Wednesday, 29 March 2017
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. Colossians 1:18
Paul continues on with his description of Christ. In the previous verse, he was seen in relation to the creation, He being before it and above it in all ways. Now He is shown in relation to the church, a body which came forth out of the creation, and which is based on what He has done in creation. Paul shows that “He is the head of the body, the church.” The word “He” is once again emphatic, just as it was when speaking of Him as being the image of God. The One who is the image of God, it is He who is the head of the body. There is parallelism running between the two thoughts which will be built on by Paul.
The people of the world are all a part of the creation, but because of the fall, and because of free-will within man, not all of those in creation have acknowledged God. However, within the stream of humanity, God has called out a group who do acknowledge Him, those in this group have become members of His body. Paul deals with this in the book of Ephesians, but there the stress is placed upon the unity of the body. Now he places the stress on the preeminent position of Christ within the body. Jesus Christ is the Head of this called-out group, the church.
While speaking of Him, he says, “who is the beginning.” As He is the One who created all things, so He is the beginning of the new thing which God has done within the creation. In this body, which is called out of the world, Christ is the beginning of it, being “the firstborn from the dead.” This is where the parallelism finds its true anchor. It is between Christ’s position in relation to creation, and His position in relation to the church. He is “the firstborn over all creation” as was seen in verse 15, and He is “the firstborn from the dead.” The two thoughts place Christ Jesus in the preeminent position in all things.
However, there is a point which must be considered. Though Christ is the firstborn of both, His status in relation to the church differs from His status in relation to creation. He is the firstborn from the dead, having been One who was dead, just as those who come after Him also die; but though He is the firstborn over all creation, He is not a part of the creation. In other words, it shows the magnitude of what Christ, the Creator, was willing to do in order to identify with those He has called. He was willing to participate in the most humiliating aspect of all in order to fellowship with us. As death is the result of sin, He was willing to take our sin upon Himself and die. Having no sin of His own, He naturally had to resurrect. In His resurrection, He carried our sin away through His death, leaving it in death so that we might follow Him in life.
Because of this, He is the firstfruits from the dead, and the pattern for all who will afterwards arise from the dead. This is speaking of the resurrection, not a reanimation. Others have been reanimated to life – Lazarus for example, but Christ is the first of the resurrection, coming forth to eternal life. Death is conquered in Him, and so will be the case for all who are in Him.
Thus, whether in relation to creation, or in relation to the church, Christ is first so “that in all things He may have the preeminence.” The words in Greek read, “might become being first.” As Vincent’s Word Studies states concerning this, “He became head of the Church through His incarnation and passion, as He is head of the universe in virtue of His absolute and eternal being.” In all things, and in all ways, Jesus Christ is the first. He holds the position of absolute preeminence.
Life application: When we consider what God has done through Jesus Christ, we should be humbled to the very core of our being. It is impossible for us to truly imagine the value God has placed upon humanity when we consider the lengths He was willing to go through in order to bring us back to Himself. And He has done it in such a way that His glory radiates out in the face of Jesus Christ our Lord, our Creator, our Savior, our Redeemer, and our matchless King.
Lord God, it’s impossible for us to grasp the measure of Your love, but we have a way to consider it in relation to ourselves. We can see what You were willing to do by looking to the story of Jesus. That You would condescend to come into Your creation in order to bring us back to Yourself shows us the highest and most unimaginable cost that You were willing to bear. The cross of Calvary truly says it all. May our lives be lived in response to that most august of all events, never forgetting what You did in order to redeem us. Great and marvelous are You, O God. Amen.