The Preeminence of Christ
Text: Colossians 1:13-23
Christ’s Relationship to Christians - Colossians 1:13-14
Paul explains how the Father made us suitable to share in the inheritance with other Christians. The Father has rescued us from the domain of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of His Son. Jesus made a similar statement in Acts 26:18 where he stated the domain of darkness is the realm controlled by Satan. It is by faith in Jesus that the transfer takes place. But it must be noted that we can’t be conveyed to something that doesn’t exist. Christ’s kingdom existed at the time Paul was writing Colossians.
It is in Jesus that we have been redeemed (bought back) and being redeemed means we have been forgiven of our sins. Many translations leave out “through his blood” because many older manuscripts and translations don’t have the phrase. The assumption was that it was a harmonization between this verse and Ephesians 1:7. If the phrase was added, it doesn’t change anything since it appears in Ephesians 1:7 and it is mentioned later in Colossians 1:20. A lack of the phrase only means that price paid for the redemption wasn’t mentioned in this particular verse. Some object that the lack of the phrase makes redemption and the forgiveness of sin equivalent. It is a weak argument since whether the qualifying phrase was there or not, it would not alter the connection between redemption and forgiveness. The shedding of blood is connected to forgiveness (Matthew 26:28; Hebrews 9:22). The shedding of blood is also the price paid for redemption (Ephesians 1:7; Hebrews 9:12). In Christ, we have redemption (Romans 3:24; I Corinthians 1:30). In Christ, we also have forgiveness (Ephesians 4:32).
Christ’s Relationship to the Creation - Colossians 1:15-17
The Image of God
Jesus is the exact representation of the invisible God in visible form. Jesus declared God to the world (John 1:18; Matthew 11:27). He is the only one capable of doing so since of all those born into this world only Jesus has seen God. Jesus represented who God is (John 14:9; Hebrews 1:3 II Corinthians 4:4).
The Firstborn of All Creation
The phrase “firstborn of all creation” has caused many to declare that Jesus was created. To understand what this phrase means, we need to back up and examine what is meant when a person is called "firstborn." In the Old Testament, the right to be head of an extended family was passed down from one generation to the next. It was sometimes called "the blessing." You can see this in the blessing that Jacob received from Isaac. "Let peoples serve you, and nations bow down to you. Be master over your brethren, and let your mother's sons bow down to you. Cursed be everyone who curses you, and blessed be those who bless you!" (Genesis 27:29). Generally, it flowed from the father to the eldest son in the family, but there were many exceptions to that rule.
Abraham had a son named Ishmael who was fourteen years older than his son Isaac. But since it was through Isaac that God's promises were to come, Abraham sent Ishmael out of his home, and Isaac was considered to be Abraham's only son (Genesis 22:16).
Isaac had twin boys, but even before they were born, God stated that the older would serve the younger, thus indicating that the second-born son would be given the blessing and hold the position of "firstborn" in Isaac's household (Genesis 25:23).
Jacob, Isaac's second-born son who became the firstborn, also did not pass the blessing on to his eldest son because he committed incest. Nor were his second or third sons considered because they were violent men. The right of the firstborn (the rulership) was given to his fourth son, Judah (Genesis 49:1-12).
Though Jesus did not experience a physical birth until thousands of years after the world was created, he is called God's firstborn (Psalms 89:27). The phrase "firstborn" is just one of several emphasizing Jesus' position. He is above everything and in all things he has preeminence. The emphasis is on his position and not the order of his birth or the fact that he was born into this physical world.
By Him, All Things Were Created
Everything created, whether in this physical realm or in the spiritual realm, was created by Jesus (John 1:1-3). The implication is that Jesus could not have been created or made, or else that statement would be false. Since Jesus created all things, Jesus is above all things, which includes governments, leaders, and the spiritual powers behind them.
- Why do you suppose Paul expands on what he meant by “all things”?
All Things Were Created for Him
The universe was not only created by Jesus, it was created for Jesus. In other words, the world has a purpose and that purpose revolves around the Son of God.
He Is Before All Things
Jesus himself stated that he was eternal (no beginning and no end) when he stated, "Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM" (John 8:58). In Revelation Jesus states, "’I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End,’ says the Lord, ‘who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty’" (Revelation 1:8). It is the same phrase attributed to God, the Father, in Revelation 4:8 and 21:6.
In Him, All Things Hold Together
In other words, reality is sustained by Jesus (Hebrews 1:3). The universe continues because Jesus, as God, is acting on it
Christ’s Relationship to the Church - Colossians 1:18
Jesus is the head of the church, which is likened to a body where Jesus is the head of that one body (Ephesians 1:22-23). All that a body does is under the direction of its head.
Jesus started the church (Matthew 16:18) and, thus, the origin of bringing life to men (John 14:6; Romans 6:4). He also holds the preeminence of those who are risen from the dead. In truth, Jesus is the first to rise to eternal life after being killed (I Corinthians 15:22-23).
In every way, Jesus has preeminence (Philippians 2:8-11).
Christ Reconciling All Things to Himself - Colossians 1:19-23
From this position of preeminence, Jesus then is able to fully represent God to mankind with the Father’s blessing.
Through Jesus’s work, He was able to restore our relationship with God, particularly through his sacrifice. It is the sins of men that put a barrier up between men and God (Isaiah 59:1-2). Our desires for the world result in making us enemies of God (James 4:4). But through Jesus, we are reconciled to God (II Corinthians 5:18-21; Romans 5:10-11; Ephesians 2:16). This reconciliation is universally offered, but not universally accepted.
It is Christ’s desire that we should live before him as people who are
- holy - set apart for a special purpose
- blameless - without blemish or spot (Ephesians 5:27)
- without reproach - having no one to accuse them (Revelation 12:10-11).
Thus, while Christ did the difficult work to offer us reconciliation, we must submit to Christ to benefit from his effort. Reconciliation between two disagreeing parties can only take place when both sides come together. Reconciliation is only available to us if we continue in the faith, remain steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel (Ephesians 1:18; Hebrews 3:6,14;6:11;10:23). Reconciliation is not for temporary believers. However, being steadfast and unmoveable does not mean we are not changing. As a matter of fact, we cannot be steadfast and unmoveable unless we change from our worldly ways.
Roughly a year after Paul wrote to the Colossians an earthquake destroyed Colossae along with Laodicea and Hierapolis. Unlike the region they occupied, their lives had to show stability. Paul was concerned about the Colossians remaining faithful. They came out of the world, but their salvation depended on "if indeed you continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel that you have heard" (Colossians 1:23).
The gospel message by the time Paul had written had reached the entire “known” world (Matthew 24:14; Mark 16:15,20; Colossians 1:4-6; Romans 10:18). People tend to forget about the power of geometric progressions. It wasn't just twelve men preaching the gospel. These twelve on the day of Pentecost taught a large crowd, of whom 3,000 responded (Acts 2:41). More were soon added (Acts 4:4). And when persecution hit the church, "Therefore those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the word" (Acts 8:4). Those they taught would also take up the task. There would have been hundreds of thousands of people who seriously took it as their duty to teach others the gospel. No wonder the world heard the gospel in such short order. And Paul was made a servant of that gospel.