The Preeminence of Christ in Colossians and Hebrews: An Initial Study

Along with the startling claims of John’s prologue there are other texts in the NT which convey the same essential facts. In Colossians 1 the apostle Paul refers to Jesus this way:

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 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. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. (Colossians 1:15-17)

And the author of Hebrews writes this:

God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds; who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high. (Hebrews 1:1-3)

In both of these passages—probably written before John put down his eyewitness testimony—Jesus is said to bear a relationship to creation, providence, and redemption that could only be predicated of God. Once more, as in John, the term “God” does not refer to one Person. For Paul in Colossians 1:15, Jesus images God, and bears a relationship to man within creation of “firstborn,” which means He has the right of inheritance. The word “firstborn” is also applied by the Apostle to a result of the resurrection of Jesus, which is His relationship to the church as its “head” or authority, united with Christians in anticipation of the new aeon. Christ has earned this right as a man, principally by the joint-act of purging our sins and defeating death. Of who else could it be said that to be united to him results in the conquering both of sin and death? These facts alone promote the greatness of Christ far beyond the pale glory of any other human being.

Paul, the writer of Hebrews, and John all make Jesus the Christ, and the God-man; the upholder of this present world and its rightful Owner. Paul puts it tersely and memorably this way:

All things were created through Him and for Him. (Col. 1:16)

A moment’s reflection will impress upon us the truth that we are deep in the middle of the Creation Project here! As the attributes pile up one upon another, this Figure of Jesus Christ—who He is and what He has done and will do—grows almost inexpressible. I shall return to this later, but how is one to get ones head around all of it? According to these three passages (viz. John 1:1-18; Col. 1:15-17; Heb. 1:1-3, this man,

  1. Is God (Jn. 1:1).
  2. Is the Son of God (Heb. 1:2).
  3. Is the Creator with the Father (Jn. 1:3; Col. 1:16-17; Heb. 1:2).
  4. Is the Sustainer of the present created order. (Col. 1:17; Heb. 1:3).
  5. Is the one for whom everything was created in the first place. (Col. 1:16).
  6. Is the rightful inheritor of the world through His works as a man. (Col. 1:15).
  7. Is the image of God and the final revelation of God to us. (Col. 1:15; Heb. 1:1, 3).
  8. Is the one who purged our sins. (Heb. 1:3).
  9. Is the one by whom we can know God and the truth about the world. (Heb. 1:3; Jn. 1:18).
  10. Is the one who can make us into children of God. (Jn. 1:12)

It is clear that this list easily makes Jesus the most significant man in Scripture. And since the Bible is concerned with the history of mankind, it also makes Christ the most significant person in history, from start to finish. Added to this, we must not forget to include the fact that He is designated “Christ” by all these authors,* and all the other NT writers besides. Hence, the Messiah of the OT is all these things. How mighty, how irresistible, how wise He is! Well might the prophet ask, “who can endure the day of His coming? And who can stand when He appears?” (Mal. 3:2).

And yet, when He does come He surprises everyone! It is questionable whether He ever handled a sword, never mind wielded one. He did not strike fear into His enemies. The Roman Emperor never even heard His name. Hardly anyone outside of Israel knew about Him; at least in His lifetime. Surely, if Jesus Christ is all that the Scripture said He is, and if He is the preeminent man in history, the story cannot end with the report “He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him”? It cannot end with an empty tomb! The irresistible Ruler and Savior and Conqueror of Satan must be known as such in this world; which is His world! If we are looking for a telos for creation, we must look beyond the first coming, astonishing as it was.

So, John clues us into the vital identity of Jesus in his opening lines, and then with his signs, and again with his “I am” statements. He concludes with Thomas’s response to the risen Jesus:

“My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28)

And then with Jesus’ answer in the following verse:

“Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:29)

We today are part of the majority who have never seen Jesus. We must rely upon testimony for what we know. We are persuaded that the testimony to Jesus in the Holy Scriptures, though it is less than full, is yet complete enough for anyone to correctly identify Him as the divine Messiah, and to trust in Him wholeheartedly. And when we believe the witness of Scripture to God’s Son, we are blessed for it. Why? For many reasons that need exploring. But one of the main ones has to be that we are in a position to begin to comprehend the true Christological character of the Bible. But we must arrive there in due time.

* John 1:17; Colossians 1:3-4; Hebrews 3:6; 13:8, 21. The author of Hebrews prefers to speak of Him as “the Son.”

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