The Preeminent Christ
October 7th, 1979 @ 10:50 AM
THE PREEMINENT CHRIST
Dr. W. A. Criswell
10-7-79 8:15 a.m.
It is an infinite gladness on the part of all of us in our dear First Baptist Church to welcome the thousands and thousands of you who are listening to this service on radio. There are two radio stations that carry the morning message at the 8:15 service, and there is nothing that delights us more than to greet you each Sunday morning.
This is the pastor bringing the message entitled The Preeminent Christ. It is from a beautiful passage in the first chapter of Colossians. I notice in the Criswell Study Bible that the passage is labeled, the placard above it, The Preeminent Christ. Colossians chapter 1:
Giving thanks unto the Father, who hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light:
Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of His dear Son:
That Son in whom we have redemption through His blood, even the forgiveness of sins:
He is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of every creation:
For by Him were all things created, in heaven, in earth, visible, invisible, all things were created by Him, and for Him:
And He is before all things, and by Him all things hold together.
He is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the first-born from the dead; that in all things He might have the pre-eminence.
For it pleased the Father that in Him should all fullness dwell.
This is a great deep; and we stand, as it were, on the shores of a vast and illimitable sea. We hardly could explore its extremities. We are unable to plumb the unfathomable depths of the meaning and beauty of this marvelous passage. The preeminent Christ: "It pleased God the Father that in Him should all fullness dwell" [Colossians 1:19].
The apostle Paul loved that word pleroma, "fullness." In these prison epistles he uses it over and over again. "That we might know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that we might be filled with all the pleroma of our Lord God" [Ephesians 3:19].
Just a few verses down: God gave us pastors and leaders [Ephesians 4:11] that we might be taught in the faith, "That we might come to the knowledge of the Son of God, a full and mature man, unto the measure of the pleroma, the fullness, of Christ" [Ephesians 4:13].
Turn the page in Colossians: "For in Him dwelleth all the pleroma – the fullness – of God bodily" [Colossians 2:9]. And in this beautiful text: "For it pleased the Father that in Him should all fullness dwell" [Colossians 1:19]. This refers to the person of the Lord Christ Himself; what He is essentially, inherently, intrinsically. In us there is emptiness, and weakness, and sin, and death, and want, and lack. The apostle Paul wrote in Romans 7: "For I know that in me," then he parenthesized, "(that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing" [Romans 7:18].
We are like a desert drear, void and empty, inhabited by the dragon of sin and by the bitterness of sorrow. Our very souls and lives are but fields and soil for the sowing of the seeds of sin and death, all of us alike. But in Him is the fullness of God, filled with power, and grace, and truth, and sovereignty, ableness. "It pleased God that in Him should all fullness dwell" [Colossians 1:19].
And as the apostle has magnificently stated, "In Him dwelleth the fullness of the Godhead bodily" – bodily [Colossians 2:9]. In the very person of Christ all of the pleroma of God is found bodily. Whatever God is, Christ is; and whatever He is, God is. In the first chapter of this Book of the Revelation, verses 13 through 16, is a full-sized portrait of the person of our living Lord. Dressed from the head to the foot in His gorgeous garment and girt around the breast with a golden girdle, this is His kingly and priestly robe; His head and His hair; white – white as the snow [Revelation 1:13-14]. This is His eternity, "the Ancient of Days." His eyes were as a flame of fire [Revelation 1:14]; His omniscience. Out of His mouth proceeded a sharp two-edged sword [Revelation 1:16]; this is His omnipotent Word. And His face as the sun shining in His strength [Revelation 1:16]; this is His deity His unapproachable Godhead. The apostle Paul, when He met Him on the Damascus Road, said, "I fell blinded by the glory of that light" [Acts 22:6-11] – the presence of the person, of the body of God.
The apostle John said:
And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead. And He laid His right hand upon me, and said, Fear not . . .
I am He that liveth, and was dead; and behold, I am alive for evermore, And I, I have the keys of Hell and of Death.
[Revelation 1:17, 18]
The matchless person of Christ Himself, "in whom the fullness of the Godhead dwelt bodily" [Colossians 2:9]; it is intrinsically in Him. The fullness is not in His prophetic mantle. The fullness is not in His priestly ephod. The fullness is not in His regal robes. The fullness lies in the glory of the Godhead, Jesus Himself. "For it pleased God that in Him should all fullness dwell" [Colossians 1:19].
This is our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, the first-born of all creation, the image of the invisible God [Colossians 1:15]. Not as Arius said, the first creature in rank, but as Athanasius said, the very essence of God Himself: "God of very God."
Again this fullness extends to His mediatoral and redemptive work for us.
He made peace through the blood of His cross to reconcile us to
Himself. . .
And you, who sometime were alienated has . . . He now reconciled
In the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in His sight.
The death of our Lord – atoning, sacrificial, for us – carries with it and to us an illimitable, immeasurable, and infinite reservoir of grace, and forgiveness, and blessing. All of the ceremonies and prophecies and types and rituals of the Old Covenant through all of the ages find their fullness – that is, their fulfillment – in Him. He is the substance of which they are the shadow, the antitype of which He is the type. He has in Him our sacrifice, altar, priests, tabernacle – our all in all.
Types, ceremonies could never save us from sin. No bleeding bird, no slaughtered bullock, no running stream, no scarlet wool, no incrimsoned hyssop could wash away our sins. Were we to try to find forgiveness in these types, and symbols, and ceremonies, we would still be crying with Micah the prophet, in that magnificent appeal to God in Micah 6:6, 7, and 8:
Wherewith shall I come before the High God, and how shall I bow myself before the great Lord? Shall I come before Him with burnt offerings, with calves of a year old?
Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my first-born for my transgressions, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?
[Micah 6:6, 7]
How shall I be saved? How shall I appear before the great God? And the answer is in the atoning grace of our Lord. He through the blood of His cross reconciled us to God [Colossians 1:20]. In the body of His flesh, through death, He presents us holy and unblameable and acceptable in the sight of the Lord [Colossians 1:22]. "It pleased the Father that in Him should all fullness dwell" – all fullness [Colossians 1:19]. That’s perpetuity. That’s constancy. That’s forever and ever. He hath wrought for us an eternal salvation. He is a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek [Hebrews 5:6, 7:17].
There is no limit. It is immeasurable, the redemptive flow of salvation pouring from the wounds and the side and the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, to the end of the last day to the reception of the last elect member of the body of Christ; and always accessible and available. "It pleased God that in Him should all fullness dwell" [Colossians 1:19] – through all time.
If a man lives in a house then he’s at home there. And Christ is at home always for us. If a man knocks at the door in prayer, He is there to open the door and to listen to our voice, our supplication. If a poor sinner cries, "O God be merciful to me a sinner" [Luke 18:13], mercy has not gone on a long journey; mercy is in Him, and He is there. If one should cry for forgiveness and salvation, abundantly, lovingly, full of grace and glory, our Savior is ever-present to open for us the doors of heaven [John 10:10; Ephesians 3:20].
Accessible: how beautifully does the author of Hebrews say it in Hebrews 4:15 and 16:
For we have not an High Priest that cannot be moved with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tried as we are. . .
Therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that you may find grace to help in time of need.
[Hebrews 4:15, 16]
All of the fullness of God in Christ Jesus: "For in Him dwelleth all the fullness of God bodily" [Colossians 2:9]. "It pleased the Father that in Him should all fullness dwell" [Colossians 1:19]. And that fullness extends to the need of each one of us.
The apostle John wrote it beautifully and magnificently in the sixteenth verse of the first chapter of his Gospel: "And of His fullness have all we received, and grace unto grace" [John 1:16], grace on top of grace; grace abounding grace illimitable, grace immeasurable.
Abounding grace for the saints who are in heaven; they are nothing without Him. The river of life out of which they drink flows from the throne of God and of the Lamb [Revelation 22:1]. They are kings and priests by His appointment; it is His power and goodness that hath set them so [Revelation 5:9-10]. It is His blood in which they washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb [Revelation 7:14].
He is the temple of heaven [Revelation 21:22]. He is the light of heaven [Revelation 1:23]. His marriage is the joy of heaven [Revelation 19:6-9]. And His theme is the song of glory. "Worthy is the Lamb," do they sing, "to receive honor and glory, and power, and dominion forever and ever" [Revelation 5:12]. He is the fullness of the joy of the saints in heaven.
And He is the fullness for all of our needs here in earth; a supply abounding, full and deep and forever [Colossians 1:19]. It is He that giveth strength to the faint [Isaiah 40:29]. It is He that forgives our sins, and cleanses us from all iniquities [1 John 1:9]. We need not come to Him with any price in our hands [Isaiah 55:1-3]. His abounding grace overflows for us who just ask, and find all of our want and need supplied in His abounding fullness [Ephesians 3:20].
Who would bring a pail of water to the river of life? Who would bring a cold sandwich to the marriage supper of the Lamb? Who would bring a piece of tarnished gold for the streets of the New Jerusalem? Who would seek to tie a basket of summer fruit on the branches of the tree of life? Who would seek to add to the fullness of the grace of our Lord? Who would bring a string of cultured pearls to decorate those beautiful gates that open into the kingdom of glory?
And when I come before the Lord, shall I come bringing any kind of prize? "Lord, Lord, look at these good things I have done." Or, "Lord, look at these gifts that I bring." Or "Lord, look at this worthiness of my soul." When I come before the Lord I have to come empty: "Thy grace all sufficient; Thy goodness and Thy favor." And when I get to heaven the song will not be "Some of Him and some of me." It will be "All of Him and none of me."
In His fullness have all we been blessed – grace for grace for grace. And our forgiveness is for the asking. His blessings are for the taking. And the fullness of His life is ours for the asking. "O the depths," cried Paul, "of the unsearchable riches of God in Christ Jesus" [Romans 11:33] – ours forever and ever and ever.
Now may we stand together? Our Lord, if it had ever been at any time when we thought that it was our worthiness that commends us to God, may the Lord forgive us.
Could our tears forever flow?
Could our zeal no languor know?
These for sin could not atone.
Thou must save, and Thou alone.
In my hand no price I bring.
Simply to Thy cross I cling.
[from "Rock of Ages," Augustus Toplady]
Oh, the abounding grace and riches of God that reach down even to us.
And our Lord, in the holiness of this moment, speak, and may we listen? And some, Lord, this day, "I accept Jesus as my Savior." Some, this day, "I place my life in the heart and circumference of this dear church."
With no one leaving, we have plenty of time now. With no one leaving, but with all of us praying; in a moment, down one of these stairways, down one of these aisles, "Pastor, today I open my heart to the grace and forgiveness and goodness of the Lord Jesus, and here I am." Or, "Pastor, I’m bringing my family. All of us are coming today. We’re putting our lives in this dear church." As the Spirit shall press the appeal to a family, to a couple, or to just one somebody you, on the first note of this first stanza answer with your life, while we wait, while we pray, while we sing.
THE PREEMINENT CHRIST
Dr. W. A. Criswell
I. The fullness that dwells in Christ as a Person
A. Paul loved the word pleroma to describe our Lord(Ephesians 3:19, 4:11-13, Colossians 1:18-19, 2:9)
B. In us there is emptiness, need, sin and death(Romans 7:18)
C. In Christ there is fullness, plentitude of power and grace
1. A full-length portrait of Christ found in the Apocalypse(Revelation 1:13-16)
2. The image of the invisible God(Colossians 1:15)
a. If we would see God, look at Jesus(John 14:9)
A. In His suffering and death is the fullness of forgiveness, merit and grace
B. Christ is the fulfillment of all the prophecies, types, symbols
1. Types may instruct, but they cannot save(Micah 6:6-7)
C. A dwelling
1. It is in perpetuity, forever and forever (Hebrews 5:6)
2. Accessible and available(Hebrews 4:15-16)
III. The fullness extends to all our needs(Colossians 1:19, John 1:16)
A. The saints in heaven find their fullness in Christ(Revelation 5:12-13)
B. We lost sinners in earth find all we need in Christ(Revelation 1:17-18)
1. All that He has in store is ours for the receiving
2. Hymn, "Rock of Ages"