From the beginning of time until now, the world has celebrated a litany of spiritual leaders. So here's the question, what distinguishes Jesus Christ from the rest?
What is it about this man that set him apart? Well today on Insight for Living, Chuck Swindoll reminds us that the answer is found in the supremacy of Christ. It was Paul who said Jesus existed before anything was created and is supreme over all. In his third message, in a 10-part study through the book of Colossians, Chuck explains what it means to crown Christ as Lord of all. Now we're involved in a study of a little letter that many have never read even one time. It's the letter Paul wrote to the Colossians in a little church that had been formed because of a man named Epaphras who took the gospel to them. He himself, no doubt having heard of it, heard the gospel through Paul who is the one who writes this letter. We find ourselves in the first chapter, verses 15 through 23, which is one of the great sections of the letter as it focuses full attention on Christ. I call it crowning Christ as Lord of all and you will see why as I read this section for you.
I'll be reading from the New Living Translation. If you have a copy of the scriptures, please open to Colossians 1, beginning at verse 15. Colossians 1 15, Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation. For through him, God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth.
He made the things we can see and the things we can't see, such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world. Everything was created through him and for him. He existed before anything else and he holds all creation together.
Christ is also the head of the church, which is his body. He is the beginning, supreme over all who rise from the dead so he is first in everything. For God in all his fullness was pleased to live in Christ and through him, God reconciled himself, reconciled everything to himself.
He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of Christ's blood on the cross. This includes you who were once far away from God. You were his enemy separated from him by your evil thoughts and actions, yet now he has reconciled you to himself through the death of Christ in his physical body. As a result, he has brought you into his own presence and you are holy and blameless as you stand before him without a single fault. But you must continue to believe this truth and stand firmly in it. Don't drift away from the assurance you received when you heard the good news. The good news has been preached all over the world and I, Paul, have been appointed as God's servant to proclaim it.
You're listening to Insight for Living. To search the scriptures with Chuck Swindoll, be sure to download his Searching the Scriptures Studies by going to insightworld.org slash studies. And now the message from Chuck called Crowning Christ as Lord of All. I have always loved the hymns. I've sung them since I was a little boy and I can remember singing them in the churches where I was reared.
I have my mother to thank for that love which was cultivated early in my life. I've sung the hymns so long that without trying to, I've memorized most of them. And when I thought of founding a church, this church, one of my goals was to make sure that we would be a church that sings the hymns. Not just the hymns, there are other great songs that are written, not just those of the early days because we know today there are some still being written and we love singing those as well. As well as great choruses of worship that resound to the glory of God and carry a message that has meaning and depth. The music of a church is not to be entertaining, it's to be edifying.
It's to lift up our understanding of the truth. A characteristic of the hymns is that they are orthodox and they are Christo-centric. They center on the person of Christ and not just on Christ but on the Godhead. God the Father as well as God the Holy Spirit and the doctrines of the church that have been continuing for centuries all emerge in the singing of these great songs, these great tunes, these great hymns. Pliny the Younger as far back as AD 110 said to the Roman Emperor Trajan, the Christians sing a song to Christ as a God.
When that appears in literature the word God is a little g. To Pliny, Christ was another of the many gods but it troubled the emperor as well as those around him that the Christians sang to Christ as the Lord, not to Caesar. Interestingly, whenever cults come on the scene and invade the church, which is what they pray on, invariably they introduce information that decreases the significance of Christ. Check it out, cults do not exalt in Christ as God. They question his deity. They call into question his role in life, certainly as Lord of our lives, certainly as the Creator of the world. Hymns are deep and worshipful. They remind us of the great truths of the faith. They communicate a definite message and when written well they have singable tunes where there is a progression of truth that is taught through the hymns. Now it may surprise you to know the section we're looking at, at least verses 15 through 20 of Colossians chapter 1, could very well have been one of the ancient hymns. A hymn Paul wrote under the direction of the Spirit of God or a hymn known in those days of the first century that Paul puts words to as he writes these words that appear in this passage.
You would miss that if your Bible is not written in the metric verse as though you were reading a poem. By the way, it occurs to me when I talked about early on about starting this church and we would be a hymn singing church. I don't know how many people said to me, lots of luck, that's not going to work in this generation. Well that's like telling sickum to a bulldog. I was more determined than ever to prove it can work.
It does work. I don't know how many people who visit our church stop by the front where I stand following the service to say we didn't know there could be a church like this. We haven't heard songs or hymns like this for years.
We thought they were all lost or gone. Perhaps in Paul's day it was just the beginning, the emergence of the expression of faith in a hymn style. When you read of this you see how Christo-centric it is. I've taken the time to underscore in red in verses 15 to 20 in my Bible the references to Christ by name or to pronouns referring to him, he, him, himself. 15 times in six verses there is a reference to Jesus Christ. Obviously he is the theme of what Paul is writing in this ancient hymn. Look at the beginning of it and you will see immediately his desire that the reader understand that Christ is God. It begins with the name, begins with the name Christ. Christ is the visible image of the invisible God.
You can stop right there and you have a mouthful, you have a head full of things to think through. God though invisible has made visible his attributes, his characteristics, his power, his knowledge through Christ. And because Christ has a body as a result of his birth at Bethlehem, conception in Mary's womb and birth in this town of Bethlehem, because he has a body he is in visible form, truth of the invisible God. Look at chapter 2 and verse 9.
You will see a reference to this. For in Christ lives all the fullness of God. The Greek word fullness is playroma, playroma. He is the playroma of God in a human body.
In other words, the summation of all God's attributes can be seen in the person and in the work of Christ. This is a slap in the face of the cult known in that day as the Gnostics. The Gnostics came with their false teaching that there is a higher knowledge, there is a greater learning and it comes from the philosophical realm and there are hundreds of emanations from that higher learning. One of them, yes, was Jesus, but he is among the lesser gods they were teaching and some of the Colossians were swept up in that false teaching. We sit in this place and we think I would never get sucked into teaching like that.
Don't talk too fast, don't say that too quickly. The cults are very subtle. They come with great charisma, an incredible logic, if you will, a very appealing message, winsome. They have a following and little by little they hack away at your trust in Christ and your faith in the Son of God as deity. Paul rolls up his sleeves in verse 15 and takes on the cults without once calling them by name, declares Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. To prove that he is deity, he adds, he existed before anything was created.
Don't go any further. Think about it. Go all the way back as far as your imagination can take you into eternity past, before there were the galaxies, the planets, the world as we know it, before there was matter, before there was time. Go back all the way as far as you can go when you arrive at the Godhead and the eternal councils of the Godhead, Christ is among the Godhead, the Father planning the redemption that would follow on this earth, the Father with a plan for creation, and then the Son was chosen to implement the plan. Many people don't think of Christ as the creator. More than once we read here, in fact, he was the one whom the Father had create all things. He is co-equal, co-eternal, co-existent with the Father and with the Spirit. And in the form of the Godhead, before any of what we call today's world or the surrounding galaxies around us existed, he was there. He existed before anything was created. And he adds he is supreme over all that's been created. Not only was he there, but he is supreme over all.
And why would he say that? The little letter or the little word for that begins verse 16 is an explanatory connective, if you'll allow me. It's an explanatory connective that says this is the reason I'm able to write that.
So let's use the word because. Middle of verse 15, he existed before anything was created. He is supreme over all creation because through him, that's Christ, God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth. He made the things we can see and the things we can't see. In other words, he made the things that are in the expansive stellar spaces as well as the matter that is about us. He made it all as well as the microscopic cells and organisms we can't see with the naked eye. He made it all, put it together in a way that would honor and please him. After all, he's supreme over all of it. He made things we can see and the things we can't see and then he names the realms of the thrones and the kingdoms and the rulers and authorities in the unseen world.
Perhaps you didn't know that existed. Satan dwells in one of these realms, his demons in one of those realms. Activity goes on in the unseen realm of the unseen world about us. The influence of it is certainly felt but you do not see the thrones.
You do not see who reigns over them for they are invisible which makes them all the more insidious in their temptations and in their approach to us in life. Everything, however, he adds at the end of verse 16 was created through him and for him. Understand that.
Accept that. In creation, he is supreme. He existed before anything else and he holds all creation together.
Isn't that a statement? Gravity doesn't hold it all together. Mother Nature doesn't hold it all together. In case some of you are still thinking of Mother Nature, she's gone.
She's not around. The earth is not to be worshipped. The creator of the earth is. You see how everything has become twisted in this post-Christian era in which we live. Paul takes us right back from the solar spaces right down to the microcosms. I found this last week when I was doing study on the small things that there are 800,000 cataloged insects.
Did you know that? Most of them were in our home in Houston when we lived there. As I recall, my mother turned the light on at night and looked like a rodeo was going on on the floor.
All kinds of things but they were mainly one species. It reminds me of a joke. It reminds me of a joke. Do you know why cowboy boots have pointed toes? To kill the roaches in the corner.
That's why you need them. Every one of those feces, every one of those insects, even the cells of every one of them, cells of everything, he has made it. He has made it. A guide I read took a group of people through an atomic laboratory and explained how all matter was composed of rapidly moving electric particles. The tourists studied the models of molecules and were amazed to learn that matter is made up primarily of space. During the question period, one of the students asked, if this is the way matter works, what holds it all together? What keeps it from disintegrating? The guide had absolutely no answer.
No answer. That's what makes the end of this verse so significant. The end of verse 17, he holds all creation together. Now having said that about his role in creation as being supreme, he goes to the church and he says, verse 18, Christ is also the head of the church.
It isn't interesting when you get to it in context, it's not as difficult to believe. Until you get there, people are taught the pastor is the head of the church. The pastor is never called the head of the church. That's heresy. The pope is not the head of the church. It's heresy. Christ is the head of the church.
It's what scripture says here and elsewhere. He is the exalted one. He is the one who is to be worshipped. No man, no woman is ever to be worshipped. No office that's held in the church is ever to be an office of worship. It is all about Christ that takes all the politics out of the church, which ruins many churches. There's no place for politics. There's no place for competition.
We're not competing with each other. We're exercising gifts for the glory of Christ and for his purposes alone. When you begin to see this, it is remarkable how much of life reminds you of Christ. I came across a magnificent poem I have to memorize by Joseph Plunkett.
It goes as follows. I see his blood upon the rose and in the stars the glory of his eyes. His body gleams amid eternal snows.
His tears fall from the skies. I see his face at every flower. The thunder and the singing of the birds are but his voice. Carved by his power, rocks are his written words. All pathways by his feet are worn. His strong heart stirs the ever-beating sea. His crown of thorns is twined with every thorn. His cross is every tree. Whoever Joseph Plunkett was, his life was Christo-centric. I know a man who came to Christ out of a pagan background and he he fell in love with the Lord and he said, I want every waking thought to be of Christ.
I want everything I do to remind me. He said, you know what I've learned Chuck? I've learned every time I get to an intersection, I'm able to think of the cross. Isn't that great? So Christ-centered that even north-south-east-west intersection with traffic lights, I focus on the cross, the cross. The Apostle Paul, one of the things that made him so great, was a man who was consumed with adoration for Christ.
Oh, to be like that. He can write of it in such a way that you can't miss it. He puts these doctrines together so that you can understand them. All of the things that happen in the church are for the glory of Christ. Every musical instrument played is to be played for the glory of Christ. Every voice that sings is to be sung for the purpose of magnifying Christ, never to display one's own voice or one's own skills.
Every sermon preached is to magnify the person of Christ. In fact, I made a list when it says here that he is first in everything along with being supreme over all who rise from the dead, as we read at the end of verse 18. First in resurrection, read 1 Corinthians 15 for verification of that, takes the fear out of the grave, takes the sting out of death.
Why? Because he's been raised, he's supreme over death. You don't have to fear dying. If you're in Christ, you have him and he's led the way and you just follow him into victory beyond this life. And then he says he's first in everything. In every decision we make, Christ is to be center of it. In everything we do, in every word we say, he is to have first place. Think of it.
Think of how that would revolutionize your whole frame of reference. You would never begin a day with the words I'm worried about. If Christ is supreme, he's got the world, he's got the day, he's got the very moment you're sitting on the side of your bed in his hand. He's leading you. You're his child if you've come to Christ. You belong to him.
He's protecting you, if nothing to fear. These are the promises that make a study in Colossians such a rich experience. Paul's eloquent letter to his friends is a celebration of the supremacy of Christ. You're listening to Insight for Living and the Bible teaching of pastor and author Chuck Swindoll.
He titled this third message in his ten-part series, Crowning Christ as Lord of All. And to learn more about this ministry, visit us online at insightworld.org. Over the years, we've discovered that our listening audience has a healthy appetite for studying the Bible on their own. So in addition to these daily programs, we have developed a wide variety of resources designed to help you learn more about God's Word. For instance, Chuck has written a commentary on Colossians. In fact, this hardbound book includes his commentary on Philippians and Philemon as well. As you'd expect, the commentary is academically sound. But equally important, it's designed to help you integrate what you learn into every aspect of your life. And that makes sense because Christ is our all in all.
And that means his truth should become evident in the daily choices we make. Well, to purchase a copy of Chuck's commentary on Colossians, go to insight.org slash offer. Or call us if you're listening in the United States, dial 1-800-772-8888. And then one more thing, as a compliment to your worship experience in your local church this coming Sunday morning, remember you can also celebrate with Chuck Swindoll by viewing the worship service at insight.org slash Sundays. Well, just a few weeks ago, Chuck presented a mini-series that was delivered on this live stream.
One of those messages was designed to help us look back at the prior year, and the other was designed to help us look forward into the future. Chuck reassured us that God's fingerprints are all over our past, and his fingerprints are all over our future as well. Well, we've decided to offer both audio recordings free of charge. These two messages from Chuck are offered under the title Pressing On in Faith. So download the free audio files online at insight.org slash pressing on. Join us again Monday when Chuck Swindoll continues his brand new study through the book of Colossians, right here on Insight for Living. The preceding message, Crowning Christ as Lord of All, was copyrighted in 2014 and 2022, and the sound recording was copyrighted in 2022 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. All rights are reserved worldwide. Duplication of copyrighted material for commercial use is strictly prohibited.
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