The preeminence of Jesus (preaching resource for 11/20/22)
This post exegetes Colossians 1:11-20, the RCL Epistles reading for 11/20/22. It draws on commentary from Warren Wiersbe (Bible Expository Commentary) and Peter T. O’Brien (New Bible Commentary).
|"Christus Pantocrator" by Wahra (public domain via Wikimedia Commons)|
Paul writes to the church in Colosse in large part to refute false teachers who were troubling the Christians there. These false teachers were not so brash as to deny the importance of Jesus. Instead they dethroned him, giving him prominence but not preeminence. According to their teaching, Jesus was but one of many “emanations” from God through whom men could reach God. It is this claim that Paul addresses and refutes in our Epistles reading today.
Focused on the grace of God in Jesus
We begin with Colossians 1:11-14:
... 11 being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, 12 and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. 13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
Paul's prayerful desire here is that the Colossian Christians not be sidetracked by the false teachers who are blinding them to the reality of who they are, by grace, in Christ Jesus. Paul is assured that if they can grasp the gospel truth, they will have true spiritual insight which will lead to grace-based obedience characteristic of maturity in Christ. Note how Paul emphasizes that our relationship with God in Christ is a gift—it is entirely of grace. It is our heavenly Father who has “qualified” us to share our “inheritance” as God's dear children. We have done nothing to earn this inheritance—indeed, even our participation—our practical obedience--is through his grace by which we are “strengthened” and so enabled to have “endurance and patience.”
It's God’s power (and not some “higher knowledge” as offered by the false teachers) that empowers our participation in God’s grace. Verse11 reads, in effect: “With all power being empowered according to the might of his glory.” Our participation in Christ's life and love is but a result of God’s power at work in our lives. Spiritual growth and maturity come only as we yield to God’s power and permit him to work in us.
We usually think of God’s glorious power being revealed in great feats of daring, but the emphasis in this letter from Paul is on the rather quiet and unspectacular values of patience, long-suffering, joyfulness, and thanksgiving. It will be these qualities of character that will be so important for the Colossian Christians to possess if they are to avoid being duped by the false teachers.
Focus on Jesus and his preeminence
The reality is that the Colossian Christians will not find these needed qualities of character by looking within--instead they need to look to Jesus, who possesses these qualities in abundance and, by the Spirit, shares them with his followers. Sadly, the false teachers were seeking to get these Christians to look away from Jesus to other sources. It was not that they denied the importance of Jesus. Instead what they were doing was dethroning Jesus--giving Jesus prominence but not preeminence. According to their heretical teaching, Jesus was but one of many “emanations” from God through whom people could reach God. It is this claim that Paul now proceeds to address and refute head on. He does so by making four dramatic claims about the absolute preeminence of Jesus. Through these claims, we also learn about our Lord and about the nature of all humanity in union with him.
1. Jesus is Savior (13–14)
13 For [God] has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
13a For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness…
13b …and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves,
14a in whom we have redemption…
14b …the forgiveness of sins.
2. Jesus is Creator (15–17)
15 The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.
16a 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…
16b …all things were created by him and for him.
17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
3. Jesus is head of the church (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.
4. Jesus is reconciler of all (19–20)
19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.