Summary: Many scholars believe this passage was based on a hymn that was sung by the early church. We all need to answer the question: Is Christ prominent in my life, or is He preeminent? He doesn’t just want a place in our lives, He demands first place.
The Supreme Question of Life
In Thursday’s Washington Post, an article appeared about a new church in the state of Maryland. I won’t reveal the name of the denomination that is behind this endeavor because I don’t want to publicly criticize it from the pulpit. You can look it up when this sermon is posted on our web site (see http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A12954-2001Oct18.html.)
Using market research and focus groups, this denomination has designed weekly services that deliberately de-emphasize Jesus Christ. One of the founders of the church has said, “The sad fact is the name of Jesus Christ has become for many people exclusionary.” Using Hindu and Zen, intermingled with a few verses from the Bible and recorded music by Willie Nelson, the leader of this group is quoted as saying, “We’re enabling people to discover God themselves, maybe through Jesus, maybe through Buddha, maybe through any number of ways.”
Most of us are appalled by this defamation of Christianity, and we should be. But before we come down too hard on them, I want to address a very dangerous and deadly disease running rampant in the evangelical church today. At first glance it seems pretty harmless but its spores can infect an entire community. No, I’m not talking about anthrax. I call this malady the virus of practicality and I’ve been guilty of spreading it. Here’s how it works.
Instead of calling people to faith, repentance and submission to the supremacy of Christ, many of us tell people that Jesus wants to give them a happy marriage or a stress-free life. While Jesus will certainly change our lives, our marriages, and our stress levels when we bow before His preeminence, we must move away from “What Jesus can do for me” to “Am I living in light of His lordship?” We don’t simply “add” Jesus to our lives; we adore Him with our lives through our obedience.
That brings us to our text today in the Book of Colossians. Much of the false teaching taking place in Colosse had to do with the minimizing of Jesus. Many people thought He was important but not essential. They had given Him a place in their lives, without recognizing that He demands first place. Jesus was prominent to them, but certainly not preeminent.
Paul refutes at least three misconceptions in Colossians 1:
• The false teachers taught that God did not create the world because in their view matter was evil and God cannot create evil.
• Believing that matter was evil, they argued that God would not have come to earth as a human in bodily form.
• They did not believe that Christ was the unique Son of God but rather one of many intermediaries between God and people.
As we study Colossians 1:15-23 this morning, we come to the pinnacle of Christianity. In Jesus, God’s complete and perfect revelation is fully revealed. Our passage breaks into two natural sections with the last part of verse 18 providing the overriding theme: “…so that in everything he might have the supremacy.”
The Supremacy of Jesus Over Creation (verses 15-17)
The Supremacy of Jesus Over His New Creation (verses 18-23)
Jesus is paramount over everything that He has created in verses 15-17 and He’s preeminent over all that He has redeemed in verses 18-23. Another way to say it is that He has first place over both the cosmos and the church. He is Lord of everything He has made and He is Lord over everyone He has saved.
The Supremacy of Jesus Over Creation
This passage is one of the strongest in Scripture as it relates to the superiority of our Savior. Follow along as I read verses 15-17: “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.” We see 4 truths about Jesus in these verses:
1. He is God (15a). Paul doesn’t mince any words here. Jesus “is the image of the invisible God.” Images convey meaning way beyond what words can describe. My wedding band represents the fact that Beth finally said, “yes” to me! [Show image]. When we see the Statue of Liberty, something unexplainable takes place deep inside, doesn’t it? [Show picture]. And today, perhaps more than ever, the image of the American Flag flying over Ground Zero ignites feelings of patriotism, sadness, and maybe even anger in our hearts [show picture].
As powerful as these symbols are, they are simply representations of far deeper realities. My ring doesn’t make me married. Rather, it’s a symbol that I am married. The Statue of Liberty doesn’t in and of itself do anything. It stands for a nation that honors freedom. The American flag is a powerful national symbol but it only represents what our country is all about.