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THE PREEMINENCE OF CHRIST

by Dr. C. L. Cagan

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord’s Day Morning, January 8, 2012

“And he is before all things, and by him all things consist. 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 1:17-18).


The Greek word translated “preeminence” means “to be first,” “first in rank or influence” (Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1985 reprint, p. 482; Strong’s Concordance #4409). We could translate it as, “to have first place” or to be “number one.”

But our society wants to remove Christ from first place. They don’t want Him to be number one. They don’t even want to mention Christ at Christmas. In the last few years they speak of “the holidays,” instead of “Christmas.” They now speak of “holiday gifts” instead of “Christmas gifts,” “holiday cards” instead of Christmas cards,” “holiday parties” instead of “Christmas parties,” “holiday sales” instead of “Christmas sales.” They don’t want to mention Christ at all. The world has squeezed Christ out of Christmas as much as possible. They do not want to give Him first place, even on His own birthday!

Often new-evangelicals are also guilty of moving Christ from first place. They frequently replace the symbol of the cross with a dove, thus moving the Holy Spirit to first place in their thinking, ahead of Christ.

But Christ is first and should have first place. He should be number one! He is greater than everyone in the world. He is greater than the world itself. He should have the preeminence. Today I want to bring out three points about the preeminence of Christ.

I. First, Christ is number one regarding who He is.

Liberals say that Jesus was a great human teacher, but He is far more than that. Muslims will tell you that He is a prophet, but He is far more than that. In who He is, Christ is nothing less than God. The Bible says,

“In him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily”
       (Colossians 2:9).

Christ is just as much deity, just as much God, as the Father and the Holy Spirit. The Bible says,

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made” (John 1:1-3).

Christ is the Second Person of the Trinity. He is the Creator of all things. He was and is “with God.” He was and is God incarnate, God in the flesh. He has a personal union and fellowship with the Father deeper than we can imagine. Jesus said, “I and my Father are one” (John 10:30). Jesus said, “Before Abraham was, I am” (John 8:58), declaring that He was eternal – and that He was God Himself.

Jesus is “the bread of life” (John 6:35), “the light of the world” (John 8:12), “the door” of salvation (John 10:7, 9), and “the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25). He said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6). Whosoever believeth in Jesus “shall never die” (John 11:26). Jesus is “the author and finisher of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2), the “Alpha and Omega” (the A and the Z), “the beginning and the ending” (Revelation 1:8), and “the first and the last” (Revelation 1:11).

Do you see who Jesus is? He is God Himself, one of the three Persons of the Blessed Trinity, one of the Three who together form the Godhead. Along with the Father and the Spirit, Jesus could rightfully say to Moses, “I AM THAT I AM” (Exodus 3:14). Jesus Christ needs no one else for His existence. He was never created. He always was, and always is, and always will be. He is “him which is, and which was, and which is to come” (Revelation 1:4). Along with the Father and the Spirit, He depends on no one for His existence – He simply exists, He simply IS. “He is that He is” and that’s all. Do you see who Jesus is?

The preeminence of Christ tells us something about the greatness and depth of your own sin. The size of the problem is shown by the importance of the one who can fix it. If you have a headache, you can take care of it yourself with a simple pain pill that you can buy anywhere. If you have a toothache, you can go to a dentist. But if you have a heart attack or a stroke, you have to go to the hospital and be treated by expert specialists.

But your sin is far worse than a heart attack or a stroke. You cannot take care of it yourself. No human teacher can take care of it. To deal with your sin requires Jesus Christ, the Second Person of the Godhead! None other can help you. You need Jesus and only Jesus, “That in all things he might have the preeminence.”

II. Second, Christ is number one regarding what He did.

Jesus Christ did not stay in Heaven with His Father, as He had every right to do. Instead, He gave up His honor and glory and came down to suffer and die for your sin.

The Bible says that He “made himself of no reputation...and...humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:7-8). Jesus was the Son of God. But He made Himself of no reputation. He made Himself into a nobody. He stepped down and humbled Himself – for you.

For you, Jesus Christ was treated like the worst kind of criminal. He was no criminal, but He suffered in your place, for the real criminal – you. He was scourged with a Roman whip until the skin was stripped from His back. They pushed a crown of thorns down onto His forehead. Finally Jesus was condemned to be crucified.

To die on a cross was the most humiliating and repulsive form of execution. The law of Rome stated that its own citizens could not be put to death in that way. But this was no help to Jesus. He was not a Roman citizen. The Roman governor Pontius Pilate “delivered...him...to be crucified” (John 19:16). Jesus was “despised and rejected of men” (Isaiah 53:3), treated as “stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted” (Isaiah 53:4).

Centuries before, the Word of God itself said that hanging on a tree was the death of the accursed. The Old Testament law said, “He that is hanged is accursed of God” (Deuteronomy 21:23). The New Testament, speaking of the death of Christ, quoted that verse when it said, “Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree” (Galatians 3:13).

Jesus Christ was condemned to go outside the city, like refuse, like garbage, to a hill called “the place of a skull” (Mark 15:22). “There they crucified him” (Luke 23:33). They pounded the nails through His hands and feet and raised Him on that Cross to die the death of the accursed. But Jesus did not respond in anger. In love He prayed for them, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).

Do you see how Jesus loves you? Some people from a Catholic background think that Christ is angry with them. But would a person go through that for you if he was angry with you? No! Jesus suffered for you because He loves you!

That day Jesus shed His Blood and died – as a payment for your sins. The perfect and sinless Son of God died a horrible death, in your place, “being made a curse for us” (Galatians 3:13). Why would Christ, the highest Reality and the highest Good, come and die for evil people, for you and me? I can’t comprehend it. Yet the Bible tells us that “Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God” (I Peter 3:18).

“The just for the unjust?” you say. To the unconverted mind, it seems like something put backwards. But it is the deepest truth. And if you are to have your sins forgiven, they must be cleansed in that way, washed by the Blood sacrifice of Christ – or you will never be forgiven at all. Only Christ can save you, “That in all things he might have the preeminence.”

III. Third, Christ should be number one in your own salvation.

Jesus is preeminent. He is first. Who could be any greater than Jesus, the Son of the living God? Who could do anything better than what He did? Jesus died on the Cross to pay for your sins. He shed His Blood to wash your sins away. On the third day He rose physically from the dead to give you life. Then He ascended to Heaven to pray for you at the right hand of the Father. Who could do more than that? Why would anyone put their trust somewhere else? Why would anyone refuse to give Him the first place in their salvation? Sadly, unconverted people do exactly that.

Many of you hope to be saved by becoming better people, by giving up a few sins. You say, “I believe Christ died for my sins...but what I really need to do is to be a better person.” You may call it something else, but in fact you plan to give up a sin or two and hope to be saved that way. You trick yourself into thinking that you are actually good, or you’re going to be good, and then you will offer this goodness to God.

But God knows what you are really like. He knows that in you “dwelleth no good thing” (Romans 7:18). He knows that your heart is “deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked” (Jeremiah 17:9). He sees your past, present, and future sins, your outward and inward sins open before Him in Heaven, written in His “books” of judgment (Revelation 20:12). Nothing you do for yourself can wipe your record clean, for all your own “righteousnesses are as filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6). How dare you offer such dirty rags instead of the “precious blood of Christ...a lamb without blemish and without spot” (I Peter 1:19)! What you do is really a deep rejection and refusal of Jesus Christ. By putting your hope in yourself, you refuse to give Christ first place. You will not give Him the preeminence.

Someone else says, “I believe that Christ died for my sins,” and hopes to be saved by believing this doctrine. One girl said, “I believed that in China.” Yes, but did you come to Jesus? No, you did not. I believed “that” for two years before I came to Jesus. Dr. Hymers believed those things about Christ for seven years before he was converted. Don’t you know that the demons “also believe, and tremble” (James 2:19)? How can believing a doctrine about Christ pay for your sins? You too refuse to give Him the first place.

Someone else says, “I prayed and asked Jesus to forgive me.” But how can your prayer, or “asking,” take the place of Jesus Christ Himself? That would be putting Jesus inside of your prayer! That would make your prayer bigger than Christ Himself! You too are bypassing Jesus, refusing to give Him the first place in your salvation.

Others say, “I don’t know how to trust Jesus.” But you are putting “learning how” in front of Jesus Himself. You make “knowing how” more important than Jesus Christ Himself. Shame on you! You want to know “how” and then contain Christ Himself inside of your “how.” That would put what you know ahead of Christ Himself! You too refuse to give Him the preeminence.

Some say, “I want to have a certain feeling and that will prove to me I am converted.” But you haven’t mentioned Jesus at all, only your feelings. Your own feelings are more important to you than Jesus Christ Himself! You are putting your feelings ahead of Jesus Himself. You too refuse to give Christ the preeminence. Jesus said,

“I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6).

When Christ said that, He didn’t only mean that people who trust in Buddha or the Hindu gods are lost. He also meant that people who try to “climb up” by their goodness, or their doctrinal belief, or their feelings, or their learning, are lost. He meant that you are lost! You will never go anywhere but Hell unless you give up your trust in those things and come to Jesus Himself.

So what should you do? Why, the answer is as plain as day – if only your spiritual understanding were open to receive it! Our text says, “That in all things he might have the preeminence” (Colossians 1:18). The answer is Jesus Christ Himself, who will save all who come to Him. He said, “Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out” (John 6:37). If you come to Christ, He will not turn you away. He will forgive your sins and save your soul.

In Christ Himself you will find the answer to every question and every need. The Bible says,

“For all the promises of God in him are [yes], and in him Amen” (II Corinthians 1:20).

He is the answer. He is the “Yes.” All the answers, everything you need, is in Jesus. He not only has the answer, He is the answer!

Oh, that someone would stop looking for answers and come to the one who Himself is the answer! Oh, that someone would stop trying to learn how, would stop trying to have the right feeling, would stop trying to climb up in his own way! Give up your empty hopes and come to

“Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption”
      (I Corinthians 1:30).

It isn’t just that Jesus has wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption, as well as justification and everything else you need. It’s much more than that. The verse says that Christ Jesus is “made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption.” The verse doesn’t say that Christ will teach you something. It doesn’t say that Christ will make you feel a certain way. It means something much deeper, that Christ himself will be something for you. In fact, He will be everything for you! If you come to Jesus, He is your wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption – and everything else!

Did you hear that? Jesus IS wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, redemption, justification, and everything else! Jesus IS all you need! Jesus is your answer! Do you lack righteousness? Jesus is your righteousness! Do you need redemption? Jesus is your redemption! Do you need forgiveness before God? Jesus is your forgiveness! Are you unable to find your way out of sin and guilt to conversion and the new birth? He is your way out! He – Jesus – IS all you need! He IS your salvation! Jesus and Jesus alone! “That in all things he might have the preeminence.”

May God use this sermon to awaken the mind and open the heart of someone here today. May God draw someone to Jesus Christ Himself. I pray that it will be so. Amen.

(END OF SERMON)
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Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan: Colossians 1:15-18.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“Jesus, Only Jesus” (by Dr. John R. Rice, 1895-1980).


THE OUTLINE OF

THE PREEMINENCE OF CHRIST

by Dr. C. L. Cagan

“And he is before all things, and by him all things consist. 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 1:17-18).

I.   First, Christ is number one regarding who He is, Colossians 2:9;
John 1:1-3; 10:30; 8:58; 6:35; 8:12; 10:7, 9; 11:25; 14:6;
John 11:26; Hebrews 12:2; Revelation 1:8, 11; Exodus 3:14;
Revelation 1:4.

II.  Second, Christ is number one regarding what He did,
Philippians 2:7-8; John 19:16; Isaiah 53:3, 4; Deuteronomy 21:23;
Galatians 3:13; Mark 15:22; Luke 23:33, 34; I Peter 3:18.

III. Third, Christ should be number one in your own salvation,
Romans 7:18; Jeremiah 17:9; Revelation 20:12; Isaiah 64:6;
I Peter 1:19; James 2:19; John 14:6; 6:37; II Corinthians 1:20;
I Corinthians 1:30.