The Preeminence of Christ in the Gospel and Redemption: Col. 1:1-14
For the next 10 weeks, we will be walking through the book of Colossians. This short epistle, written by the Apostle Paul, is all about the preeminence of Christ. Though Paul was not personally acquainted with the believers in Colossae (Col. 2:1), he was nevertheless gravely concerned for their spiritual wellbeing. From what we can gather, the church at Colossae was dealing with a syncretic heresy that blended Christianity with Jewish legalism, Greek asceticism, and Oriental mysticism. Thus, in order to combat this heresy, Paul’s letter to the Colossians is focused on the supremacy and sufficiency of Jesus Christ. To put it another way, in the words of the Christian author and evangelist Tullian Tchividjian, “Jesus + Nothing = Everything.”
If you look up the definition of preeminence, you will find it is defined as “the fact of surpassing all others; superiority.” Certainly most believers, if they were asked, would say that Christ is preeminent, both in salvation and in their daily lives. Yet, if we are honest with ourselves, we have relegated Christ to a place of prominence rather than preeminence. While prominence still means that Christ is important, prominence is a standard far below that of preeminence.
When Christ is prominent instead of preeminent, we play a role in our salvation. While Christ is still very important—even integral—to salvation, we become the arbiters of our fates and the fates of others. It is our actions or inherent worth that earn God’s favor; it is not the result of His grace. This insidious attitude creeps into our subconsciouses and influences how we view ourselves, our God, and others without us even realizing it. Have you ever sinned and questioned your own salvation? Then you are treating Christ as prominent instead of preeminent. Have you ever fallen into legalism, making God’s favor conditioned upon your adherence to a certain set of rules? Then you are treating Christ as prominent instead of preeminent. Have you ever, either consciously or subconsciously, labeled a group of people “unsavable” or determined it was a waste of time to witness or minister to them? Then you are treating Christ as prominent instead of preeminent. When we treat Christ as prominent instead of preeminent, it is like putting ourselves on a spiritual hamster wheel—we expend all our energy judging ourselves and others, exhausting ourselves while getting nowhere. We were meant for so much more.
When we truly grasp that Christ is not just prominent, He is preeminent, then and only then can we truly begin to grasp the miracle that is our salvation. The preeminence of Christ assures us that there is nothing any of us can do to earn God’s favor. It is freely given because of who Christ is. God’s favor is earned by none yet available to all. It is not dependent upon my adherence to a set of rules. It is not dependent upon my race, sex, social status, or my past. None of us can do anything to qualify for it. It is God who does the qualifying. Once we understand that, we are freed to love God, ourselves, and others unconditionally. We can then truly say, “Jesus + Nothing = Everything!”
- Explain the difference between prominence and preeminence.
- Take a moment to examine your own life. Would you say that Jesus is prominent or preeminent? How so?
- Think through this year and the difficulties we all have faced. How would treating Christ as preeminent change your attitudes towards the many difficulties we’ve faced, both personally and nationally? What can you do personally to proclaim the preeminence of Christ?