Jesus is So Great . . .

Col 1:15-18

15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. 17 And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. 18 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. NKJV

People like to be great. We watch shows about who can be the greatest. The greatest survivor, or the greatest performer. We watch the greatest sports performers. We glorify what is great and seem often to minimize the normal, of which we mostly are. But in the matters of religion, of faith, there is one name that stands above all the rest. It is the name of Jesus.

As we mentioned last week, Colossians was written to exalt Jesus Christ and give a correct understanding of Him and His relationship to God and the believers. The Gnostics were teaching that they had superior knowledge to that of everyone else. That they had communicated with higher spiritual powers, higher than Jesus Christ and had information that the apostles and others did not have access.

So Paul writes to remind the believers in Colosse of what they had learned when they became believers. This message is important in our day for people have come to deny much of what the Bible says about Jesus and to establish their faith on a manufactured idea of who Jesus is and what He wants.

So why do Christians think Jesus is so great?

I.         He alone is the image of the invisible God.

            A.        This is common language in the New Testament.

                        1.         2 Corinthians 4:4 . . . Christ, who is the image of God, KJV

                        2.         Heb 1:3 who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, NKJV

                        3.         That is why Paul could say, “And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifested in the flesh,” 1 Tim 3:16 NKJV

                        4.         That is why John could write, “No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.” John 1:18 NKJV

                        5.         That is also why Jesus Himself said, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father;” John 14:9 NKJV

            B.        The word means:

                        1.         NT:1504 a likeness, i.e. (literally) statue, profile, or (figuratively) representation, resemblance: New Exhaustive Strong's Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary.

                        2.         Col 1:15 [Now] He is the exact likeness of the unseen God [the visible representation of the invisible]; AMP

                        3.         “Jesus is the very stamp of God the Father as he was before the Incarnation (John 17:5) and is now (Phil 2:5-11; Heb 1:3).” (from Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament, by Broadman Press)

                        4.         Image - exact likeness and perfect Representative. Adam was made "in the image of God" (Gen 1:27). The second Adam perfectly reflected visibly 'the invisible God' (1 Tim 1:17), whose glories the first Adam only in part represented. "Image" [eicon] always supposes a prototype, from which it is drawn: the exact counterpart, as the reflection of the sun in the water: the child the living image of the parent. "Likeness" [homoiosis] implies mere resemblance, not the exact counterpart and derivation; hence, it is nowhere applied to the Son, while "image" is (cf. 1 Cor 11:7 (Trench); John 1:18; 14:9; 2 Cor 4:4; 1 Tim 3:16; 6:16; Heb 1:3). Before His incarnation He was the image of the invisible God, as the Word (John 1:1-3) by whom God created the worlds, and by whom God appeared to the patriarchs. His essential character as always "the image of God" – (1) before the incarnation, (2) in the days of His flesh, and (3) now in His glorified state-is, I think, contemplated by "is." (from Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary, by Biblesoft)

II.        He alone is the firstborn over all creation.

            A.        This does not mean as some think that Jesus was the first created being.

                        1.         John 1:3 All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. NKJV

                        2.         we must carefully avoid any suggestion that Christ was the first of created things, which is contradicted by the following words: "in Him were all things created." The true sense is, "born before the creation." Compare "before all things," Col 1:17. This fact of priority implies "sovereignty." He is exalted above all thrones, etc., and all things are "unto" eis (NT:1519) Him, as they are elsewhere declared to be unto God. Compare Ps 89:27; Heb 1:2. (from Vincent's Word Studies in the New Testament, Electronic Database. Copyright (c) 1997 by Biblesoft)

                                    a.         Ps 89:27 Also I will make him My firstborn, The highest of the kings of the earth. NKJV

                                    b.         Heb 1:2 . . . His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds; NKJV

                        3.         The prefix prootos "first" may be taken in a temporal sense: "he was born before all creation" or in a hierarchical sense, "the begotten One is superior to all creation." As Lightfoot and Moule suggest, possibly both are intended. (It should be made clear that "born" or "begotten" refers not to the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem, but to the relation of Jesus to God, as the eternal Son and heir of the heavenly Father. The use of the word "born" or "begotten" emphasis the unique relationship between God and Jesus which is best expressed in terms of father and son; unlike all other human beings Jesus' relation to God is not expressed in terms of creature and creator.) (from the UBS Handbook Series. Copyright (c) 1961-1997, by United Bible Societies)

                        4.          Lightfoot paraphrases: "He is the Firstborn, and as the Firstborn, the absolute Heir and sovereign Lord, of all creation." (from the UBS Handbook Series. Copyright (c) 1961-1997, by United Bible Societies)

            B.        Everything that was created was created by Him.

                        1.         In heaven and earth.

                                    a.         Regardless of where anything might be.

                        2.         Visible and invisible.

                                    a.         Regardless of whether it is seen or not.

                        3.         Thrones, dominions, and powers.

                                    a.         Regardless of the station or standing of the thing created.

                                    b.         The reference is to the ranks of angels, called here thrones, dominions, etc. (from Barnes' Notes, Electronic Database. Copyright (c) 1997 by Biblesoft)

                                    c.         Paul uses similar language in Eph 1:21 far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come. NKJV

                                    d.         “It is doubtful whether any definite succession of rank is intended. At any rate, it is impossible to accurately define the distinctions. (from Vincent's Word Studies in the New Testament, Electronic Database. Copyright (c) 1997 by Biblesoft)

                                    e.         See also Ro 8:38; Eph 3:10; 6:12; 1 Cor 15:24; Rom 8:38; Titus 3:1; 1Pe 3:22

                                    f.         Colossians 2:10, 15; 10 and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power. 15 Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it.

                                    g.         Invisible - the world of spirits. Thrones, or dominions - lordships; the spirits round the throne: "thrones" are the greatest; lordships the lowest. Principalities, or powers, [archai (NT:746), exousiai (NT:1849)] - 'rules or authorities:' the former are stronger than the latter (cf. Eph 1:21, where the order of angelic ranks is probably descensive, lordship being lowest). The latter pair refer to offices in respect to God's creatures: 'thrones and dominions,' exalted relation to God, they being the chariots on which He rides, displaying His glory (Ps 68:17). (from Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary, Electronic Database. Copyright (c) 1997 by Biblesoft)

                                    h.         Thrones, dominions, principalities. The angelic hierarchy; different ranks of angels, according to the teachings of some of the Jewish doctors. A heresy had already been proposed that divided these into ranks, assigned them an undue prominence, and held that Christ was only an angel. Paul does not pause to say whether these divisions are correct, but declares that Christ is above them all, created them, and that they were created for him. One of these heresies he wished to counteract was the doctrine of angel worship. People’s New Testament Notes

            C.        Everything was created for Him.

                        1.         We find that He was more than the instrument in creation, everything was created for Him.

                        2.         The Gnostics taught that God was so far removed form creation that He could never have created it.

                        3.         But they did not think that even the angels of all degrees were also created by God, even though they were not material (invisible).

III.       He is before all things

            A.        In priority Jesus is above every thing.

            B.        He is the manifestation of the Living God and nothing compares to Him.

            C.        That is why we give His words and teachings such high place in our lives.

            D.        Anyone who takes away from that is not honoring God.

IV.      In Him all things consist.

            A.        Consist sunesteeken (NT:4921). Perfect active indicative (intransitive) of sunisteemi (NT:4921), an old verb, to place together and here to cohere, to hold together. The word repeats the statements in Col 1:16, especially that in the form ektistai (NT:2936). Christ is the controlling and unifying force in nature. The Gnostic philosophy that matter is evil and was created by a remote aeon is thus swept away. The Son of God's love is the Creator and the Sustainer of the universe which is not evil. (from Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament, Electronic Database. Copyright (c) 1997 by Biblesoft & Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament. Copyright (c) 1985 by Broadman Press)

            B.        [And by him all things subsist] Or are sustained; see the notes at Heb 1:3. The meaning is, that they are kept in the present state; their existence, order, and arrangement are continued by his power. If unsupported by him, they would fall into disorder, or sink back to nothing. If this be the proper interpretation, then it is the ascription to Christ of infinite power-for nothing less could be sufficient to uphold the universe; and of infinite wisdom-for this is needed to preserve the harmonious action of the suns and systems of which it is composed. None could do this but one who is divine; and hence we see the reason why he is represented as the image of the invisible God. He is the great and glorious and everactive agent by whom the perfections of God are made known. (from Barnes' Notes, Electronic Database. Copyright (c) 1997 by Biblesoft)

            C.        Jesus Christ is the binding force that holds all things together.

                        1.         This is amazing, that long before we understood the make-up of atoms that Paul explains one of the great mysteries of physics.

                        2.         What is the binding force of the atom, that holds everything together.

                                    a.         The Strong Nuclear Force and Binding Energy; It may seem strange that nuclei, being composed of positively charged protons and neutral neutrons packed very closely together, are able to exist. One might think that the large repulsive electrostatic forces between the protons should cause the nuclei of atoms to fly apart. Obviously, most nuclei are stable and thus there must exist some other force which binds them together. This force is known as the nuclear force and is an attractive force that acts between all nuclear particles at the short distances between them (about 2 x 10-15 m). Within the nucleus, where the protons and neutrons are very close together, the nuclear force dominates the repulsive Coulomb force and holds the nucleus together.

                                    b.         Although the skeptic ridicules the idea of God, there are so many things that they know about that they cannot explain. Yet it could not be God, anything but God.

V.        He is the head of the body the church.

            A.        This is a secondary theme in Colossians while it is a primary theme in Ephesians.

            B.        The church is spoken of as the body of Christ.

                        1.         Col 1:24; Eph 1:22, 23; 4:15, 16; 5:23

                        2.         Some think that Paul here refers to a ambagious group of all believers but I think it refers to the local church.

                        3.         In 1 Cor. 12 where Paul brings this illustration to fruition, it can only be applied to a group of believers bound together in a covenant relationship.

            C.        Christ is the head of the church.

                        1.         It is not your church, it is His.

                        2.         The deacons don’t head it up or even the pastor.

                        3.         Jesus is the head of the church or it is not his church.

                        4.         It exists to fulfill His commission and to proclaim His gospel.

VI.      He is the firstborn from the dead.

            A.        Jesus was not the first to be brought back from the dead, but He was the first to be raised never do die again.

            B.        Paul says that Jesus is the firstfruits of them that slept.

            C.        His resurrection makes our sure.

VII.     In everything He has and will have the preeminence.

            A.        I think Paul could have gone on and on in how Jesus has preeminence over all others.

            B.        But if they will not listen to this short list, they will not believe even if one rises from the dead to tell them.

If Jesus has been given such a lofty place then should we not also give Him the proper place in our hearts.

Many will have such great shame when they rich the judgment for all that they did the did not honor Jesus as Lord of their lives.

William Ernest Henley (1849-1903) wrote:

   I thank whatever gods may be for my unconquerable soul.

   In the fell clutch of circumstance, I have not winced nor cried aloud.

   Under the bludgeonings of chance, my head is bloody but unbowed.

   Beyond this veil of wrath and tears clings but the harrow of the shading.

   Yet the menace of the years finds in self I meet unafraid;

   matters not how straight the gate, how charged with punishments the scroll.

   I am the master of my fate. I am the captain of my soul."

   Those are brave words. Foolish bravery. Underscored by the fact that the man who wrote them took his own life in utter despair.

   Someone wrote a Christian answer to "Invictous," and it goes like this.

   Out of the light that dazzles me, bright is the sun from pole to pole.

   I thank the God I know to be, for Christ the conqueror of my soul.

   Since he's the sway of circumstance, I would not wince nor cry aloud.

   Under that rule which men call chance, my head with joy is humbly bowed.

   Beyond this place of sin and tears, that life with him. And he's the aide

   That spite diminished of the years keeps and shall keep me unafraid.

   It matters not, though straight the gate, He cleared from punishments the scroll.

   Christ is the master of my fate. Christ the captain of my soul."

   -- Frank Pollard, "Our Greatest Victory," Preaching Today, Tape No. 175.