Colossians 1:15-29

JESUS IS PREEMINENT

This text is one of the most beautiful expressions of the Lordship of Jesus Christ we have in Scripture.  It is best digested alongside other passages that speak to the deity and majesty of the person of Jesus Christ (John 1:1-18, Hebrews 1:1-4).

The Colossian church had been rocked by waves of errant teaching.  This teaching was affecting the way they were living their lives.  Paul writes that they may be filled with the knowledge of God’s will and have all understanding so that they may live according to God’s ways and not mans (vs. 9-10).  He begins his discourse into the fullness of God’s will by lifting up Jesus Christ and making Him the focus and center of the hopes of the young church.  Paul is desperate for the church to understand that…

Jesus is preeminent over salvation (vs. 13-14)
Jesus is preeminent over creation (vs. 15-17)
Jesus is preeminent over the church (vs. 18)
Jesus is preeminent over life and death (vs. 18)
Jesus is God and the only way anything can be reconciled to God (vs. 19-20)

Two things to think about as we read these verses.  The first is to understand that it is well documented that these words were penned less than 30 years after the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  It is important to see that the deity of Jesus wasn’t something that was made up hundreds of years after the life of Christ.  Instead, the teaching about Jesus being God and preeminent over all things was already being taught in the churches.  It was the gospel that had brought the Colossian church from darkness to light (vs. 4).  Paul was reminding them of Jesus,  who had saved them, so they could take their focus off the false teaching and replace their hope onto the person and work of Christ alone.

Lastly, we must discuss the use of the term firstborn in these verses.  Ancient heresies like the Arian controversy, along with modern heresies like the Jehovah’s Witnesses, would tell us that this term means that Jesus was simply the first human to be given god-like powers and that we can achieve the same.  However, this interpretation goes against the very context of what Paul is saying.  Paul means to show through these texts that Christ is supreme over all (3:11).  As the famous church father, Athanasius, said in the 4th century, against the Arians, these verses are to show that Jesus is “creator of the creatures.”  The term firstborn does not suggest that Christ was the first created, but rather it is a “title” that belongs to Jesus as the reigning descendant of King David by God’s sovereign decree (Psalm 89:27).  Jesus, as messiah, has been given the office of the “most exalted” by God the Father.

PAUL’S AFFLICTIONS

Paul knows that the first thing the false teachers will say to the people of Colossae is, “are you really going to listen to him? He is in prison… You can’t trust a criminal.”  Therefore, Paul assures them that as Christ suffered for their salvation, so does he suffer to proclaim it.  There is no cost too great that should keep us from evangelizing the world with the gospel of Jesus Christ.  In a world where Christian teachers only speak of health and wealth, we should drink deeply from the sacrifices that Paul made to preach the gospel (2 Corinthians 11:22-33).  For Paul, his sufferings were a badge of honor that proved his authenticity as a minister of the gospel.

Study Questions

After reading these verses, how would you describe Jesus in one word or phrase?

Why is it important to understand Jesus as not only our savior, but also our creator?

The errant teaching that Jesus was just a human man and was given god-like powers still exists today.  How will you confront this errant teaching with the truth of God’s Word?

Why is it important to understand the sufferings of Paul and how do they authenticate him from the false teachers in Colossae and elsewhere?