God is the Creator–God and he is above all things, he still cares about our daily needs. He cares for the lilies of the field and the birds of the air. How much more will he care for us?
The fact that he is our sustainer should remind us to pray.
- The fact that Christ is our sustainer means we should always give him thanks.
Christ protects us; he feeds us; he opens doors for jobs; he opens doors for us to serve him with our gifts and talents. He gives us family and friends, life and breath. Even trials come from his gracious hand in order to strengthen us and help us know him more (cf. Rom. 8:28; 5:3–4; James 1:2–4; Eph. 1:11). We should always give him thanks for his sustainment (cf. 1 Thess. 5:18). Thank you, Lord.
We Should Exalt Christ Because He Is The Head Of The Church
“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. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him” (Col. 1:18–19).
Another reason Paul calls for Christ to be exalted is because he is the head of the church. The metaphor of the church as the body and Christ as the head is rich. As we look at this metaphor it should cause us as Christians to honor and revere Christ even more.
Interpretation Question: What does Paul mean by the metaphor of Christ being the head of the church?
1. The Metaphor Of Christ As The Head Of The Church Represents Leadership.
It is the brain, which is part of the head, that directs every part of the body. It is the control center of the body. Similarly, the church must stay dynamically connected to Christ in order to discern his will. A body that no longer listens to the head is a body that has become very sick. When the body is not listening to the head, there is a disease in the body affecting its parts. This is why the church must live in the Word of God; it must live in worship because without this dynamic connection, sickness can enter the body and destroy its functionality or even bring death.
This also is a solemn reminder that the pastor is not the head of the church; the denomination is not the head of the church; the state is not the head of the church. We must always honor Christ before anything else, lest we lose connection with the head.
I think this is why much of the church isn’t really growing, serving God, or reaching the world. They have lost connection to the head. It is from the head that all good things flow.
2. The Metaphor Of Christ As The Head Of The Church Represents Life.
A body without a head is a dead body. There can be no life without the head. In continuing with the metaphor, without being connected to the head there can be no fruit of the Spirit: no joy, peace, self–control, longsuffering, or even salvation. Christ said, “I came that they may have life and life more abundantly” (John 10:10).
We often miss this abundant life from a lack of being attached to the head.
3. The Metaphor Of Christ As The Head Of The Church Represents Mutual Dependence.
This may sound a little heretical because Scripture teaches God’s independence (Acts 17:25), that he needs nothing. However, God chose to partner with mankind to build his kingdom. In the same way that a body can’t function without the head, the head can’t function properly without the body.
In every nation or country where the church is not present, the presence of Christ is not manifest because his body is not there. Christ chose for the church to be the physical manifestation of his presence to a dying world.
Christ chose to eternally knit himself to the church. One of the wonderful truths of the Scripture is that we are now “in Christ.” When a person gets saved, they are baptized by the Spirit into the body of Christ. First Corinthians 12:13 says, “For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.”
This is not a second work after salvation. This happens at salvation when we are put into the body of Christ and given spiritual gifts to serve her and the world. The metaphor of the body and head represent mutual dependence.
This reminds us of our need to pray, to preach the gospel, and to serve so that Christ may receive glory and honor. Without the church doing its part in the nations of the earth, Christ is not exalted. Also, when the body is disobedient, it brings dishonor to Christ. Therefore as the body, we must be faithful so we may bring honor to the head and not dishonor.
Application Question: In what ways are you seeking to stay dynamically connected to the head? How can you tell when you are not as connected as you should be?
We Should Exalt Christ Because He Is The Firstborn From Among The Dead
“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. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him” (Col. 1:18–19).
Another reason that Christ is supreme is because he is the firstborn among the dead. What does that mean?
Interpretation Question: What does the phrase “firstborn of the dead” mean when referring to Christ, and why should this cause man to exalt Christ and give him preeminence?
We saw the phrase “firstborn” before. In this context, it does not mean Christ was the first raised from the dead because he was not. There were many people raised from the dead before Christ, starting with Elijah raising the widow’s child in 1 Kings 17. It seems firstborn from the dead could mean two things here.
1. Firstborn From The Dead Could Mean Christ Is The First Part Of The New Creation.
This is supported by the fact Paul calls him the “beginning” and firstborn among the dead (v. 18). This in one sense could mean the first in time. Yes, the widow’s son was raised from the dead before Christ in 1 Kings, and Lazarus was raised from the dead before Christ in the gospels, but both of these people died again. Christ is the first resurrection of the new creation; he will never die again.
One day each person will have a resurrection, even the ungodly (Rev 20:12–13). But, Christ is the first to be resurrected from the dead and to never die again. One day all believers will have new bodies at the rapture (cf. 1 Thess. 4; 1 Cor. 15). And, figuratively, creation itself will have a resurrection. There will be a new heaven and a new earth (Rev. 21) and Christ is the beginning of this.
Paul talks about this in 1 Corinthians 15 when he calls Christ the “firstfruits.” Let’s look at the passage:
But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. But each in his own turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him (1 Cor. 15:20–23).
The title firstfruits is a farming metaphor. The firstfruits were the chronological first fruit of a harvest. It would help the farmer know what type of harvest to expect. There will one day be a great harvest in the resurrection of the saints and the new heaven and new earth, and Christ is the firstfruits of that.
However, firstborn does not just mean “first in time” in this context.
2. Firstborn From The Dead Also Means He Is The Supreme One Of All The Resurrected.
Paul said this in 1 Corinthians 15:14: “And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.”
If Christ had not been raised, then the Christian faith is a hoax and our faith is in vain. The resurrection of Christ is the crux of the Christian faith and therefore this resurrection makes Christ the priority—the supreme one of all those who will be raised.
Application Questions: What applications can we take from Christ as the “firstborn from among the dead” or the firstfruits of the dead (cf. Col. 1:18; 1 Cor. 15:20)?
Since the firstfruits would tell the farmer how great the future harvest would be, we can be sure that the future resurrection shall be glorious because Christ’s resurrection was glorious. Paul compares our future resurrected bodies to a planted seed that brings forth wheat (1 Cor. 15:35). The seed has no glory in comparison to the wheat. In the same way, our bodies are like a seed in comparison to our future bodies.
Christ’s resurrected body could be touched (cf. John 20:27), and he could eat (cf. Lk 24:42-43). It also seems as though he could walk through doors, as he suddenly appeared to his disciples in a closed space after his resurrection (cf. John 20:26). He ascended to heaven in his new body (cf. Acts 1:9). But one of the greatest glories of our new bodies is that they will be without sin and therefore able to inhabit heaven and be with God. This is something to be excited about and look forward to. Christ was the firstfruits—the firstborn—of this great harvest that we await.
Application Question: Do you ever give thought to your resurrected body? Why or why not? What are you most looking forward to about having a resurrected body in the eternal state?
We Should Exalt Christ Because He Is Sufficient
“For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him” (Col. 1:19).
In this text, Paul says Christ is worthy of being exalted because he is sufficient. He said that the fullness of God dwells in him, and in verse 20 he adds “and through him to reconcile to himself all things.” Essentially, Paul is saying Christ is sufficient for salvation and we don’t need anything else. Christ is enough because he is fully God.
While pastoring my first church, I also worked at a facility that cared for people with developmental needs. While working there, I started sharing my faith with my boss, who I found out was part of the Baha’i faith. Eventually he asked me to visit a Baha’i meeting to hear about what they believed.
As you may know, the Baha’i faith accepts many of the founders of various religions as prophets of God: Abraham, Moses, Jesus, Muhammad, and Buddha, but the final prophet is the founder of their religion. So to them Jesus is not enough.
Similarly, the Colossian heresy accepted Jesus as one of many emanations from God, but he wasn’t enough for salvation. Paul confronted this heresy specifically when he said that in Christ the “fullness” of God dwells. Listen to Kent Hughes’s commentary on the use of the word “fullness” in Paul’s statement:
Paul’s use of the word “fullness” here was an intentional slap at the Gnostics, who used the same word, pleroma, to denote the totality of all the thousands of divine emanations or lesser gods. But Paul said, ‘No way! Jesus is not one of the lesser gods of the fullness. He is the Fullness!’ Colossians 2:9 says it even more explicitly: ‘For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form.’ ‘Fullness’ means that the totality of divine power and attributes is in Christ. ‘The whole fullness—the full fullness’—Jesus Christ is the ‘exhaustion of God.’ Moreover, the fullness is said to ‘live in him.’ It is not temporary. It was, and is, there to stay.8
The temptations that attacked the church back then are the same today. Christ is a good man, a prophet, an angel; he is anything and everything other than what he said he was. The world says Christ is good but he is not enough; he is not sufficient. Listen to what C.S. Lewis said about the incredulous responses of people to Christ:
I am trying here to prevent anyone from saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God. That is one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of thing Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic . . . or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was and is the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. . . . You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God.9
Christ being Lord God is the only option that is left and reasonable to accept. Nothing else makes any sense. In Christ the fullness of God dwells and he is the only way to the Father. Paul is saying that Christ is sufficient. He is all we need. There is no other revelation or emanation that we are waiting for. Jesus was God himself and he was enough to save us. Therefore, we should exalt him. He must be preeminent!
Application Question: What do you think about C.S. Lewis’s statement about Christ being God as he said, or either being a lunatic, liar, or the devil from hell? Do you think this is a fair assessment? How would you respond to somebody who claimed that Jesus was not God?
Why is Christ the preeminent one? Why should Christ be exalted in our lives and in the entire earth?
1. Christ should be exalted because he is the image of God. He is the revelation of God.
2. Christ should be exalted because he is the firstborn whom God has given all the rights and privileges.
- He is firstborn because he is the creator. He is the creator and therefore can fix creation and fix us.
- He is firstborn because he is the goal of all creation. Everything was meant to give him glory.
- He is firstborn because he is the sustainer of all creation.
- He is firstborn because he is eternal and therefore before creation.
3. Christ should be exalted because he is the head of the church.
4. Christ should be exalted because he is the firstborn from among the dead.
5. Christ should be exalted because he is sufficient for salvation; the fullness of God dwells in him.
Application Question: In what ways is God calling you to apply Christ’s preeminence? What must you do to make him first in your life and keep him first?
Copyright © 2015 Gregory Brown
1 Teacher’s Outline and Study Bible – Commentary – Teacher’s Outline and Study Bible – Colossians: The Teacher’s Outline and Study Bible.
2 W. W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary. (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1996), 2:116.
3 R. K. Hughes, Colossians and Philemon: The Supremacy of Christ. (Westchester, IL: Crossway Books, 1989), 30.
4 J. F. MacArthur Jr., MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Colossians. (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), 44.
5 W. W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary. (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1996), 2:75.
6 R. K. Hughes, Colossians and Philemon: The Supremacy of Christ. (Westchester, IL: Crossway Books, 1989), 33.
7 R. K. Hughes, Colossians and Philemon: The Supremacy of Christ. (Westchester, IL: Crossway Books, 1989), 32.
8 R. K. Hughes, Colossians and Philemon: The Supremacy of Christ. (Westchester, IL: Crossway Books, 1989), 36.
9 C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity. (London: Collins, 1952), 54-56.
Related Topics: Christian Life