Colossians 1:15-23 —
15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by Him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities – all things were created through Him and for Him. 17 And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. 18 And He is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything He might be preeminent. 19 For in Him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of His cross.
21 And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22 He has now reconciled in His body of flesh by His death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before Him, 23 if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.
We are continuing in our journey through Colossians 1:15-23 this week, and I could not be more excited! This Christ-exalting hymn is packed full of opportunities to know King Jesus more fully. And, as we looked at last week, He is a personal God who gives us opportunity to know Him and be known by Him.
It is my prayer that, through looking at these verses, you have a desire to draw nearer to Christ. I do not know about you, but I will never have the opportunity to enter into the court of a king here on Earth. I have as much chance being invited to tea with the queen at Buckingham Palace as I do conversing in the Oval Office. But that does not matter, because there are things more important than this world, and the King of kings and Lord of presidents has bought me and made me His own.
That is where our focus is going to shift today, from focusing on His personal nature to that of Him being Lord – specifically, preeminent. Let us begin unpacking verses 15-18 to get a clearer picture.
Verse 15 begins with our discussion from last week with Christ being the “image (icon) of the invisible God”; we’re going to look at the end of the verse today: “the firstborn of all creation”. This focuses on the rank and status of a firstborn son. In the ancient Near East, the firstborn son was above any of his other siblings. He would inherit all the power from his father. Here, we see that Jesus has the rank and status of His Father over their Creation. Jesus, “whose coming forth is from old, from ancient days” (Micah 5:2), is preeminent over all Creation.
Verse 16 says: “For by Him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities – all things were created through Him and for Him.” Jesus, being God, is Creator. He existed before Creation and will still exist when all these things pass away. He is “the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end” (Revelation 22:13). John 1:3 tells us that “All things were made through Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made.” He is Lord of Creation. Nothing that we know – including ourselves – would exist if it was not for Jesus. Yet He set His affections on us!
Often, we look at Creation and have a very children’s-story-Bible view of it; we often see it as God doing some stuff in a garden thousands of years ago and letting things work out on their own. But it is more than a story; it is our existence! Look at the part of verse 16 where it says, “whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities”. Jesus’ preeminence in Creation is not limited to Genesis 1-2; He is working in the here and now as well. Right now, Satan thinks he is winning the cosmic battle between him and King Jesus. So many things seem to be going his way. Look at the words of the hymn “A Mighty Fortress is Our God”: “The Prince of Darkness grim, We tremble not for him; His rage we can endure, For, lo, his doom is sure, One little word will fell him.” “One little word” is key to our understanding of Christ’s preeminence in creation. Let us look at verse 17 to understand.
Verse 17 says, “And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.” The first part of that verse continues the repeating of Christ’s being preeminent. Focus in on the second part: “in Him all things hold together”. Think back to creation (Genesis 1:1-3). God was there “in the beginning” and the Spirit of God “hovered over the face of the deep”, but what about the Son? Genesis 1:3 begins with “And God said…”. The Word of God (John 1:1-14). Here is where we see Jesus in Creation and how we understand verse 17! His very presence – the presence of the Word of God – is how everything, even today, is held together. Hebrews 1:3 says, “He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of His nature, and He upholds the universe by the word of His power.” So, I say it again, Jesus is preeminent in Creation. He is preeminent because He is the Creator.
In the first part of verse 18, we see a shift in the language. Paul starts this passage looking at Christ as the supreme and sovereign Creator of everything. He then begins to look at the creation of the universe. His focus begins to zoom inward past all creation to the earth and, ultimately, to His Church – the Bride of Christ (Ephesians 5:22-33). “And He is the head of the body, the church.”
Too often, we confuse the Church with bricks and mortar, steeples and pews. But the Church is the redeemed of Christ, world-wide, throughout history, and even locally. Our focus needs to shift to understand our Christ more fully: “…the church [is] a living organism, inseparably tied together by the living Christ.” To say that Christ is the “head of the body” is to say that He is Lord. Just as our physical bodies cannot continue without our heads, the Church is nothing without her head. He drives all functioning and sustains all life – He is the Life (John 14:6)!
How does it accomplish all this? Because “He is the beginning, the firstborn of the dead, that in everything He might be preeminent” (v. 18b). His death secured His preeminence! Philippians 2:8-11 says,
“And being found in human form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the Name that is above every name, so that at the Name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
Without His death, we would never have Life.
Look at verse 20 for what this means for us: “…and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of His cross.” This is where it becomes less of a study of Bible verses and intersects with our lives.
That word “reconcile” changes everything for us. You see, at the end of the day, words like Lord and preeminent are just words if they do not have an impact on our lives. The word “reconcile” here could be translate as “change”. But what changed? Obviously, Jesus – being God – does not change. What changes is our status with Him.
Our sin makes us an enemy of the sovereign God of the Universe (Romans 5:6-11). Without reconciliation, we remain in that sin. So, “For our sake, [God] made [Christ] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). He gave His only Son (John 3:16) to make a Way for us – to reconcile our sin and bring us into His family. How can we have this reconciliation? We bow the knee. We submit to Him as Lord. It is more than just words; it is done with one’s life.
There is reconciliation to be had, my friend. If you have not submitted to Christ, His word is very clear on how this can be done. Romans 10:9 says, “…because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” Saved and reconciled are one and the same. All you have to do is call out to Him as in Romans 10:9, and the Bible says that you will be saved; in fact, “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:13). If you would like someone to talk to about this, I would love to talk with you.
Maybe you are reading this and have been saved, but you feel like the trajectory of your life has shifted. Times like we find ourselves in have effects on our lives. Know this: Christ is Lord over this as well. None of the happenings have surprised Him, and He is still on His throne! Turn to Him and call out to Him. He is sure to be found on our knees and in His Word. May you find “times of refreshing [that] come from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3:20).
 John MacArthur. The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Colossians and Philemon. 51