IV. Preeminence of Christ (15-23)
A. In Creation.
1. Image of God. 15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.
This begins a section when Paul begins to combat some of the Gnostic heresies of the area. Remember that the Gnostics taught that Christ was not God but just in a line of emanations the proceeded God. These emanations revealed parts of God but Jesus for the Gnostics was only a link in the chain.
We can not see the essence of God. Scripture even says that if man were to see God he would die; yet God has revealed Himself to us in the person of Christ. If we want to know what God the Father looks like; we only have to look to Christ.
“firstborn” Jesus is the prototype of what man supposed to be. Remember that the Incarnation did not begin with the Annunciation, but with Creation. When God created the heavens and the earth, the Incarnation was in view. [thanks Clark]
2. The Logos of God. 16 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. 17 And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist.
-John 1:1; Heb 1:3
It’s all about Jesus. As said above, the Incarnation was in view when God created. The world was created through Christ and for Him. Life only makes sense through Him.
3. The Head of the Church. 18 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.
The One that created man and is the reason for all is the one who is the Head of the Church. This is an awesome thought that man is able to be part of the body of the One who created all things.
”firstborn from the dead”. He conquered death so that we might conquer death through resurrection as well
B. In Salvation.
1. The Work of Christ. 19 For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, 20 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. 21 And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled 22 in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight--
”fullness” This is a term loved by the Gnostics. “Fullness” for them was this whole series of chain of divine emanations that secretly revealed God. Paul states that Christ is that fullness.
”reconcile all things” Salvation is cosmic in scope because our sin affects all creation (Rom 8:20ff)
”things in heaven” St. Theodoret says “not so much that the angels were reconciled to God as that they were reconciled to us”
”enemies and estranged”. This is important. In popular Christianity, there is a view that there was this angry God whom Christ appeased and satisfied, so that man could approach in love. This makes salvation God’s problem. Yet it was man who had the problem. Man was the enemy not God. Man was estranged not God. Throughout Scripture, from Genesis onward, God is reaching out to man and yet man continues to stiff-arm God. The Incarnation is God’s ultimate condescension and expression of His love to mankind.
”present you” Just as Jesus became a sacrifice of worship to the Father. Those who are members of the Church will follow Jesus to be presented as a sacrifice by Christ to the Father
2. Our Response 23 if indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard, which was preached to every creature under heaven, of which I, Paul, became a minister.
This passage contains a sobering “if”. We can be presented as sacrifices in Christ if we continue this life of faith. What a sobering reminder to hold fast to the hope of the gospel which has been preached for the past 2000 years.
V. Paul the servant of the mystery of Christ.
A. Suffer for the mystery 24 I now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up in my flesh what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ, for the sake of His body, which is the church,
This is truth unlike that of the Gnostics is worth suffering for. Christ promised suffering. If the head suffers then the body will as well.
”what is lacking” This is a tough phrase. It is not that Christ’s sufferings were not sufficient but that there is apportioned for the body of Christ an amount of suffering. Paul is taking their portion; he suffers on their behalf. When one part of the body of Christ suffers, they do so on behalf of the rest of the body. When we look at the Church today, especially in the Muslim world, we must pray for those who suffer for the faith because they are taking our portion.
B. Reveal the mystery 25 of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God which was given to me for you, to fulfill the word of God, 26 the mystery which has been hidden from ages and from generations, but now has been revealed to His saints. 27 To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which* is Christ in you, the hope of glory. 28 Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus. 29 To this end I also labor, striving according to His working which works in me mightily.
The revelation of the mystery is a theme throughout the Pauline epistles. What is the mystery to be revealed? The mystery is that God has become man and the world is saved through His Body. His Body is the Church, and through the Body of Christ man is united to the head, and becomes restored to the Adamic state before the Fall.