Saturday, June 18, 2011

Supremacy of Christ

Many people believe intellectually that Jesus is God and that He is the Light of the World, as I've written about in previous posts on this blog. But for some people, that belief may not go beyond a simple ascent to the truth. And that's very unfortunate, because when you truly know Christ, it makes a real, practical difference in your life. Today I'd like to address the supremacy of Christ, and hopefully show how His supremacy affects our lives.

First of all, let's look at what the apostle Paul wrote to the Colossian church. My focus will be primarily on chapter one, verses 15-20.

He is the Firstborn
As I've addressed in my previous posts, Jesus is the image of the invisible God. And in this passage, the apostle Paul refers to Jesus as the "firstborn of all creation." Paul wrote: "He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation." (Col 1:15).

Some people have been confused by this term unnecessarily, and taught that Jesus is a created being. This erroneous belief, known as Arianism, has been around since the fourth century AD. In my opinion, it lowers Jesus to the same level as the so-called gods of ancient, Greek mythology. Arianism is named after Arius (c. 250 - c. 336), a priest in Alexandria, who was a Greek theologian. He thought of Jesus Christ as a special creation made by God for man's salvation. While there were many damaging heresies throughout Church history, this is considered to be the most serious one of all.

As Gil Rugh explains in "The Supremacy of Christ in Creation", Paul is using the term firstborn here to express the place of highest honor given to Jesus throughout the universe. In Scripture, we find that the firstborn son of a family has the place of highest honor, and holds the most responsibility to care for his brothers and sisters. Likewise, the Heavenly Father has given this same honor to Jesus Christ, His Son. But this does not mean Jesus is a created being. This is evident in the immediate context of this passage and throughout the rest of Scripture.

In the very next section, I will show how the immediate context does not allow for any other understanding of the term "firstborn" than the one I just explained above. But first let's look at just a couple other passages of Scripture that clarify this matter.

In the book of Hebrews, the writer refers to Melchizedek as a type of Christ found in Scripture. He states: "For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God, who met Abraham as he was returning from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him, to whom also Abraham apportioned a tenth part of all the spoils, was first of all, by the translation of his name, king of righteousness, and then also king of Salem, which is king of peace. Without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but made like the Son of God, he remains a priest perpetually." (Heb 7:1-3). In this passage, we find an analogy between a priest, known as Melchizedek, and Jesus Christ, the Son of God. One of the similarities is that Melchizedek had "neither beginning of days nor end of life." This makes it clear that Jesus shares the same attributes and is without beginning or end.

In Revelation, Jesus says, "I am the Alpha and the Omega." (Rev 1:8) These are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet and this would be the same as calling someone "the A and the Z," using the English alphabet. Jesus further clarified this later, when He referred to Himself as "the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end." (Rev 21:6). Then once more, He said, "I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end." (Rev 22:13). When He said this, He was referring to His eternal nature.

Some believe that when Jesus said, "I am the Beginning," that it means He "had a beginning." Yet it does not mean this at all. He said, "I am the Beginning," not "I had a beginning." Those who take this to mean that Jesus had a beginning must also use the same approach to understanding Jesus' words when He said that He is the End. This would lead to the incorrect conclusion that Jesus has an end. Therefore, this teaching is seriously in error.

Jesus said He is the Bread of Life, and those who eat this Bread will live forever, just as He does. (John 6:51,58). Jesus later referred to Himself as "the Life." (John 14:6). The apostle John also referred to Jesus as "the Eternal Life." He wrote: "And the life was manifested, and we have seen and testify and proclaim to you the Eternal Life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us-- what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ." (1Jo 1:2-3). He also says, "And we know that the Son of God has come, and has given us understanding so that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and Eternal Life." (1Jo 5:20). One meaning of the word "eternal" (Greek, aionios) is that it goes on forever in both directions without beginning or end. And I think it's appropriate to apply that meaning here. Jesus Christ, the Eternal Life, has no beginning or end.

He is the Creator of All
In his letter to the Colossians, immediately after Paul referred to Christ as the firstborn of all creation, he wrote: "For 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." (Col 1:16). Jesus is the Creator of all, and a created being could never fulfill this role.

We are all familiar with the Creation story in Genesis chapters 1-2. The Lord said, “Let their be…” and in this way He created everything. Then God decided to make man in His own image. Then God said, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth." (Gen 1:26). Notice that the Lord said, "let us make". God is one Being in three divine Persons -- Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. All things were created by Jesus -- both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible.

I want to look more closely at the expressions "by Him," "through Him," and "in Him." Gil Rugh uses some building and real estate terms to explain this. He points out, that when Paul says all things were created "by Him," it means specifically that everything was created "in" Him, which refers to His role as the Divine Designer and Architect. When Paul states that everything was created "through" Him, this refers to the role of Jesus as Builder and Maker of everything. And the expression "for Him" refers to the fact that it was all made for His glory. Using the real estate analogy, Jesus is the land Lord and owner of all creation. It all belongs to Him and exists for Him.

He is Before All Things
The apostle Paul wrote, “He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.” (Col 1:17). When he says that Jesus is before all things, it means that Jesus precedes all creation. There is nothing that existed before Him. As God, He has no beginning or end.

What's more, everything is held together in Him. This is true at every level, including the atomic or molecular level. Atoms are made up of protons, neutrons, and electrons, and these are all held together by Jesus. We know that all matter is made up of tiny particles, called molecules. These are all held together by an invisible force and energy. Take for example, water vapor, liquid water and ice. They all have the same chemical properties, in that they are made up of hydrogen and oxygen (H2O). But their physical properties are considerably different. The molecules in ice are packed very closely together and cannot be compressed easily, since there is very little space between them. The molecules of water are also in a formation, but they have more space between them than in ice. This is how the molecules are able to easily slip over one another. In the gaseous state of water vapor, the molecules are very loosely arranged, allowing them to disperse from one another. The force that keeps molecules together is found in Christ.

Likewise, our human bodies are held together in Him. In Him we live and move and have our being. Every beat of our heart and every breath we take is given by Him. Then even our solar system, our planet and all the others are rotating around the sun because of Him. Even though our sun is a giant ball of gases, as depicted above, it is held together by the Lord. The same is true of our galaxy -- the Milky Way. Like all the other millions of galaxies, it is being held together in Christ. In Him all things are held together.

He is the Head of the Body
“He 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.” (Col 1:18)

As we know, without a head, a body is dead. This is true of humans and animals alike. The same is true in the Body of Christ, which is the Church. Jesus is the Head of the Body. In order to remain alive, all members of the Body must remain connected to the Head.

When Paul says that He is the firstborn from the dead, he means that Jesus is the first one to be resurrected from death and the grave and then to receive His glorified body.

Then we come to the main verse for today's post, in which Paul says that Jesus will come to have the supremacy or precedence in everything. This means He will have first place in all things. He will reign supreme over everything. And right now, He reigns supreme in His Kingdom, which is near. He must have first place in all those who have already entered His kingdom.

Here Christ is all, and is in all
Paul wrote: "Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him-- a renewal in which there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all." (Col 3:9-11).

When he said "Christ is all, and in all," he meant here in the kingdom of God. For those of us who have come to know Him, Christ is our all to us in all things. This is not a religion, but a relationship with our Lord and Creator. It's not a ritual we perform or a meeting we attend once a week, but He is everything to us in every aspect of life. We relate to Him that way in the small things like driving our vehicle or taking an exam, as well as the big things like choosing our marriage partner.

He is Above All
John the Baptist said, "He who comes from above is above all, he who is of the earth is from the earth and speaks of the earth. He who comes from heaven is above all." (Joh 3:31). Since we know that Christ came from heaven above, we learn from this Scripture that He is above all. As the song says, He is above all powers and all created things. He is above all wealth and treasures of the earth. There's no way to measure what He's worth.

Why does Christ’s identity matter to me?
Now that we know who Christ is, let’s see what difference that makes to my life and yours. Paul wrote: "Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him." (Col 2:6).

The Colossians had received Christ as Lord, not just Savior. Many people only receive Jesus as their Savior. So they like the part about being forgiven of their sins and saved from perishing. But many times those same people do not allow Jesus to be the Lord of their lives. There is a figurative throne in each of our hearts. Who is on the throne of your heart? Are you on the throne in control of your own life, or is Jesus Christ? If you are on the throne, then you need to get off of it and ask Jesus to take His rightful place on that throne.

And Paul goes on to say that just as the Colossians had received Jesus as Lord they should continue to live in Christ as Lord. The same is true of us. Just because we asked Him to be the Lord of our life, doesn't mean we have continued to walk that way. To continue to live in Christ as Lord means He continues to be in control of your whole life, the big things and the small things. We must give Him first place in our lives, so that He may have the supremacy in all things.

You are being renewed in the image of your Creator

Paul wrote, “and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him.” You see, the Lord made man in His own image, but the image of God in man has been marred by sin. The wonderful part about receiving Jesus as Lord and living in Him as Lord is that in Him, the image of God in us is being restored. As I've mentioned before, an image is an exact representation of something. So those who live this way are being formed into the likeness and image of Jesus Christ.

Do everything in the name of the Lord

Paul wrote, "Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father." (Col 3:17). When he says, "whatever you do," and "do all," that includes everything we do, whether it's brushing our teeth, driving to work, eating lunch, going to a wedding, or being a parent.

But how do we do everything “In the name” of the Lord. That doesn't mean we go around saying, "I now brush my teeth in the name of Jesus." The expression "in the name of the Lord" means “in His authority”. When a king would authorize a decree or law, he would place his signature on it, which was his name. He did this using a signet ring that was pressed into a wax seal. When a king did this, then the law had the full force of his authority behind it. In the same way, policemen today have the authority to enforce the law, because they act in the name of the legal authorities.

This reminds me of the time when King Xerxes gave his signet ring to Mordecai the Jew, as we read in the book of Esther. "The king took off his signet ring which he had taken away from Haman, and gave it to Mordecai. And Esther set Mordecai over the house of Haman." (Est 8:2). Therefore, the king said to Queen Esther, "Now you write to the Jews as you see fit, in the king's name, and seal it with the king's signet ring; for a decree which is written in the name of the king and sealed with the king's signet ring may not be revoked." (Est 8:8). This is what it means to do something in the name of the Lord. You do it in His authority, so you have the full force of the king's authority in what you do. As disciples of Christ do all things in the name of the Lord, then His authority will be brought to bear in every aspect of their lives.

In the garden, after the Adam & Eve sinned, God cursed the serpent (Satan) and told him about the seed of the woman (Jesus). "So the LORD God said to the serpent, 'Because you have done this, Cursed are you above all livestock and all wild animals! You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life. And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; He will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.' ” (Gen 3:14-15). In a sense, Satan struck the heel of Jesus Christ, who is the offspring of the woman, Eve. Jesus, who was born of the virgin Mary, died on the cross. In His suffering and sacrificial death we can see how Satan was allowed to bruise His heel. But in His resurrection, ascension, and glorification, we see how Jesus crushed the head of Satan! Paul wrote to the Colossians regarding the cross of Christ saying, "When He had disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him." (Col 2:15). Jesus has crushed Satan's head with his heel.

As you do everything in the name or authority of the Lord, you will trample on the serpents as well. As Paul wrote to the Romans, “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.” (Rom 16:20). Because Jesus lives in you, He will use your foot to crush Satan. Though Satan may strike your heel, Jesus will crush His head under your feet!
Do everything for the Lord

Paul wrote: "Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men." (Col 3:23). Similar to his previous instruction to do everything in the name of the Lord, we are to do everything for the Lord. This means that He is the one we are doing it for. So we should work at everything with all of our heart, giving it our best. Whether we are writing a blog, sweeping the streets, or running an international company, we should do it as though we are doing it for the Lord, because that's what we are actually doing.

Complete the work you have received in the Lord
At the end of his letter to the Colossians, Paul had a personal message for a man there named Archippus. He wrote: Say to Archippus, "Take heed to the ministry which you have received in the Lord, that you may fulfill it." (Col 4:17).

The Lord had given Archippus a work to do -- a ministry. And Paul wanted them to encourage that man to complete the work he received from the Lord. Just like Archippus, every disciple of Christ has been given a work to do for the Lord. As Paul wrote to the Ephesians, "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them." (Eph 2:10). We have been created for good works. The Lord prepared those good works for us to do before we were ever born. You have a unique purpose in life. It may be raising children, showing hospitality, supporting missionaries, prayer and intercession, healing the sick, or teaching the Word of God. Whatever it is, God created you for that purpose. And just as Paul reminded Archippus, let me encourage you to complete the work the Lord gave you to do. Take heed to your ministry. If you have never been equipped or prepared for that work, then get with those in oversight in the Church who can equip you and receive the preparation to do those works that you were created to do.
Putting it All Together

Jesus Christ is the Creator of All. He is Before All Things. He is the Head of the Body, and we need to remain connected to Him. For those who know Him, He is all, and is in all.

Be sure that you receive Christ as Lord, not just Savior. We must give Him first place in our lives, so that He may have the supremacy in all things.

You are being renewed in the image of your Creator. The very image of God that was marred by sin is being restored in you.

Do everything in the name of the Lord, which means in His authority. Though Satan may strike your heel, Jesus will crush His head under your feet. Likewise, do everything for the Lord, no matter how great or small.

And be sure to complete the work you have received in the Lord. Your labor in the Lord is not in vain. Don't grow weary, because you will reap a harvest at the proper time.

Attribution notice: Most Scripture quotations taken from the NASB

Author's note: If you enjoyed this post, I recommend reading Christ the Beginning, Is Jesus God?, The Sinlessness of Christ, and Jesus is Yehova. You may also access the Main Directory for this blog, or my complete blog directory at Writing for the Master.  

Do You Want to Know Him?
If you want to know Jesus personally, you can. It all begins when you repent and believe in Jesus.  Do you know what God's Word, the Bible says?

“Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’” (Mar 1:14b-15).  He preached that we must repent and believe.

Please see my explanation of this in my post called "Do You Want to Know Jesus?"

Len Lacroix is the founder of Doulos Missions International.  He was based in Eastern Europe for four years, making disciples, as well as helping leaders to be more effective at making disciples who multiply, developing leaders who multiply, with the ultimate goal of planting churches that multiply. His ministry is now based in the United States with the same goal of helping fulfill the Great Commission.

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