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Christ the sum-total of all things

Preeminence of Christ 

“Wisdom and knowledge will be the stability of your times”. Isa 33:6 

In times of volatile uncertainty, we need real divine wisdom and knowledge to guide us towards stability. 

We would think that in the current information revolution there would be coherent consensus on the facts. But with the increase of more information, comes the danger of too many opinions and misinformation. Particularly in the current pandemic, there still is no coherent prevention, or consistent treatment of the virus. No one can with certainty predict the post-Covid economic future. The best estimates are to compare current world-happenings according to post-war, and post-pandemic outbreaks and consequent trends.  

More specifically, we as believers must ask: “How did the Church respond to the 1st and 2nd World War, and the Great disease Pandemics?” 

During these great dark events, millions died, good and bad, rich and poor, young and old. No one got excluded. No one got passed by, by good behavior. Terrible things happened to good people, and nothing one could do, could protect you from catastrophe. 

What is the ultimate anchor of stability to the church?

The Preeminence of Jesus Christ our Lord 

“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. 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.” Col 1:15-18 [1]

Paul answers three questions about the person of Christ: 

Who is Jesus in relation to God – Jesus is the image of the invisible God (15a)?

“Jesus is the image of the invisible God.” (Colossians 1:15) The Bible tells us that God is spirit which means that he is invisible. 1 Timothy 6:16 says that God “lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see.” (1 Timothy 6:16) Have you ever seen God? No, you haven’t. If you did, you wouldn’t be here! You would be dead. But Jesus is the image of the invisible God. And when Jesus came, the invisible God became visible. Jesus is GOD!! 

Omnipresence: “For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.”” (Matt. 18:20).

Eternal: “I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matt. 28:20).

Almighty: “All power in heaven and earth has been given to Me.” (Matt. 28:18).

Omniscient: “No one knows who the Son is but the Father, and who the Father is but the Son and everyone to whom the Son wants to make him known.” (Luke 10:22).

Who is Jesus in relation to creation? – Jesus is the firstborn over all creation (15b-17)

The firstborn was used as a title for the Messiah who would rule over and inherit God’s kingdom. “I will appoint him my firstborn, the most exalted of the kings of the earth.” (Psalm 89:27) And so the phrase the “firstborn over creation” does not mean that Christ was the first created being. Rather it means Christ’s superiority over all creation, that he is the ruler and heir over all creation. Revelation 3:14 brings out this proper sense of the word firstborn when it call Jesus “the ruler of God’s creation.” (Revelation 3:14) As the firstborn over all creation Jesus is both ruler and heir. When firstborn is followed by a plural as in Colossians 1:18 or Romans 8:29, the firstborn is part of the class that follows. When it is followed by a singular, it means rank or superiority over that class. There is a different word that Paul could have used for “first-created” (protoktistos), but he didn’t use that word. He used “firstborn” (prototokos) instead.] 

Paul tells us four things that are true of Jesus as the firstborn over creation: 1) Jesus created all things, 2) Jesus inherits all things, 3) Jesus existed before all things, 4) Jesus sustains all things. 

Jesus not only holds authority over living creation, but also the spiritual world. “But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you.” (Matt. 12:28)

He also gave His disciples power to cast out unclean spirits (Matt. 10:1). “Behold, I have given you the power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and to overcome the enemy with all his might, without any harm to you.” (Luke 10:19). It is also clear that the evil spirits fear a coming judgment of Jesus (Mark 5: 7). However, with His crucifixion, Jesus took away the keys of the realm of the dead. Keys indicate authority. He disarmed satan, and took back the jurisdiction he had taken from man as the perfect man. In Christ, the full rule and power that God intended man to exercise has been restored. “He disarmed every power and authority and displayed them in public by taking them captive in the triumph of Christ.” (Col. 2:15). “But thanks be to God! He always leads us in His triumphal procession because we are one with Christ. Through us He spreads the knowledge of Christ everywhere like a pleasant fragrance.” (2 Cor. 2:14). 

Who is Jesus in relation to the church? – Jesus is the head of the body, the church (18) 

The church is the body of Christ, and Jesus is the head of the body. That means that there is a living relationship between Christ and the church even as there is a living relationship between the head of any body. As the body of Christ we are united with Christ who is our head. 

   A. He is the beginning of the church

      – Matthew 16:16-18

First of all, He is the beginning (Arche – first cause) of the church. The word “head” refers to both source and authority. As the beginning of the church Jesus is both the founder and ruler of the church.

Jesus affirmed this to Peter in the gospel of Matthew. We read in Matthew 16: Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”  Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven.  And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.” (Matthew 16:16-18) Jesus founded the church on the solid rock of Peter’s confession of Him as the Christ, the Son of the living God. As the head of the body, Jesus is the beginning of the church.

   B. He is the firstborn from among the dead

      – 1 Corinthians 15:20-23

“He is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.” (Colossians 1:18) Christ’s resurrection is the basis of our life and faith. There is no church or faith without Christ’s resurrection. That is the gospel. That is the good news we proclaim. Jesus is alive! 

 

NOW BACK TO CURRENT REALITY

What is the physical PROOF of His preeminence? 

Whether we like it or not, society is structured in sets of hierarchies of competence. 

The wealthiest 10% of the population own at least 90–95% of all wealth.  The richest eighty-five people have as much as the bottom three and a half billion. The majority of scientific papers are published by a very small group of scientists. A tiny proportion of musicians produces almost all the recorded commercial music. Just a handful of authors sell all the books. Similarly, just four classical composers (Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, and Tchaikovsky) wrote almost all the music played by modern orchestras. This principle is sometimes known as Price’s law, after Derek J. de Solla Price, the researcher who discovered its application in science in 1963. It can be modelled using an approximately L-shaped graph, with number of people on the vertical axis, and productivity or resources on the horizontal. The basic principle had been discovered much earlier. Vilfredo Pareto (1848–1923), an Italian polymath, particularly in the study of income distribution and in the analysis of individuals’ choices noticed its applicability to wealth distribution.

The Matthew-effect of accumulated advantage, Matthew principle, or Matthew effect for short, is sometimes summarized by the adage “the rich get richer and the poor get poorer”. The concept is applicable to matters of fame or status, but may also be applied literally to cumulative advantage of economic capital. [2]

The Matthew effect of accumulated advantage, Matthew principle, or Matthew effect for short, is sometimes summarized by the adage “the rich get richer and the poor get poorer”

“For to every one who has will more be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who has not, even what he has will be taken away.”— Matthew 25:29,RSV.

“I tell you, that to every one who has will more be given; but from him who has not, even what he has will be taken away.”— Luke 19:26,RSV.

The concept concludes two of the three synoptic versions of the parable of the lamp under a bushel (absent in the version of Matthew):

“For to him who has will more be given; and from him who has not, even what he has will be taken away.” — Mark 4:25,RSV.

“Take heed then how you hear; for to him who has will more be given, and from him who has not, even what he thinks that he has will be taken away.” — Luke 8:18, RSV.

The concept is presented again in Matthew outside of a parable during Christ‘s explanation to his disciples of the purpose of parables:

“And he answered them, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. For to him who has will more be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who has not, even what he has will be taken away.” — Matthew 13:11–12,RSV.[3]

How then do we as the church position ourselves knowing that Christ, through the church has this eternal over-all pre-eminence?  

Jesus did, ultimately, rise to the top of the order of things retrospectively. Jesus was raised as a peasant artisan Jew from a small, stigmatized farming village Nazareth, Judea a small state of a Mediterranean world ‘dominated’ by a pagan ego-centrical totalitarian imperial regime, and a state cult of worship directed towards the Caesars.  

How can it be, that in only three years, this man left such a mark on society that scarcely three hundred years later, He had transformed the entire Roman world and beyond. The pagan religions vanished, the cult of the divine emperor was abolished and Jesus – the condemned criminal, the seditious Jew – was elevated as the sole “god” of the Empire, the only Man worthy of worship. A few hundred years after that, the church founded in His name came to dominate Europe, in the vacuum left behind by the imperial collapse at the hands of the Germanic tribes and would determine the course of European history right up till the Enlightenment of the 18th century. 

So, yes, there is a fundamental paradox here: the man who condemned the dominion of one man over another and stressed the equality of people, came to dominate entire cultures and societies more thoroughly than anyone else in history up until this day.[4]

What is the riches we need to realize? 

Moral Leadership 

“But Jesus called them to Himself and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” (Mat. 20:25-28) 

Basically – Character Wins! 

An interesting dichotomy is that, often, the higher people rise, the more they have accomplished, the higher the humility index. Those who achieve the most brag the least, and the more secure they are in themselves, the more humble they are. “True merit, like a river, the deeper it is, the less noise it makes”. (Edward Frederick Halifax). We have all come across people like that and feel admiration for them. 

Paul understood that he has received true RICHES in the Glory of Christ, having all things!! 

(Rom 9:23; 11:33; 2 Cor 8:2; Eph 1:7; 1:18; 3:8; 3:16; Phil 4:19; Col 1:27; 2:2; 1 Tim 6:17)

Personal Responsibility and Integrity 

“If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23) 

“…Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the way that leads to life, and only a few find it…” (Matthew 7:13-14)

“…Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way as to take the prize. Everyone who competes in the games trains with strict discipline. They do it for a crown that is perishable, but we do it for a crown that is imperishable. Therefore I do not run aimlessly; I do not fight like I am beating the air. No, I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified…” (1 Corinthians 9:24-27)

No one can pay the price for you! We are not saved by information being spectators. It is our personal experiential first-hand conviction of Christ that becomes our truth, life and way!!  [5]

Individual, Conscientious Value Judgement

Jesus, furthermore, encouraged people to emancipate themselves from the stranglehold of blind allegiance to traditional tribal units, such as the ancient family, in favour of the moral agency of individuals and their correlative responsibilities. “For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law..” (Mat 10:34-40) 

“Yes, and why, even of yourselves, do you not judge what is right?” (Luke 12:57 )

There is no identity group politics and social justice without personal responsibility. You cannot be judged or labelled as a group, we are judged by our fruit.   

Give Up Personal Rights of Ownership 

Luke 14:33 NLT: “So you cannot become my disciple without giving up everything you own.”

And the earliest Christian community, according to the New Testament, literally did do this:

“The community of believers was of one heart and mind, and no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common. With great power the apostles bore witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great favor was accorded them all. There was no needy person among them, for those who owned property or houses would sell them, bring the proceeds of the sale, and put them at the feet of the apostles, and they were distributed to each according to need.” (Acts 4: 32-35)

“And all who believed were together and had all things in common; and they sold their possessions and goods and distributed them to all, as any had need.” (Acts 2.44-45; RSV) 

“When you own the earth, and all that is in it, why would you hold onto one portion or piece? as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things.” (2 Cor 6:10)

Throughout History when the true church has been dispossessed, alienated, persecuted, and martyred for their faith, they flourished! The Church is not threatened nor defeated – the gates of hell cannot prevail against it. We are now seeing the apostate church versus the true church… one has a spirit of timidity and fear, the other operates in the Spirit by power, love and a sound mind!! 


[1] http://www.rayfowler.org/sermons/colossians/the-supremacy-of-christ/

[2] Peterson, J., Ingendaay, M. and Müller, M., 2018. 12 rules for life. Penguin Books, pp.Pg 7-8.

[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Matthew_effect

[4] https://www.reddit.com/r/JordanPeterson/comments/8gz0vw/jesus_jordan_peterson_and_the_dominance_hierarchy/

[5] http://media-thechildrensmite.org/pdf_docs/watchman_nee/Christ_The_Sum_of_All_Spiritual_Things.pdf