In our auditorium there are three sections of padded chairs: (1) the eastern section, (2) the middle section, (3) and the western section. Why don’t you imagine with me this morning that these three sections represent three groups of people in their beliefs about a Creator.
The eastern section could represent those who believe God is a Creator but that He is not necessarily distinct from His creation. They would say that God created with preexisting, eternal matter the universe as we know and see it. In fact, God eternally coexisted with myriads of other preexisting spirits. Therefore, as they worship God as Creator, it is not in the sense that God is of an altogether different species than created humans. Logically, this makes possible the continuous development of other gods and semi-gods also posessing creative power. This is a belief that stretches back further than the Bible put on parchment.
Let’s say the middle section identifies with a vast group of people who might entertain the thought of a Creator—as an original cause for everything that they see around them—but they tend to be more agnostic in their beliefs. They are reticent in declaring a God who communicates clearly through the natural world or through any spiritual book. And quite frankly, this is a comfortable position for them because they really don’t want to be accountable to any Creator God.
Last of all, the western section acknowledges that there is a Creator God, who created ex nihilo. These are Latin words associated with an ancient tradition that God creates “out of nothing”. He just speaks and “Walla!” things come into existence. This being the case: the Creator is distinctly set apart from his creatures. He is sovereign over His creation and this never changes.
In this very simplistic description of three basic beliefs about God as the Creator, which section best represents you? The eastern? The middle? Or the western? And be careful in how you answer that question because the answer to that question shapes your whole worldview. It shapes your destiny.
In the evaluation of all three of these contemporary beliefs (which I won’t do this morning), I don’t offer to you any creative opinion of my own about a Creator God. And I don’t suggest to you go run, ransack, and research this topic through the thousands upon thousands of volumes that have been written, except one – the Bible. I would encourage you to make the Bible your starting point of reference as you observe the natural universe.
If you have a Bible, I am going to ask you to turn to the book of Colossians. If you don’t have a Bible, you are invited to pull out a pew Bible from the chair rack in front of you (page number 681). Colossians is the book that we began for our Wednesday night study, three and a half weeks ago. On the first Wednesday night of our study, we read through the whole letter, a short epistle that the apostle Paul wrote to the believers at Colosse in Asia Minor (modern day Turkey). A godly pastor named Epaphras who ministered to the believers in the community close to Laodicea and Hierapolis, travelled approximately a thousand miles west to Rome where Paul sat in prison. Epaphras shared with the apostle some concerns. As a result, Paul wrote this letter. And you will be hard pressed to find a more detailed letter on the truths characterizing the Lord Jesus Christ. It is Christology per excellence. To present Christ is the best way to sort through all the confusing errors of competing Jewish, Greek, and/or pagan philosophies.
This morning, I would like to read to you, Colossians 1:13-20.
He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins. He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence. For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross.
Consider carefully the words describing Christ in verses 15-20. F.F. Bruce believes these verses to be specifically a hymn in honor of Christ. Even if these words were not sung in the apostolic era, they should definitely be sung today.
HYMN IN HONOR OF CHRIST (1:15-20)
(1) Christ the Agent in Creation (1:15-16)
15 He is the image of the invisible God, Firstborn before all creation,
16 because in him all things were created— things in heaven and things on earth, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions, whether principalities or powers— they have all been created through him and for him.
(2) Lord of the Universe and Head of the Church (1:17-18a)
17 He indeed is before all things, And they all cohere in him;
18 He is also the head of the body, the church
(3) Christ the Agent in Reconciliation (1:18b-20)
He is the beginning, Firstborn from the dead, That he might be preeminent in all things,
19 because in him it was decreed that all the fullness should take up residence
20 and that through him [God] should reconcile all things to himself, having made peace through the blood of his cross—[through him], whether those on earth or those in heaven.
As we examine these words on this beautiful morning in southeastern Idaho, God will be speaking to you to reach this verdict, to come to this conclusion in your heart: that Jesus Christ must have the preeminence.
We are going to survey the work of Christ in creation, the position of Christ as the head of the Church, and His work of recreation that makes future reconciliation an expectant reality. But let me ask you, what is preeminent in your life? Preeminent is a big word. It is a very important Bible word. The way the word reads in Greek in Colossians 1:18 is proteuon. Perhaps, you have seen the English suffix “proto-” in various words, for instance, prototype. A prototype is a first type of something. The Greek word, proteuon, means “holding the first place”. So when I ask you what is preeminent in your life, I am enquiring about what is holding first place in your heart, in your thoughts, and in your ambitions. For young people in junior high and high school, friends are preeminent. For college students, academic success can be preeminent. For newlyweds, spouses are preeminent. For parents, kids can be preeminent. For CEO’s, their business or money can be preeminent. For pastors, ministry or the church can be preeminent. But in this honest, candid, frank letter, the Bible tells us about the One who should hold first place in all our hearts. It is the Lord Jesus Christ. If you have always found it boring or just a continual drudgery or struggle to make the Savior preeminent in you life, perhaps He has never entered your life in the first place. Because when Christ enters, everything changes. Egocentricism crashes down to the ground under the penetrating light, the melting love, the terrifying holiness, and the sweeping power of the King. When the infinite Christ enters, who cares about self? Our creaturely selves become nothing. We, the nobodies, become caught up with joy unspeakable over the preeminent Somebody. Why is Christ preeminent? The Word of God delivers to us three reasons.
I. Christ is to be preeminent in your life because He was sovereign in the natural universe’s beginning.
Who was there before the world began? Who has existed before the beginning? Who created everything? John 1:1-3 declares the Word, who is Jesus, and what He did, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.” Also, Hebrews 1:2b-3a confirms Jesus as God’s creating Agent: “through whom also He made the worlds; who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power.” Jesus is “the Beginning of the creation of God” (Rev. 3:14).
Jesus is the Image (eikon) – In Christ the invisible God has become visible. Heb. 1:3, John 14:9, John 1:18 – “Nature reveals the existence, power, and wisdom of God; but nature cannot reveal the very essence of God to us. It is only in Jesus Christ that the invisible God is revealed perfectly. Since no mere creature can perfectly reveal God, Jesus Christ must be God.” – Warren Wiersbe
Jesus is the Firstborn (prototokos)
Now don’t let that word mess you up in your understanding. The idea of firstborn means the one who is most important, the one who has the highest status, the one who sits on the top rung. It does not mean that Jesus had a beginning like us or that he was the first one born among all of God’s children.
Why is he Firstborn? Because all things in the heavens and all things on the earth are in Him, through Him, and for Him. Do you see it? Verse 16 declares creation “by Him” or “in (en) Him. Verse 16 also describes creation “through Him and for Him.”
One commentator notes, “They were created in him, because all the Father’s counsels and activities (including those of creation) are centered in the Son; they were created through him, because he is the divine agent in creation; they were created for him because he is the goal to which they all tend.” He is the point of reference (sphere). He is the agent. He is the goal. Or we could say it this way: he is the primary cause, the instrumental cause, and the final cause. Or He is the Plan, the Power, and the Purpose.
And this is not the only place in Scripture where the Holy Spirit magnifies Christ through this triad setup of prepositions. (1) Romans 11:36 – “For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen.” And (2) Ephesians 4:6 – “one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.”
So what is included in the all things? Angelic creatures of various status: “In all, five classes of angel-princes seem to be distinguished in the NT—thrones, principalities, authorities, powers, and dominions.” Thronoi, archai, exousiai, dunameis, kurioteites Jesus made the devil and all the hosts of angels.
What does this mean for us? If it is true that all angelic creatures, of all degrees of power, are created ones in Jesus Christ, through Jesus Christ, and for Jesus Christ? Then what does this say about the devil? The answer is that Jesus Christ created Satan, and that the whole existence of Satan will be for the glory of Christ. We do not have to fear the roaring lion, this lying deceiver. His days are numbered. F.F. Bruce succinctly writes, “Whether invisible or visible, all had Christ as their original creator, and all have him as their final disposer. . . . For those who have been redeemed by Christ, the universe has no ultimate terrors; they know that their Redeemer is also creator, ruler, and goal of all.” And in the light of Jesus Christ being the sovereign Creator, there is no angelic being that can ever supplant the Creator. They can plot and plan, rebel and fight, but they will never take Jesus Christ off His Kingly throne. So if angels can’t do this, we surely don’t have to worry about humans when they rant and rave in a rage against the Lord. God has no concerns.
Why do the nations rage, and the people plot a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD and against His Anointed, saying, “Let us break Their bonds in pieces and cast away Their cords from us.” He who sits in the heavens shall laugh; the Lord shall hold them in derision. Then He shall speak to them in His wrath, and distress them in His deep displeasure: Yet I have set My King on My holy hill of Zion (Psalm 2).
Also, as we look on in Colossians 1:17, we don’t have to worthy about Japanese nuclear explosions taking place outside of the Lord’s control. “In Him all things consist.” “All the elements cohere in Him. As Bishop Moule put it, ‘He is their Bond, their Order, their Law.’”
The story has been told that one day, “A guide took a group of people through an atomic laboratory and explained how all matter was composed of rapidly moving electric particles. The tourists studied models of molecules and were amazed to learn that matter is made up primarily of space. During the question period, one visitor asked, “If this is the way matter works, what holds it all together?” For that, the guide had no answer.”
What is the answer for those who have no answer? It is a good question. How do all of you answer the question, who work at the Idaho National Laboratory (the 1-billion-dollar-budget-a-year campus of 539,135 acres)?
Thirty-five years ago, John MacArthur illustrated in his sermon, “Christ Above All”, ‘
This article that Bob gave me was written by a man named Chestnut, a doctor, a nuclear physicist. He says some fascinating things. Let me share some of them with you. These are just really mind bending.
Nuclear science tells us that all substance in the universe is constructed from three fundamental little particles called protons, electrons, and neutrons. And you’ve all studied this in school; you have a nucleus in which you have protons and neutrons and little electrons shooting around the outside. And that’s, you can’t see that, it’s just infinitesimal in size, but those are the basis building blocks of all matter.
Now he says in this thing, that since these subatomic pieces are the smallest fragments of the universe, they must hold the secret facts of design and behavior; and if God is God, then these things will point to Him. The protons and neutrons make up the nucleus, while the electron is a long ways off, relatively speaking, shooting around. So we’ll just disregard the electrons for our little thought, and let’s concentrate on the nucleus of an atom which is a combination of protons and neutrons.
Now, Dr. Chessnut says, and this is simply, this is known material, each proton carries a positive charge of electricity. The neutron does not carry any elec¬trical charge; and scientists avoid discussing why, frankly, they don’t know why. But the strange part of it is for decades scientists have had an inviolable law which says like charges of electricity and magnetism repel each other, and the point is, if you’ve got a whole pile of little protons shooting out an electrical charge, how come little neutrons hang around? Why aren’t they blasted out? What is it that holds that nucleus together? The law says protons and neutrons should not be able to live side by side in the nucleus of an atom, because the charges repel each other.
Nuclear scientists in the 30’s concluded that Coulomb’s law of mutual repulsion between objects is at work in the nucleus of every atom, trying hard to destroy it from within. They had this law, Coulomb’s law, it’s called, and they said it is that work that is trying it’s best to shatter that atom.
Now in modern time we’ve figured out how to negate the force that holds it together and let it shatter. It isn’t easy. Have you ever seen that thing up there by Palo Alto that goes on for miles, and miles, and miles, and miles, for it to do that. But they said, strangely enough, and this is something we cannot understand, there is a second force in a nucleus that fights against the force that splits and holds it together; they call it “nuclear glue.” They haven’t got the faintest idea what it is. We know, so here is an atom. So here is an atom that exists with two conflicting laws present. I mean, when man with all of his scientific knowledge gets down to the very most basic thing, he comes up with an unanswerable problem. His laws of science tells him that baby is going to blow up, but something holds it together. Something resists the splitting factor. There is one law, the Law of Colomes it’s called, trying to destroy the atom, and an overriding thing holds it together.
Dr. Karl Darrow, physicist with the Bell Labs in New York City said that “these nuclei have no right to be alive at all. In fact, they never should have been created, and if they were created, they should have been blown up instantly. Yet there they are.” And there they are; they are everything.
Some inflexible inhibition is relentlessly holding them together. I’d like to introduce you to an inflexible inhibition. George Gamow, professor of physics at George Washington University said this, “Every object is a potential nuclear explosive, without being blown to bits.” It’s incredible, isn’t it. Who holds it together? We know who. Science can call it “nuclear glue,” they even come up with the name “Colossus.” It isn’t “Colossus,” it’s Colossians. I say it’s Colossians 1:17
II. He is to be preeminent in your life because He is sovereign over the church – His re-creation.
“He is the head of the body, the church” (Col. 1:18).
Ephesians 1:22 – “And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.” Why does Jesus Christ have the right to be the Head of the group of people in this room here this morning? Because out of all the people sitting here in this room, He is the only one that could do anything for you in order to make you what have been created to be. Look at what He has done in Colossians 2:11-15!!!
I can think of a number of people who have been very important in my life. There has been Paul Janke, a youth pastor, many years ago when I was in Junior High, who whetted my appetite for learning the Bible. This brother is now the founder of Helios Custom Stained Glass up in Canada. There has been Dwight Allen, a pastor, who nudged me many years ago in considering the pastoral ministry. This brother is now a sports announcer in a SBC Christian outreach called A Second Look. I think of Jim Sheppard, a pastor, who let me preach and go out visiting with him. He is presently retired in Florida. In college and seminary, I think of many people who had an impact in my life: Ross and Janiece Robinson, Edward and Betty Panosian, Earl Nutz, Steve Hankins, Rob Bell, and Mark Minnick. I think of all the brothers and sisters in the Berean church family over the past 15 years. Probably, the most important man in my life outside of Jesus Christ is my dad, Elon Lee Wood. I wish that I could exhibit through my thoughts and emotions at least half of the godly, faithful, contented patience that my father displays. He is a Christian hero to me. And of course, the one who loves me on my good days and still loves me on my bad days is Kristie Ann Wood, my wife. Wow.
But among all the men and women in my life, there is only one Man who fits the chief spot as the Head for believers. What no other man and woman could do, my Savior did for me. He loved me enough to take the full cup of holy wrath that I deserved because of my sins. Sinners stripped him of his clothes, whipped him without mercy, drove big spike nails into his hands and feet, and raised him up on a cross to die an excruciating death. But in the death of Jesus Christ, my sins were forgiven, the handwriting of requirements against me were wiped out, and the satanic hosts that held me captive – He, Jesus Christ, the mightiest of warriors, disarmed.
Yes, as the apostle John writes in Revelation 1:5 – “Jesus Christ [is] the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler over the kings of the earth.” He is the Conqueror! He is the Triumphant One! No one matches Him in glory. No one ever will.
He must hold first place in your life because He is your Creator. But He also must hold first place in your heart because He is the rightful Head of the Church, His Body. As Creator, He is the authoritative Truth in science. As Head, He is the loving shepherd for those who believe. For believers, He is not only our sovereign Creator. He is the center of attraction for all of us who gather on Sundays for worship. He is the beautiful One whom we all desire to gather around and look upon. He is our Savior. He is our best friend.
“That in all things He might have the preeminence” (Col. 1:18). One pastor in his commentary pleads, “There is no need to add anything to the person or work of Jesus Christ. To add anything is to take away from His glory. To give Him prominence instead of preeminence is to dethrone Him.”
III. He is preeminent in your life because He is sovereign over ultimate reconciliation – a created new Heaven and a new earth (vv. 19-20).
F.F. Bruce explains how peace is made possible, “If ‘all things,’ in heaven and on earth, were created through him (v. 16), and yet “all things”—“whether the things on earth or those in heaven”—have to be reconciled to God through him, it follows that all things have been estranged from their Creator. In Rom. 8:19-23 Paul speaks of the creation as involuntarily “subjected to futility” but as destined to “be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the glorious liberty of the children of God.” Since the liberty of the children of God is procured by the redemptive work of Christ, the release of creation from its bondage to decay is assured by that same redemptive work. That earlier argument is akin to the present one, but here it is not simply subjection to futility but positive hostility that is implied on the part of the created universe. The universe has been involved in conflict with its Creator, and needs to be reconciled to him: the conflict must be replaced by peace. This peace has been made through Christ, by the shedding of his life-blood on the cross.”
But wait a minute, do these verses teach an all encompassing universalism?
William Hendrickson chimes in, “There is, of course, a difference in the manner in which various creatures submit to Christ’s rule and are “reconciled to God.” Those who are and remain evil, whether men or angels, submit ruefully, unwillingly. In their case peace, harmony, is imposed, not welcomed. But not only are their evil designs have been, in principle, stripped of their power (Col. 2:15). They are brought into subjection (I Cor. 15:24-28; cf. Eph. 1:21,22), and “the God of peace will bruise Satan under your feet shortly” (Rom. 16:20). The good angels, on the other hand, submit joyfully, eagerly. So do also the redeemed among men. This group includes the members of the Colossian church as far as they are true believers, a thought to which Paul gives expression in the following verses.”
God will force peace upon all. Every knee will bow to the Lordship of Christ. But joyous peace comes right now to those who show faith in Christ.
Paul writes in Romans 5:1, “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.”
“For He Himself is our peace” (Eph. 2:14). This is the main headline as we watch all the news about international wars and rumors of wars. Jesus Christ is our peace. And He will on the horizon of our future, “in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth—in Him” (Ephesians 1:10).
Our time is gone here this morning, but I would like to close with this charge from Paul in 2 Corinthians 5:18-21, “Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespass to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”
Be reconciled to your Creator God by obeying Him. Believe in the gospel work of the Lord Jesus Christ. Worship Him on this first day of spring. He is preeminent.