That in Everything He Might Be Preeminent
Colossians 1:15–20 – Colossians: Made Alive in Christ
3rd Sunday after Pentecost – June 10, 2018 (am)
Jesus is an amazing Savior! We’ve heard that this morning in our baptism testimonies. Now we’ll hear it again as we open God’s Word. And we need to hear it often, don’t we? Because if there’s anything that is easy to forget in this world, it’s that Jesus is an amazing Savior—that He really can (fill us) with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so (that we) walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the know-ledge of God, just like He did with the Colossians, as we saw last week in Paul’s opening greeting to this church. He really can (strengthen us) with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy. When we trust in Christ as Savior, God really does (qualify us) to share in the inheritance of the saints in light? He (delivers) us from the domain of darkness and (transfer) us to the kingdom of his beloved Son!
Jesus is an amazing Savior! And we really do need to be reminded of that pretty often, don’t we? Yes. And so have Christians in every generation of the church. That is why we are so grateful for passages like the one before us this morning: Col.1:15-20. Paul is reminding this church of that very truth. He thanked God for all He is doing in the Colossians (3-8), then he prayed a magnificent prayer (9-14) asking God to keep doing it all the more, using the language I just used to describe what Christ does in us. Here at the beginning of the letter to a church he’s never met, Paul wanted not just to focus on what Jesus was doing in them, but on Who Jesus is—as though he were reassuring them that Jesus really can do all these things in them; as though he were answering: Who is this Jesus?
His answer comes in two parts. And this two-part answer is a poem, though it’s not laid out like one on our page. Two assertions set the direction for (the point Paul is making). They are: 1) “He is the image of the invisible God,” and 2) “[He is] the first-born over all creation” (Melick 1:15). Many think this poem was originally a hymn praising Jesus that Paul just inserted here. It’s aim sits right near the middle, and it’s our title today: that in everything he might be preeminent (18b). But, the most obvious point (this hymn) makes is the parallel it establishes between creation and new creation. … The Lord through whom you are redeemed (Paul is telling the Colossians) is none other than the one through whom you (and all the world) were created (Wright 70). Let’s explore each part just a bit.
Jesus Is Lord Over All Creation – 15-17
(Outline: cf. Beale 851)
15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. As Paul gets started here there’s no missing his allusion to Gen.1. Like Adam was created in the image of God (Gen.1:27), here, Jesus is the image… of God (15). And where Adam was surely the firstborn of all human creation, what Paul is saying here is that Jesus is the firstborn not of all human creatures, but that He is the firstborn… of all creation (Beale 853), meaning that He’s preeminent in place over all creation, in the nature of His being. He’s the firstborn in the way that Psa.89 (Ethan the Ezrahite) spoke of King David: 27 And I will make him the firstborn, the highest of the kings of the earth. So, firstborn doesn’t always just mean first birth order. In Psa.89, and in Col.1, it means first in priority, importance, rank.
By calling Jesus the firstborn of all creation, we see His connection with Adam, and with Israel, two prior sons of God who failed in their calling to spread His reign (Gen.1:28) and be a light for the nations (Isa.42:6; 49:6). But Jesus is succeeding where these two failed! He is (qualifying us) to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. In Him, God has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins (12-14). Amazing! Being the firstborn of all creation means that Jesus stands apart from, stands above all creation. And more: not only were all things created through Him and by him, (but) in him all things hold together (17). He sustains this world He has made, all the time!
Jesus Is Lord Over New Creation – 18-20
And there is even more! God the Son (13), our Lord Jesus Christ (3), is not just Lord over all creation, the original work of God, both in forming (16) and in sustaining (17) everything that was made—everything we can see and everything we can’t see, including the angels (16, thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities [Eze.10:1; Eph.1:21]): grand as they are, angels are still created beings. He made them. He’s Lord over them, and also over the new creation. 18 … He is the head of the body, the church, the new covenant community who share in the inheritance of the saints in light (12). And as the head of the body (18), He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead—the first with a resurrection body, proof that there really is a life to come, a new creation—proof that we can trust His promises that in Him we will share in that new creation! Jesus, the Agent of all creation, the One by Whom all things were created (16), is also the Initiator of the new creation, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell—He is God of very God, the truest image of the invisible God (15).
So, all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, meaning not that all things in heaven and on earth will be (reconciled) to God, but that anything in heaven or on earth that is reconciled to God will be (reconciled) by Christ alone, and no other. And when that work is completed, all creation will be restored, for just as human sin led to creation’s fall (cf. Rom.8:19ff), human reconciliation will lead to the restoration of creation (Wright 81 edited), as Paul wrote in Rom8:22-23. Heaven and earth are longing for the day of Christ’s return when the full fruit of all He accomplished on the cross will be realized to the praise of God’s glorious grace that is showered upon us in Christ. He has (made) a complete and lasting peace with God for us by the blood of his cross (20).
The full demand of God’s holiness and righteousness have been met for us in the sacrifice of Christ. And as we receive that payment by faith, we are reconciled to God, delivered from the domain of darkness, and transferred to the kingdom of light (13). It’s done. Jesus is an amazing Savior!
So, what are the implications of this for us? Just as there were threats to the supremacy of Christ among the Colossians in Paul’s day—threats we’ll hear about in weeks to come—we face threats in our day as well. Just as they faced challenges that undercut their confidence in the completeness and glory of His salvation in their lives, so we face them in our lives, day in, day out. We can actually begin to wonder whether Jesus truly is as great a Savior as we are sinners. And I’m not just talking about those among us who’ve committed sins that make headlines. I’m talking about those who struggle daily with stubborn, nagging sins that continually make us wonder whether the gospel really has taken root in our hearts at all! I’m speaking of things like lying, or just shading or shaping the truth for our own convenience, or our own protection. I’m speaking of struggles with lust or envy or gluttony or other forms of self-indulgence. I’m talking about things like rage or outbursts of anger or even just impatience, irritation, persistent relational conflicts.
Mostly, I’m speaking of things that stand in stark contrast to the sweet qualities Paul has identified in the Colossians, qualities that reflect the gospel taking root among them. We believe the gospel has taken root among us as well. But do we really see these qualities so clearly present that we’re encouraged as we read Paul’s thanksgiving and prayer? Or, can we sometimes wonder if Jesus really does (fill us) with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so (that we) walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God? Will He really (strengthen us) with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy? Has He qualified (us) to share in the inheritance of the saints in light? Has He (truly) delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son?
When your faith is in Him the answer is, yes, He has! And it’s as undeniable and enduring as the blood of his cross (20). Jesus is an amazing Savior!