This is our final chapter in the series on the book of Colossians. I said when we began this study that the focal point of this epistle was Jesus Christ. His supremacy/pre-eminence is the "point" of this letter to the Colossians. Let us, therefore, review this important theme.
The Supremacy / Preeminence of Christ - 1:15-20
In writing to the Colossian brethren, Paul describes the supremacy of Christ to a church who had begun to drift away from the faith. False teachers had crept in and began teaching a gospel that mixed together Greek philosophical ideas, pagan cultic practices (worship of angels), Jewish religious traditions along with the teachings of Christianity. These men blended all of these components into a "new" gospel which, they claimed, would give people a more dynamic spiritual experience.
Instead of faith practiced in loving obedience as Jesus had taught, they promoted a strict form of asceticism (denial of certain foods, vows of celibacy, etc.) telling their followers that this would provide the spiritual power needed to gain the salvation they wanted. This type of teaching and practice was clearly in opposition to the gospel and so in response to these heresies, Paul puts forth two main ideas in his epistle to the Colossian church:
It is Jesus Who is Supreme and Preeminent
It is not these teachers, not their new methods nor any person who is superior, only Christ.
Vs. 15-18 – He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities--all things have been created through Him and for Him. 17He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. 18He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything.
In stating this fact, Paul describes 7 areas of Jesus' supremacy:
1. He is the Supreme Spirit – vs. 15a
As the image of God, He is God – no other spirit invented by man is His equal.
2. He Holds the Supreme Position – vs. 15b
No created thing is before Him in time or position.
3. He is the Supreme Authority – vs. 16a
Every level of creation from the unseen particles to the greatest king or leader is subject to His authority. Not only is His authority greater, but every other authority is in service to His.
4. He is the Supreme Reason for Existence – vs. 16b
He is the answer to every great question and the end of every search.
5. He is the Supreme Power – vs. 17
It is by His energy that the physical world continues to exist. Not gravity, not black holes, not exploding galaxies – HE is the power source for all existing things.
6. He is the Supreme Head of Organized Religion on Earth – vs. 18a
Only Jesus, by virtue of His supremacy, has a right to be worshipped as God. He and only He is the true religious and spiritual head – all others are pretenders and false prophets.
7. He is the Supreme Leader of the Eternal Kingdom of Heaven – vs. 18b
In the spiritual world He is the leader of the angels and spirit beings that were created before us as well as the supreme leader of those who have joined them from the earthly realm. In the kingdom of heaven, Jesus is the Lord of all forever.
After establishing Jesus' supreme position in all of these areas, Paul explains one other important fact about Jesus that they need to be reminded of.
Jesus, The Supreme Lord, Sacrificed Himself for Them
Vs. 19-20 – For it was the Father's good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven.
Paul's point here is: who needs human philosophy, cultural rituals or human effort when the Supreme Lord has personally undertaken the task of saving those who were condemned to death by sin? No amount of human wisdom and effort could accomplish what the Supreme Lord had accomplished for them, and for us!
Paul finishes this section by reminding them of three things. If they accept what he has taught them, then they need to:
1. Remember the Way They Were Saved
Vs. 21-22 – And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds, yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach.
He explains that their sins against God are what made them guilty and subject to condemnation and punishment in hell. But, he goes on to say, it was the blood of Jesus, the Supreme One, that washed away their guilt, that made them pure before God. The cross, the blood, the sacrifice of Jesus – this is what makes them pure beyond the reach of Satan and acceptable to God; not self-sacrifice, self-denial or the learning of mysteries.
2. Remember to Remain Faithful
Vs. 23a – If indeed you continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast,
Note that he says, "if" – this is a condition. God's grace is free, we cannot buy it, earn it, sell it, or obtain it based on our conditions. We cannot produce it or force Him to give it to us based on our effort, wisdom or actions. God sets the condition for grace, He establishes the one criterion for its procurement – and that one condition is faith. You can only obtain this wonderful soul cleansing grace through faith, and that faith is expressed according to His will and purpose.
God's grace is free but it is not given to scoffers, disbelievers and the disobedient.
If it was, then sinners and disbelievers like Herod and Hitler and Stalin would be with Christ this very moment even though they hated Him and His church during their lifetime. No, grace is extended to those who have faith and in Colossians 2:11-12 Paul further explains that faith in Christ is properly expressed in baptism.
Vs. 11-12 – and in Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ; having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.
In Colossians Paul is simply repeating what Peter explained to the Jews in Jerusalem on Pentecost Sunday:
Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, "Brethren, what shall we do?" Peter said to them, "Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. - Acts 2:37-38
The Pilgrim gate had pools of water nearby that could accommodate up to 500 people at a time. Pilgrims visiting Jerusalem would use the pools to cleanse themselves before entering the Holy City. This is where 3000 would have easily obeyed the gospel as 12 men baptized this many in just a few hours. And so Paul reminds them to remain faithful, assured that the grace of God to remove all of their sins was applied completely when they called on the name of Jesus in repentance and baptism.
3. Remember the Truth – vs. 23b
The danger here was that with their false teachings, these men were moving them away from Christ because Christ is one with His gospel. To deny one is to deny the other.
So Paul tells them to remember:
- Christ as the only Supreme One
- His cross as the only way to forgiveness and perfection
- His gospel as the only true message of hope
If they did this, the Supreme Lord Jesus would remain their personal Savior and Lord forever.
As we close out the end of this study I encourage all of us here with the same encouragement of Paul:
1. Hold on to Christ
He is the Supreme Lord of all persons, dominions, worlds, events; He is the Lord. Whether there are wars, climate changes, economic upheavals, or personal tragedies, He is the Supreme Lord. Jesus will save you, sustain you and surround you with His love forever. Hold on to Him!
2. Hold on to the Cross of Christ
There will be all kinds of new prophets, new teachings, new promises… No matter what, hold on to the cross of Jesus. When you feel you are unworthy or afraid all is lost. Hold on to the cross of Jesus as the one act in all of history that will serve to save you and keep you saved forever.
3. Hold on to the Gospel of Christ
Technology changes and society changes, but people are the same today as the day Adam sinned. God preached the gospel to Adam because it was the answer to his problem of sin and it remains the answer to sinful man today. Let us not change the gospel or be ashamed of it – let us instead take every advantage that technology has given us to proclaim the glorious gospel to every sinner on earth!
4. Hold on to Each Other in Christ
The world is filled with unbelievers and scoffers, evil men and women who are Satan's willing servants. Because of this Christians need each other!
Let's not hurt each other, let's forgive and be kind to those for whom Christ died, and within whom the Holy Spirit resides. Let's make the loving of each other our main priority in the church. This will be pleasing to the Lord Jesus and promote the best witness of our faith in Him.
- What was the background of Paul's letter to the Colossians?
- Summarize the seven positions of supremacy held by Jesus.
- What three things do Christians need to do if we accept what Paul has taught?
- What is the most significant lesson you learn from Paul's letter to the Colossians and how does this support your efforts to live faithfully?