- Context: How the growth of the gospel motivated Paul’s thanksgiving and prayer. Cycles back to “giving thanks” (v.12).
- This morning’s passage is a continuation of Paul’s explanation for why the Colossians should give thanks to God. The answer is because Christ is supreme over everything.
- Why did they need to hear of Christ’s supremacy? False teachers challenged the “fullness” and sufficiency of the gospel. Jesus was one among many steps toward fellowship with God.
- They called into question the legitimacy of their redemption.
- Paul annihilates that concept in the form of poetic praise.
Pray & Read Col. 1:15–20
- There are numerous parallels we can appreciate in the way this passage is structured. The precision and care with which Paul wrote the passage demands precise and careful interpretation.
- The overall theme is the supremacy of Christ (transcendence), but pay close attention for the immanence of Christ.
- Some appreciate the greatness of God. You find comfort when you reflect upon a sovereign God in an uncertain world.
- Others appreciate the nearness of God. You need to hear the powerful truth that God will never leave you nor forsake you.
- Christ is both preeminent as well as immanent. He is above all things, but he is also near all things. Both truths are on powerful display in this passage. And when you combine them, you have an unshakeable faith.
Paul teaches two primary aspects of Christ’s supremacy: 1. Christ is Supreme in Creation (vv.15–17), and 2. Christ is Supreme in Redemption (vv.18–20)
I. Christ is Supreme in Creation (15–17)
- v.15a Christ’s relationship to God: In Christ the very nature and character of God are perfectly revealed. Man was made in the image of God (Gen.1). So the idea of “image” connotes reflection/revelation.
- v.15b Christ’s relationship to creation: Firstborn in priority. This does not mean he is the first of all created beings (contra Arius & Jehovah’s Witnesses), for the very next phrase halts that train of thought. Firstborn is used in the sense of priority in rank (i.e., Israel & David Ps.89:27). In other words, Christ is uniquely“firstborn” in that he is above all creation.
- v.16 All things were created by, through, and for him.
- “All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made” (John 1:2).
- Jesus Christ is the agent, ruler and goal of creation.
- v.16b “whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities”
- Possibly hinting at the doctrine of the false teachers who promoted an idolatrous notion of angels and spiritual powers.
- Paul clarifies that Christ is supreme over all spiritual powers. From the greatest to the least, all owe their existence and allegiance to Christ.
- Notice the past tense “were created” occurs twice.
- Our English translations miss the subtle nuance of the Greek where the first use is in the aorist tense (pointing to the historical act of creation), but the second use is in the perfect tense (pointing to Christ’s ongoing influence in creation).
- Christ was, is, and will continue to be supreme in creation. His primacy has never been in jeopardy, and it never will be!
- v.17a He existed before all things.
- Christ is temporally before all things. He existed before anything was created.
- Arius was wrong to teach “There was once when he was not”. That contradicts Paul in this verse. Jesus has always been.
- This fact also contributes to his supremacy. No one can claim even a temporal priority over Christ. Therefore, He is equal to God in every way.
- v.17b “He holds all things together” (Heb.1:3 “he upholds the universe by the word of his power”).
- Peter O’Brien, “Apart from his continuous sustaining activity all would disintegrate.” H.C.G. Moule, “He keeps the cosmos from becoming chaos.”
- While Christ is supreme over creation He is also its Sustainer.
- While He preserves the solar system, He also preserves you.
- A bruised reed he will not break and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out. [While Christ is keeping the planets aligned, He can come alongside you at your weakest moment and shield you from the storm.]
- Yes, He is your Creator, but He is also your Caregiver. He made you and he sustains you.
At this point Paul transitions from a cosmological perspective to an even greater perspective, a soteriological one. We move from thinking about creation to new creation.
II. Christ is Supreme in Redemption (18–20)
- v.18a Christ controls, directs, and strengthens the body. The body remains living and active because of its connection to Christ.
- v.18b He is the beginning of the resurrection.
- Peter O’Brien, “he is the founder of a new humanity.”
- v.18c He is preeminent in everything. Just in case you haven’t been getting it, Paul states it explicitly.
- v.19 He embodies the fullness of God (2:9).
- Throughout the OT you have this idea of God choosing a place for his name to dwell. Jesus Christ is the ultimate fulfillment.
- False teachers emphasized a “fullness” or a comprehensive Christianity that went beyond the gospel. They found a “fullness” in spiritual powers or additional mediators.
- Paul makes it plain that the “fullness” is found in Christ alone. You do not need something in addition to Christ, Christ alone is complete and inexhaustible.
- v.20 Implication is that a separation from him occurred.
- The reconciliation of all things includes the idea of pacification. The peace Christ brings is either freely received or achieved through compulsion. In that sense, Christ brought peace by conquering all who stood opposed to him.
- All Christ’s enemies have been pacified. Though they are not yet ultimately destroyed, their fate is inevitable and their power is limited. [God has Satan is on a leash.] Against their wills, Christ’s enemies are brought into submission to him – the name at which “every knee will bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord” (Phil.2:10,11).
- The reconciliation is just as holistic as his supremacy. There is some truth in all humanity and nature that can be redeemed to bring glory once again to its Creator and LORD.
- Evangelism, therefore, is showing that Christ is supreme over everything. Our task as believers is to bring Christ’s Lordship to bear in every area of life.
- Christ’s supremacy in redemption does not nullify his supremacy over creation, rather it informs it. The churches impact should be Global, Cultural, Social, Scientific, Political, etc. Nothing in all of creation (visible and invisible) is exempt from Christ’s lordship.
- However, just as the creation of Adam and Eve was the climax of the creation account, the climax of reconciliation is between God and humans (see vv.21–23).
- For those who are in Christ, this reconciliation brought eternal peace between sinners and the Savior who rescued them from destruction.
- Isn’t it wonderful that a passage which promotes the preeminence of Christ over all things concludes with a reference to his immanence? He is over all, yet He is near to all.
- He is above all things, and yet He is a near and present help.
- He is supremely glorious, and yet He draws near to the downcast and miserable.
- In His holiness he represents the complete opposite of sin, and yet He is capable of sympathizing with us in our weakness because He has been tempted in every way we are.
- The fact that Jesus Christ has reconciled all things to himself means that His supremacy doesn’t mean separation.
- Reconciliation obliterates the separation of a sinful being and a Supreme Savior!How should we respond?
- Because Christ is supreme over everything we can trust in His power to accomplish reconciliation.
- Those who reject Christ and remain blind to his supremacy will not escape his judgment. For them, Christ’s supremacy means sure and eternal damnation.
- The warning of Hell is clear throughout the NT. And we must not equivocate on that.
But there is an alternative!
- Those who recognize Christ’s supremacy can rest in His security.
- For those of you who place your faith in Him, Jesus Christ obliterates the separation your sin created and says, “You are worthy to receive God’s love.”
- This is critical to understand because you will be ashamed of yourself for choosing to sin, time and again.
- If you don’t recognize that Christ has made you worthy in the eyes of God, your shame will quickly become condemnation.
- Jesus is the only One who came down from heaven, saw your weakness and instead of taking advantage of you, he sympathized with you. And in His weakness He went to the cross where He poured out His blood as a sacrificial offering that brought us peace.
- For believers, Christ’s supremacy represents everlasting peace!
- The greatness of Christ’s supremacy secures the comfort of his immanence for those who believe in Him.
Benediction: May He Who is your light, your strength, your song and cornerstone, prepare you for the fiercest drought and storm; Quiet your fears and cease your strivings; that you may know the heights of his love and the depths of his peace.