This next section of scripture in Colossians is widely known as one of the most important treaties on christology (the study of the nature, person, and works of Christ) in the NT, certainly within Paul’s writings.
15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by Him 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 Him and for Him. 17H e is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. 18 He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything. 19 For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, 20 and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven. 21 And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds, 22 yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach— 23 if indeed you continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel that you have heard, which was proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, was made a minister.
This section is critical to our understanding of not only who Christ is and what He has done but it is also critical for our understanding of Colossians. Why do I say that these verses are critical to understanding Colossians? Well, to begin to answer that we need to understand that all scripture points to Jesus and these 9 verses clearly do that. Next, to go from interpretation to application we need to accurately see how the interpretation of a book like Colossians points us to Jesus. If we miss this point then we can go slightly (or more than slightly) off the path that Jesus has laid out for us.
So let’s think about this in terms of Colossians. If you read the whole book (only 4 chapters) you’ll probably notice that it’s organized similar to Ephesians. That is, the first half is doctrine and the second half is application. This is perfect. The doctrine points us to Christ and the application shows how we are to respond to Christ as believers who love our Lord according to the doctrine laid out in the first half of this book.
Now as we read through Colossians multiple times we see that this book is designed to correct those in the Colossian church that were adding to the gospel (or maybe I should say, “allowing others to add to the gospel”), saying that there were extra-Biblical religious requirements that all believers must now adhere to (remember this word extra-Biblical, it is important in that it ties everything together). Not only that, this letter was also written to strengthen the believers in Colossae to withstand and reject the arguments of those deceiving the church.
Now we could stop here and say that the main idea of Colossians was to defend the gospel of Jesus Christ our Lord. That is a worthy statement and yes we should always be ready to give a defense of our hope in Christ. But if we stop here we would be missing the deeper point of Colossians: Christ is all! We need nothing more!
Think about this. If we didn’t go farther in our study of Colossians and failed to link the 9 verses in this section (the christological exposition) to all of the rest of Colossians we might miss the true message behind Colossians, that is the preeminence, superiority, and sufficiency of Christ. To help see this idea of Christ as all, re-read this section (verses 15-23) and underline the word “all”. As we see, verses 15-18 focus on this idea of preeminence as Christ is head over all, firstborn (not in chronological terms but in prominence), creator, sustainer, and the image of God!
Remember a few paragraphs ago when I said the idea of introducing extra-Biblical content into the church was the problem. Well, Paul is making the case first that Christ is all we need because He is preeminent (i.e., Christ is above all, over all, and surpasses all). He is all, He is creator and sustainer, there is nothing else that we need. So why would we ever need anything extra-Biblical? Anything extra-Biblical simply says that Christ is not enough, He is not sufficient for us. And that is just wrong. Knowing this we can more fully apply the message in Colossians in our lives.
This book was designed to help us to understand the preeminence of Christ in all things. But, to keep things simple, I want to focus on Christ’s sufficiency, which is one of the aspects of His preeminence. The sufficiency of our salvation in Him, the sufficiency of our works through Him, the sufficiency of everything even from the smallest atom to the largest kingdom. Christ is more than sufficient and He is sufficient because He is preeminent.
Understanding and believing in Christ’s supreme sufficiency was a prerequisite for the believers at Colossae before they could refute and correct both the Jews that were forcing Old Testament traditions on this New Testament church as well as the Gnostics with their so-called “secret” knowledge of God and salvation (a.k.a., extra-Biblical knowledge).
This understanding of Christ’s sufficiency is just as important to us now as it was back then. Once we grasp the sufficiency of Christ in all things it becomes a simple matter to protect ourselves from extra-Biblical knowledge and correct others that want to bring extra-Biblical thought into our churches. For we must keep the church spotless for when the bride-groom returns for her.
In addition to this remember that as we are in Christ so his sufficiency is within us. That means we already have His fullness with us every second of every day. We can rest easy that we already have everything we need to live our lives fully for Him. Nothing more is necessary.