Jesus is Supreme in Everything

Jesus is Supreme in Everything

In 1893, the world’s Colombian Exposition was in Chicago, Illinois. Over twenty-one million people flocked to Chicago to see the exhibit. Among the exhibits was the “World’s Parliament of Religions” representing the world’s various faith groups. They met together at that “world’s fair” to share their best truths with the hopes of bringing the religions of the world together in unity.

Dwight L. Moody was living in Chicago at that time and he saw the fair as a great opportunity for evangelism. Moody commissioned evangelists and assigned them to “preaching posts” all around this exposition. All throughout the city he used churches and rented theaters. He even rented a circus tent in which to preach the Word of God. Moody’s friends wanted for him to attack, particularly, the World’s Parliament of Religions exhibit, but he refused saying, “I am going to make Jesus Christ so attractive men will turn to Him.” That is to say, he was going to preach Jesus Christ so clearly they would see His is Supreme and peerless among every other god anyone else would set up and He is the all-sufficient One, and indeed, as Moody preached in 1893, many thousands came to know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

Certainly there is a place for refuting false teaching, but we must not loose sight, in the midst of the false religions of this world, of God’s call upon us to present Jesus Christ to this dark world, all of His revealed glory, and all of His awesome splendor and wonderful beauty.

As Paul takes on the false teachers gathered in Colosse, he seeks to undermine their influence by presenting Jesus Christ as pre-eminent over everything and everyone. He paints for us a clear picture of His person. When the church of Jesus looses her lofty view of Jesus, she is susceptible to all kinds of error. This church in Colosse was a young and immature church. They had not yet grown to have a clear view of the person of Jesus. A church with the full knowledge of the Lord is a church which will not be easily deceived. That is why Paul presents Jesus Christ in His fullness in Colossians 1:15-18.

Paul invites us to consider the supremacy of Jesus over all things. This theme is so vast and all encompassing I confess this task of preaching this theme is too great for me. My mind, quite frankly, cannot get around its vastness as Jesus is an infinite subject and my lips are far too feeble to express it. My hope is you will become lost with me in the magnificence, supremacy, and gravity of Jesus’ fullness.

In this text, God calls us to worship Jesus, to love Him, and to hold Him as supreme over everything; over the church and over our personal lives alike. There are two main points we will follow. The first is simply Jesus is supreme over all creation. The second point I will make is Jesus is supreme over the church, His body.

We first will consider Jesus is supreme over all creation. The Apostle Paul begins this theme in Verse 15, when he writes of Jesus,

15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.

It is important to know something of false teachers who had entered into Colosse and were wooing the church away from a correct picture and a right understanding of Jesus. These false teachers were not claiming Jesus was unimportant or irrelevant. They merely claimed He was not uniquely Supreme. They were glad to have Him along with a list of other emanations of God and manifestations of Him. Indeed, these false teachers would not deny Him; they would simply demote Him.

These false teachers brought new and inviting views of how man could connect with God. The novelty of their approach was drawing hearers, even from within the church. These views of Jesus were given a place within the church. Jesus was not cast outside altogether. That is not the design of these false teachers, but He was just not “center”. They taught Jesus was “like” God, but He was not fully God; He was less than God. He was one of many mediators between God and man. In this, these false teachers of the 1st Century were very much like the false teachers of the 21st Century.

Many today follow these early heretics in diminishing and demoting the person of Jesus Christ. The latest great attempt, of course, is in the movie, The DaVinci Code in calling Jesus, “just another man”.

The caution we have, dear friends, is we must be wary of anyone who diminishes the central truth of Jesus in the fullness of His deity, and of Jesus of having a unique place as the One and only mediator between God and man. Be wary of anyone who would suggest Jesus is one, and maybe the primary way, but there are other ways to God other than through Jesus.

The Doctrine of the Deity and Supremacy of Jesus is central to the faith. One cannot deny Jesus’ deity and yet still be a Christian. Christians, by definition, are believers. We have something we believe in and at the center of what we believe is Jesus is God fully come in the flesh. Though others may be very nice and moral and seem to be Christian-like in their behavior, nonetheless, from a biblical standpoint, they are not believers because they do not believe in Jesus as God.

We notice how Paul refutes these false teachers. He refutes them in Verse 15 through two phrases. Let’s look at them individually. First, the Apostle Paul says, “Jesus is the image of the invisible God.” That is an interesting little phrase. How can something be an image of that which is invisible? How can you take a picture of an invisible being? Yet, this is exactly what the Apostle Paul is saying; Jesus is the image of the invisible God.

This term “image” can mean what we take it normally to mean. One of its definitions is that of a representation or reproduction of something real. For instance, a photograph, a portrait, or a statue of a person would be an image. Here Paul says Jesus is the image of the invisible God. You cannot paint a portrait or make a statue of something which is invisible.

Of this term image, which in the New Testament is the Greek word, icon, Greek scholar W.E. Vine would write this concerning this word, “The word icon, or image, involves the double idea of representation and manifestation. It does not denote, here, mere likeness and resemblance. This is to say, this word image does not just mean representation, a reproduction, but it also means a manifestation, that is to say, when Paul is saying Jesus is the image of the invisible God, he is saying Jesus is the visible manifestation so you and I might be able to see God in His glory.”

Paul is not saying Jesus is merely a picture of God, something less than God, and just a representation, but rather Paul is saying we can know who God is because Jesus visibly manifested the person of God in His being; Jesus makes God visible to us.

Turn back to John 1, and we see the Gospel of John begins with these very same ideas. Then we will look at Hebrews 1. If you are ever in a conversation with a person with regards to Jesus’ deity, you might just remember “chapter 1”; John, Chapter 1, Colossians, Chapter 1, and Hebrews, Chapter 1. These three mark for us tremendous passages which speak in great terms and descriptions of the deity of the person of Jesus. In John 1, John begins his Gospel this way,

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
2 He was with God in the beginning.
3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.

Who is this “Word”? In Verse 14 we read,

14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth… 18 No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known.

It is through Jesus we have a visible manifestation of the person of God. Furthermore, in Hebrews 1, the writer of the Hebrew letter would say,

3 The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being…

This is the way we see God’s glory. Being God, He now is that person of the Godhead who makes God’s glory visible and radiant to us. There is not anything which would diminish God and Jesus, but rather He is the exact, full representation of God Himself.

In Verse 19, of Colossians 1, we read,

19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him…

Jesus would say, in John 14,

9 “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.”

I love the testimony of one man who was baptized in our church several years ago. He did not know Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior. He did not know much about Jesus at all when he came to this area. A believer began to witness to him regarding Jesus Christ, and he said, “I was not interested at all in what he had to say,” so he turned him away. A year passed by and another person came and began to witness to him, but this man was a Jehovah’s Witness, and as many of you know, Jehovah’s Witnesses do not believe in the deity of Jesus Christ and they reject Jesus is God. This man, though, was very interesting and he gave this member of our church a pamphlet in regards to Jesus and this member said he began to read through it and it told him of all the miracles Jesus had done throughout His life. He said it told of His resurrection and he said, “But then it came to the end and it said Jesus was not God. I sat that book aside and said, ‘This cannot be true for if the first nine tenths of that pamphlet were true, then Jesus must be God.’ So, I sought out the Christian friend who talked to me earlier and asked him and he told me the Gospel and I came to know Jesus Christ.”

It is vital we are rooted and grounded in this precious truth regarding the person of Jesus.

The second phrase the Apostle Paul uses in Colossians 1:15 is,

15 He is…the firstborn over all creation.

He is firstborn “over” all creation, not “of” all creation. Some would argue, and Jehovah’s Witnesses are among them, this term “firstborn” means Jesus must have had a beginning at some point; He was a created being at some point and He was born into this world out of non-existence. Such an understanding of this term, firstborn, entirely misses the point of the term as Paul uses it.

This term, firstborn, has two definitions which are important for us to know. The first is the one we naturally assume: that of being the child first, chronologically, born into a family, such as my son Alexander would be the “firstborn” in this sense of the term. The second definition, which is also used frequently in New Testament times, was not referencing chronology of birth order, but was rather referencing primacy of rank, honor, and position. It was as if the term, firstborn, was a title of status, having nothing to do with the chronology of one’s birth in one’s family.

We do not use this term in the English language very often, if at all, in reference to a title of status. That is the reason why we sometimes have a hard time understanding what this word means, but nonetheless, the term was often used in New Testament times to refer to the first in priority and the first in honor. For instance, in Exodus 4:22, Israel, the Nation, was said to be God’s “firstborn”. Israel was not the first nation, chronologically, God brought into being into this world, not by a long stretch, but what God was saying is this Nation had His priority, it is first in rank, it is first in honor and it was through this Nation He would reveal Himself and ultimately give His Son into the world to bring salvation to all the world. Israel was the “firstborn” and first in position.

Also, remember the story of Esau and Jacob. Esau was born first, chronologically, but Jacob was the “firstborn”; first in honor, first in position, and first in status as God blessed him.

Paul is teaching Jesus is pre-eminent in using this term, firstborn. Someone may say, “How do we know for sure when Paul uses this term he is not referencing the first definition, the firstborn chronologically and Jesus is a created being?” There are several arguments, but let me give you what I believe is the obvious one: the context in which Paul will go on to say, in the very next verse,

16 For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth…

Paul is saying, Jesus is firstborn and the reason why He is first in rank and priority is because all things were created by Him. If Jesus is a created being, how could all things be created by Him and for Him?

The Apostle Paul knew, when he would state Jesus created all things, all those familiar with the Hebrew Scripture would know in Genesis 1, God begins the Book this way,

1 In the beginning God created…

And yet, here he applies creation to the person of Jesus Christ, necessarily as Creator, uncreated and eternal. Why does Jesus have the first place of status and honor over all creation? There are three truths which are developed through Verses 16 and 17. The first is that which we have already stated: Jesus created everything which exists.

16 For 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.

The logic Paul is following is: if Jesus created all things He must have first place over all things.

In our country we have certain patent laws. The inventor of various products are acknowledged to have certain rights, certain authority, and certain supremacy over the product which they created and invented, and if not the inventor personally, the company which employed the inventor at the time of the invention. Jesus has a patent on the whole universe and His patent never expires and He never sells His patent to another company or to another person to use as they may. He holds onto His patent; it is His eternally, therefore, He is first in rank over everything.

The second reason why Jesus is first in rank, firstborn over all creation, is because He not only created all things, but He holds all things together, which we read in Verse 17,

17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

The phrase “hold together” means to cohere and to come together. It is in the perfect tense and that means it is an ongoing, continuous action; that Jesus has held it together, He is holding it together, and He will forever be holding this world and creation together until the fullness of time when He has this world destroyed by a great fire, as the Book of Revelation would tell us.

The idea is that creation is not independent of Jesus. He holds this world together so order and the laws of physics continue to operate. Why does the earth spin in orbit around the sun? Why do the rains fall to give the necessary moisture to the plants? Why is there an ecological balance in the system of animals and plants and everything involved in that? We might be able to describe the physical laws God uses to govern these things, but the ultimate answer we, as Christians, must know and hold onto as to why there is order in this physical universe, today, tomorrow, and until the end of time when it is culminated by God’s bidding, is Jesus Christ, our Lord, holds all things together.

I read nuclear physicists still do not know what holds the nucleus of an atom together. Carl K. Darrow, a physicist at Bell Laboratory, writes these words in speaking of the physical nature of the atom, “You grasp what this implies. It implies that all the mass of nuclei have no right to be alive at all. Indeed, they should have never been created, and if created, they should have blown up instantly, yet here they all are. Some inflexible inhibition is holding them relentlessly together. The nature of the inhibition is also a secret, one thus far reserved by nature for herself.”

This physicist is not a believer, yet he realizes there is something which he calls an “inflexible inhibition”. What he calls an inflexible inhibition, the Bible calls Jesus Christ.

It may be true a scientific discovery in the future may explain through the laws of physics this mystery, but the Bible teaches us God Himself is directly in control of holding this world together. He does not step away from His creation, winding up the watch, and then letting it run, but rather He takes direct control and Jesus Christ is the person of the Godhead who has an active roll in maintaining that balance which is necessary for the existence of human life on this earth, and He is necessary for the order of your personal life and of my personal life in every way. Jesus holds all things together.

What a comfort it is to know the Jesus who holds all things together is the Jesus who died for our sins. He is the One who arose the third day and showed Himself absolutely powerful. There are many people today running around saying, “The sky is falling!” and it is possible for Christians to get caught up in the midst of the paranoia: some asteroid may hit the earth and that will be the end of human life as we know it; some epidemic is going to erase mankind from the planet.

We, as Christians, can sit back, and this does not mean we are careless in the administration of God’s creation, but it does mean we need never to fear because we know the One who holds this world together in His sovereign, absolutely powerful hand.

There is a bumper sticker which reads: “Stop the world, I want to get off!” Have you ever felt that way? It seems as though everything in this world, particularly in one’s personal life, is spinning out of control in absolute chaos.

Isn’t it wonderful to know, as we look at the chaos within our lives and the chaos which surrounds our lives and the chaos all around us in this world with every reading of the morning paper, we need not fret, we need not fear, we need not worry and become anxious about the future, for if the earth’s orbit is held in place by Jesus, certainly we can be confident He is holding together the circumstances of our lives as we seek to glorify Him? Can we not be absolutely confident in that? Jesus is the One who holds all things together.

We have spoken of two reasons Paul gives as to why Jesus is supreme over all creation. He created all things and He holds together all things, but the last reason, and this to me is spectacular, is all things exist for Jesus. Let’s look at Verse 16 again,

16 …all things were created by him and for him.

In Romans 11, it would be said of God,

36 For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen.

That is the truth of Jesus. Jesus’ glory is the purpose of all creation. All history is moving toward this end. Nothing exists that was not created specifically to benefit Jesus, to honor Jesus, to worship Jesus, and to glorify Jesus. Everything which exists was created with Jesus’ glory as its ultimate goal, it ultimate purpose, and God will bring that to pass.

There are hundreds of applications I could draw upon. I want to draw upon one which God pressed upon my heart this week: in view of all creation existing for Jesus, the motivation and the goal of our obedience is the glory of Jesus. Because Jesus created us and because we are created for His glory, we will only find life when we do all things with Him in view, and we do all things unto Him and for Him.

We obey God not because obedience is convenient to our life at that time. We obey God not because obedience works out for us. We obey God not because obedience makes sense to our understanding at the moment. We obey God not because obedience benefits us in some temporal way. All these may be true of obedience. Obedience, indeed, may benefit us and it most often does benefit us in some temporal way. Obedience does often make sense to our understanding. Obedience does often cause things to work out for us and often does if convenient, but that is not the reason why we ever obey. As people who are called by the name of Jesus, who is connected to our created purpose, we obey Jesus because we are created for Him and by faith we believe our eternal joy is directly connected to the glory of Jesus Christ, so much so my number one goal in life is for Jesus to be in first place, for Jesus to be pre-eminent, and for Jesus to receive glory.

It is true obedience is good for any motivation, but only this goal of obeying God for the purpose of bringing glory to Jesus provides us first with the power to obey God in all circumstances, for all of the other motivations eventually will wear out and run dry. It is this one which consistently lives on in a dynamic fashion regardless of the circumstances of our life and regardless of the temptations so we are not tempted to make any exceptions, because while some exceptions to obedience may seem to benefit our lives temporally, there are no exceptions to obedience which will bring glory to Jesus Christ, for every act of disobedience robs Him of the rightful honor He deserves in our lives and in this world.

It is only the goal of having the glory of Jesus in view of our obedience which infuses us with a power to continue to obey consistently, and it also infuses within us a cheerfulness and a joy within our hearts as we obey, even when such obedience is dreadfully difficult. This goal for obedience must always be before us or we will place lesser goals in front of us which will rob us of our joy and strip us of our strength to obey. Obedience is always to be about Jesus. This is vital, because if obedience is about us we will find reason why obedience is not beneficial and does not apply in our situation.

For instance, the motivation of a husband loving his wife and the motivation of a wife submitting to her husband is not the temporal benefit of being happier, but the supreme motivation for these actions, regardless of the circumstances is this: by loving your wife you bring glory to Jesus and by submitting to your husband you bring glory to Jesus. That is it!

The goal of taking care of our physical bodies is through eating the right things, through diet, and through exercise. The goal of this act of obedience is not so we will look better and people will look at us and say, “Wow! You look really good,” or not even for longevity of life as the result of eating right and the result of exercise that we may add another decade onto our lives. That may be a side benefit to obeying God in our diet and exercise, but the ultimate goal is this: I want to glorify Jesus Christ in my body. That is it!

The motivation of purity in sexual relationships is not to avoid the shame and guilt such impurity brings upon us, but it is to bring glory to Jesus.

The goal of a child responding to and obeying his or her parents is not to avoid the punishment. That may be a motivation which works for a time, but that is not a motivation, you children, God ultimately has for you. Here is the reason why you obey your parents: this brings glory to Jesus.

The motivation for hard word in our jobs, in education, and in preparation for a career, is not the reward of more money and greater position, but the reason why we do these things is because it honors Jesus Christ. Jesus is supreme over all creation.

Let’s look at the second aspect: Jesus is supreme over the church, as we read in Verse 18,

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.

What a statement that is. Paul uses an analogy of our human body to help us to understand Jesus’ place among God’s people. He first tells us about God’s people, which are like a body. That is to say, when God brings a person into His family, or to Himself, He causes us to be connected to other people and when we, as individual believers in Jesus Christ, disconnect ourselves from active service among, encouragement with, and worship with the people of God we have missed out on God’s whole Kingdom-plan for bringing us to Himself in the first place, so that He might have a people, not just individuals, called out. That is why church is so important.

That is not the focus of the Apostle Paul’s teaching here. It is later, in Ephesians and in 1 Corinthians. The focus of using the analogy here is to direct our eyes to the head. Is it not true the head is always the glory of the body; it is that place of beauty so when we look at people it is what we first notice? May God so work in this church, when people look at Bethany Baptist Church, the first thing they see, and the real beauty within this church is not the body, so much as it is the head of Jesus Christ.

When the Apostle Paul speaks of Jesus being the “Head” there are two ideas behind the word “head”. First, is Jesus is the source of life. The church has no life when it becomes separate from Christ. When Jesus is minimized in the church, her life and vitality is drawn out of her and the church becomes a zombie-like corpse when she is separated from Jesus. Jesus is the One who makes her fruitful. A church has life, not because of her programs, not because of her facilities, not because of the important people who attend, not because of her wealth, and not because of her strategic planning, but the source of the life of any true church is Jesus is at the head giving life to her.

That does not diminish all of these other things of having good facilities, good programs, etc., but that is not the source of our life. The source of our life and of our dependence is upon Jesus. He is the One who supplies us with His Spirit and through His Spirit the gifts of people. He is One who cleanses the church and nourishes her through the Word.

This term, head, not only means Jesus is the source of life, but it also means Jesus is the Leader and Ruler of the church. He is the King, the One who sits on the throne within the church. No person is ever to be the chief leader of the church. Jesus occupies that place of headship. It is vital, no human being, other than the One God-man, Jesus Christ, occupies the position of being the head of the church; not a charismatic pastor, not a pope, not a group of elders, and not a denomination. This position belongs solely to Jesus Christ.

Jesus is the only Creator of all which exists and He is the only Head of the church. It makes no more sense for a man to say, “I am the head of the church,” than it is for a man to say, “I am the creator of all which exists.” Those two titles are linked extricably together.

Let me give you several applications. First, Jesus alone determines the doctrine of the local church. When the church takes her mind and heart away from Jesus and His Words, human opinion, mystical experiences, and the traditions of men will fill the vacuum and will become the source of what people choose to believe. There is no one, no convention, no group of men, and no wise person who is able to say, “This is what you must believe.” If Jesus had not already it first, long ago, through His Word, then we must not believe it.

It is right for us to honor spiritual leaders within the church and to honor their teaching, but it is of no purpose, for instance, to quote the church fathers who lived during the first four centuries this is what we must belief because the church fathers taught it. It is of no purpose for us to say, “This is what Calvin taught,” or “This is what Spurgeon taught,” or “This is what Wesley taught,” or “This is what Luther taught.” Who is Calvin? Who is Luther? They are mere servants of the King. Jesus alone is our Rabbi. The opinions of fellow servants, while they are to be respected, they are never, ever to be intended to be authoritative for us, for no one else holds the supreme of position.

Furthermore, Jesus alone determines the practices of the church. It is not right for anyone within the church to say, “These are some new laws which you, as believers, must adhere to.” Jesus Christ alone has the right to make the Laws as He is the Governor, He is the King, and He is the legislative branch of the church. Be wary of following leaders who create new laws and regulations as though they possess the authority of Jesus Christ. It is true we should be thoughtful regarding the applications of Jesus’ Truth is, but Jesus alone has the right and the authority to press upon our conscious’s what is right and what is wrong, what we must do, and what we must stay away from.

The last application is Jesus alone determines the direction of the church. The church must never become a servant of the latest cultural trends or sociological changes. The church and its ministry must not be guided by results; what works and what does not. No, we must always ask, “Lord, what would you have us to do?” Jesus instructs us to preach the Word, so we do not say, “Today, people prefer dialogue. Today people prefer drama. That is what people want.” No, Jesus said, “Preach the Word,” so we preach the Word. Jesus instructs us to go into all the world with the Gospel of Jesus Christ and proclaim it boldly. We do not say, “That is culturally insensitive. It makes it seem like American imperialism if we do that.” No, we say, “Jesus said it. We have to go!” He determines the practice of the church.

Jesus tells us to commit ministry time for the entire church to pray, but we do not say, “Look at the results. There are only a few people who show up at prayer meetings. Let’s cancel the prayer meetings.” Jesus said, “Church, get together and pray.” That is what the church must do.

The church is not measured by results, by relevance, or by popularity, but it is measured by faithfulness to the One who is the Head.

In conclusion, Verse 18 says,

18 And he is the…firstborn from among the dead…

He is first in honor and rank among those who have been resurrected. Others were raised from the dead, but Jesus, alone, was resurrected. He is the first in rank and the reason why is because His resurrection is different from any others who were raised. How is this so? In John 11, Jesus says this, and it explains why He is the firstborn among the dead, at the funeral of His friend, Lazarus,

25 “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; 26 and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

Jesus rose from the dead in order to provide you and me with life and with certainty of our resurrection in the future, but we must believe Jesus Christ is God become man; that Jesus died upon the cross for our sin to make redemption a payment price so we might be forgiven, and Jesus Christ is the firstborn among the dead and it is through His resurrection we can have the hope of eternal life and resurrection for ourselves. Jesus is the One who applied the question indirectly to His audience, and I apply it to you: do you believe this?

Oh, that in everything, Jesus Christ might have supremacy, first place in our families, first place in our marriages, first place in our local church, first place in our careers and in our professions, first place in our time, first place in our loves, first place in our conversations, first place in our leisure, first place in our hobbies and in our pleasures, first place in our athletics, first place in eating, first place in what we watch on television, first place in what we hear, first place in art, first place in art, first place in music, and first place in worship.

Friends, let us give Him first place.