The Pre-eminence Of Christ
Colossians 1:14-29, 2:1-4
Of Paul's corrective writings probably none is more relevant to the 1960's [applies in the 21st century just the same] than the epistle to the Colossians. Chapter 4:16 reminds us it is to be read also to the Laodiceans.
Not only are present day difficulties delineated; the Spirit of God also provides the answer. From chapter 2 it is evident the Colossian church was troubled with false teachers - Judaistic, who taught formalism and ritualism, and gnostic who brought in the lawless activity of men's minds. These troubles are with us today in full measure. The answer to both these difficulties is found in our text: the pre-eminence of Christ.
In the scripture section at the head of this paper we find the pre-eminence of Christ clearly taught in three spheres where mind, and heart, and will are engaged. Christ is the firstborn of every creature; first, not in time, but in rank. Consider it my soul! In the past two centuries there have been new theories of creation, and men today have not finished finding new theories for the origin and destiny of the universe. The Bible does not argue. The fact is plainly stated. Christ is the centre; Christ is pre-eminent, in the sphere of creation.
In verse 16 there are three prepositions, in the AV. "by", and "for", which throw a flood of light on the passage (see footnote in New Translation, J.N.D.).
- The first preposition shows Christ as the inventive genius behind creation;
- the second shows Him as the instrumental agent;
- the third shows Him as the object of creation.
He is pre-eminent! He both made and sustains all. Then in verse 18 He is the head of the body, the Church. This truth also is being challenged today. It is topical in the modern ecumenical movement. An earthly, visible head is much more to man's taste. In Popery, of course, it is plainly seen. The Establishment, since the Reformation, looks to the reigning sovereign. But He (Christ) is Head of the Church. He is Head over all things to the Church in Ephesians. Here, He is Head of the Church. The magicians in Egypt, confronted with the miracle of life, had to confess "This is the finger of God." The truth of resurrection leaves His adversaries far behind, and in resurrection life Christ takes His rightful place, the first place. Who can challenge Him where He is? Headship is a wonderful theme. He is head of every man, head of the heathen, headstone of the corner, head of all principality and power, head over all things. He is the head. Gladly we say "and Thou art exalted as head above all." He is pre-eminent.
Then too, in verse 19 we read, "it pleased the Father that in Him should all fulness dwell." Who can understand the truth of this person? Certainly not the writer. Wisdom's course is to receive it. Gladly we do so. Men want a man. Is it not on everyone's lips? Anyone who thinks wants someone to lead us out of the present mess. The world will have one who comes in his own name. We have such an One, Who came in His Father's name. These are wonderful words in chapter 2:9, "All the fulness of the Godhead bodily." There He is, not in incarnation only, but also in resurrection. His is full Godhead glory, not something less called Divinity. Who can compare with Him? In very truth He is pre-eminent, blessed be His holy name.
All this is vitally important. We must sanctify the Lord God in our hearts if we are to render a reason for the hope that is in us.
"What think ye of Christ is the test
To try both your state and your scheme,
You cannot think right of the rest,
If you do not think rightly of Him."
As a practical issue, do we in fact see Him "high and lifted up?" In the sphere of our thinking, do we give him the first place? Is He pre-eminent?
From verse 20 to verse 22 we enter a new sphere - the grand historical facts of Christianity. Here the heart is engaged. The Word became flesh, and dwelt among us. In verse 22 we read of the body of His flesh and of His walk. Here indeed is a pathway to think upon. "Thou art my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased." He was Jehovah's servant, Messiah, Son of Man, Son of the Father's love. He was holy, harmless, undefiled, separated from sinners. He did no sin; He knew no sin; in Him was no sin. "We beheld His glory" said the disciples. Well might we look upon Jesus as He walked. Consider His words. "They wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of His mouth." He was altogether that which He said He was. What a delightful climax to the end of the debate in the temple, "No man durst ask Him any more questions" (Matt. 22:46). Little wonder the officers said "Never man spake like this man." But then too, think of His works. His parables, it has been beautifully said, were spoken miracles; His miracles were acted parables. He made both the deaf to hear - organ of reception - and the dumb to speak - organ of response. Well may all join to say - we do ourselves - He hath done all things well. His life is wonderful; but of His death, who can tell? In this very chapter we have redemption (v. 14) the forgiveness of sins (v. 14), peace (v. 20). These are wonderful truths, enjoyed individually doubtless, but also bringing before us the grand universal sphere of blessing, man brought into relation with God, and God resting in His love. And all this is absolutely dependent upon His death, for He tasted death for everything (Heb. 2:9). Well might we exclaim - He is pre-eminent! And in the consideration of such activity of love, are we not wrought upon in our affections, and moved to worship Him?
But the challenge of the mental and emotional spheres has to be faced, and from chapter 1:23 and 2:4 we have the practical sphere where the will is engaged. The first word in verse 23 is "if". What is our answer going to be? In verse 27 we read "Christ in you, the hope of glory." "Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates" (2 Cor. 12:5). But in Laodicea the Lord is seen outside, knocking at the heart door and saying, "If any man hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me" (Rev. 3:20).
The question is then, if Christ is pre-eminent in the mental and emotional spheres, will He also be pre-eminent in this practical sphere where the will is engaged? If He is in our hearts, does He also dwell in our hearts? If Christ is resident, in our hearts, is He also president? The apostle's own example urges us on. He preaches (v. 28); He is a minister (v. 25); He suffers (v. 24); He labours (v. 29); He is in great conflict (2:1). It is, alas, a day of lukewarmness. Many are at ease in Zion. The prophet is a fool; the spiritual man is mad. "Be not righteous over much" is the general cry. But Christ in you is the hope of glory". In the glory true values will be declared. The crowning day is coming. Christ will be vindicated; so will His own. Let us "Swing the heart door widely open, bid Him enter while you may." Let Him enter all the areas of our hearts. May He be pre-eminent. Will there be suffering? Of course. Not in vain are we reminded that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God. But, "How will recompense His smile, the sufferings of this little while."
In conclusion may it be said that in a true conversion, mind and heart and will are engaged. Be the reader unconverted, or many years on the road, may the appeal of these verses, in these three spheres, encourage us one and all to "Crown Him, Lord of all."