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THE PREEMINENCE OF CHRIST

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord's Day Evening, January 25, 2004


"That  in  all  things  he  might  have  the preeminence" (Colossians 1:18).


Christ delivers sinners from the power of darkness. Christ translates them into His Kingdom. Christ redeems them by His Blood. Christ is the image of the invisible God. Christ is the first Parent (John Gill) of all creation, the Creator of all things, visible and invisible, in earth and Heaven. Christ is before all things, for He created them all, and is greater than men and angels in His nature, names, offices and works. Christ existed before John the Baptist, His forerunner, before Abraham, who saw His day by faith, before the first man, before the angels were created, before the universe was formed. Christ is from everlasting to everlasting, "and by him all things consist" (Colossians 1:17). "The whole frame of nature would burst asunder and break in pieces, were it not held together by Him" (John Gill). Christ is the "glue" that holds the neutrons and protons of the atoms together. He is the magnet that keeps the planets in their course. He gives the sun its power, regenerates the lost children of Adam, and resurrects the dead at the last trumpet. All the affairs of the universe, from the atom to the cosmos, are governed, directed, managed, and held together by Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

"And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence" (Colossians 1:18).

He is the head of the body, the church - which the Christians of Colosse would have understood to be their own local church. Christ is the head of each local church. Jim Gent said,

To the early Christians, the local church was the divinely ordained unit on earth through which God chose to work and the only such unit (Jim Gent, The Local Church: God's Plan for Planet Earth, Smyrna Publications, 1994, pp. 83-84).

Christ is the Head of each local New Testament church.

"Who is the beginning." Christ is from everlasting. He is the cause of all created beings. As Eve came from Adam, so the churches came from Christ.

"The firstborn from the dead." Christ was the first to rise from the dead eternally. Although others were raised from the dead before Him, Christ was the first to be resurrected never to die again, in a resurrected body.

"That in all things he might have the preeminence." The Greek word translated "preeminence" is "proteuo." It means "to be first" (Vine). In this great Christological passage, the Apostle Paul declares Christ to be first, preeminent; in first place, in everything. "That in all things he might have the preeminence."

Now let us apply that text to conversion.

I. First, Christ is preeminent before conversion.

Lost mankind does not know this, however. They have a tendency to think of Christ as a great prophet or teacher. They tend to rank Him with Lao Tze or Kung Fu Tze, or Mohammed, or Moses. They do not realize that He is God, the Second Person of the Trinity. They regard Him as less than He is. Jesus said,

"I and my Father are one. Then the Jews took up stones again to stone him. Jesus answered them, Many good works have I shewed you from my Father; for which of those works do ye stone me? The Jews answered him, saying, For a good work we stone thee not; but for blasphemy; and because that thou, being a man, makest thyself God" (John 10:30-33).

This is the same reaction many people have toward Christ today. In one way or another, all lost people reject the preeminence of Christ. They may give lip service to Christ, but their hearts reject His preeminence.

"He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not" (John 1:10).

"He is despised and rejected of menand we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not"
    (Isaiah 53:3).

Christ is preeminent, superior to everything else, but a lost person does not see that. Christ is supreme, unequaled, and more excellent than anything in the world. But the lost person hides his face from Him and does not count Him important.

Lost people look to their own feelings rather than to Christ. Lost people look to their own thoughts rather than to Christ. Lost people look to their own actions rather than to Christ. In a lost condition, all people say, "We esteemed him not" (Isaiah 53:3). That is why lost people try to "learn" how to be saved. They are looking for human wisdom because they do not esteem Christ, Himself.

The Bible says,

"The Greeks seek after wisdom: but we preach Christ crucified"
    (I Corinthians 1:22-23).

Now, that is true of you, in your unconverted state, isn't it? You keep saying, "I want to know how to be saved. I want to know how to come to Christ." Like those Greeks, you "seek after wisdom." But we don't give you what you want. Instead, we keep on preaching Christ crucified.

"That in all things he might have the preeminence" 
    (Colossians 1:18).

Others want to "feel saved" or experience some emotion. Sometimes they feel saved. At other times they feel lost. They are looking for an emotional "sign" rather than Christ. They are like the Jews Paul spoke of.

"For the Jews require a signbut we preach Christ crucified"
    (I Corinthians 1:22-23).

You keep looking for some inner feeling of proof, some emotion to validate your salvation. But we keep on preaching Christ crucified.

"That in all things he might have the preeminence"
    (Colossians 1:18).

Christ is supreme, unequaled, and more excellent than anything in the world - but you hide your face from Him, and do not count Him important. Objectively, Christ is preeminent. But subjectively He is not preeminent to you. Your own thoughts and feelings are preeminent. You "esteemed him not" (Isaiah 53:3).

II. Second, Christ is preeminent in conversion.

The first work of the Holy Spirit is to show you your sin.

"And when he is come, he will reprove [or convince] the world of sinOf sin, because they believe not on me" (John 16:8-9).

The lost sinner twists in the wind. He tries one way and another to be saved. He tries to learn the right words. He tries to do the right thing. He tries to feel right. But nothing "works." He is left twisting in the wind. This makes the sinner very upset. That is a good thing. It shows that the Holy Spirit is stripping away his false hopes.

I hope you are sick of twisting in the wind tonight. You will continue to twist, however, unless you agree with the Holy Spirit that you are a hopeless sinner. Only then will you see your need of Christ. Martin Luther said,

It is necessary, if you would be converted, that you become terrified, that is, that you have an alarmed conscience. Then, after this condition has been created, you must grasp the consolation that comes [from] His Son Jesus Christ [who came] into this world in order to proclaim to terrified sinners the mercy of God. This is the way conversion is brought about; other ways are wrong ways (Martin Luther, sermon on Psalm 51:13, 1532).

Therefore, we cannot convert you by a logical presentation of the gospel. We cannot "teach" you how to be saved. You must experience the inward humbling of the Holy Spirit or you will continue to hold Christ in low esteem. Only when you feel trapped, and unable to escape the guilt of sin, will you turn to Christ.

"That in all things he might have the preeminence"
      (Colossians 1:18).

When all other avenues are exhausted, when all else has failed to give you peace with God, when you are disgusted with your sin, and yourself, and your feelings, then you may turn to Christ, and, if you do, He will have the preeminence in your heart and mind! Then you will see Christ in all His glory and goodness, His majesty and power, His mercy and condescending love, His sacrifice for sin on the Cross, His bleeding, torn flesh, His glorious resurrection, His mighty intercession, His mediatorial work between a Holy God and a sinful person like you.

"That in all things he might have the preeminence"
      (Colossians 1:18).

You cannot talk about Christ until you know Him. You cannot know Him until you come to Him. You will not come to Him until you see that you need Him. That is why the first work of the Holy Spirit is to convince you of sin. Not only of sins you have committed, but of inbred sin, the foul monster in your heart, full of malice and lust, pride and rebellion.

"The heart of the sons of men is full of evil" (Ecclesiastes 9:3).

This must be impressed upon you by the Holy Spirit until you are broken and humbled, until you can say with Paul,

"I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) dwelleth no good thing"
      (Romans 7:18).

"Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?"
      (Romans 7:24).

When the corruption of your own heart is unveiled, you will be brought to see that nothing good lies in you. No thought of your own can be trusted by you. No feeling you have can be leaned on.

"All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field: The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: because the spirit of the Lord bloweth upon it: surely the people is grass. The grass withereth, the flower fadeth" (Isaiah 40:6-8).

The Holy Spirit blows like a hot, dry wind that burns the flowers and the grass. The flowers represent your hopes. The grass represents your very life. Your hope must be withered, burned brown in the August wind of the Spirit. Your life must appear withered and hopeless, faded and scorched.

"The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: because the spirit of the Lord bloweth upon it" (Isaiah 40:7).

The withering work of the Holy Spirit makes you see that life is hopeless and that eternity is endless. The withering work of the Holy Spirit makes you distrust your own heart and distrust your own feelings.

Then you will look to Christ. You will see Him in the Garden of Gethsemane, with bloody sweat drenching His clothing. Turn to Isaiah 63:2-3. Let us stand and read these two verses aloud.

"Wherefore art thou red in thine apparel, and thy garments like him that treadeth in the winefat? I have trodden the winepress alone; and of the people there was none with me"
      (Isaiah 63:2-3).

You may be seated.

The prophet Isaiah asks Christ why His clothing is all red.

"Wherefore art thou red in thine apparel, and thy garments like him that treadeth in the winefat?" (Isaiah 63:2).

Christ answers,

"I have trodden the winepress alone; and of the people there was none with me" (Isaiah 63:3).

This takes us to the Garden of Gethsemane, where our Lord trod "the winepress alone; and of the people there was none with me."

Dr. McGee says that "The early church fathers associated theseverses with the first coming of Christ. They mistook the winepress as the suffering of Christ" (J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible, Thomas Nelson, 1982, volume III, p. 340). But I believe that these early Christian authors were correct. As is often the case in the writings of the prophets, the prophecy goes back and forth, from the first coming, to the second coming of Christ. The first half of verse three refers to Christ's suffering,

"Wherefore art thou red in thine apparel, and thy garments like him that treadeth in the winefat? I have trodden the winepress alone; and of the people there was none with me"

The second half of the verse refers to Christ's second coming,

"For I will [or "I also"] tread them in mine anger, and trample them in my fury; and their blood shall be sprinkled upon my garments, and I will stain all my raiment."

There is a great lesson in this, not to be overlooked. Christ has "trodden the winepress alone" for our sins in His agony, beginning in Gethsemane and finishing on the Cross. But to those who reject His atonement He says, "I will tread them in mine anger, and trample them in my fury; and their blood shall be sprinkled upon my garments"

Surely the early Christians were right that the first half of this verse expresses the agony of Christ,

"I have trodden the winepress alone; and of the people there was none with me" (Isaiah 63:3).

The Disciples slept while Jesus went deep into the Garden of Gethsemane to pray. They slept, and they left Him alone.

"And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground" (Luke 22:44).

Spurgeon gives these comments,

If you will notice, it was not only sweat blood, but it was great drops; the blood coagulated, and formed large masses and were sucked up by his garments till he became like the red heifer which was slaughtered on that very spot This proves how tremendous must have been the weight of sin when it was so able to crush the Saviour that he distilled drops of blood! This proves, my brethren, the mighty power of his love (C. H. Spurgeon, "Gethsemane," in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, Pilgrim, 1979 reprint, volume IX, p. 80).

See Christ, "clothed with a vesture dipped in blood" (Revelation 19:13). See Him, as they come to arrest Him, standing alone in bloody clothing. He was already bearing your sins in His own body.

See more of His Blood gushing out of the wounds in His back as they flogged Him. This Blood also smeared His clothing.

"Then Pilate therefore took Jesus, and scourged him. And the soldiers platted a crown of thorns, and put it on his head, and they put on him a purple robe, And said, Hail, King of the Jews! and they smote him with their hands. Pilate therefore went forth again, and saith unto them, Behold, I bring him forth to you, that ye may know that I find no fault in him. Then came Jesus forth, wearing the crown of thorns, and the purple robe. And Pilate saith unto them, Behold the man!"
      (John 19:1-5).

Behold the man, His clothing drenched in His own Blood!

"Who is this that cometh from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah? this that is glorious in his apparel, travelling in the greatness of his strength? I that speak in righteousness, mighty to save. Wherefore art thou red in thine apparel, and thy garments like him that treadeth in the winefat? I have trodden the winepress alone; and of the people there was none with me" (Isaiah 63:1-3).

View Him prostrate in the Garden, On the ground your Maker lies!
On the Bloody Cross behold Him, Hear Him cry before He dies,
"It is finished," "It is finished!" Sinner, will not this suffice?
"It is finished," "It is finished!" Sinner, will not this suffice?
      ("Come, Ye Sinners" by Joseph Hart, 1712-1768).


Please turn back to the first chapter of Colossians and stand. Read aloud verse fourteen,

"In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins" (Colossians 1:14).

His Blood will atone for your sin. Throw yourself on His mercy. He alone can redeem you from your sin by His Blood.

"That in all things he might have the preeminence"
      (Colossians 1:18).

(END OF SERMON)

Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan: Colossians 1:12-19.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:

"O Sacred Head, Now Wounded" (by Bernard of Clairvaux, 1091-1153).


THE OUTLINE OF

THE PREEMINENCE OF CHRIST

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

 

"That  in  all  things  he  might  have  the preeminence" (Colossians 1:18).

(Colossians 1:17)

I.   Christ is preeminent before conversion, John 10:30-33;
John 1:10; Isaiah 53:3; I Corinthians 1:22-23.

II.  Christ is preeminent in conversion, John 16:8-9;
Ecclesiastes 9:3; Romans 7:18, 24; Isaiah 40:6-8;
Isaiah 63:1-3; Luke 22:44; Revelation 19:13;
John 19:1-5; Colossians 1:14.

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at www.rlhymersjr.com. Click on "Sermon Manuscripts."