The pre-eminence of Jesus

Readings: Colossians 1: 14-20; John 1: 1-14

Everyone worships someone or something. All people give someone or something first place in their life.  The apostle Paul was determined that the church at Colossae give Jesus Christ pre-eminence in everything.  Paul used what is most likely an early Christian hymn to explain how Jesus is pre-eminent in the entire universe and worthy of the church’s allegiance and affection.

The beginning of the hymn explains that when people see Jesus, they see God. Remarkably, even in His human form, Jesus is God.  Jesus Himself affirmed this when He said, “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30).  Jesus’ deity displays His pre-eminence.

Paul then used a phrase that has often been misunderstood.  He said Jesus is the “firstborn over all creation” (Col 1:15).  At times, people have mistakenly taken this to mean that God the Father created the Son.  The immediate context reveals otherwise, describing Jesus as the creator of all things, who existed “before all things” (v16-17).  Additionally, John as we heard in our Gospel reading, affirmed that Jesus was in existence with the Father at the very beginning: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning” (John 1:1-2).

So, from what I have just said, and proved with Scripture, God and Jesus have been around for as long as each other.  What then is the meaning of Paul’s use of this word “firstborn“?  Well, this is where it helps to have a little bit of understanding of the Jewish culture of Jesus’ day.  The “first born” was significant.   Remember last week we celebrated Candlemas; Jesus being presented to God in the Temple because the Law of the Lord said;  ‘Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord’. (Luke 2:23).

This points to the exalted position held by God, and so the family, of the firstborn son.  So in the Jewish context, “firstborn” implied the highest rank and value.  Therefore, as the firstborn Jesus has the highest ranking and value of all things, both visible (i.e. created) and invisible (i.e. what goes on spiritually and in the heavenly realms).

Paul then pointed to the fact that Jesus created the universe.  He hoped to stretch his readers’ minds by leading them to think about invisible things that Jesus created, including the unseen angelic realm.  When Christians ponder on all of creation, galaxies upon galaxies, unexplored oceans and the complexity of the human body, we can only just begin to understand a tiny fraction of the majesty and power of Jesus.  During His life on earth Jesus demonstrated the very same power that He used to create everything through the “signs” He performed, “signs” such as turning water into wine, feeding the five thousand, walking on water, calming the storm, casting out demons, etc. 

All of these show us His complete mastery over both the physical and spiritual worlds.  “Signs” brought glory to God, and therefore all of creation exists to bring glory to God.  As part of His creation, we too are to bring glory to God.  And we can do this because Jesus dwells in us!  Colossians 1:19 tells us that God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in Jesus.  So, if the fullness of God dwelt in Jesus and Jesus dwells in us, so the fullness of God dwells in us too!  Isn’t that awesome?  The same amount of God dwelling in Jesus (which is all of God) dwells in us too!

As the firstborn, Jesus is pre-eminent in His church.  Jesus creates, sustains, and leads His church as its Head.  Every church has its challenges and problems; but, because the church belongs to Jesus, Christians should have a heart to build up the church rather than tear it down. Such a heart has to be based on obeying the teachings and commands of Jesus.

Jesus’ pre-eminence shines brightly through His work of reconciling all things through His death on the cross: Jesus’ death and resurrection are among the ultimate displays of His pre-eminence.  Why?  Because of this Good News: Jesus is greater than humanity’s sin. Wow!  Now that should be worth shouting from the roof tops. 

Yet there is more to shout about…Jesus is greater than death! Jesus is greater than the devil, so much greater!  At the name of Jesus, the devil and his minions quiver and shake and look to make a very quick exit before they are destroyed.  Jesus’ name has that much power.  Indeed, in a world that often feels out of control, Christians can rejoice and take hope that Jesus Christ is in fact reconciling all things to the Father and will bring peace to the cosmos.

Last week I preached on a Hebrews passage which showed us just how broad and high Jesus affects the cosmos.  This has enormous implications for us, because Jesus shapes the way we live our lives, right down to the very smallest detail of our daily lives.  As Christ is supreme over all creation, including the spiritual world, we must believe in the deity of Jesus Christ, (that Jesus is God) or our Christian faith is hollow, misdirected, and meaningless, for this is a central truth of Christianity for Jesus is the Lord of all.

When we believe this, we are to share this awesome Good News with others.  There is nothing in the whole of this world, the whole of your life, that is better than Jesus.  Yes, my wife and daughters are amazing and I love them dearly.  Yes, I love cricket, I love riding my motorcycle, driving a classic Mini car.  All of these give me great joy and satisfaction, but all of these pale into insignificance with regards to what I get out of my personal relationship with Jesus.  Jesus is the ONE, He is the way, the truth and the life. 

That certainly has been my personal experience and God wants it to be everyone’s personal experience.  And it can, regardless of your age, circumstances and what you’ve done before with your life.  You see in our life God has given us a route to experience His reconciliation through His incarnate Son Jesus!

To know God, we have to go through Jesus.  He alone has cleared away our sin that stops us having a right relationship with God, so we can have direct access to the presence of the only holy supernatural divine God – Jesus’ Father.  Clearing away our sin doesn’t mean that everyone has been saved from eternal death.  Instead by clearing away our sin, Jesus has shown a path for anyone who trusts Him to be saved. 

All of our life is to openly proclaim the way of salvation to be through Christ alone.  Our life is to be a clear pointer to Christ.  Jesus has laid a clear path that leads to eternal life, a path that is counter-cultural, a path that will bring hostility to you, but a path that has closed the gap between us and our creator God.  Jesus’ way is what unites us to our Creator God.

I can preach for hours on these few verses.  They do have so much to say to us about faith, trust, who Jesus is, (God), who God is, (the sustainer of all things), but the crucial thing to me for us today is this question:

Does your life point people to Jesus?   

In other words, does Jesus have pre-eminence in your life 24/7?  If He does others will see it!

Time to think

Read Colossians 1:15-20 (and pray)

These verses are often referred to as one of the ‘purple’ passages in the Bible on the person and work of our Lord Jesus Christ. It speaks of His Supremacy over creation (old and new) and as a result His Sufficiency in Salvation. This all fits in with the main Idea of Colossians: Jesus Christ is all you need.

As you ponder the questions below why not write down your thoughts and share your reflections with others.

Digging into God’s word

  1. What does Paul mean when he says that Jesus is the ‘image of the invisible God? Hint: see John 1:18. So, if we could learn something about God outside of Jesus, even if in dreams and visions and myths (the things troubling the Colossians), what would this say about Jesus?
  2. How much of God can we learn from Jesus according to verse 19? How much of Himself has God given to us in Jesus?
  3. Jesus is described as ‘firstborn’ in 15a. Some people think this means that Jesus was created. Look up Psalm 89:24-28 and Hebrews 1:1-3 and reflect of the Biblical meaning of the word ‘firstborn’.

Digging deeper into God’s word

  1. Jesus is Supreme in Creation because He created everything and He holds it all together.  He is Supreme in the New Creation because of His death and resurrection. What does this say about the sufficiency of our salvation in Christ?
  2. Can you think of ways in which Christians are tempted to add to Jesus?
  3. Christians are to point towards Jesus.  Write down the ways that your life points people to Him.

Prayer response

Dear Father,

we have not seen you. We do not even know what it might mean to see you. But you have shown us Jesus, and because we have seen him, we have seen you.

Thank you for him who is the image of you, the invisible God. Thank you for creating all things through him who is the first-born of all creation.

Help us grasp what it means that everything – things in heaven, things on earth, things visible, things invisible, thrones, dominions, principalities, authorities, all matter and all energy – was created by him who was before all things, and that all these things hold together through him.

How over-awed we are! We prostrate our bodies, souls, and spirits before him!

In Jesus’ hallowed name we pray. Amen.