Grace For The Journey
Ever had baklava? If you have you know that baklava is a Greek pastry divinely rich and sweet in flavor. And one of the reasons it is so good is that it is made of numerous layers of Filo dough. It is layer after layer of almost paper-thin Filo, separated with melted butter and finely chopped nuts. It is baked and then a syrup with includes honey and other spices is poured over the baklava and allowed to soak in. It is finally garnished with cloves. Sounds good, right?!
I thought of Baklava as I read this section in Colossians 1, because again, this passage – which really goes from verse 15 through verse 23 – is arguably the most concise and tightly compacted teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ – layer after layer of rich teaching of Christ’s glories; highly concentrated teachings, about the deity of Christ. His Person and His work, who He is and what He has done.
Today we will study it together in Colossians 1:15-18 and learn about the Bible truth about the preeminence of Jesus Christ, His superiority over all things.
Jesus Is Lord Of Creation.
This is an unmistakable primary teaching of Paul’s here in the opening verses. Verse 15 says, “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.” The word “image” there is the Greek word “eikon” from which we get our computer term, “icon.” It means “copy” or “likeness.” You click on a computer icon and it takes you to the file you want to see. The icon is a representation of the fulness of the file you desire to see. And in a way, Jesus is like that computer icon. To “click on” Jesus is to “click on” God Himself. He is the One who makes God visible.
The Bible says in John 1:18, “No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him (or made Him known).” Jesus says that to look on Him is to see God Himself. As He said in John14:9, “He who has seen me has seen the Father.”
As someone said . . .
“Jesus is the human face of God.”
The term “firstborn” in this context does not refer to physical birth, while the term can take that meaning it other contexts. But that meaning here is an impossibility given what Paul goes on to say about Jesus’ being the very One through whom all things were created. If you are the one creating all things, then you yourself are not among the “all things” created!
This is the error of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. They believe wrongly that Jesus was created by God. But again, if you are the one creating all things, you yourself cannot be among the all things created.
No, the term “firstborn” here takes on a different meaning. “Firstborn” in this context refers . . .
To rank – The highest rank
– Or preeminence,
The preeminence of one’s position;
The rights and privileges
That belong to a person,
Like the son of a king for example.
The king’s son who will succeed the king may well be the firstborn son, first born chronologically – or he may not. A ruling monarch passes on certain rights and privileges to whichever son he chooses.
And note again in verse 15 the tiny word, “over.” Jesus is the firstborn not “of” all creation, but “over” all creation. He is Lord over all creation.
Verse 16 declares, “For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him.” Many people don’t realize that everything was created through the eternal Son of God. John opens his gospel this way: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.” (John 1:1-3)
Recall the eternal nature of the Son of God:
There never was a time
That the Son was not.
He has always been.
Now there was a time when Jesus was not, but there has never been a time the Son of God was not. He has always existed. What happened 2,000 years ago was that the eternal Son of God took on humanity, took on flesh in Jesus Christ. God “incarnated” Himself.
That’s what we sing at Christmastime:
Clothed in flesh the Godhead see
Hail the incarnate Deity!
God the Son has always existed. He is the second Person of the Holy Trinity.
God is One in three Persons.
One in essence, three in personhood –
Each person different in role or function,
Yet with no separation of essence.
“Essence” describes “what” someone is, while “person” describes “who” someone is. When it comes to God there is one “what” and three “whos.”
Jesus IS God. Don’t believe for a moment secular university or liberal professors who tell you that the deity of Christ is something the early church really didn’t believe and that it came about much later. Colossians was written in AD 60-62, just 30 years after Christ rose from the dead. How can we be so sure? Remember our introductory post about the earthquake that destroyed Colossae? That earthquake occurred around AD 60-62 and destroyed everything.
Think this through: Paul is not writing a letter to a church that isn’t there. It stands to reason that he is writing this letter sometime before the earthquake, which means he is writing just 30 years after Christ rose from the dead. Many people who witnessed the resurrection were still living as he wrote these words just 30 years after the resurrection: “He is the image of the invisible God…and by Him all things were created.” Jesus is the agent of creation. He created all things including all the various categories of angels. That’s the meaning of the phrase in verse 16, “thrones or dominions or principalities or powers.” Jesus created everything in heaven, including the heavenly angels.
The false teachers in Colossae were teaching the worship of angels. You will note that heresy is mentioned specifically by Paul in the next chapter, Chapter 2, verse 18, “Let no one cheat you of your reward, taking delight in false humility and worship of angels,” and so on.
Some teachers apparently even suggested that Jesus was among the angels. So Paul is like, “Look, Jesus is not on equal footing with the heavenly angels, He CREATED the heavenly angels! He is preeminent, first & foremost in everything; vastly superior OVER His creation, including the angels!”
Jesus is both the agent of all creation
And the goal of all creation.
Paul says at the end of verse 16, “All things were created through Him and for Him.”
When it comes to creation,
Jesus Christ is the primary cause
(He planned it),
The instrumental cause
(He produced it),
And the final cause
(He did it for His own pleasure).
Verse 17 states, “And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist.” He is “before” all things, again a reminder to us of the eternal nature of the Son of God. He has always been. There never was a time when the Son of God was not. He is before all things and “in Him all things consist.” That word “consist” literally means “to hold together.” Jesus holds all things together. We sing that truth when we sing “He’s got the whole world in His hands.”
Despite the fear of many political ideologues, you can’t destroy the planet! He’s got it. In Him all things consist. He keeps everything going; He holds everything together; maintains the order of all things. In the words of one scholar: “He keeps the COSMOS from becoming a CHAOS.”
Jesus Is Lord Of The Church.
Verse 18 says, “And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence.” Jesus is “the head of the body, the church.” He is the leader of the church. Not the pastor. Not the deacons. Not this committee or that committee. He is the head of the body.
Every local church is HIS church. He is the leader. A pastor is not even shepherd of the flock as much as he is the under-shepherd. He is under the shepherding and direction of the Chief Shepherd, the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Bible also says that Jesus is, “The firstborn from the dead.” Firstborn here indicates chronology. Jesus is the first chronologically – first in time – first of many more to come. The point? Simply this:
Jesus was raised from the dead.
And those who believe in Him
Will also rise from the dead.
Paul is here writing primarily about spiritual resurrection. If you turn from your sin and turn to Christ, you will rise from the dead. This truth is guaranteed by Christ’s resurrection. Apart from Christ we are dead in trespasses and sin (Ephesians 2:1). The Holy Spirit works upon us through the power of the Gospel and we are granted the ability to say, “Yes” to Jesus, and when we say, “Yes” to Jesus we rise from the dead.
Like Jesus who was raised from the grave never to die again, so by faith we rise never to die again. Christ’s physical resurrection is the source of our spiritual resurrection, and one day He will be the source of our physical resurrection too!
So What Does It All Mean?
Since this is true: “in all things He may have the preeminence,” we need to ask the question: Is Jesus Christ first and foremost in the “all things” of my life?
1) First in my Marriage or Singleness.
Do you love Him more than even your spouse – or your desire for a spouse? If you love Christ more than anyone or anything, He will give you a greater love for those closest to you. The closer a husband and wife get to Jesus, the closer they get to each other.
2) First in my Job.
Paul will go on to say in Colossians 3:23-24 says, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for mere human men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” He is first in your job – Work for Him and watch the way it changes your job.
3) First in my Possessions.
Do your purchases go through Christ first? Do you “run it by” Him? Do you hold on to your possessions lightly, willing to let them go if He directs you?
4) First in my Decisions.
who you are hanging with; what you are putting in your mind; what you are watching; what you are listening to; what you are doing with your body.
Why is this so important? Because Colossians 3:4 tells us that it is “Christ Who Is Our Life.”
This is God’s Word …
This is Grace for your Journey …
Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!
Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”
Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”