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That He Might Be Preeminent

Colossians  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  34:27
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My wife and I took our honeymoon out in Yellowstone National Park. One of the sights that we experienced was the Grand Tetons, a majestic and beautiful mountain range. Standing there viewing this literally breath-taking scene was amazing! It is literally impossible for me to adequately describe it to you using such mundane things as words.
This morning I approach our text with great humility and an awareness of my own shortcomings.
I feel a little like the apostle John as He was given a vision in the book of Revelation of the Glorious Son of God.
Revelation 1:12–16 KJV 1900
12 And I turned to see the voice that spake with me. And being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks; 13 And in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle. 14 His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire; 15 And his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and his voice as the sound of many waters. 16 And he had in his right hand seven stars: and out of his mouth went a sharp twoedged sword: and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength.
How do you put into words and adequately describe something like that? How do you do justice to the majesty of Christ. It is impossible. Mere human words cannot express the such divine wonder.
This is how I feel as I approach Col 1:15-23. Here Paul paints for us a picture over the exalted, supreme, preeminent Son of God. And I will admit to you now that I will not do it justice. The greatest theologian, the greatest preacher, the greatest scholar could not do justice to this kind of text, because mere human language ultimately falls short of describing the grandeur, the high and loftiness, the supremacy that belongs to Jesus.
There was a heresy threatening the Colossian church. There was an idea that you needed something else besides Christ to grow in spiritual maturity. Rather than viewing Christ as exalted, as supreme there was a temptation to seek after something other than Christ. So...
Paul wanted these Colossian believers to understand that Christ is supreme, that He is exalted above everything else.
Christian, you must come to a point in your walk of faith where you sincerely view Christ as supreme over and exalted above everything else.
Why should you make Jesus your life? Why spend your whole life for Christ? Why center your relationship with God on Christ alone? Why seek to grow spiritually in Christ alone? Why should everything about you be all about the Lord Jesus Christ?
Two reasons why everything in your life should be centered on Christ.

I. Christ is supreme over all creation

A. His Position

Colossians 1:13–15 KJV 1900
13 Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: 14 In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins: 15 Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature:
Image of the Invisible God- that which has the same form as something else, living image of God.
2 Corinthians 4:4 KJV 1900
4 In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.
Hebrews 1:3 KJV 1900
3 Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high;
Hebrews 1:3 ESV
3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,
So Jesus is the living image of God, He is the exact imprint of His nature- the very radiance of the glory of God.
He is also the living image of the INVISIBLE God.
Exodus 33:20 KJV 1900
20 And he said, Thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see me, and live.
John 1:18 KJV 1900
18 No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.
And so Jesus is the perfect manifestation of the invisible God!
Firstborn- sense: Christ is supreme over ALL creation. He is elevated above ALL, He is superior to ALL, He is exalted far above ALL
Psalm 89:20–27 KJV 1900
20 I have found David my servant; With my holy oil have I anointed him: 21 With whom my hand shall be established: Mine arm also shall strengthen him. 22 The enemy shall not exact upon him; Nor the son of wickedness afflict him. 23 And I will beat down his foes before his face, And plague them that hate him. 24 But my faithfulness and my mercy shall be with him: And in my name shall his horn be exalted. 25 I will set his hand also in the sea, And his right hand in the rivers. 26 He shall cry unto me, Thou art my father, My God, and the rock of my salvation. 27 Also I will make him my firstborn, Higher than the kings of the earth.
What does God mean that David is His firstborn?
The parallel phrase makes it clear- Firstborn means higher than the kings of the earth.
And this is the sense in which Christ is firstborn. It is not that he is first-created. Firstborn does not mean created, it means exalted. Christ is higher than ALL. And while God made David higher than any other king on the earth. Christ is higher, He is supreme over ALL CREATION.

B. His Prestige

Christ is firstborn, He is supreme over all creation! Why is this so? Why is Christ supreme?
Colossians 1:16 KJV 1900
16 For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him:
Paul uses three prepositional phrases to prove that Christ is supreme over all creation.
16 ὅτι ἐν αὐτῷ ἐκτίσθη τὰ πάντα*
For (because) by (in, ev) Him all things were created
⸀τὰ πάντα διʼ αὐτοῦ καὶ εἰς αὐτὸν ἔκτισται·
All things were created (perfect, pass, ind, created and continue to consist?) through Him and for Him;
So all things were created in Christ, through Christ, and for Christ.
ev- by vs in translation. Is Christ the instrument of creation? All things created by Him? This is true, if you understand ev as “by” then Paul would be repeating himself later in the verse when he states that all things were created “through” Him. That is the same idea. And so some have argued that Paul uses ev to mean “in” Christ. This would carry the idea that Christ is the sphere of creation. God’s creative work took place “in terms of” or “in reference to” Christ.
“They were created in Him, because all the Father’s counsels and activities (including those of creation) are centered in the Son; they were created through Him, because He is the divine agent in creation; they were created for Him, because He is the goal to which they all tend.” F. F. Bruce
Thus Paul argues that Christ is superior over all creation.
In case you have any doubt, Paul elaborates for us.
He is superior over all, and everything is subject to Him in terms of:
Things in heaven were created by Him. Earthly things were created by Him. Visible things and Invisible things they too were created by Christ. Even the most powerful and supreme things within these spheres- they were still created by the firstborn, the living image of God.
Thrones, dominions, principalities (rulers), powers (authorities). These words are most likely modifying the word invisible. And are a reference to invisible or spiritual beings that exist in creation- both good and bad. Chris is supreme over all spiritual powers and beings. There seems to be a hierarchy and ruling structure to the spiritual world.
Revelation 4:4–6 KJV 1900
4 And round about the throne were four and twenty seats: and upon the seats I saw four and twenty elders sitting, clothed in white raiment; and they had on their heads crowns of gold. 5 And out of the throne proceeded lightnings and thunderings and voices: and there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God. 6 And before the throne there was a sea of glass like unto crystal: and in the midst of the throne, and round about the throne, were four beasts full of eyes before and behind.
Christ is superior over even the highest kind of spiritual being.
Colossians 2:15 KJV 1900
15 And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it.
Part of the false teaching in Colossae was that Christ wasn’t sufficient for spiritual growth- for sanctification. There was this idea that you had to turn elsewhere to find the strength necessary to being spiritual mature. And some even turned to worshiping angels to accomplish spiritual growth.
Colossians 2:18 KJV 1900
18 Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels, intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind,
Here Paul turns that idea, overwhelmingly, to dust. You don’t need to turn to spiritual beings to aid you in your sanctification. Why? Because Christ, the living image of God, the firstborn, He is supreme over creation. How do you know that? Because ALL CREATION was created in Christ, and through Christ, and for Christ. Even the most powerful element of creation- the invisible thrones and dominions and rulers and authorities, are all subject to Christ. Why would you center your life on anything other than Christ? He is supreme over all creation.
Paul goes on in v.17 to heighten this idea of Christ’s supremacy:
Colossians 1:17 KJV 1900
17 And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.
17 καὶ αὐτός ἐστιν πρὸ πάντων*
And He is before all (things)
καὶ τὰ πάντα ἐν αὐτῷ συνέστηκεν,*
and all (things) in Him hold together (perfect, act, ind)
V.17 literally says- And HE (emphatic) is before ALL. And ALL in Him hold together.
Christ is before all- this speaks to His eternality.
John 1:1 KJV 1900
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
Revelation 22:13 KJV 1900
13 I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last.
Christ is the pre-existent One, the eternal God, the first and the last. Our Lord also has a present ongoing role in creation.
By Him, or In Him all things consist or hold together / they cohere. This is a perfect tense verb meaning that all of creation from the moment it was spoken into existence until now and for as long as it continues to be, owes its continuing coherence to Christ.
So in summary, Christ is the living image of God, the firstborn over all creation, and all things were created in Christ and through Christ and for Christ and He is before all things, and all things owe their continuing coherence to Christ. In short the Lord Jesus is supreme over all creation! And thus your life should be centered on Christ alone.
Illustration: Foreign exchange student- wanted to go to church across the street from my parents house because it was a beautiful structure. Since the building was superior, it must be a superior church. If we follow that logic perhaps we could determine the greatest church. Maybe the Notre-Dame Cathedral could be argued, using this criteria, to be the greatest church, or the most supreme church. The church the is far above all other churches. (Thankfully God does not measure the greatness of a church simply by how beautiful the structure is. We know that the church is not the building, but the people). Yet one could say that Notre-Dame, at least its building, is superior to all other churches. Christ is actually, in every way possible, supreme over all other creation.
Why should you make Jesus your life? Why spend your whole life for Christ? Why center your relationship with God on Christ alone? Why seek to grow spiritually in Christ alone? Why should everything about you be all about the Lord Jesus Christ?
If Christ is greater than all other things, why would you? Why, believer, would you replace Christ with anything else as the center of your life? Why would you love anything else more than Christ? Why would you spend your life on anything in a greater way than you would for Christ?
When you think about it, it really is ridiculous that we would elevate anything else in our lives above Christ. Yet we do it all the time. I mean if we are really honest with ourselves we will see other things in our life that have become more important to us than Christ. Example: Focused Fellowship- maybe we don’t mean to do it, but we / I am guilty sometimes of elevating a video game to a place of greater importance in my life than Christ. Jobs / Sports, our kids sports / etc.
This ought not to be! All creation was made in Christ and through Christ and FOR Christ and He is before ALL and ALL things consist because of Christ. He is supreme over them all. And believer, He ought to be supreme in your life as well.
Why everything in your life should be centered on Christ.

II. Christ is supreme over all the church

A. His Role

Colossians 1:18 KJV 1900
18 And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence.
18 καὶ αὐτός ἐστιν ἡ κεφαλὴ τοῦ σώματος τῆς ἐκκλησίας·*
And He is the Head of the body the church;
The Pillar New Testament Commentary: Colossians and Philemon 2. The Heart of the Gospel: The Supremacy of Christ in Creation and Redemption (1:15–20)

In the ancient world, the head was conceived to be the governing member of the body, that which both controlled it and provided for its life and sustenance.

The Pillar New Testament Commentary: Colossians and Philemon 2. The Heart of the Gospel: The Supremacy of Christ in Creation and Redemption (1:15–20)

Against people who were arguing that ultimate spiritual experience had to be found in places in addition to Christ, Paul holds up Christ as the one who is the true and only source of life for the body.

ὅς ἐστιν ⸆ ἀρχή,*
He is the beginning,
πρωτότοκος °ἐκ τῶν νεκρῶν,*
the firstborn from the dead,
Paul does not simply mean here that Christ is the beginning in terms of time (although this is true). The idea that He is the beginning is set in apposition to the idea that He is the firstborn from the dead- they are equal ideas. So Paul here is implying the positional status of Christ to the church. He is in His position the beginning or the firstborn from the dead. That is Christ stands in the position of primacy or authority or supremacy over the church. Christ is the founder of the church and He stands supreme. This is tied into Christ’s resurrection. He is supreme over the church in terms of His resurrection because in Christ the redeemed saints throughout history also have a hope of life after death. We have in Christ the promised hope of being resurrected from the dead, as Christ was resurrected from the dead. Our hope our life is only made possible because of Christ and Him alone, therefore He stands supreme over the church.
Why did Christ do this? Why did he take on human flesh, die on a cross, and then rise again from the dead- why did He become the firstborn from the dead in other words?
that in all things he might have the preeminence.
ἵνα γένηται ἐν πᾶσιν αὐτὸς πρωτεύων,
that in all things he might be preeminent
Preeminence- to hold the highest rank in a group, be first, have first place...
that he might come to have first place in everything
It is significant that Christ’s preeminence is tied to his death, burial, and resurrection. Yes everything was created in Christ and through Christ and for Christ, but it is his work on the cross, to you believer that causes Him to be become preeminent in our lives.

B. His Reconciliation

Colossians 1:19 KJV 1900
19 For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell;
19 ὅτι ἐν αὐτῷ εὐδόκησεν πᾶν τὸ πλήρωμα κατοικῆσαι*
Because it pleased the Father that IN HIM should dwell all the fullness (fullness of God / full measure of deity) (cf. Col 2.9)
The goal: that Christ might come to have first place in everything
The cause: FOR/ BECAUSE (For this cause) it was pleasing to the Father that in Christ the full measure of deity should dwell.
What an incredible statement about the full deity of Christ. If there was ever any doubt about the deity of Christ, what more could you ask for than Colossians 1?
The living image of the invisible God
ALL things created in, through, and for Him
Before all things
In Him all things hold together
In Him the full measure of the deity of God was pleased to dwell
I once had a Jehovah’s witness tell me that Christ was not equal with God because Christ is only called mighty God not Almighty God. If Colossians 1 is not a description of Jesus as Almighty God / the Supreme one over all creation, then what is it?
V. 20 is tied to the causal statement of v. 19.
The goal: that Christ might come to have first place in everything
The cause: For this cause- the full measure of deity dwelt in Christ
AND,
Colossians 1:20 KJV 1900
20 And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven.
So Christ’s preeminence in our lives is not only caused by His full measure of deity, but it is also caused by His reconciling work on the cross.
20 καὶ διʼ αὐτοῦ ἀποκαταλλάξαι τὰ πάντα εἰς αὐτόν,*
And through Him to reconcile all things unto Himself,
εἰρηνοποιήσας διὰ τοῦ αἵματος τοῦ σταυροῦ αὐτοῦ,*
making peace through the blood of His cross,
⸋[διʼ αὐτοῦ]⸌ εἴτε τὰ ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς
(through him) whether the things upon the earth
εἴτε τὰ ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς.*
or the things in the heavens.
Through Christ, He has reconciled all things unto/for Himself. Here we have a marvelous parallel in pronouns with v. 16
All things were created in Christ, through Christ, and for Christ.
Here in v. 19:
The full measure of deity was please to dwell IN CHRIST
We are reconciled THROUGH CHRIST
We are reconciled UNTO/FOR CHRIST
How did Christ accomplish this reconciliation? He accomplished by making peace (peace between a wretched sinner and a holy God, how?) THROUGH/BY MEANS OF the blood of His cross. The extent of this reconciliation extends to all things, whether in heaven or in earth. For this cause, believer, Christ should come to have first place in your life! Why? because He shed His blood on the cross for you and He reconciled you, He made peace for you with a holy God. He did this by taking all of the wrath of God that you rightfully deserved, and paying for that wrath by shedding His blood on the cross. What better reason could there be for Christ to have first place in your life? Believer, Christ should be preeminent not simply because He is supreme over all creation, that He is the very God of heaven who stands in such a high degree over the rest of us- although He does. Added to that, Christ should have first place in your life because He shed His blood for you- and because of this we LOVE HIM! His supremacy in our lives is no forced mandate, rather we should gladly make Christ first in our lives because our overwhelming love for Him will allow nothing less!
Paul elaborates on this in vv. 21-22
Colossians 1:21–22 KJV 1900
21 And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled 22 In the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight:
*21 Καὶ ὑμᾶς ποτε ὄντας
And you were once
ἀπηλλοτριωμένους
alienated
καὶ ἐχθροὺς
and hostile
τῇ διανοίᾳ
in mind
ἐν τοῖς ἔργοις τοῖς πονηροῖς,*
in the works of evil
22 νυνὶ δὲ ⸀ἀποκατήλλαξεν
But now you have been reconciled
ἐν τῷ σώματι τῆς σαρκὸς αὐτοῦ
in the body of His flesh
διὰ τοῦ θανάτου ⸆
by means of His death
παραστῆσαι ὑμᾶς ἁγίους καὶ ἀμώμους καὶ ἀνεγκλήτους
to present you holy and blameless and above reproach
κατενώπιον αὐτοῦ,*
before Him,
We were once alienated from God, completely set apart from God, strangers, and not just strangers but enemies. We were hostile towards God in our minds, in wicked works.
But now we have been reconciled, we have been brought near unto God, instead of hostility we have peace with God! How is this even possible?
We have been reconciled
in the body of His flesh
through / by means of His death
What was the purpose of His death?
To present you holy and unblameable (blameless) and unreproveable (above any reproach)
Shockingly the text says, IN HIS SIGHT.
This is the power of the blood of Christ, this is what His death accomplishes. It takes a wretched sinner like me, hostile in my mind doing wicked works, it takes my vileness and causes me to stand in the sight of a holy God, holy, blameless, and above any reproach! Only the blood of Christ can do this!
And this is why, believer, Christ deserves to have first place in everything. When I consider all that Christ has done in me, and through me, and for me- I love Him with all of my heart and all of my soul and all of my might- and I make Him to have first place in everything!
Paul finishes this thought in v. 23
Colossians 1:23 KJV 1900
23 If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister;
Again, we have the biblical concept of persevering in the faith. It is not that your perseverance in the faith saves you, or keeps you saved, or that anyone can loose their salvation. Rather, biblical perseverance is an evidence of genuine faith. One who is genuinely saved will continue in the faith, grounded and settled, they will not move away from the hope of the gospel. This is exactly what some of the people in Colossae were doing. Some were arguing that you needed more than Christ for sanctification.
Colossians 2:8 KJV 1900
8 Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.
Colossians 2:18 KJV 1900
18 Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels, intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind,
I think Paul would make the argument that those who believed they needed to add to their salvation philosophy and the tradition of men and the worshiping of angles had moved away from the hope of the gospel, they did not remain rooted and grounded in the faith- and that was an evidence that there was never any saving faith to begin with.
Remember what the blood of Christ accomplishes- it and it alone causes us to stand before God holy, and blameless, and above reproach. Why would anyone who has genuinely participated in the blood of Christ through faith seek anything else to add to their salvation? Is there anything else that is greater than the blood of Christ? His love for us is astounding, therefore we love Him, therefore we put Him first place in our lives.
Illustration:
Almost 14 years ago, I promised one woman in the entire world that I would love her in a unique way. My love for her would be supreme above my love for any other woman in the world. Not that I don’t have love for others. I love my family, and my church family. But my love for my wife stands supreme. Other than my love for God, my love for her is supreme above all others. She is preeminent in my life.
Our love for Christ must be unique, it must be greater than any other love. He must be superior to anything else in our lives. He is supreme over all the church, because being fully God He shed His blood for us on the cross and reconciled us to God, and therefore we love Him with a love that is greater than all other loves, and we elevated Christ to a position in our life that is greater than all others.
Folks what do you love? What loves have you elevated higher than your love for Christ?
Why should you make Jesus your life? Why spend your whole life for Christ? Why center your relationship with God on Christ alone? Why seek to grow spiritually in Christ alone? Why should everything about you be all about the Lord Jesus Christ?
Because Christ is supreme over all creation
He deserves to be first because He is exalted over all, and so I must put Christ first as I recognize and submit to exalted position as LORD.
2. Because Christ is supreme over all the church
He shed His blood to reconcile me to God. And so in a unique and personal relationship with Christ, I elevate Him to first place because I love Him and I am bound by that love to do nothing less.
Is Christ your life? Is He exalted, supreme, preeminent in all that you do? Is there anything more important to you than Christ? Do you love anything more than you love Christ?
May we humble submit to Christ as we EXALT Him as LORD over ALL. May we show willing love for Christ as we ELEVATE Him as the chief love of our life. That Christ might come to have first place in everything!
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