Christ’s supremacy

There is something special about being the firstborn Son of God.  Jesus Christ holds a coveted place not in all creation but above all creation.  It is important to make that distinction if we are to get to the root of his supremacy.  This is the One who was able to accomplish all that we could not, and He did so in order that we then would be able to accomplish everything through him.  He is first, most, best, and a host of other superlatives that still do not do him justice.  Jesus is in a league of his own.  By exploring the source and consequence of his supremacy over the earth, we can get to know him even better.  His authority is not a single characteristic of his but is made of layers we are meant to discover and understand.  A short stroll through the first chapter of Colossians is a good place to begin that discovery.

vv. 15-17

The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 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. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

A wealthy man with a single son for an heir eventually must have a certain conversation with that son.  It will be the moment when the father shows the child all that will be his once the father passes.  Perhaps he will give the child some things now while he is still alive.  Regardless of how the conveyance occurs, one thing will be clear.  The fortunes of the father would have been created or collected by the father, and the son is simply awaiting a gift.  His inheritance might have come by the work of his family, but it certainly did not come by his own work.  He is only the fortunate heir, and that is where the sonship of Christ takes on an unfamiliar characteristic for us.  Jesus is not over all things simply because his Father has possessed all things and passed them along to him.  The authority and supremacy enjoyed by Christ are tied to his being part of the creative process of all we see.

This is the Son who did not simply sit back and wait for his Father to give him a legacy.  Jesus actually had a hand in creating that legacy himself.  He is a person of the Godhead, and we cannot confuse his submission to the Father as any sort of lower designation or office for him.  To say that all things were created through him and in him is to say that nothing was created without him.  It is as if He was the checkpoint at which all creation was tested and measured for sufficiency and quality.  All things were created through him and for him, which means that all things were created subject to him.  He is the reason for their existence.  We are here and the rest of our physical world is here for his enjoyment and glorification.  He is our purpose.  Not only that, He holds an infinite quality that no part of creation can hold.  We might live forever, but we have had a starting point.  He began before everything and with no starting point.  Where we have a beginning but can have no end, He has no beginning or end and is perfectly infinite.

v. 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.

The headless horseman is a fictional character with whom most of us are familiar.  We have heard the stories or seen the film depictions of this man on horseback missing one very important thing.  When I was a child, the image would frighten me at first.  Here came a man on a horse in the dark with no head.  That was enough to send my hands over my eyes, waiting for the scene to end.  Then, my mind would start to ask questions.  I would try to figure out how this headless man was able to see what he was doing or where he was going.  I also wondered how any of his limbs or organs could operate if he had no head and no brain.  The more I reasoned through the impossibility of his existence, the less I was frightened by the headless horseman.  Without a head, he had no vision, no direction, and no sense.

We might see the headship of Christ over the Church merely as an aspect of authority.  He is above her, and she submits to him.  It is certainly accurate to depict his headship in this way, but there is more to it than that.  Christ being the head of the body also means that He is the center of her life.  The way a human cannot exist without a head, the body of Christ cannot exist without Christ.  One might lose a limb or all limbs and still continue, but the head is indispensable.  It houses an organ without which no part of the body could operate.  It houses the senses by which we take in and relate to the world around us.  It steers our direction, and that is what Jesus should be for us.  He is not merely the ruler over the Church, but He is the lifeblood of the Church.  Her survival depends on him, and she exists only for him.  In order to please and glorify him she must allow herself to be led by him.

vv. 19-20

For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 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.

Two tribes from a Pacific island nation recently invoked a custom that had not been practiced in two centuries.  These tribes were in the middle of a land dispute, and they were at an impasse.  The feud lasted some 27 years and began to turn violent.  As a result, the tribes invoked the custom of exchanging children as a way to make amends and restore the people groups to one another.  Each tribe selected a child, male or female, to be sent to live with the other tribe.  The peace offering of one’s own flesh and blood illustrates the seriousness of the statement.  The tribes were saying that they are so committed to this restoration and desire it so greatly, that they are willing to relinquish their children as evidence or a sign of good faith.  It is much different than exchanging livestock, grain, or precious metals.  To trade a child is to trade a part of oneself.

The reconciliation initiated and accomplished by the Father through his Son is the clearest statement we can hear.  If we ever doubt his desire to be with us, we need look no further.  If we ever doubt how much He loves us, we need look no further.  If we ever doubt how heartbroken He was that mankind brought sin into this perfect world, we need look no further.  God’s fullness dwelt in his Son when He was placed on that cross.  Perfect, godly blood was shed in order for us to be restored to the Father.  Our access is the result of the Son’s faithfulness in completing this work.  We have all we have only because of him.  Our eternal promises rest in him.  Our provision, our healings, and every restoration we gain in this faith is because of him.  When the Son gave it all for us, the Father also gave it all for us so that our relationship with him could be restored.  Through this exchange, we were purchased and won.

vv. 21-23a

Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation— if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel. 

A personal reference can make or break how others see you.  When someone in a certain position is willing to vouch for your character or credentials, other people over whom that person has influence can see you in a different light.  If I refer someone for a job where I work, the expectation is that this person will be everything I said he or she is.  If this person joins the team and is a colossal disappointment, I could be left with egg on my face, and my reputation could be affected.  The thing is, I have very little control, if any, over how this person ultimately performs even though it could be someone I know very well.  Jesus also gives us a referral, but there is a big difference with his.  When Christ vouches for us before the Father, it is not based on our abilities, performance, or character.  We are presented to God under the covering of the Savior’s righteousness and perfection.

Some say that Jesus makes a way for us.  Yes, He performed certain acts that have enabled us to obtain salvation and come before the Father on his throne.  He accomplished precisely what needed to be done in order for us to have our restoration.  Yet, it is not exactly that Jesus makes a way for us; Jesus is the way for us.  When God looks at me in my imperfect state and smiles with pleasure, it is because He sees me clothed in the righteousness of Christ.  I am covered in the blood, and I am filled with the Spirit.  I do not come before God as myself alone, and that is what the scene will look like on that day.  When judgment is before us, the judge will see us as perfectly justified and sanctified.  It will be as if He is looking right at his Son.  The supremacy of Christ extends over us to remove the blemishes and the stains, to present us perfect and worthy as He is perfect and worthy.

v. 23b

This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant.

I was at a wedding, and the pastor presiding over the ceremony told a story about another wedding he had performed on a farm.  That ceremony took place in a field right by a horse corral.  During most of the ceremony, the pastor took no notice of the horses as they kept their distance from the proceedings.  Then, something interesting happened.  The people entered a time of prayer and praise as part of this ceremony, and the atmosphere changed.  All of a sudden, one of the horses came up to the fence and seemed to bow its head.  The horse stood there quietly and motionless until the songs and the prayers had ended.  Then, it went back to grazing in the field as it had been doing before.  At no point during the rest of the ceremony or the reception did that horse approach the fence or that group again.

We can forget that Jesus Christ came to restore more than just humanity.  He will bring all things into perfect relationship with the Father on that day.  The curse has extended well beyond mankind and affects the land, the seas, the air, and all the creatures that live in them.  Creation itself has fallen under a curse, and Jesus will liberate everything on that day.  He is not just supreme over mankind.  He is supreme over everything we see and hear and feel.  The interesting thing is that the gospel has been proclaimed not just to people but to all creation as a message of hope for restoration.  Imagine the grass of the fields or the fish in the sea waiting expectantly to be restored along with all other things.  It is a strange idea, but it is true.  The word tells us that creation groans as if in labor pains, and she is awaiting the newness promised by the gospel message.  If not for his supremacy, Christ would not be able to offer this to all creation.

The supremacy of Christ certainly is about authority, but I believe the greater part of that equation is the fact that He is the channel through which everything was created.  Not only was everything created through him and in him, but this all exists for him.  He is the purpose of everything we see here.  When mankind tore down perfection and built that altar of sin, He already had a plan in place for restoring the beauty that was so closely connected to him.  A broken heart led a sovereign to assume the role of a servant in order to take back that which was his but lost by another.  We created the chasm between the Lord and his perfect creation, but his supremacy afforded him the ability to become the bridge that defeats the power of that chasm.  He gave himself to restore that which we chose to lose, and it is in this generous love that the supremacy of Christ finds its root.