‘That in all things he may have the pre-eminence’ (Colossians 1:18)
No greater issue confronts the church today than the centrality and supremacy of Christ. A low view of Christ’s place and person leaves the Christian in a state of spiritual and doctrinal infancy.
Firstly, it is God’s purpose for Christ to have the pre-eminence in all things. Christ’s roles as Creator of the universe, Head of the church, Saviour of sinners, and Judge of the wicked, mean that all roads lead to Christ.
In the end, no one can avoid bowing the knee to Jesus. All will come face to face with the Son of God and realise that God made Christ Lord of all. Nothing can be done without Christ’s permission.
This guarantees that Christ gets the glory, credit, and pre-eminence in all things! In Ephesians 3:10 the apostle Paul said that God will ‘gather together all things in Christ’.
Yet as we look at the church today, do we see Christ receiving the pre-eminence in all things? Is the church really hungry and thirsty for Christ and his glory — or is it just paying lip service to the idea?
Do church leaders sincerely have Christ’s pre-eminence in mind as they pastor their people, make important decisions, and wield influence among the brethren?
Secondly, the church is the full expression of Christ. The church was not saved to preach the gospel mechanically, but to be the vessel that contains Christ, who is the life of the gospel. Ideally, Christ is to be ministered through us.
The temptation confronting the church is to shift its focus from abiding in Christ to merely proclaiming his message. These two duties are not in competition with one another. Both must work simultaneously if the gospel is to have its greatest impact upon the unsaved.
Abiding in Christ and preaching Christ are designed to work harmoniously — flowing back and forth into each other. They should never be viewed as two separate duties, because the written word (the gospel) and the Living Word (Christ in you) are one.
Evangelism’s strength rests largely on the quality of our walk with God. The best witness is one who maintains intimacy with God. This enables the believer to manifest the presence of Christ as the unsaved hear the gospel.
Christ’s sweetness pours through the message and the Lord can be tasted: ‘Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good’ (Psalm 34:8). This accounts for the Christian’s special role as ‘the salt of the Earth’ (Matthew 5:13).
The unbeliever comes into contact with the ‘manna from heaven’ dwelling in the Christian. Both evangelism and good works can be defined as expressing Christ to others through word and life.
Becoming the message
When the Holy Spirit combines our walk with our gospel we become the message. We are transformed into an expression of Christ to the world and ‘diffuse the fragrance of his knowledge in every place’ (2 Corinthians 2:15).
The best way to preach the gospel is to embody its message in our behaviour. And what is the message we preach? Christ and him crucified! When we manifest Christ’s personality and presence through our actions it gives bite and power to the gospel we preach. ‘Let your light so shine among men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven’ (Matthew 5:16).
Mere words will change no one. But the word spoken by one whose mouth, mind, heart and spirit are enriched with the presence of Christ will be effective — a powerful witness that Christ lives in his people.
This testimony of the living Christ is desperately needed. If Christ is central to and living in our witness, the world will be brought into contact with the Saviour’s life, light and love.
The inner man
Thirdly, the centrality and supremacy of Christ will not be a reality without the Holy Spirit’s control of the inner man. The inner man is everything to God. God’s reign over the believer begins with his control over our inner life.
The inner life consists of man’s mind, heart, consciousness, affections and will. If God has control over the inner self, everything else will follow. If we do not surrender the inner man to Christ how can he be central and supreme in our lives?
This lack of Christ’s supremacy in believers is ghastly and epidemic. When he planned our salvation, God’s desire was to live in his people, not outside: ‘Christ in you, the hope of glory’ (Colossians 1:27).
In John 6:63 Jesus said, ‘Most assuredly I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you’. Jesus is saying here that we cannot be saved unless he lives inside of us.
Christ must dwell in and control the inner man or we have no part in him. ‘I have been crucified with Christ’, declares Paul, ‘It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me’ (Galatians 2:20).
Therefore, if we are to grow in our understanding and experience of Christ’s supremacy, we must first become convinced of the need for Christ to control and regulate our inner man.
If the church and its leaders fail to uphold the pre-eminence of Christ — in its goals, vision, teaching, preaching, prayers, and fellowship — the body of Christ will suffer great weakness and spiritual decline.
How the church responds to the reality of ‘Christ in you’ will determine its spiritual effectiveness on every level.
May Christ be restored to the place of centrality and supremacy in our hearts, and may he grant us repentance to the acknowledging of the truth — until ‘in all things he has the pre-eminence’.