Christ reigns supreme
February 3 — Colossians 1:15-20; February 10 — Colossians 2:6-15By June Galle Krehbiel
In our church we often sing “Great is the Lord, he is holy and just, by his power we trust in his love.” The hymn expresses the greatness and majesty of our Lord, who is indeed worthy of all the praise and honor that we know how to express. As humans, we love the Creator God, whose majestic works like the rolling sea, enormous sky and majestic mountains awe us.
We don’t know that Paul visited the Christians in the small city of Colossae to whom he wrote this letter from Rome around 60 A.D., but his Christian coworkers Epaphras and Timothy worked in Colossae to spread the gospel. Colossae was Epaphras’ home and also that of Philemon. The city in the Roman province of Asia Minor lay on the Lycus River at the head of a gorge and on a major highway. About 120 miles west was Ephesus, where Paul started a church on this third missionary journey.
In Col. 1:15-20 Paul may have been referring to a hymn based on Prov. 8:22 and following, in which Wisdom was present before other creation. The lovely language in these verses in Colossians speak to Christ’s supremacy over all parts of the orderly, systematic universe. They place Christ as originator of the church. They describe Christ as God’s redemptive peacemaker, bringing together all that is material and spiritual (see 1:13-14, 19-20).
We know Christ as supreme in our lives. But for the early Christians, especially those who had seen the human Jesus, accepting him on the same level as God may have been difficult. The news about Jesus had come to the Colossians from only a few people — not in the way media blasts us today with news. Once received, their Christian teachings blurred with those of other teachings at the time.
So Paul inspires the Colossians with words about Christ, who was God-come-to-Earth in human form. The supreme Christ was over creation because he created all things — including all spiritual beings. This was not a person whose beginning was in Bethlehem but One who lived and created with God through all time.
How do you interpret 1:17, in which the writer says that in Christ “all things hold together”? Is the opposite equally true — without Christ all things fall apart?
From heavenly dominions in Colossians 1, we move to earthly ones (2:6-7) as Paul teaches the Christians in Colossae to walk with Christ and to root themselves in Christ. The image of two kinds of roots comes to mind — first, the fragile roots of a young plant transplanted from greenhouse to garden; and second, tree roots thickened by years of growth. Christians are both kinds, but both need faith-filled sustenance to thrive and give thanks.
Christ’s headship over all other powers continues (2:9-10). Deceptive teachings (2:8), then and now, base themselves on human tradition and hollow concepts. Offering the idea of circumcision, Paul uses this example of membership in the Jewish faith to teach through metaphor that Christians are to cut away the sin in their lives. Through that process, God makes them alive (2:13). Baptism, not circumcision, marks our acceptance into God’s spiritual community.
The idea that God not only forgives but also erases the record of our sins is powerful (2:14). That stands in sharp contrast to the Roman parades of defeated enemies (2:15) and to our penal system where a criminal conviction, misdemeanor or felony, will stay on one’s record forever. If we do believe in God’s freeing forgiveness, how do we live out that forgiveness?
What hymn or praise song best describes your thoughts about Christ’s supremacy?
June Galle Krehbiel, from Eden Mennonite Church at Moundridge, Kan., is a freelance writer and copy editor.
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