Our reading today brings us to the second of what is commonly known as the prison epistles (Ephesians, Colossians, Philemon, Philippians) since they were likely penned during Paul’s first imprisonment in Rome (Acts 28.30). Paul is writing to defend the gospel against the heretical teachers, both Jewish and proto-Gnostic, that had invaded the church at Colossae (modern day Turkey). While Paul is awaiting trial in prison, he receives news the very life of this church is threatened by this distorted teaching. While we don’t have the negative report Paul received, we do have his answer to it. It seems the false teaching included (1) a denial of Christ’s humanity and a limitation of his deity, (2) a distorted sense of what constitutes true ‘knowledge’, and (3) a Jewish emphasis on the need to do ‘works’ to contribute to salvation (i.e. circumcision, traditions, asceticism). Because of these elements, Paul’s theme is the sufficiency of Christ.
He begins the letter with a thanksgiving for the response by the Colossian believers toward the gospel (1:3-8). He then prays for them to grow in the knowledge of God’s will and to become effective in it (1:9-14). And in doing so, he subtly refocuses the Colossian church on what true knowledge is since the false teachers there are claiming to have some kind of secret, superior knowledge. Paul follows this up with an early Christian hymn in which Christ is exalted as the creator of all (deity), while at the same time celebrates his being God in the flesh (humanity) (1.21-23). Lastly, Paul writes about his own ministry, which is meant to show believers like those in the Colossian church, the genuine riches found in Christ and the correct path to spiritual maturity.
Paul wants to make certain the church knows who Jesus really is. They must see him as fully God and fully man. In his deity, Christ is sufficient to offer forgiveness and rescue us from the terrible effects of sin (Heb. 7:25). The authors of the New Testament clearly affirm Jesus’ divine nature. A prominent example is found in John 1:1-2, where it states, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” In his humanity, Christ has walked in our shoes. “This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin.” (Heb. 4:15). Only a perfect human being – Jesus Christ – could perfectly fulfill God’s righteous standard and in fact, become our very righteousness.
Because Jesus is fully God and fully man, he is fully deserving of our worship and should, therefore, hold first place in our lives. As you reflect on these scriptural truths, ask yourself what place Jesus holds in your life? Is he really preeminent? That is, does he genuinely hold first place? Does he hold first place in your home? In your job? In your hobbies and free time? In your friendships? In your finances? To say that Jesus is first is simply to agree with the Bible that Jesus is Lord. You don’t make him Lord. He already is. Rather, the right response is simply to allow him to have his rightful place. First… in everything. To fail to do so, either in thought or lifestyle, is merely a deception that other things or people are number one. As Christians, can any of us really be okay with that?