The Preeminence of Christ

Okay. I admit it—I am a word-nerd. I probably should join Adverbs Anonymous. Word origins and meanings fascinate me.  For example, the word “preeminent” is an adjective which means to be more than eminent, to put something above or before others. Something preeminent is superior, surpassing all others, of paramount rank, dignity or importance. The words “prominence” and “eminence” are related to the word “preeminence.” All three words are rooted in the Latin verb stem “minere” meaning “to stand out.” The difference between them is that “prominent” means to stand out or project, while “preeminent” describes something that exceeds all others in quality or rank. That which is preeminent is the most important, even more than something that is prominent.

So, when Paul wrote the Colossians that Jesus, “is the image of the invisible God;” that He is, “the firstborn of all creation;” that, “by Him all things were created;” that, “all things have been created through Him and for him;” that, “He is before all things;” and that, “in Him all things hold together;” which will result in, “He Himself will come to have first place in everything;” he was presenting the awesome unprecedented preeminence of Christ!

Anyone who reads Colossians 1:15-20, whether he or she agrees with it or not, must admit that Christ is presented as being preeminent above all else, in heaven and on earth. Within these heavy laden, powerfully descriptive verses, are four reasons Christ Jesus should be preeminent.

1. Christ is Preeminent in His Identity—“He is the image of the invisible God”

Paul meant that Jesus was God become visible. The Greek word for “image” is the root of our English word, “icon.” An icon is an image that represents something larger. When people say that Michael Jordan is a basketball icon, they mean he represents the whole sport; that he is the image of the highest skills in basketball.

When Jesus was born, it fulfilled the prophecy: “A virgin shall be with child and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel, which translated means, God with us” (Matthew 1:23). His birth literally meant God had come to dwell among people. This truth explains what Jesus meant when He told Philip: “When you have seen Me, you have seen the Father” (John 14:9).

Jesus is not only identified as the manifestation of God, but He is the only legal heir of God—“He is…the firstborn of all creation” (Colossians 1:15). Jesus certainly was not the first one born in time, but He was the “firstborn” of God, the “only begotten son of God” (John 3:16). This means Jesus has the birthright and is the only legal heir to the throne of God.

2. Christ is Preeminent in His Work—“By Him all things were created”

When Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth,” happened, it was Jesus, God’s eternal Son, who, with the Father and Holy Spirit, created all things. He fashioned all things, “both in the heavens and on earth…all things have been created through Him and for him” (Colossians 1:16).

Jesus is also preeminent in His work of sustaining His creation—“He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together” (Colossians 1:17). In unscientific terms, the whole universe would fly apart without His supervision. The writer of Hebrews states that: “He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power” (Hebrews 1:3).

3. Christ is Preeminent in His Position—“He is also head of the body, the church”

One position Jesus holds is Head of His church. The church is the called out assembly of baptized believers in Christ, who are covenanted together to carry out His commands. Jesus is the head of every church that belongs to Him. He is the ultimate one in charge, with supreme authority over each body, its life and service.

Another position Jesus holds is the overcomer of death, “He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead” (verse 18). Jesus was not the first person raised from death to life, but He is the first to overcome death and never die again. Through His death He destroyed death for every believer in Him (Heb. 2:14-15).

Jesus is also in the position of preeminence, “so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything” (verse 18). There will come a time when every person who has ever lived will recognize Christ in His preeminence: “at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:10-11).  This does not mean every person will be saved—it does mean every person will recognize that Christ is Lord of all—some willingly and others forcibly.

4. Christ is Preeminent in His Salvation—“And through Him to reconcile all things to Himself”

Salvation and eternal life only come through the sacrifice of Christ. Through Christ alone God will reconcile all things to Himself. Mankind and all of creation have been out of fellowship with God since the fall of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. But there will come a time when God will bring everything back into fellowship with Himself and make everything right that has been wrong.                       

Christ is preeminent in His salvation because He has “made peace through the blood of His cross” (Colossians 1:20). We only have peace with God through the bloody sacrifice of Christ on the cross. But, peace with God is available: “Being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1).

Our Lord Jesus Christ is preeminent over all. The question we must ask is: Is Jesus preeminent in your life? Is He your Savior? Are you following, honoring and serving Him as your Lord? The good news is, you can choose to receive, love and follow Him today!

Author: Larry E. Clements

Follower of Christ, fortunate to be husband to Pat, father of 5, grandfather of 12, writer, associate pastor of Pauline Baptist Church

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