2. THE PREEMINENCE OF CHRIST <1:15—2:3>
(a). Christ Is Preeminent in Creation <1:15-18>
In this section we observe three important facts: Christ’s relationship to God The Father; to the creation; and to the Church.
- “He is the image of the invisible God” <1:15 (NIV)> “he represents to mankind the perfections of God, as an image, figure, or drawing does to the object which it is made to resemble. The meaning here is, that the being and perfections of God are accurately and fully represented by Christ. “(from Barnes’ Notes, Electronic Database Copyright © 1997-2014 by Biblesoft, Inc. All rights reserved.) Our Lord Jesus Christ is an exact representation of God, and in Him the unseen God is revealed, the unknown God is identified <cf Jn.14:8-11>.
- Christ is “the firstborn over all creation.” <1:15 (NIV)> “Among all the creatures of God, or over all his creation, occupying the rank and pro-eminence of the first-born. The first-born, or the oldest son, among the Hebrews as elsewhere, had special privileges” (from Barnes’ Notes, Electronic Database Copyright © 1997-2014 by Biblesoft, Inc. All rights reserved.) He has the priority, pre-eminence and sovereignty 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.” <1:16-17 (NIV)> Not only is He the firstborn, He is also the creator of all things, for scripture declares that “The Word” or Christ was with God in the beginning of creation, and furthermore “The Word was God” and through Him all things were made <see Jn. 1:1-3>.
- “And he is the head of the body, the church” <1:18 (NIV)> “What the apostle has said in the two preceding verses refers to the divine nature of Jesus Christ; he now proceeds to speak of his human nature, and to show how highly that is exalted beyond all created things, and how, in that, he is head of the church-the author and dispenser of light, life, and salvation, to the Christian world; or, in other words, that from him, as the man in whom the fullness of the Godhead bodily dwelt, all the mercy and salvation of the Gospel system is to be received.” (from Adam Clarke’s Commentary, Electronic Database. Copyright© 1996, 2003, 2005, 2006 by Biblesoft, Inc. All rights reserved.) <cf Eph.1:22-23; 5:23>.
“so that in everything he might have the supremacy.” <1:18 (NIV)>. Paul’s teaching here emphasizes that in all things Christ is absolute, and that all believers, Colossians and current, must acknowledge this fact.
(b). Christ Is Preeminent in Redemption <1:19-23>
Here in this section Paul explains the pre-eminence of Christ in the salvation of sinners from sin and eternal separation from God, and speaks first to the qualification of our Lord Jesus Christ.
“For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him” <1:19 (NIV)> In Christ resided all God’s comprehensiveness, and Paul in his expression “fullness” means that in Christ resided the totality of God with all His powers and attributes <see NIV Notes; cf 2:9>.
“and through him to reconcile to himself all things” <1:20 (NIV)>; “through him” meaning through Christ, all people are reunited with God. This, however, does not teach that all people are saved from sin by the death of Christ, for sin entered God’s creation because of Adam’s sin <see Rom.5:12, 18; 8:19-22> and all mankind is under the curse of sin <see Rom.3:23; 6:23>. Christ’s death restored “in principle” the peace between God and mankind, but such peace is only enjoyed by those who have believed in Christ for salvation; and will be enjoyed by all creation only at the second return of Christ to establish His kingdom <Rom.8:21>.
Having shown that Christ was fully qualified to be our Redeemer, Paul now continues to show the process and results of our redemption: “by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross” <1:20 (NIV)>; the peace that believers enjoy was made possible by Christ’s blood shed on the cross. Just as in the O.T. era, the blood of the animal sacrifice was poured out on the altar, so Christ’s blood was poured out on the cross <cf Heb.9:12-14, 22>, and the scriptures go on to teach that we have peace with God through our faith in Christ <cf Rom.5:1, 9-11>.
As unrepentant sinners we were alienated from God because of our evil behaviour <1:21; cf Eph.2:11-14>. “But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation—” <1:22 (NIV); cf Rom.8:1; Eph.1:4>.
Paul now concludes that “This is the gospel” <1:23b>, and the condition of our continued peace with God depends on whether we continue in our faith or not, “if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel.” <1:23 (NIV)>; for those that depart from their faith no longer enjoy complete peace with God <cf Heb.9:4-6>. Here again Paul is not teaching that our salvation can be lost, for Scripture teaches that God’s sheep (followers), although they stray can never be lost forever <cf Jn.10:27-30>, but they will suffer turmoil until they return to Him in repentance <see Jn.6:66; 2 Cor.6:1; Gal.4:9; 6:1; 1 Tim.1:18-20; Heb.2:1; 3:12-14; 10:39; Rev.2:4-5>.
(c). Christ Is Preeminent in the Church <1:24 – 2:3>
“But part of my work is to suffer for you; and I am glad, for I am helping to finish up the remainder of Christ’s sufferings for his body, the Church.” <1:24 (TLB)> Paul rejoices in the fact that “it gives me a chance to complete in my own sufferings something of the untold pains which Christ suffers on behalf of His body, The church.” (J.B. Phillips New Testament in modern English), as Christ suffered in the reconciliation between God and mankind brought about by His death for sin; so Paul experienced many adversities in preaching the gospel to the Gentiles, but Paul’s suffering did not atone for mankind’s sin.
“I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness” <1:25 (NIV)> Paul considers himself a servant to the Church, having been commissioned by Christ to preach the gospel to the Gentiles; fully declaring God’s Word, which as a sacred mystery was kept hidden in previous ages and generations, but now has been made clear to all who trust in Christ for their salvation: “To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” <1:27 (NIV); cf Eph.3:2-12>. He declares Christ, reprimanding and teaching in good judgment, “so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ.” <1:28 <NIV)>.
“To this end I labor, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me.” <1:29 (NIV)>, to this end he is constantly working with all the strength given to him by Christ <cf Matt.28:20>. Paul confesses that he is unrelenting for them and for the Church in Laodicea, that they may be encouraged in the relationship of Christian love, “in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ” <2:2 (NIV)> so that their spiritual experience may be enriched as God’s great secret is revealed more and more to them “in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” <2:3 (NIV)>. To this end is the pre-eminence of Christ in His Church.