Colossians 1:12-23 (KJV)
12 Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light:
13 Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son:
14 In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins:
15 Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature:
16 For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him:
17 And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.
18 And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence.
19 For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell;
20 And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven.
21 And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled
22 In the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight:
…that he might have the preeminence…
Jesus Christ: The Centerpiece of our Faith
I want to take a few minutes to share with you some important thoughts on the most important subject of the gospel: Jesus Christ. The bible tells us many things about Jesus.
In the book of Hebrews (Hebrews 12:2), he is called the author and the finisher of our faith, showing us that faith both begins and ends with Jesus Christ.
The Apostle Paul (Ephesian 2:19) and the Apostle Peter (1 Peter 2:6) both explained that Jesus is the chief cornerstone of our faith. Everything we believe, every doctrine we preach, and every practice we put into effect, must be aligned with and built upon the foundation of Jesus Christ.
Without Jesus, the gospel is meaningless. Without Jesus, our message has no value. It is impossible to understate the importance of Jesus Christ to our faith.
Jesus came to a dying world, a world that was without hope. He came to a people who were doomed to face destruction. You and I were numbered among those people who were doomed. We were all born in sin, and shaped in iniquity. There was none righteous, no not one. We are born speaking lies, and all have sinned and came short of the glory of God. (1 John 3:4, Psalms 58:3, Romans 3:10) Each of us are due to pay the penalty for our sins. (Romans 6:23)
But God sent a savior to change our destiny. Jesus Christ came to deliver us from the penalty for our sins. And he did that by paying the penalty which we were due to pay. And he atoned for our sins by paying our penalty with his own life. God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten son, that whosever would believe on him, might have eternal life. (John 3:16) Jesus said, “no greater love hath a man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13) And that is exactly what he did for you and I. On the cross at Calvary, Jesus Christ laid down his life for his friends. He paid the debt, that no man could ever pay on his own. Jesus Christ sacrificed his perfect life to save whosoever would believe on him. The death penalty for our sins was carried out on Jesus Christ.
Then to prove his power over death, Jesus resurrected from the grave. He demonstrated to his disciples the power of the resurrection, his power over death. He demonstrated the very thing he would do for everyone who believe on him. He showed his disciples what life eternal looked like.
Jesus told his disciples, “I go away to prepare a place for you, and if I go away, I will come again to receive you unto myself, that where I am there you may be also.” (John 14) Jesus promised his disciples he would come back and receive them, and take them to be with him heaven.
But his disciples were filled questions. The Apostle Thomas said, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, and we do not know the way.” But Jesus offered Thomas words of reassurance. He told Thomas, “I am the way the truth and the life, no man cometh to the father, except by me.” Jesus explained that the only way to heaven, the only way to life eternal, was by following him. There is no other way to salvation. There is no other way to eternal life. There is no other way to heaven, except through Jesus Christ.
Recognizing the Preeminence of Christ
Knowing this truth is one of the important ways that we recognize the preeminence of Christ. We realize and believe that Christ is the only way to heaven; he is the only way to be reconciled to God. Therefore, we place him first in our affections, and first in our lives, and we believe on him as our savior. He is truly the beginning, end, and centerpiece of our faith. As Christians, we each have a personal relationship with Christ, and all our hopes and and promises are fulfilled in him, and through him.
Recognizing the preeminence of Christ is a true mark of the Holy Ghost led believer.
Recognizing the preeminence of Christ is something all Christians must do. The Apostle Paul said, “no man can call Jesus Lord except by the Holy Ghost.” (1 Corinthians 12:3) Paul pointed out that recognizing the preeminence of Christ is a true mark of a believer who is led by the Holy Spirit.
Dangers of Denying the Sufficiency of Christ
In the book of Colossians, as we read at the opening, the apostle Paul spoke at length about the preeminence of Christ. Christ’s preeminence is the central focus of his letter to the Colossians because the Colossian church had stopped acknowledging the preeminence of Christ.
The way in which their church denied the preeminence of Christ was by accepting the teachings of other men which contradicted the words of Jesus. The Colossian church was being seduced to believe another gospel. On the surface, what was being presented in the Colossian church looked very appealing and very close to the true gospel, but upon closer inspection, it became obvious that the Colossians had diverged away from acknowledging the preeminence of Christ.
Thankfully, Paul’s letter to the Colossians was preserved in the Bible for our understanding. In reviewing the book of Colossians, we can read about the very subtle ways in which a church can begin to deny the preeminence of Christ.
The Colossian church had begun to put their hope for salvation in things besides Jesus Christ. Some put their hope of salvation in their ability to keep rules outlined by their leaders.
Some put their hope of salvation in their ability to understand secret knowledge and the revelation of hidden mysteries. Some put their hope of salvation in rituals and traditions. Others hoped their membership in a special group would ensure their salvation.
Sadly, none of those things can save a person. The Colossians church made a serious error in allowing those ideas to become established in their church.
When we put any hope of salvation in anything besides Jesus Christ, we are subtracting from Christ. When you say that you need to keep special rules to be saved, or have special knowledge to be saved or be part of a special group to be saved, you are diminishing what Jesus Christ did for you.
When we put any hope of salvation in anything other than Christ, we are denying his power to save us.
Jesus Christ is sufficient. His sacrifice was sufficient. But when men say you must keep special rules to be saved, then they are saying what Jesus did is not enough. When they say you need special understanding and special knowledge to be saved and escape the wrath to come, then they are saying what Jesus did for us is not enough. (Romans 5:9) When they say that you have to be connected to a certain group of people to be saved, then they are saying what Jesus did for us on the cross of Calvary was not enough.
If you add anything besides Jesus and our faith in Him to the equation for salvation, you are denying his power to save you by what he did on the cross. And if you put your hope of salvation in anything besides Jesus and his sacrifice, then you are building on sinking sand. Jesus is the only savior who can save you. And the false saviors like law keeping, or understanding of mysteries, or rituals, or membership in special groups cannot save you.
Acknowledging the Preeminence of Christ is Liberating
As a disciple of Christ, recognizing his preeminence and acknowledging the sufficiency of his sacrifice is liberating. It is one of the greatest gifts Christ has given us. It frees us from being bound by traditions or ideas of men. It sets us free to look to God directly for our guidance and instruction. It gives us peace in our hearts to know that Jesus has truly paid it all. It is only when we come to trust fully on Jesus Christ for our salvation that we will finally know true peace.
Jesus has already atoned for our every shortcoming, our every weakness, and our every fault, and Jesus is adequate for the task. Jesus Christ is preeminent. Jesus Christ is sufficient.
Christ Is All: A Prayer of the Puritans
O Lover to the uttermost,
may I look to the wonderous works you did for me,
in the manger of thy birth,
in the garden of thy agony,
in the cross of thy suffering,
in the tomb of thy resurrection,
in the heaven of thy intercession.
Bold in this knowledge I defy my adversary,
treading down his temptations,
resisting his schemes,
renouncing this world,
and being valiant for truth.
Deepen in me a sense of my holy relationship with thee,
as I think on thy glory and my vileness,
thy righteousness and my iniquity.
Thou hast loved me everlastingly, unchangeably.
may I love thee as I am loved.
Thou hast given thyself for me,
may I give myself for thee.
Thou has died for me,
may I live to thee,
in every movement of my time,
in every movement of my mind
in every pulse of my heart.
May I never dally with the world and its allurements,
but walk by thy side,
listen to thy voice,
be clothed with thy graces,
and be adorned with thy righteousness.
Let it be, in Jesus name and for his sake,
The Valley of Vision: A collection of Puritan Prayers
Edited by Arthur Bennet, 1975
Read chapter 2 of the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Colossians and see if you can identify the different way in which the Colossian church had deviated from giving Christ preeminence in their lives, in their church, and in their teachings.
Colossians 2 (NIV)
1 I want you to know how hard I am contending for you and for those at Laodicea, and for all who have not met me personally.
2 My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ,
3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
4 I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments.
5 For though I am absent from you in body, I am present with you in spirit and delight to see how disciplined you are and how firm your faith in Christ is.
6 So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him,
7 rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.
8 See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.
9 For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form,
10 and in Christ you have been brought to fullness. He is the head over every power and authority.
11 In him you were also circumcised with a circumcision not performed by human hands. Your whole self ruled by the flesh was put off when you were circumcised by Christ,
12 having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through your faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead.
13 When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins,
14 having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross.
15 And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.
16 Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day.
17 These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.
18 Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you. Such a person also goes into great detail about what they have seen; they are puffed up with idle notions by their unspiritual mind.
19 They have lost connection with the head, from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow.
20 Since you died with Christ to the elemental spiritual forces of this world, why, as though you still belonged to the world, do you submit to its rules:
21 “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”?
22 These rules, which have to do with things that are all destined to perish with use, are based on merely human commands and teachings.
23 Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.
For Your Consideration
Empty teaching: Verse 8 warns the believer against being captured by empty teaching (hollow philosophy); teachings which, despite their appearance, actually have no value for the believer. Paul describes the characteristics of such teachings: they originated within traditions of men or were derived though spiritualism, but upon examination it can be found did not come from Christ.
Confusing the symbolic with the genuine article: In verses 16 and 17, Paul offers another warning against becoming confused and judging one another by rules of behavior and religious practices which are merely symbols and patterns that were fulfilled in Christ. Paul empowers the believer to decide as individuals whether or not to follow such rules, and to do so without fear of anyone else judging their decisions. (See also Romans 14)
Idle notions: Paul also warns in verse 18 against accepting idle notions, and describes how such notions are created and promoted: the presenters often have a false humility, they emphasize angelic encounters over Jesus Christ, and they often go into great detail about their experiences and things which they have seen. Such ones also attempt to disqualify people from salvation who are trusting purely in Christ’s sacrifice. But in reality, such people’s ideas and teachings are just idle notions that originated in their own unspiritual mind, because their teaching ultimately rejects the true headship and preeminence of Christ. Accepting such teachings will lead to stunted spiritual growth.
Submitting to extrabiblical rules: In verse 20, Paul warns against creating rules that prohibit what people may touch, taste, or handle. He states such rules are actually based in worldly wisdom, and although they can seem sensible, and they do indeed deny the flesh, they actually lack any value in addressing the true sinful nature of man. Such rules miss the true target of the gospel.
Can you think of any areas in your life where you are denying the preeminence of Christ or the sufficiency of his sacrifice? Is it possible you are putting your hopes of salvation in special knowledge, specials rules and regulations you are adhering to, or even in a group you are associated with? If you examine the things your hopes are built upon, and you find something besides the solid rock of Jesus Christ under your feet, then it is time to make a change. Sweep away the sand until all you can see in a solid foundation beneath you, and praise God for the work he did to save you.