The Holy Spirit presents the Son of God in all the towering preeminence of His glory in Colossians 1:15-20. Jesus is unique in seven distinct ways. These distinctives qualify Him to have supremacy (v.18). The Holy Spirit sets forth the imposing superiority of the Son of God in seven strokes.
- Image of God
“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.”
First, Christ is the image of the invisible God. “Image” denotes not only the image but also the pattern, the original.
The Son represents the Father like the picture of a president on a dollar bill (He 1:3). Since He is God, He reflects all that God is. He has all the essence of deity. He is sovereign, eternal life, omniscience, omnipotence, immutability, etc. He is the highest form of special revelation.
His image is that of the “invisible God.” The Son is the only person of the trinity who is manifest to man (Jn 1:18; 6:46; 1 Ti 6:16; 1 Jn 4:12). He is the revealer of the trinity. We can see God perfectly seen in Christ.
Christ stands set apart from David, Solomon, John, Peter and Paul. He is incomparable to any human being. He is far from a simple human being. The Son is absolutely unique and shares His glory with no man.
- The Firstborn over All Creation
The second description of Christ in this verse is His relationship to creation–the “Firstborn over all creation.”
This is not a statement about the creation of Jesus Christ because He cannot create Himself. He is not a creature. He created all things (Jn 1:3; He 1:2,3). He came from eternity. He is everlasting (Pr 8:23-26). “Firstborn” indicates his dominion over all things. The firstborn in Israel had the right to rule. Jesus has the right to rule because of His rank over all creation. He is the sovereign God of creation.
The word “firstborn” has nothing to do with the first Christmas. Nowhere does the Bible teach that Jesus began at Bethlehem. His physical being began there but not His person. The Bible does teach that He was from everlasting (Mic 5:2; Is 9:2). The child is born but the Son is given. He existed before creation (Jn 1:1-3,14). This passage is not talking about His birth as a creature but His existence as God himself.
“Firstborn” means He is first in priority over creation. Since He preceded creation, He is sovereign over it. Jesus is both prior to creation (time) and sovereign over all creation (rank).
Note that word “all.” There is nothing that the Son is not sovereign over in all creation. Jesus has no rivals; He is unchallenged in preeminence and priority.
- Creator of the Universe
“For by Him all things were created”
The third distinctive of the glory of Christ is that He created all things.
John 1:3 says that Christ created everything. Hebrews 1:2 says the Son made the universe. The Father is the originating cause (source) and the Son is the means by which the world came into being (Re 3:14).
The extent of the Son’s creation is “all” things. This includes the entire universe whether material or immaterial, heaven or earth.
“that are in heaven and that are on earth visible and invisible”
This phrase refers to the material universe, visible and invisible, space, and the physical universe. He made everything that we can see and cannot see.
“whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers”
The words “thrones,” “powers,” “rulers” and “authorities” refer to angelic beings and human government. All angelic organizations, whether good or evil, are under the control and power of Jesus Christ.
“All things were created through Him”
The first phrase here says that all things were created “by” Him (1:16). That is, Jesus is the cause of creation. He designed creation. In this phrase, all things were created “through” Him. He is the instrument of creation. Jesus Christ is the agent whereby the universe was created. He is the creator.
“and for Him”
Finally, creation is designed “for him.” This is a term of purpose. The design of creation is for the glory of Christ. He is the goal of creation. In summary, Christ is the author, the means and the end of creation. The universe finds its goal and perfection in Christ.
The Lord Jesus is the great, grand and glorious theme of Scripture. He is both the center and circumference of the Word of God. The Old Testament predicted His coming, the gospels announced that He came; remaining Scriptures predict His coming again. Delete the Lord Jesus from the Bible and you have a theme without a plot, music without harmony and a car without a motor. In this passage, God sets forth Jesus in all His towering superiority.
The universe holds no ultimate dismay for the Christian. The hands of the sovereign Son of God spun into existence everything that exists. He made the constellations of stars. He is able to deal with our problems. Why should the Christian worry about an uncertain, uncontrolled, runaway world? Jesus Christ is sovereign over it all.
- Prior Existence
“And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist.”
The fourth of seven distinctives of the sovereign Son of God is that He is “before all things.”
“And He is before all things”
The Son of God existed before the creation of the world. He lived before the beginning of time, from all eternity (John 1:1). Jesus Christ came from eternity (Mic. 5:2; Is 9:6; Jn 1:1-3; 8:58; Ep 1:4; Re 1:11).
Since Christ is prior in time to anything and anyone, He has priority of place in the universe. Jesus existed before Abraham, “Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM”” (Jn 8:58). Jesus Christ existed before Abraham was born and Abraham lived 2000 years before Christ.
The Son predates Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” He is the unbegun beginning, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made” (Jn 1:1-3). Our Lord did not become the Son of God at Bethlehem. He existed in pre-incarnate form in eternity past.
We worship an eternally living Christ. Jesus Christ is no super-charged Mahatma Gandhi or eight cylinder Buddha. He is no glorified man. He is man but he is more than man. He is the eternal God. If he is less than God, then the Bible is a fairy tale.
- Sustains the Universe
“and in Him all things consist”
The fifth description of Jesus Christ shows that He sustains the universe. Not only do all things come into being by Him but also He holds everything together (He 3:1). The Lord Jesus Christ manages every atom of the universe. He sustains the universe in such a way that He keeps it from chaos and confusion.
The word “consist” means to hold together, stand together. The Greek tense means that Christ held them together at one point in the past and they remain held together. Since they came together, Jesus Christ holds all of the atoms of the universe in their traffic pattern.
The universe has order because Jesus Christ is managing it out of His omnipotence (limitless power). In one sense, scientific laws do not exist. They are not laws of science because science has no way of enforcing them in the global sense. A scientific law may be formulated but it cannot be controlled. We may legislate a civil law, but if it cannot be enforced it is of little good. Since science cannot guarantee that laws of so-called science will continue, they are not laws of science but laws outside of science. Science bases laws on statistical assumptions that the universe, which operates according to fixed norms, will continue to do so. Science cannot guarantee this.
The Bible declares that the universe will not always exist (2 Pe 3:10-12; Re 20:11). Known scientific laws depend entirely upon the omnipotence and immutability of God the Son. Every scientific textbook (objective science) is a testimony to the trustworthiness of Jesus Christ to care for the universe.
Jesus Christ personally sustains the universe, therefore, He can manage any problem we face. He maintains everything He manufactures. If Jesus Christ can manage the whirling constellations, He can take care of our little family.
The Holy Spirit takes the confused Colossian believers and shows them the magnitude and glory of the person of Christ. He is far more than the carpenter of Nazareth!
Do you have a high view of Jesus Christ? Astronomers tell us that there are billions of stars in space. These stars are of immense size and move at great rates of speed with mathematical precision, yet Jesus Christ personally governs them.
Nothing can happen to us without Jesus Christ initialing it. He okays everything that happens to us. Our Lord has not taken his hand off the steering wheel of the universe.
- Head of the Church
“And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence.”
The sixth distinctive of Jesus Christ is that he is the head of the body, the church. Not only is Jesus Christ the Creator and Sustainer of the Universe but he is also the Lord of the church.
“And He is the head of the body, the church”
Jesus Christ is the sovereign head of the universal church. Anyone who has ever come to trust the cross of Christ whatever the church may be has Jesus Christ as his Lord and Master.
The Bible describes the church as “the body.” God designs the body of Christ to respond to Jesus Christ, the head. The church can make an impact for Jesus Christ. This is the issue at Colosse–His supremacy over the church.
Jesus Christ should hold the supreme rank in our lives because He is the head of the body, the church. Because Jesus Christ fastened us to his body (the church) at salvation, we should glorify His eternal work for us.
- First to Rise from the Dead
“who is the beginning “
The seventh depiction of Christ shows Christ is the first to rise from the dead.
“Beginning” indicates origin. Christ is the originator of the church through His death, burial and resurrection. He was the first to rise from physical death to immortality. God raised others from the dead only to die again. That kind of resurrection is resuscitation or revivification. That is not a sufficient resurrection. That kind of resurrection is not for me. I want the kind that when I rise from the dead I will never die again!
“the firstborn from the dead”
The second part of the seventh description of Christ is that Jesus is the first to rise from the dead.
“Firstborn” indicates that Jesus rose never to die again. All those who trust His cross to pay for their sin will rise never to die again (1 Co 15:20). By resurrection, not resuscitation, Jesus Christ became the first to rise from the dead. He has the sovereign right to rule the church.
Jesus’ resurrection marks a new order of immortality (1 Co 15:20). His resurrection also signals the triumph over death (He 2:14; 1 Jn 3:8). Since Jesus rose from the dead, He deserves our worship and focus.
The Holy Spirit draws a line under the seven descriptions of Christ and adds them up. Here is the total—“that in all things He may have the preeminence.”
The seventh statement climaxes the list of the superiority of Jesus Christ.
“Preeminence” means to have first place. The word means to be first, hold the first place or highest dignity. Because of His uniqueness (the first six distinctives), He should hold the highest dignity to our minds. Jesus Christ should hold the supreme rank, the supreme authority in our lives.
Jesus Christ will not play second fiddle to anyone. He will not be second in any church or family. He will remove any rival.
This term “preeminence” was used of athletes who won their events at the Olympic and Pythian games. The athlete who won first place held the preeminence. Jesus Christ should hold the predominate place in our hearts. Jesus Christ’s preeminence does not depend upon whether we hold him as such in our hearts. He is preeminent whether we honor him or not. Do you give Him first place in your heart (1 Pe 3:15)? Does He come before your business, husband, wife or children?
Jesus Christ wants absolute capitulation; we ought to get off the throne of our lives. Jesus must be King and will not share that position with anyone. He must be number one on our list of priorities. This may explain why some of us have difficulty in our Christian lives. He must be the absolute authority in our lives. He did not die merely to deliver us to heaven. He wants to take us to heaven first class. Most people go to heaven second class.
These seven reasons are some of the reasons why He holds the glory of King Jesus, the sovereign King of the world.