Server Outage Notice: is transfering to a new Server on Tuesday April 13th

2364 sermons as of May 21, 2024.
Site Search powered by FreeFind

bottom corner

Author:Rev. Ted Gray
 send email...
Congregation:First United Reformed Church
 Oak Lawn, Illinois
Title:Peace With God Through Saving Faith in the Preeminent Christ
Text:Colossians 1:15-20 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Life in Christ

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

With Grateful Heart My Thanks I Bring

At the Name of Jesus

All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name    

Crown Him with Many Crowns

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

Pastor Ted Gray
Peace with God Through Saving Faith
The Preeminent Christ
Colossians 1:15-20

God is able to do something truly amazing. God is able to bring good out of the darkest evil. He is able to shine truth into to the darkest error. And we see that in these verses that begin a new paragraph in the letter to the Colossian church.

As we have seen in our study of Colossians, there were many false teachers who were trying to lead the church astray. One prominent area of false teaching involved the worship of angels. False teachers were saying, in effect, that it is good to worship the Lord Jesus but it is even better to worship angels because then you get the fullness of worship.

The premise of their teaching centers on a point that is still popular today, namely that Jesus, as He is presented in the pages of Holy Scripture, is not enough. There needs to be more. There needs to be some vague “fullness” that Scripture simply doesn't give us concerning Jesus.

However, that line of reasoning is from the evil one and it strikes at the teaching of the Bible itself. The Bible assures us that it is sufficient in and of itself to teach us all that we need to know about ourselves, about our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and the fullness of our life in Him, now and throughout all eternity.

To add other teaching to the word of God and to equate it with God’s word is so serious that in the closing verses of the Bible, the apostle John writes, I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds anything to them God will add to him the plagues described in this book. And if anyone takes words away from this book of prophecy God will take away from him his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book (Revelation 22:18-19).

Consequently, what was going on in the Colossian church was a serious heresy against the Lord and His Word. Angels were held in as high a regard as Jesus, and the fascination with the angelic world caused many to take their focus from Jesus. Furthermore, the false teachers undermined the truth of the gospel, which we saw in verse 7 had been brought to Colossae by the faithful minister Epaphras.

But out of that darkness, out of that heresy, out of that effort of the false teachers to lead the Colossians astray, the apostle Paul describes the preeminence of Jesus Christ in one of the most beautiful descriptions in all of Scripture.  God is able to bring good out of the darkest evil. He is able to shine truth into to the darkest error. And we see that here in these verses which begin a new paragraph in the letter to the Colossian church.

In Whom All Fullness Dwells

These verses praise the preeminence of Jesus in every realm as He is the One in whom all the fullness of God dwells. The first part of verse 15 points out that He is the image of the invisible God. Verse 19 adds, For God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in Him.

No wonder, when Jesus walked on earth, He told the great crowds that followed Him, “Anyone who has seen Me, has seen the Father.” Jesus is the exact representation of the Father in human flesh. As Hebrews 1:3 says, The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His being, sustaining all things by His powerful word.

This message that Jesus is the image of the invisible God, in whom all the fullness of the Godhead dwells, was crucial for the Colossians to hear. Why would they have any need to worship angels when they had Jesus, the One in whom all the fullness of the Father dwells?

But it wasn’t just the Colossians who needed that message. How crucial it is for us today as well. Within the visible church community there are many professing Christians who want a Jesus who is more than the Jesus presented in Scripture. One of the most popular devotional books today is written by a woman who describes in the preface how she longed “to live in Jesus’ presence.” To do so she went beyond what is in Scripture. She wrote, “I knew that God communicated with me through the Bible, but I yearned for more...” (Jesus Calling, Sarah Young, pg. xii), and she went on to describe how she waited for Jesus to speak to her and then wrote down the words that Jesus said to her.

And Paul is saying here in the letter to the Colossians, and to us today, “God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in Jesus.” Jesus is the fullness of what we need as He is revealed in the pages of holy Scripture, in the gospel. That was true from the Colossians, who had received the gospel from Epaphras (v. 7), and it is true for us today. The revelation God has given of Himself in His word and in the person of His Son is more than enough to give us all the “fullness” of fellowship with Him.

Firstborn Over All Creation

Verse 15 goes on to explain that Jesus is the firstborn over all creation, a phrase which has been twisted by many to mean that Christ is not eternal but was created by the Father at a point in time.

A man by the name of Arius, in the 4th century, taught that since Scripture speaks of Jesus as being the first born that He had a birth and there was a time when He did not exist. The teaching of Arius – that Christ is not of one essence with the Father and therefore not eternal – was refuted by Athanasius.  Athanasius and Arius were both presbyters (elders) in the church at Alexandria. The controversy between Arius and Athanasius lasted for some time but was finally put to rest in the year 325 when Constantine called for the Council of Nicea.

The Council of Nicea was formed to weigh Arianism, which is the teaching of Arius that Christ is simply the first-born Son, but not eternal and of the same essence with the Father. The Council of Nicea declared Arianism a heresy and vindicated Athanasius with his Biblical view that the Son and the Father are one.  

As we say in the Nicene Creed, we believe in “one Lord Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds; God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made; being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made.”

What, then, does it mean, when a passage like Colossians 1:15 describes Christ as the “first born over all creation?”  It almost sounds as though He had a birth date, a time of birth, just as Arius taught!

The phrase “first born” in the Bible refers to priority. The first born in biblical times received the double portion. The term doesn’t refer to birth or an order of birth but refers to preeminence.  In fact, the same Greek word translated “first born” in Colossians 1:15 is also translated in Colossians 1:18 as “preeminent” in some translations and as “supremacy” in others.   

When we read in Scripture that Christ is first born, and there are several references to Christ being “first born,” it is expressing the supremacy of Christ – that since He is one with the Father from all eternity He is the first born in the sense of having priority, power, preeminence and supremacy over all creation, for He Himself created it.

Verse 16 goes on to describe how 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.

That verse describes how Christ is the one who created the angels. Thrones, dominions, rulers, and authorities refers to different categories of angels. By listing these categories, the apostle is clearly showing that there is no reason to worship angels when they are simply the creation of the only One that we are to worship, the Lord Jesus Christ.

In Him All Things Hold Together

Christ is also the One in whom all things are providentially held together. Verse 17: And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.

Christ is not like the proverbial watchmaker who puts the watch together with intricate design, as in those old pocket watches that your grandfather had attached to his belt on a chain. When you pop the back cover off of those old pocket watches you find a whole system of gears and springs, all put together with great care and precision. When the springs are wound they cause the gears to move and the gears, in turn, move the hands on the clock to record the seconds, minutes and hours of the day.

Back in the day when almost every man had a watch in his pocket securely fastened with a chain, the watchmaker was completely out of the picture. The watchmaker had done his job. He had lined up all the springs and cogs, wheels and gears in such a way that the clock would accurately keep time. Now it was up to the owner of the watch to wind it up. The watchmaker had nothing more to do with the watch after it was made and sold.

Some people think that is how God created the world. They are called Deists because they believe that God exists and that He created the world, but they fail to see the truth of verse 17 that Christ is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.

In many ways it is easy to understand why some people take that view. After all, our world has so much conflict, there are so many disastrous events that make no sense to us, and there are countless millions of people living in futility without any sense of meaning. We all recognize that, and it may seem as though God is no longer in the picture.

Yet Scripture is clear, not only here in verse 17, but in many other passages as well that God is in control, that in Christ all things hold together.  If you lived back in the day when King Xerxes (Ahasuerus) was King of Persia, you might feel the way Mordecai did. King Xerxes had allowed a very evil, ungodly man, Haman, to have a position of immense power in Persia. His plan was to put all the Jews to death, including Mordecai. In fact, Haman had built a gallows 70 feet high on which he planned to hang Mordecai. It certainly did not look as though God was in control. It seemed as though the evil one had all the power.

But most of you remember the amazing turn of events that came about. One night King Xerxes could not sleep. He had his servants read to him the record of the history of the country, probably figuring that would put him to sleep, but instead he heard how Mordecai had once exposed two traitors who were plotting to take the king’s life. Through that turn of events Haman was exposed as an evil person plotting the ruin of God’s people. And Haman was hung on the gallows that he had built for Mordecai.

Did all that happen just because the king was not able to sleep one night? Or did that whole chain of events, which changed the course of history for God’s people living in Persia, come about because Christ - the eternal Christ - holds all things together?

The same could be asked of all the experiences of Joseph in Egypt. Or the same question could be asked concerning all the trials of Job, followed by the blessings that were double of what he had before his trials came. In each case we are reminded that throughout history Christ is before all things and in Him all things hold together even at those times when we cannot see God’s hand of providential care.

And the same is true for your life and for my life. Whatever trials you face, whatever hardships are in your life, no matter how confusing life may become with all its hard circumstances, you and I can be sure that Christ is before all things and in Him all things hold together.

Because of that, the apostle Paul wrote some of the best known verses in the pages of Scripture there in Romans 8:28, And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.

It may not always seem that way in your life and mine. It may not seem that way in the chaotic events that we see in the world around us. But we know from Scripture that is the case, and often when we look back in retrospect we see as Mordecai saw, and Joseph saw, and Job saw, and God’s people in every era of time have seen, that God has indeed worked in a mysterious and wonderful way in our lives as He works out all things for our spiritual good. And we will see that truth ultimately and completely on the last day, when Jesus is revealed to all, and all will confess His preeminence as Creator, Redeemer, and Providential Sustainer of the world.

The One who is before all things, and in Whom all things hold together is also the Head of the body, the church (v. 18).

“How important is church?” Some people might ask. Church is the most important entity on earth. Why? Because the true church is the body of Christ. He is the Head, but we are all members of His body. An excellent book about the true church, written by R.B. Kuiper, is appropriately called, The Glorious Body of Christ.

Kuiper took the concept for the title from the clear teaching of passages such as 1 Corinthians 12. 1 Corinthians 12 describes how each one of us is part of the body of Christ. Because of that we all need each other. 1 Corinthians 12:21 points out, The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” Rather, we all need each other, and we all get the direction that we need from the Head, that is from Christ as He is revealed in Scripture.

Verse 18 goes on to teach that Christ is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything He might be preeminent. When the text says that He is the firstborn from the dead, it is speaking about His resurrection. Because Jesus rose again from the dead, He is the preeminent One who has proven His power over sin, Satan, and over death in all its forms. Because of that, He receives all the glory and all the honor.

But because we are members of His body, we also share in His resurrection from the dead. We all must face the physical death, unless the Lord returns in our lifetime, but we have the certain reality of knowing that we will be raised from the tomb just as Jesus was. When a Christian dies, their soul goes to be with the Lord immediately in the glory of heaven. And when Jesus returns, at the last trumpet call, then the bodies of believers will be raised and we will bear a likeness to the glorious resurrected body of our Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ.

As the Heidelberg catechism points out, in Lord’s Day 17, “Christ's resurrection is a guarantee of our glorious resurrection.” One of the Scriptures it cites is Philippians 3:20-21, But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like His glorious body, by the power that enables Him even to subject all things to Himself.


The One who rose victorious from the grave is also the One who reconciles all things in heaven and earth. For in Him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of His cross (19-20).

Some people have tried to take verse 20 as a verse that teaches universal salvation. They say, “Verse 20 shows that everybody is going to be saved because God through Christ will reconcile to Himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of His cross.”

However, that type of reasoning fails to see that the verse is speaking about all things, not all people. It is also speaking about heaven and earth, not hell. The people who are reconciled are those who are at peace with God through faith in the shed blood of Jesus on the cross.

Those of you who are older perhaps recall when almost every obituary began with these words, “Having made his peace with God, the deceased passed on from this earth.” There was a time in our nation when most people realized the biblical truth that we are at enmity with God unless we have placed our faith in Jesus Christ. Only then are we reconciled to the Father through faith in the Son.

When verse 20 speaks about reconciling all things in heaven and on earth, it is also speaking about the new heavens and the new earth. In Genesis 3 we read about the fall of humanity and of how even the ground was cursed because of human sin. The Lord said to Adam, “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of that all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you and you will eat the plants of the field” (Genesis 3:17-18).

Ever since that day when creation was put under the curse of humanity’s sin, it has longed for redemption. In Romans 8 Paul describes how the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. He explains, For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies (Rom. 8:19-23).

When God reconciles all things to Himself through Christ, whether on earth or things in heaven, it will include the perfection of this earth as it is purged by fire and gloriously renewed, never again to be under the curse of sin.

The passage we have looked at this morning, in Colossians 1:15-20 is one of the loftiest descriptions of our Savior and Lord found in the pages of Holy Scripture. Many believe that it was part of the early hymn of praise that was sung to the Lord by His people.

That may well be the case, because we are always to sing the praises of our Redeemer and our Lord. But it is not enough simply to acknowledge that the eternal Christ is the Creator of the cosmos, the One in whom all the fullness of the Father dwells, the One who is to have all supremacy and preeminence.

It is one thing to know that in your mind and to confess it with your lips, but you must also believe it in your heart. As Romans 10:9-10 says, If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.

The question for each one of us then, is, “Do I acknowledge the preeminence and the supremacy of Christ just with my words, or also in my heart? And if I confess Jesus as my Lord is that confession evident in my actions?  Is my faith demonstrated by the way I live? Do I earnestly strive for the obedience that comes from faith?” (Romans 1:5).

To believe in your heart means that you believe that through the shed blood of Jesus on the cross of Calvary you have been reconciled to God the Father through saving faith in the Son. There is no other way to have peace with God.

But when we do believe in our heart, then we have a peace with God that can never be taken from us. And it leads to a peace with our brothers and sisters in Christ. It also gives us peace even in all the hard circumstances of life, as we realize that our Redeemer is also the One who holds all things together.  For He is the preeminent, eternal Creator of the cosmos in whom all the fullness of the Father dwells! Amen.


Bulletin outline:

… 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. For in Him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and
through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the
blood of His cross. - Colossians 1:18-20 (ESV)
                                            Peace with God Through Saving Faith
                                                        The Preeminent Christ
                                                            Colossians 1:15-20
I. These verses, perhaps part of an early hymn, praise the preeminence of Jesus in every realm as:
    1) The One in whom all the fullness of God dwells; the exact image of the invisible God (15,19)
    2) Creator of all things, including angels (15-16)
    3) The One in whom all things hold together (17)
    4) The preeminent Head of the church, the Conqueror over death (18)
    5) The One who reconciles all things in heaven and earth (20)
II. In order to be reconciled to God through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross (20), the knowledge
    of Christ’s preeminence must be in our heart as well as in our mind and on our lips (Rom. 10:9-10) 

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2015, Rev. Ted Gray

Please direct any comments to the Webmaster

bottom corner