Theology in 3D

The Uncomfortable Implications of the Preeminence of Christ

Greg Stiekes | October 16, 2018
New Testament

And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. Col 1:18

These words, part of the Christological hymn of Colossians 1:15–20 are a trove of linguistic treasures.

First, Jesus is exalted as “head” (kephalé) of the church, which means he is the ultimate authority over the church. It is his will and his word that governs and energizes the life of the church.

Second, Jesus is the “beginning” (arché). He is the start of everything or its point of origin. And this is true, as the full hymn tells us, not only in the creation but also in the redemption or the new creation. He who commanded, “Let light be!” and light was, is the same who “has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Cor 4:6).

Third, Jesus is the “firstborn” (prōtotokos) from the dead. The word can certainly mean first by order of birth, but it also can mean first in order of importance, first in rank or prominent position. Jesus is the firstborn from the dead because he took the lead in the resurrection. There were other people who were brought back from the dead—Jesus even raised some of them himself (Lazarus, the widow’s son at Nain, Jairus’s daughter). But these people all went back into their graves later on. Jesus is the only person in human history who conquered death and now lives forever with a resurrection body. And that new life through the resurrection is our ultimate hope.

Finally, Jesus is “preeminent.” That means he is first. In everything. First in importance, first in honor, first in exaltation. And the grammar of the verse indicates that Jesus is the “head” and the “beginning” and the “firstborn” in order that (hina) or for the purpose that Jesus might be the preeminent one. Embedded in each of those glorious references to the person of Christ—head, beginning, firstborn, preeminent—is the idea that Jesus is First.

But this profound and comprehensive terminology cannot remain in lexicons. The fact that Jesus is the Preeminent One must have real-world application to the life of the believer. Jesus must be preeminent in our lives. In fact, Col 1:19 continues, “For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell.” In other words, it was the Father’s good pleasure that Jesus should be the supreme agent of creation and redemption.

This means that the ultimate goal of salvation is not bringing human beings to salvation, but the ultimate goal is the exaltation of the Son of to the status of supremacy.

We are the beloved recipients of God’s mercy, to be sure; but we are also humble servants, unworthy to be called by his name, sinners saved by grace. That is why, in the wisdom of God, there is nothing that we can even bring to offer him for our salvation (Eph 2:8–9).

It means that our salvation is not about us; it is about Christ. “For” him, “through” him, and “to” him (Col 1:19–20). Do we really believe that? Do we live like that? Is Jesus really the Preeminent One in our lives? Yes, he is very, very important to us. We invest much time serving him and praying to him and showing love to him. But it is not enough that Jesus have prominence in our lives. He must have preeminence in our lives. Jesus cannot simply be on our top-ten list. He must be everything.

Years ago when I set my sights on a PhD program, one of the professors where I was studying asked me a discerning question. He said, “Do you want a doctorate, or do you want to earn a doctorate?” There is an uncomfortable distinction between those two desires. There are many people, he went on to explain who relish the initials “Dr.” in front of their name, but there are fewer who are actually willing to do what it takes to earn that title.

In the same way, the preeminence of Christ also challenges us who call ourselves “Christians” with uncomfortable implications. Do we want to be called a Christian? Or do we want to be a Christian. Do we want to be thought of as yielded to God’s will? Or do we want to yield to God’s will? Do we want to appear that what matters most to us is Christ? Or do we want Christ to matter most? Are we satisfied with the veneer of Christ-likeness because it is good enough for others, or do we want to be like Christ? Do we want to do and say the kinds of things we would say and do if we were seeking to honor Christ above all others, or do we want to honor Christ above all others? We should pray that the tension in those annoying questions settles down upon our soul, ministering to us and encouraging us toward the true exaltation of the Son as supreme. For that is the position that he alone occupies.

29 responses to “The Uncomfortable Implications of the Preeminence of Christ”

  1. Jon says:

    I’ve been learning this same thing recently! So subtle but so central and powerful. Thanks much! Really helpful.

  2. Wilkinson Philip says:

    Thanks to sharing such a great incredible article. This specific is quite a good piece, I feel like very few people manage to
    state their opinion so clearly. But simply you and do it in a
    way that touches the reader’s soul.

  3. G Jones says:

    I had been reading Colossians the last month or so. I knew that I would be speaking somewhere sooner or later. The preeminence of Jesus was like a gauntlet in my minds eye. So that time has come and I was browsing to get my thinker to thinking. This was the first click. Great message. I have to leave it and start thinking.

  4. David Jasurda says:

    I offer a side to Col 1:15>
    Jesus the Firstborn of All Creation

    Paul knew what he was talking about in Col 1:15. Jesus the Firstborn of all creation. He even knew what the word preeminence meant, as is evidenced by Col 1:18, where he uses the word preeminence. Paul is not saying Jesus has preeminence; therefore, God says he is the Firstborn of all creation. No! Paul said he is the Firstborn of All Creation; therefore, he has preeminence. Firstborn means firstborn in all cases throughout the Bible, and each has been appropriately placed within its context and should be reviewed within its context. The secret to Col 1:15 is about the belly button. Jesus had a mother. Adam did not. Stay with me.

    The first Adam did not have a belly button, but he did have life.
    Genesis 2:7-8 And God formed man out of the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life/blood, and man became a living soul. And God planted a garden eastward, in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed.
    Leviticus 17:11For the life (God’s Life) of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you on the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood by reason of the life that makes atonement.
    As we can see, the first Adam was created and not born, thus no belly button.

    God placed his life/ blood/ seed into Mary/mankind (virgin birth).
    Acts 20;28 Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He (God) purchased with His own blood.
    The last Adam. (Jesus Christ)

    Creation/Mankind after the fall of Adam/Creation.
    Everyone after the fall of mankind/first Adam was born into sin. We were not created, we were born of Adam after the fall and we were of our father, the devil. This is why we needed a new life/ a new Father.
    John 8:43-44 ”Why do ye not understand my speech? Even because ye cannot hear my word. Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar and the father of it.”
    But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our wrongdoings, made us alive together with Christ ( by grace you have been saved),
    Ephesians 2:4-5

    Romans 8:15 For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “ Abba! Father!”
    If God adopted us as our father, this would mean we had a different father before being adopted by God our Father.

    (We were dying as our blood/life was tainted by sin, and we were no longer part of the living/ God’s creation/life.) My words, not the Bible.
    God did not create the fall of man. Nor did God create the results thereof. The fall of man was not part of the six-day creation.

    1John 3:8-10 The one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil. No one who has been born of God practices sin, because His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin continually, because he has been born of God. By this, the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother and sister.

    Sin is Passed on by the Father/Male
    Roman 5:12-14 Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned— for until the Law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law. Nevertheless, death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come.

    So with that said, Jesus was the first person of all creation who was born as a human alive unto God since the first created Adam. Jesus was the only person to be Born without sin in his life/blood after the fall of Adam. Thus Jesus had a belly button as he was born of a woman/virgin birth after the fall of Adam. Jesus was the Firstborn of all creation.

    The First Adam was the FIRST creation. The Last Adam was a NEW creation. The first human BORN without sin.
    Now we know why Jesus had to be born of a virgin and how Jesus was created sinless.

    Gal 6:15 For neither is circumcision anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation.
    Both the first Adam and the last Adam had unblemished blood/life from God flowing in their veins. There are only two Adams mentioned in the Bible. The first Adam and the last Adam Jesus Christ.
    Thank you. Enjoy His Word.

  5. Abigail Tanu says:

    Interesting one here on the preeminence of Christ. I am to speak on the preeminent figure in days to come. This article is a guide.

  6. Mark Estes says:

    Jesus was not created. From eternity He is in the Father. He is the eternal Son, and the only begotten of the Father.

  7. Eleana Lucy Pratt Guirado says:

    Much higher explanation.
    Thanks for further received wisdom!

  8. Those that seek to find themselves, find themselves. Those that seek the kingdom of God and His righteousness, find God. The purpose of God in creation is the exaltation of Son in conforming the new creature into the image of Jesus Christ.

    The Gospel is the preaching of the Preeminence of Jesus Christ. Everything starts and ends with Jesus Christ. We do not speak of ourselves. We speak of Him. He alone is worthy.

  9. Joy says:

    Today is July 21, 2022 and I just came across this article today. I was looking up the Bible definition for the word preeminence and this article popped up. I found it very profound and thought inspiring when it comes to thinking about do you want to be called a Christian or do you want to be one. I truly consider myself a believer and not just in word only but in deeds so I appreciate the writer for putting this fact so eloquently and so easy to understand.

  10. Theodore says:

    I have to preach on this text, Colossians 1:15-20, this was a very helpful guide and the text is clear if I can summerize it, Jesus made it all & Jesus paid it all.

  11. Mike barone says:

    Christ Jesus is the most important person in all history.
    His commission on earth was the most significant event
    In all of history. (He is first, and what God wrought in Christ
    When He raised him from the dead is by far the fulcrum
    Of mankind.) To be as free from sin as he was. To be given
    Life because when he died, we died with him. And when he got up
    From the dead we arose with him and are seated with him-
    Ephesians says.

  12. Donna Q says:

    Thank you. I too was looking for definition of preeminent from Colossians. This article not only helps me understand the meaning, it is profound to understand my being.

  13. Becky L says:

    I found this written when I looked into what preeminent meant to Jesus in Colossians 1:18. I’m doing a Bible study Encountering God by Kelly Minter. Session we’re in is about prayer. I liked what was shared here. Thank you.

  14. Gerald Richburg says:

    I found this while looking up the definition of preeminent after my brother used the word in a text to me. Having not read the Bible in years,(I was a devout scholar as a teen),I felt the urgency to pursue the message, which I found quite informative as well as uplifting. I especially noticed the thoughts on the objective of Christianity–that it is not to bring others to Salvation, but to hold Christ at the pinnacle of all labors and all thought. Wow! This really blows my mind, realizing if Jesus is honestly placed preeminently in one’s life, in my life, everything else will follow, will fall in order. A wonderful lesson! Thank you, and God Bless all.

  15. Norma says:

    This is so helpful thank you

  16. Margaret Rose says:

    Very well stated, causes for introspection, tough but needed!

  17. Bob Chappell says:

    I am in agreement with the writings of this person Christ, Numro Uno No. 1. In order to have success wise men and woman, still seek Him today and everyday. Without Him in our lives a major and I mean major ingredient or piece of the puzzle, or life goes south, in a finite second. Real men and woman seek God realize thru seeking Him 1st all else follows suit. He needs to be honored as a King as A Lord as The Majesty. There is no one who will love you lime He does. I am forever grateful to Him and forever in my life thankful to Him always and forever with an attitude and gratitude the great price of His love He paid. He paid it all in full signed sealed delivered. Purchased with a High Price of Himself giving it His best for you and I and every person, saved or unsaved. Thank You God for sending what was most precious to You. Your Son Jesus Christ. I thank my mom who passed on into glory last Nov 1st of 2021. Who sowed seeds in our lives. Her total trust and dependancey was in Him from when I could remember as a small boy. She never wavered on who Christ was in her life. I truly miss her talking to her. Praying with her. I thank You God for my mom you gave to me an my family who showed me who Love really is. 1 John 4:8. 1 John 4:16. 1 Cor 13:8 Love never fails. The Bible is the Greatest Love Story ever told ever written. A true illustration of what Love is the true definition to all of mankind. The Ultimate Expression from the Ultimate Sacrafice.

  18. Cornell C Thompson says:

    Thank you for such a dynamic word and breaking the whole meaning of who and what Christ Jesus is . This helps me to always pray for wisdom on how to best be a servant .I want to be a Christian. Because those He called He foreknew He Predestined to like Christ . First time I’ve the term that Adam did not have a bellybutton.

  19. Brian says:

    As I researched preeminence of Jesus, this commentary was very helpful. Thanks for sharing.

  20. Elizabeth Vennell says:

    Jesus is Lord.

    Everyday if you remain in Him and He remain in you – you shall bear much fruit.
    Without Him – we can do nothing.

    God is Love – without time in His presence I forget to love.
    Time in His presence makes me see who I really am and my great need of more of Him.

  21. Rick Trotter says:

    On this journey of a deeper drive into the preeminence of Christ this was affirming and encouraging and above the consumer driven theology we normally hear. Thank you

  22. Addie Wells says:

    I learn something new every day Jesus is first and he is the owner of it all this is all the worthwhile of reading and studying the word

    I am so glad to learn more of him.

  23. Erik says:

    Nice job here – I do wonder about ICorinthians 11:3 though where God is said to be the head of Christ, and all the references in John where Jesus says he can do nothing without the father, and it is the Father’s will which seems preeminent. How are the two situations reconciled?

  24. Camelia Perez says:

    Waw! This was so beutifully express. Love the information that fill my heart with gratitud for Christ’JESUS’ MY savior! Thank you.

  25. Lilliette says:

    Christ is the Father’s will.

  26. Onealia Camp says:

    Jesus was God in the flesh but was not a created being. Jesus had a belly button because he was birthed from a human yet without the tainted blood of Adam . The first Adam was created without sin and without a belly button because he was formed from the dust of the earth and there were no humans until God created him on the 6th day of creation. God’s word says everything he created was good, meaning everything was perfect. Thus Adam was created perfect But God gave him a will because he wanted mankind to love and serve him on his own otherwise he would have created robots without a will. Everything was perfect up until sin entered by mankind’s choice to listen to that other created, fallen angel, Satan.
    Thus, by one man, the first Adam
    sin entered and Adam’s blood became tainted. We have inherited that sin condition. God made a way through Jesus Christ the second Adam to be reconciled to him. And we all know the rest of the story.
    Now I am no theologian and this was a very good article I just think the term “created” was used incorrectly in a couple of places. And I do think that it is major issue to refer to Jesus as being a created being. If he had had Adam’s blood running through his veins he would have never qualified as the perfect Lamb of God to be sacrificed for the sins of the world. I believe this to be biblical whether you agree with me or not Does not matter.

  27. Phylicia Kieth says:

    I was stunned about a comment on Col. 11:3, “God is the head of Christ, Jesus saying I can do nothing without the Father”
    Someone set the record straight by saying
    ” Jesus Christ is the Will of the father” . Makes big sense…thank you for shedding insight/ light.

  28. PJ says:

    Great article but what about Matthew 28:18-20 whereby Jesus tells us to GO AND MAKE DISCIPLES. This is a command, the great commission. If Jesus is first we will obey Him and do this very thing. Salvation is the Holy Spirits job but ours is to obey the preeminent One. Romans 10:14, 15 is very clear.

  29. Heather Davis says:

    I too was looking up the meaning of preeminence and found this article. This is very thought-provoking and really a call to action. In fact it stands as a challenge and encouragement to allow my actions to indicate that I am a Christian, in more than name. The comments are rather interesting too. Thank you so much.

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