Let me tell you about Christ. He’s the pinnacle. He’s the top. He’s #1. He’s Chief. He’s the boss. He’s the Big Kahuna. He’s the President. He’s the Emperor. He’s first-place. He comes first in everything. He’s not A winner, he’s THE winner.
This is what Paul tells the Colossians in the second half of chapter one. In the first 14 verses Paul greeted the Colossians. Rejoiced in the growth of the Gospel through the world and in the hearts of the Christians living in Colossae. He then told them of His prayer that they might grow in knowledge of God’s will, in power to live that will, in strength and in thankfulness.
And to help them grow in faith and in knowledge of God, Paul begins to teach. Turn to Colossians 1, verse 15
“15He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16For 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. 17He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. 19For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.He is the image of the invisible God. I like how Paul starts out here. With an oxymoron. Christ is the picture of the invisible God. Of course we know that Paul isn’t talking about physical features, like hair color and complexion. Paul means that when you begin to know Jesus, you begin to know God.
21Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. 22But 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—23if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant” (Colossians 1:15-23 NIV).
Think this is a great phrase to start with. It’s heavy. Philosophical. Deep. And the things that Paul is going to talk about next are just as deep.
Christ is the firstborn over all creation. Some have understood this to mean that A) Christ is one of the many things God created, and B) He was created first. This ISN’T what Paul is saying. When you dig into what “firstborn” meant in ancient times, Paul’s meaning becomes clearer.
The firstborn son was considered the greatest showing of his father’s strength and vigor. Turn to Genesis 49, verse 3. Here an elderly Jacob is blessing his sons before his death. He speaks to each one of them in turn. First he addresses Reuben.
“3 “Reuben, you are my firstborn,Not only was the firstborn considered the greatest showing of his father’s strength, the firstborn son was also given a double inheritance. If there were three sons, that meant that the firstborn would get half the estate, and the other two sons only a quarter each.
my might, the first sign of my strength,
excelling in honor, excelling in power” (Genesis 49:3 NIV).
If the father died unexpectedly, the firstborn son was the one who became the head of the household.
When Paul says Christ is the firstborn of all creation, he means Christ is above all things in prestige, status and authority. Paul further explains in verse 16.
For by him all things were created…
In the Greek, the “For” at the beginning of verse 16 is an explaining word. It means, what I just said I’m going to explain in some way. Paul says, Christ is the firstborn over all creation, he’s go the highest status you can have, and here’s a reason I can say that, He created it all.
What this all means is that ultimately, everyone who has power of any kind, authority of any kind, talent of any kind, wisdom of any kind - they have Christ to thank for those gifts. And they were given those gifts that they might serve Him with them. We and all our neighbors are accountable to God for how we use anything.
Paul keeps the heavy coming. Verse 17.
He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
I love how Paul tosses in this little statement, oh yeah, “and in him all things hold together”. Think about the magnitude of that statement. Paul is saying that Christ is the glue that holds reality together. Christ is the weave in the fabric of existence. Without Him the universe would fall apart.
I saw a book title at the store a few days ago, it was called “The Christian Atheist: Believing in God, but Living As If He Doesn’t Exist”. That the issue here isn’t it. It’s not just about knowing the truth, it’s about believing it. It’s about incorporating what we believe into our lives.
Trusting fully that Christ really is the glue that holds our universe together, makes other passages we know easier to believe. Passages like Romans 8:28.
“28And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28 NKJV).It’s no wonder Paul can make this promise. If Christ is holding the whole of the created world together, both the visible and the invisible parts, than he can certainly weave those things to catch and lift up his people, no matter what situation they stumble over.
Paul’s not done talking about Christ yet. Verse 18.
And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.
Paul had used that word “firstborn earlier”. He said Christ is the “Firstborn over all creation”. Now he says Christ is also the “Firstborn from among the dead”. Obviously, Paul is referring in some way to Jesus’ resurrection. Born from the dead is an eloquent euphemism for “resurrected”. But we might how was Christ’s resurrection the first? There were others who had been raised from the dead. Some in the old testament, some by Jesus during His ministry. Again, we need to remember that “Firstborn” means more than numerically first. It means the greatest. The highest in status or rank.
When others were raised from the dead, they still had needs. You remember the little girl that Jesus raised from the dead? Jairus’ daughter? Right after raising her from the dead he told her parents to give her something to eat (Mark 5:43).
She had needs, and she would one day die again. The same is true of Lazarus. We have no indication from God’s Word that he was somehow swooped up to heaven sometime after Jesus raised him from the dead. Lazarus had to go through that same door of death again. I’m guessing it was less scary the second time. But before that, Lazarus would have to endure all the same sicknesses and problems that he had before.
But Jesus’ resurrection was different. When He was raised to life on the third day, His body was changed. After His glorious resurrection on Easter morning He passed through walls, appeared wherever He wished - He was “glorified”.
Not only was Christ was numerically the first to be resurrected to this glorified state, He is also the greatest of any who will follow in resurrection. For it is HIS sacrificial death that makes their resurrections to glory possible.
Paul throws in another one of those explaining words. Look at verse 19. He says…
For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.
We want to slow down right here. We want to make sure we consider this carefully. Paul is making perhaps the most extravagant claim that has ever been made. He is saying that God was pleased to put “all of his total quantity” in Christ, the God-Man.
Think of the Baby Jesus. Think of the traveling preacher from Nazareth. Think of the crucified. It was because Christ was God in full, that His blood paid our debt in full. We have peace through God’s blood, shed on the cross.
Okay, were’ to that turning point I was talking about. Paul has just gone off about Christ and how Christ is in everyway possible – number one. Now Paul says what all this deep philosophical stuff means for the people in Colossae. Verse 21-23.
Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. 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 – if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant.
There a great poem I want to read to you. Maybe you’ve read it before. It’s printed on the back of the bulletin.
It’s called “INVENTION” by Shel Silverstein.
I’ve done it, I’ve done it!I especially like the illustration that goes with this poem. There’s a light bulb and an extension cord and a little girl holding up the plug as if she’s reaching for the sun.
Guess what I’ve done!
Invented a light that plugs into the sun.
The sun is bright enough,
The bulb is strong enough,
But, oh, there’s only one thing wrong…
The cord ain’t long enough.
I like this poem because of the outrageous idea. The “reaching for the stars” concept. That you’d actually be able to plug your own little light bulb in to that great big fireball in the sky. It’s good stuff.
Human religions have been trying to do exactly this for ages. I know how to plug into God! I do really. Oh, shoot, I can’t quite reach Him. The cord is too short.
But then one day, Plop. Down from the sky came a cord. An honest to goodness line to God. A real connection to all that is Him. It came through Christ’s physical death on the cross.
And oh, the amazing things that happen when we get plugged into that cord.
…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 – if you continue in your faith…
Holy. Without blemish. Unable to accuse. That’s what our Christ-connection to God makes happen. Through Christ we are considered sinless. Any ugly action that marked our past is now gone. It is impossible for any to accuse those in Christ.
Turn to Hebrews 12, verse 22. There it says…
“…you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, 23to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven…” (Hebrews 12:22-23).The “church of the firstborn”. You might think that’s talking about Christ - you know “Christ’s church” - but it’s not. In the Greek the word “firstborn” isn’t singular, it’s plural. It means the church MADE UP OF ALL THE FIRSTBORN ONES.
In other words, through Christ, we become “Firstborn”. We receive His prestige, His status, His authority. We are declared holy, without blemish, un-accusable.
It’s like plugging into the sun. Except, Christ is a lot bigger.
Prayer: Father in Heaven, in proverbs you tell us that true wisdom starts with a fear of you. With an awe and respect for you. Renew that awe Father. Help us see in your Son, your greatness. Let this wisdom bleed into all the different parts of our lives. Let us not live like Christian atheists, only acknowledging you with our mouths, and not with who we are. You’ve forgiven us through your Son. Help us to move away from our old ways. Help our lives to match the rank we’ve received through Christ. Reborn. Firstborn.