Summary: We can be motivated to continue in the faith by realizing that Jesus is supreme in everything.
Isn’t music wonderful? This morning we’ve been blessed with all kinds of music, as we usually are. Music seems to speak to a part of the soul as nothing else does. I think we’ve all had times when we left church remembering what was sung more than what was said.
In 1530 the great reformer Martin Luther wrote: “I am not ashamed to confess publicly that next to theology there is no art which is the equal of music, for she alone, after theology, can do what otherwise only theology can accomplish, namely, quiet and cheer up the soul of man, which is clear evidence that the devil, the originator of depressing worries and troubled thoughts, flees from the voice of music just as he flees from the words of theology.”
In this morning’s text, we’re going to be reading the words of a great frist century hymn. When Paul was writing this part of Colossians, he reached up on the shelf and got his hymnal. He might have known that the words of this hymn about Jesus would encourage and motivate his readers to continue on in their faith. Just about all Bible scholars agree that verses 15-20 of chapter one is a hymn, thought they disagree on its exact construction.
If you have your Bibles open to Colossians chapter one, follow along as we read verses 15 through 23:
[Read text here. Unless otherwise noted, Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version.)
Paul motivated the Colossians to continue in the faith by holding up Jesus as supreme in everything. Just as they were motivated in this way, we too can be motivated to continue in the faith by realizing that Jesus is supreme in everything. In this passage, we can see examples of Jesus’ supremacy.
1. Jesus is our creator (15-17).
Now many people believe that God created, but “God” is loosely defined. Paul isn’t about to let that happen here, especially with false teachers saying that the Supreme Being couldn’t have created the world, since the material worlds consists of matter, which they said was only evil. At the beginning, Paul says that Jesus is the image of God. The New Living Translation puts it this way: “Christ is the visible image of the invisible God.”
That word in the Greek is like our word icon. Now you know from your computer that an icon is a little picture that represents a larger program. In the same way, Jesus is a man who represents the fullness of God. He not only represents God, He is God.
Another way the word was used back then was as a written detailed description of someone’s appearance. Today we do this by putting pictures on things like driver’s licenses, passports, student IDs, whatever. But back then, a legal document might include a section where a person was described in terms of height, size, hair and eye color, and other distinguishing marks. Paul is saying that everything we see in Jesus is what and who God is.
The Apostle John nails this down in his gospel, especially in these two verses: John 1:18 says, “No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.” Then in chapter 14, where we have the touching account of Jesus’ last night with His disciples before going to the cross, Philip asked Jesus to show them the Father. In verse nine, Jesus replies, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’”?
So Jesus, who is Himself God, created everything. Paul says he is the “firstborn” of all creation. In the second century, Arius, a bishop in Alexandria, too this to mean that Jesus was the first being created by God, then Jesus created everything else. Incidentally, this view is held today by the Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons. But that’s not even close to what Paul is saying.
The word that is translated “firstborn” does not refer to time, but to status. In the ancient world, the oldest son was accorded special privileges and honors that the younger siblings did not have. So the term firstborn was often used to speak of standing and honor more than the birth order in a family. What Paul is saying in verse 15 is that Jesus towers high above all else as the leader in creation. I found an article by a man named Lambert Dolphin who put it this way: “We may think of the universe and its intricate design as being conceived in the mind of the Father then spoken into existence by the Son (who makes the invisible, visible). The Holy Spirit is the One who energizes and supplies life to the creation, not only at the time of creation but also moment by moment after that.”