Summary: Exposition of Col. 1:15–19
The Preeminence of Christ
“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross” (Col. 1:15–19).
Why should Christ have the first place in our lives? Why should he be first in our churches, our communities, and our nations?
I think we can learn a great deal from this story about Leonardo da Vinci:
Leonardo da Vinci took a friend to criticize his masterpiece of the ‘Last Supper,’ and the remark of the friend was, ‘The most striking thing in the picture is the cup!’ The artist took his brush and wiped out the cup as he said, ‘Nothing in my painting shall attract more attention than the face of my Master!’
Because Christ is supreme, nothing else should distract us from him. We must get rid of anything that keeps us from glorifying Christ.
Often in our lives, Christ is marginalized. He often isn’t first: schoolwork, hobbies, or family commonly take first place. In these verses, Paul gives us reasons why Christ should be first in our lives and in the entire world. He talks about how special Christ is and why he must be preeminent—first.
In the church of Colosse there was a heresy called Gnosticism that had crept into the church and was trying to marginalize Christ. It was a combination of mysticism, Jewish legalism, and also Greek philosophy. The heresy taught that Christ could not be God. This belief was based on Greek philosophy that taught that the spirit was good and the body was evil, and therefore God could not have become a human because God cannot mix with evil.
It also taught that Jesus was an angel and that receiving him was not enough for salvation. One had to have new revelation in order to be saved. That is where the name “Gnostic” comes from. The Greek word gnosko means “to know.” In order to be saved, one needed this secret knowledge that only the Gnostics had experienced.
The heresy was attacking the very foundation of the gospel because it attacked Jesus. Though there is no Gnosticism attacking the church today, the remnants of it are. Jehovah’s Witnesses also do not believe that Jesus is God; he is an angel, a created being. There are similar sentiments in Mormonism. Much of liberal Christianity attacks the deity of Christ as well, making him just a religious teacher and declaring that he is not the only way to heaven.
We see these same attacks on Christ happening today in the church, only in different coverings. But before we look at the cults and the false teachers, we should also realize there are remnants of this in our hearts. See, if Jesus is God, if he is the only way to salvation, and if we declare his Lordship over our lives, then this is not just a matter of belief; it must be a matter of our daily practice.
If Christ is all these things, then he must be first in our life. He must be our daily meditation, and it should be our daily goal to please him and honor him. In the same way, Paul wrote to declare the preeminence of Christ to those in Colosse who were being tempted to withhold from Christ the honor that is due his name. We also must put Christ first, and we must remove anything that draws us away from him or takes his place. Like Leonardo da Vinci, we must take our brush and wipe away anything in our lives that takes away from his preeminence in the display of our lives.
In this text, Paul makes the argument that Christ is the preeminent one. He is the supreme one, not only over our lives, but also over the entire world. We will see four reasons why Christ should be exalted in our lives, the church, and the world.
Much of the doctrines we will study in this lesson are not new, and they were not new to many in Colosse. However, Paul’s hope was to challenge us to put Christ first by reminder of these truths, and also to correct any wrong doctrine we may have accepted. Let Christ be exalted in our lives, in the church, and throughout all creation.