Jesus is the Supreme Lord (Part 1)
Colossians 1:15-17)
By Paul Robison

 “In Leonardo Da Vinci’s painting of The Last Supper, our Lord’s hands are empty.  He dedicated 3 years to it, determined that it would be his crowning work.  Before the unveiling, he decided to show it to a friend.  The praise was unbounded.  'The cup in Jesus’ hand,' he said, 'is especially beautiful.'  This statement disappointed Da Vinci, and he set at once to paint out the cup.  Astonished, the friend asked for an explanation.  The great artist explained, 'Nothing must distract from the figure of Christ.'  Da Vinci focused attention solely on Christ, with out-stretched hands as if to bless and to command.”  Da Vinci wanted Jesus to have the supreme position in this masterpiece.  Someone else has said: “Jesus wants to be Lord of all or He will not be Lord at all” (Wiersbe).

Did you know that supreme means the highest in rank, power, or authority, the highest in quality, achievement, or performance, and the highest in degree?  Did you catch that word “highest”?  Hang on to that idea of supremacy because we'll get back to it a little later.  Now let's notice some other ideas.
Listen to this description and see if you can guess who I am talking about. 

This brother is an evangelist for the church of Christ who has appeared many years on a television program which the churches of Christ support.

He has solid white hair and wears glasses.  He has a fairly large nose, prominent cheek lines, and a broad chin.  His face is somewhat wrinkled. 

Does that description bring an image of any person to your mind?  Now look at this slide on the screen.  Who is pictured here?  “Well,” you'd answer, “that's Bro. Phil Sanders and Bro. Mac Lyon, and Bro. Lyon is who you were describing.”  You'd be correct.  Another question: “Is what you see here really Phil and Mac in the flesh?”  “No,” you reply, “that's just a photograph of them.”  And you'd be correct again.  We don't have the real people, but we do have an image of them don't we?  A third question: “When Bro. Phil or Bro. Mac is preaching on the television, are they really in your living room?”  “No, Paul, again we are getting an image of the real person.”  “Yes, but is that image somewhat closer to the real person than this photograph?”  Yes.  Why?  Because the television camera is sending us an image based upon what the real person is doing, a live transmission.  Can I learn more about the real person from the photo or the television image?  From the later.  Why?   Because you can hear the thoughts of the person who is preaching and his tone of voice, and you can see facial expressions, gestures, and other body language as well.  Isn't it amazing how much we can learn about the person by seeing that image on our television screen?
Now let's consider our solar system, earth, and some things on the earth.
“Suppose you draw two circles, one large and one small, with their centers just nine inches apart.  If each inch represents ten million miles, your picture will show the distance between our earth and the sun.  Now, let's say that want to draw another circle that shows where the nearest star will be.  How far away will you have to draw it?  The circle would need to be drawn 40 miles from the sun you drew on your paper.  The nearest star, Alpha Centauri, us twenty-four thousand million miles away (Richards)!  Did you know that if our sun was to become a pulsar, it diameter would shrink from 865,000 miles across to just 15 miles across (Ibid.)?  Did you know that our earth is the only planet with free oxygen, with water that exists as a liquid, with an atmosphere and magnetic field which helps to repel invading space materials, with a sun positioned just right to keep living things from freezing or burning to death, with a proper tilt that affects the seasons, the winds, and the seas, with the proper distribution of land masses to regulate temperatures, and with the right soil with billions of living organisms in it to grow things (Richards and Clayton)?  Astronomers sometimes call our precise planet to sustain life “the odd planet” (Richards).  Did you know that cells are made up of chemicals called amino acids, lipids, porphyrin, polynucleotides, DNA, and RNA, and some of these follow very strict sequencing codes in order to function at all?  The possibility that all those codes just happened by chance is mathematically improbable?  There are 375,000 types of plants, 24,500 species of fish, 10,450 species of birds, and 400 breeds of dogs.
Did you know that from a fetus the size of one cell will grow a body that will have 26 trillion cells when it is born?  Your heart pumps about 72 beats per minute, and it pumps blood through 75,000 miles of blood vessels.  Each day, it pumps enough blood to fill a 4,000 gallon tank train car (Richards).  Maybe that's why you might be feeling tired all the time.
These are just a few facts about the incredible creation in which we live!
Now we need to have a little history lesson.  People in the first century believed “in angels, spirits, and demons.  And [most] of these angelic, spiritual, and demonic powers were out to work men harm.  The ancient world was a terrified world.  It was said that you could not so much as lift the point of a needle in the air but it came against one of these unseen powers of whom the air and atmosphere were full. ... The ancient world believed in 'gods in every grove and fountain, and on every mountain summit; gods [and demons] breathing in the wind and flashing in the lightening or the ray of the sun or the star, heaving in the earthquake or in the storm at sea.  The ancient world was demon haunted, so that men were afraid to look over their shoulder” (Barclay).  Paul too believed in these powers and principalities, but notice what he says in Colossians 2:15: 'Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it [His cross].'  “Jesus created these powers in the beginning, and on His cross He disarmed them, and made a public example of them, and dragged them behind Him in beaten submission like a general dragging his captives [through the streets of Rome]” (Barclay).  That's the history lesson, but there is a modern day application as well.  “Missionaries tell us that one of the greatest reliefs that come to heathen peoples is the sudden realization that they do not have to fear and cope with hundreds of [evil] gods and spirits, but that there is only the one God whose name is love” (Ibid.). 
Let's look quickly now at Luke 11:39: “When the Pharisee saw it, he marveled that He had not first washed before dinner.”  When was Jesus supposed to have washed His hands?  Yes, He was to have washed them before the meal.  The word “before” is saying something about a time sequence: first, one washes; then, one eats.   
Now let's consider a little story.  “A guide took a group of people through an atomic laboratory and explained how all matter was composed of rapidly moving electric particles.  The tourists studied models of the molecules and were amazed to learn that matter is made up primarily of space.  During the question period, one visitor asked: 'If this is the way matter works, what holds it all together?'  For that question, the guide had no answer” (Wiersbe).
You've been very patient while the stage was being set.  Now let's turn to our text again: Colossians 1:15-23.  Someone describes this text in these words: “Probably no paragraph in the New Testament contains more concentrated doctrine of Jesus than this one” (Wiersbe).  Following Paul's prayer for the brethren in Colosse, he breaks out with a wonderful description that underscores that Jesus is supreme; He is the highest Being over all things.  Let's notice the ways in which He is supreme in just verses 15-17: “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.”
Verse 15 declares: “He is the image of the invisible God.”  The Greeks used the word for image both to describe and paint a portrait.  The description earlier of Bro. Mac Lyon hopefully created an image of him in your mind.  The Greeks would give written descriptions of slaves so they could be identified and those descriptions were called images.  Also, the Greeks would draw portraits of people and call those images as well.

We saw in our earlier illustration how the television image was superior to the photograph and caused us to learn more about the real person.

In a similar manner, Jesus is the supreme manifestation of God.  Jesus is even better than the television image because He was a human reality! 

In the visible Jesus, we come to know the invisible God.  Someone puts it this way: “We gaze at the unbegotten Beauty of God in the Begotten Son” (Barclay2).  The apostle John wrote in 1:18 of his Gospel: “No one has seen God at any time.  The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.”  Jesus is the supreme manifestation of God.  Jesus Himself once made this affirmation in John 14:9: “He who has seen Me has seen the Father.”  One commentator observes: “In Jesus, the unknowable God becomes knowable; the unapproachable God becomes approachable; the invisible God becomes flesh and dwells among us, and we see fully displayed His grace, His glory, and His truth” (Barclay2).  Nature can reveal something about God to us, and so can the human body and an individual's personality.  But like the photo, those can only go so far.  In Jesus, we get the live incarnation!  And what do we learn about God from Jesus?  We see a God who heals the sick, comforts the sorrowing, choses ordinary men to be His ambassadors, and was a friend to those that the religious folks regarded with contempt and disgust (Barclay)!  Yes, Jesus is the supreme visible manifestation of the invisible God! 
Now let's look at the later part of verse 15 and verse 16: “... 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.”  Paul is saying that Jesus is the supreme Maker.  The firstborn over all creation “does not refer to time, but to place or status.  Jesus was not the first being created [as some modern cult groups teach].  Firstborn simply means 'of first importance, or first rank' (Wiersbe).  Paul wants to show the members in Colosse that their Redeemer is also their Creator.  One commentator rightly observes that Paul is moving with force to combat the worship of angels, spirits, and demons taught by the heretics (Weed).  “Jesus is the sole agent of the creation, creating the very beings which the heretics worship (2:18) and is Himself undergirding the universe.  Since such beings are clearly inferior to the the one through whom they now exist, there is no justification for regarding them as additional mediators” (Weed).  Jesus is the supreme Maker.  Jesus made our enormous solar system and our odd planet with all its precise factors.  Jesus is the Creator of those complex cells, those numerous plants and animals, those marvels of our own bodies!  Jesus is the supreme Maker.
“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.”  Yes, Jesus is the Maker of all beings, even those wicked angels, spirits, and demons that people in the first century and in pagan culture today fear so greatly.  He made them, but their own free will allowed them to become evil.  One commentator adds: “Nor will [the members of Colosse] be tempted to look to Judaism for protection against the pagan principalities and powers.  Having Christ … the Lord of the world, they possess all they need” (Weed).  “All things were created through Him and for Him.”  One preacher comments: “Paul's use of three different prepositions is one way of refuting the philosophy of the false teachers.  [Verse 16 literally says: 'For in Him all things were created.'  In Him, by Him, and for Him.]  For centuries, the Greek philosophers had taught that everything needed a primary cause or a plan, an instrumental cause or a power, and a final cause or a purpose.  When it comes to creation, Jesus is the primary cause (He planned it), the instrumental cause (He produced it), and the final cause (He did it for His own pleasure)” (Wiersbe).  Jesus is indeed the supreme Power over all the powers.  He is truly the highest Being!
Now let's look at verse 17: “And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist.”  Now remember our passage in Luke saying that Jesus did not wash before dinner.  We have the same preposition here.  A commentator explains: “The phrase 'before all things' asserts Christ's pre-existence.  Although it is possible the preposition before signifies priority in the sense of superiority, the apostle's intent here is to reassert the identification of Christ [as pre-existent One from eternity before anything else was created]” (Weed).  Jesus is the supreme Originator.  No created thing can compare to Jesus; no angels, no demons, no earthly rulers.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God.  All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. … And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:1-3, 14).  Jesus was with God and was His agent of creation. 

Just as God, Jesus has existed from everlasting to everlasting (Psalm 90:2).  Jesus is the supreme Originator.
Now look at the ending of verse 17: “And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist.” “And in Him all things consist” could better be translated: “And in Him all things hold together.”  In other words, Christ is not only the Maker who begins the creation, but He is also the Sustainer that keeps the creation a cosmos and not a chaos, that helps it to be “an orderly and reliable whole instead of an erratic and unpredictable [mess]” (Barclay).  Jesus is the supreme Unifier.  Hebrews 1:2-3 affirms that God has appointed Jesus as the heir of all things, and then it declares: “through whom 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,” Who now dwells at God's right hand.  Did you catch that Jesus is upholding all things right now by His power?  The universe is continually being sustained or unified by our Lord!  Someone reminds us: “When your world seems to be falling apart, look to Jesus who holds everything together” (Steffy).  You see, when someone asks: “What holds all matter together?” at the next visit to an atomic laboratory, then we as Christians can affirm; “Not what, but who.  Jesus does!”  Jesus is the supreme Unifier.
There once was a freshman named Alvin who entered his first philosophy class at a university.  The professor began to explain the course of study and to preview some of the great individuals from history.  He said, “But you must know that what you’ve heard about Jesus at your church is wrong.  Jesus was a great teacher and a wise man, but he was not the Son of God.”  Then he paused.  A hand shot up from the back of the classroom, and when the professor called on him, Alvin said, “Yes, He is!”  The professor said, “Young man I know what you’ve been taught about Jesus, but I will prove to you that He is merely a good man. Class dismissed.”  As they walked out, a friend said, “What are you doing?  This man is the professor, and you’re just a student.  Don’t ruin this class for us; just shut up and do your work.”  Alvin replied, “This man is smart, and he knows a lot about philosophy, but I can’t just sit back while he tries to convince everyone that Jesus is less than what He really was.  I’m going to speak up.”  The next time the class met, the professor started his downgrade about Jesus again.  He claimed the Bible was written by misled individuals, and there had been other people who claimed to be born a virgin and to perform miracles.  Then he said, “Jesus was NOT the Son of God.”  Alvin’s hand shot up immediately.  The professor tried to ignore him, but Alvin persisted.  Finally the professor called on him and said, “Yes, Mr. Jackson, do you have another sermon for us today?”  Alvin said, “Yes, He is!”  Throughout that entire semester, Alvin continued to speak up whenever Jesus was mocked.  For every time the professor said Jesus was not the Son of God, Alvin said, “Yes, He is!”  Some years later, Alvin became a preacher and gave a powerful sermon to a large audience.  After nearly everyone had left, Alvin's old philosophy professor walked up to him, shook his hand, and said: “Yes, He is!” (Steffy).  Yes, He is; Jesus is the supreme manifestation of God!  Yes, He is; Jesus is the supreme Maker of our universe, the earth, and all the living things on it!  Yes, He is; Jesus is the Power over all powers!  Yes, He is; Jesus is the supreme Originator who is from eternity to eternity!  Yes, He is; Jesus is the supreme Unifier who holds this cosmos together by His power!  Yes, He is the Supreme Lord!  He wants to be the Lord over your life.  Will you submit?  Will you respond with three words: “Yes, I will.”?