Today’s Reading: Colossians 1
C. S. Lewis once said, “Put first things first and we get second things thrown in: put second things first and we lose both first and second things.” Lewis is reminding us that even if good second things get first, we end up with nothing. If church is first, your denomination is first, worship music is first—those are good but they have to be second.
In today’s chapter, Paul makes it really clear that Jesus is first and Jesus is everything. Paul is telling us what is at the heart of Christianity.
What do lollipops, truffles, and the Christian life all have in common? It’s what’s at the center that counts! If you get to the middle of your lollipop or truffle and discover nothing, then there is nothing but disappointment.
This may be obvious, but you can’t have the word Christianity without Christ. Otherwise, it’s just ianity. Like that makes sense. You can’t be a Christian without Christ, then the word is just ian. It doesn’t make sense. And if the chewy-centered Tootsie Pop or truffle of the church, or the Christian life, or the Bible, or prayer is not Christ, then it’s nothing but a farce and failure.
Here is the center for Paul—and I’m replacing the pronouns with the name of Jesus, so it’s very clear:
Jesus rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of [God’s] beloved Jesus, in Jesus we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. Jesus is the image of the invisible God, Jesus is the firstborn of all creation. For by Jesus all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Jesus and for Jesus. Jesus is before all things, and in Jesus all things hold together. Jesus is also head of the body, the church; and Jesus is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that Jesus Himself will come to have first place in everything. For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Jesus and through Jesus to reconcile all things to Jesus, having made peace through the blood of Jesus’ cross. (Colossians 1:13-20, author changes in italics)
Jesus first and Jesus everywhere.
The word to describe this is preeminence. That big word means Jesus is first and everything. That’s what Paul is telling us in Colossians 1: Jesus is the center, not the circumference. My favorite part of Paul’s praise is in verse 18 where he states “that He would have first place in everything.” There is no place Jesus is not first and preeminent.
Consider these words from Charles Spurgeon: “I believe there will be more in Heaven than in hell. If anyone asks me why I think so, I answer, because Christ, in everything, is to ‘have the pre-eminence,’ and I cannot conceive how He could have the pre-eminence if there are to be more in the dominions of Satan than in Paradise.”
That is so good. There will be more in heaven than in hell. Why? Because He must be preeminent.
You are familiar, no doubt, with one of the most famous paintings ever done by any artist: “The Last Supper” by Leonardo da Vinci, that classic portrayal of Christ and the twelve apostles at the table. Many stories have sprung up over the centuries about the painting. Many students of art history believe that the painting, when first created, was different from the version we now see. They believe that initially, an exquisite lace border ran the outside length of the tablecloth. Upon completion, when da Vinci invited a group of art students to view his masterpiece, they were impressed by the delicate design of that lacework and praised its exquisite design. Upon seeing the reaction of these young men, the artist grabbed a paint brush and proceeded to paint over the lace. “Now, you fools, look at the face of Christ!”
Da Vinci said it. The apostle Paul is doing the same.