The Preeminence of Christ in Creation: Col. 1:15-17
One of the heresies that plagued the early Church was Gnosticism, which was rooted in the Greek philosophy of asceticism. Though there were many facets to Gnosticism and asceticism, one of the key elements was the belief that the material world was bad, created by a lesser god to trap spirit beings. It was only when our spirit bodies were freed from the material that they could truly blossom into what God intended them to be. Jesus was not God, but merely an emissary of God, sent to reveal to us the gnosis, or knowledge, needed to get us back to the spirit realm in which we were intended to dwell. In this week’s passage, Paul refutes this belief system through explaining Christ’s preeminence in creation:
- Christ existed before creation. When Paul refers to Jesus as “firstborn”, he is not referring to time but rather to position. It means that Christ is of first importance or rank. A similar statement is made of Solomon as David’s heir in Ps. 89:27. Though Solomon was not the eldest of David’s sons, he was referred to as the firstborn as a statement of his rights and preeminence over all other claimants to the throne. Christ, as eternal God, existed before creation as the exact image of the invisible God. The word translated “image” from the Greek means “the exact representation and revelation.” No created being could ever claim to be the exact representation and revelation of God; only Jesus could perfectly reveal the very essence of God to us.
- Christ is the Creator. If Jesus Christ is Creator, He cannot be created. In fact, He is “firstborn” in position because He is Creator. Christ created not only the physical but also the spiritual, including the laws that govern nature. This refutes the gnostic notion that there was a good god that created the spiritual and an evil god that created the material. There is one Creator, and as we are told in Genesis 1, He created everything good. It is only our sin that has corrupted the natural world.
- All things exist for Christ. The Greek philosophy that Paul was refuting held that everything had to have a primary cause, an instrumental cause, and a final cause. In verse 16, Paul proclaims Christ’s preeminence in that He is all three: Christ planned creation, Christ caused creation to happen, and all creation exists to proclaim His glory. Thus, Jesus is not just prominent in creation; He is preeminent. That is why Paul refers to creation groaning in Rom. 8:22—all creation longs for the day it will be freed from the bondage our sin created, the day when it will be freed to praise the Creator as it was meant to do.
- Christ holds all things together. From the beginning, our sin has been rooted in our desire for control. We want to be in control of our lives, our destinies, and our circumstances. One thing 2020 has taught us is our lack of control, which has led many to feelings of fear and hopelessness. It should not be so for us as believers. We don’t have to hold it together because it’s not our job; it’s Christ’s! We can rest in the truth that the same God that planned creation and caused creation all for His glory will see it through to the end. Nothing on earth, or under the earth, or above the earth can thwart His plan. With Christ on the throne, there is nothing for us to fear.
- Take a moment to consider the statement that Christ is preeminent in creation. How should Christ’s preeminence impact our view of the created world? How should Christ’s preeminence impact our view of others?
- What are the areas of your life you seek to control (seek preeminence)? What happens when you feel out of control in those areas? What emotions do you feel?
- How is the statement that Christ holds all things together comforting? What steps can you take personally to rest in God’s control? Are there any areas in your life where you may have attempted to dethrone God?