“For by Him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by Him, and for Him: And He is before all things, and by Him, all things consist. And He is the head of the body, the church: who is beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things He might have the preeminence.” –Colossians 1:16
When Paul, the author of this passage, is writing to the church in Colosse from prison in Rome, he is describing the magnitude of who God is, what He has done for us, and how He is sufficient -- contradicting the false teachers that were preaching a ‘fake gospel’ to the Body there. In the study passage, he emphasizes God’s greatness with phrases such as “for by Him all things were created”, “He is before all things”, “by Him all things consist”, and “He is the head of the body (church)”.
The word heaven, in verse 16, means what comes to our minds: the entire universe. That definition is simple, but profound in the light of what Paul is trying to communicate: God is the Creator, and all things are under His feet, even the entire universe! The definition of the word thrones surprised me; it means “a chair of state having a footstool”. Basically any authority in this world, or anybody who has power, influence and a say. The word principalities means “angels or demons”, or the supernatural realm. God created all of this, and it is ALL underneath His feet! All of this was created by Him, with His very breath, His very words, His very life. Because of His superiority to the creation, we are alive! We survive and exist and consist. When Paul says that all things were not only made by Him but for Him, I immediately think that God created us to love Him back, to worship Him and to have a relationship with Him, not just to exist. What else would we be created for? If all of these things are under His feet, and we are in Him, what does that say about us? I have the same power inside of me that raised Christ from the dead (Romans 8:11)!
Jesus is the head of the church. In a family, the father is the ‘head’ of his home. That means he leads, corrects, and has a relationship with his wife and children. Head means “anything supreme, chief, prominent, or the corner stone”. If an earthly father leads his family in the way he thinks is right, how much more will Jesus lead His children, His church, in the right path (Pro. 4:11)? Jesus is the foundation of the church, the cornerstone, the canon-tested (and proven) Messiah – He will not lead us astray.
What did Paul mean by saying that Jesus is the firstborn from the dead? He obviously didn’t mean the first person to ever die. In Romans 8:29 Paul writes that Jesus is the ‘firstborn of many brethren’. If He is the firstborn, then we are to follow in His footsteps and do what He did. In the study passage Paul phrases it as Him being the ‘firstborn from the dead’. That doesn’t just mean that we die… the word ‘from’ indicates that He has risen! He was the first to overcome Death with the Impossible Life. He has given us a way to do the same, if only we die to our flesh, clothe ourselves in Him and rise to newness of life.
When Paul is writing to the Colossians of who God is, he is so sure and confident that God is everything that he is describing! He is declaring God to be:
- The Creator
- He is before all things
- By Him all things consist
- All things are made by and for Him
- The Head of the Body of Christ
- The Beginning
- The Firstborn from the dead
- The Preeminent One
One of the things that is so amazing about Paul’s attitude while writing this letter is that there is no self portrayed through his words. The study passage was written while in prison, and in Colossians Paul did not complain about his surroundings or ask for anything for himself. It was all about Jesus. Is my life all about Jesus? In my dark times do I find joy and peace in praising the name of my King? Can I make a list like the one above and rejoice in all that He is?
He is to be first in everything (“that in all things He might have the preeminence.”). The meaning of the word preeminence is “to be first, to hold the first place, to be above or before others, superior, surpassing, to be first in influence”. To be first in our influence is saying a lot about who is actually first in our lives! If I am listening to other voices or other distractions, how can Christ be my first influence? For Him to be first in my life I need to remove distractions and other influences.The church in Colosse had been given a false Gospel and were being focused on legalism (ie, distractions) by other teachers after the church planter (I’m supposing Epaphras) had left. The entire book/letter of Colossians is telling them of how sufficient Christ is, and how we need to focus on following Him, not other distractions (in the book Paul mentions ‘new moons’, ‘sabbaths’, etc). That applies to my life as well as the Colossians. The things mentioned above are not bad things in and of themselves, but when they become higher than Jesus, or a distraction from focusing completely on Him. I don’t focus on new moons and sabbaths, but other things sometimes grab for my attention or ‘suck me in’. I need to remove those things or tune them out or severely limit them, so that I can always have JESUS running in my thoughts, my words, and my actions.
If I had to sum up what this passage is about, I would definitely focus on the fact that Christ is preeminent. He is to be first in every aspect of life. He is to be first in my influences. That means no distractions! The King of the universe created every single thing, even the things beyond my comprehension, and yet this very same God wants to have intimacy with me. Will I die to my flesh daily and allow Jesus’ life to run my life? Will I choose to live the way He asks me to? He is worthy! He is deserving of everything I can give Him, since He first gave everything for me. We love Him because He first loved us (1 John 4:19). I should consider dying to my flesh a daily privilege!