The Preeminent Christ
October 7th, 1979 @ 8:15 AM
THE PREEMINENT CHRIST
Dr. W. A. Criswell
10-7-79 10:50 a.m.
This is the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Dallas delivering the message entitled The Preeminent Christ. I notice in the Criswell Study Bible that this passage that I now read is headlined just that, the caption above it is that: “The Preeminent Christ.” It is in Colossians, the first chapter of Colossians; and we shall begin reading at verse number 12. Colossians chapter 1, verse 12:
We give thanks unto the Father, which 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:
In whom we have redemption through His blood, even the forgiveness of sins:
Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creation:
For by Him were all things created, in heaven, in earth, visible, invisible, all 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 church: He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things He might have the preeminence.
For it pleased the Father that in Him should all fullness dwell.
This is a great deep—and we just see so small of its infinite and beautiful meaning. It is like standing on the shores of an unfathomable sea, such as looking at the Pacific Ocean: whether you’re in California, or in Japan, or Hong Kong, or Borneo, or the Philippines, or the Fijis, or Australia, you see just so small a part; thus with this marvelous depiction of the deity and sublimity and preeminence of our Lord Jesus Christ.
He is presented here before us in the fullness of His glory, in Himself, essentially, inherently, marvelously; the very essence of God Himself; “Pleased the Father that in Him should all fullness dwell” [Colossians 1:19]. The apostle loved that word plērōma. I haven’t time to even cite the oft use of that beautiful word describing the glory of our Lord—plērōma, the fullness of Christ. In these prison epistles, just for example; in Ephesians 3 he will say that he prays for us, “that we could know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that we might be filled with all the plērōma, the fullness of our Lord” [Ephesians 3:19]. On the same page:
God gave us pastors and teachers for the perfecting of our lives,
until we come to the unity of the faith in the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, a mature man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness, the plērōma of Christ
In this marvelous epistle to the church at Colosse, when I turn the page, chapter 2, verse 9: “For in Him dwelleth all the plērōma, the fullness of God bodily” [Colossians 2:9]. And in our beautiful passage, “That in all things He might have the pre-eminence. For it pleased the Father that in Him should all plērōma, all fullness dwell” [Colossians 1:18-19].
In us there is lack, and need, and emptiness, and want, and sin, and death. As Paul wrote in the seventh [chapter] of his epistle to the church at Rome, “For I know that in me,” then he made a parenthesis, “that is, in my flesh, for I know that in me there dwelleth no good thing” [Romans 7:18]. Our lives are a desert drear and void and empty; a place inhabited by the dragon of sin and the bitterness of sorrow. Our lives and our souls are but fields for the sowing of iniquity, of shortcoming, mistake. But in Him there is no fault at all [Hebrews 4:15]. The fullness of the glory of God rests in our wonderful Savior [Colossians 2:9], in grace, in power, in glory, inherently, essentially in Him [Colossians 1:19].
In the marvelous passage that you read from the first [chapter] of the Revelation [Revelation 1:9-18], we have but a description of this glorious One in whom dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily [Colossians 2:9]. You have a full-length portrait of our marvelous Lord in that first chapter of the Apocalypse. He is dressed in a kingly robe; gird around the breast with a golden girdle [Revelation 1:13]. His head and his hair are white like the snow [Revelation 1:14]. That speaks of eternity and the Ancient of Days. His eyes are as a flame of fire [Revelation 1:14]—His omniscience. “Out of His mouth proceeded a sharp two-edged sword” [Revelation 1:16]. That is His omnipotent Word. “His countenance was as the sun shineth in its strength” [Revelation 1:16]. That is the unapproachable glory of His deity. Essentially, inherently, in His person He is the plērōma, the fullness of God [Colossians 1:19].
It is a fullness not in a prophetic mantle, a fullness not in a priestly ephod, a fullness not in regal vesture; but it is a fullness in the person of Christ Himself [Ephesians 1:23]. Thus the apostle writes in this same chapter, “For He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation” [Colossians 1:15]. Not as Arius said, “The first of many in rank”; but as Athanasius avowed, that is, “He is the very essence of God,” or as the Nicene Creed wrote it, “God of very God.”
Would you see God? Look at Jesus. Would you know what God is like? Look at our Lord. “For it pleased the Father that in Him should all fullness dwell” [Colossians 1:19]. And this fullness has reached to His mediatorial redemptive work for us who are lost sinners.
He made peace through the blood of His cross, to reconcile us unto Himself . . . And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies by wicked works, even us hath He reconciled to God, in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreprovable in His sight.
[Colossians 1: 20-22]
In the redemptive death of our Lord, there is grace immeasurable and love unbounding; a reservoir that is never diminished [John 1:16].
All of the prophecies, and ceremonies, and rites, and rituals, and types, and symbols of the Old Testament, through all of the ages, prefigured, were adumbrations of Him. He is the substance of which they are but the shadow. He is our sacrifice [1 John 2:2], our great High Priest [Hebrews 4:14]. He is our altar and our tabernacle. He is our all in all.
By no means could it be that a type or a ceremony or a symbol could forgive our sins. There is no bleeding bird, there is no slaughtered bullock, there is no running stream, there is no scarlet wool, there is no encrimsoned hyssop that could wash away our sins. Were we to look to these symbols and types for the forgiveness of our sins, we would still cry the cry of Micah, in Micah 6:6, 7, 8: “Wherewith shall I come before God, and 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 firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?” [Micah 6:6-7]. How shall I come before the great and Mighty God—I, who am laden with sin, and wrong, and iniquity? This is the plērōma, the fullness of the grace and love of God in Christ Jesus: He made peace through His blood to reconcile us to Himself. And we who were sometimes alienated and enemies, have we been reconciled by the body of His flesh through death, that we might be presented holy and unblameable and unreproveable in His sight [Colossians 1:20-22].
And this is described as a dwelling: the fullness of God that dwells in Him [Colossians 1:19]. It is in perpetuity; it is in a forever and forever. He is the Author of an eternal salvation [Hebrews 5:9]. He is a Priest forever after the order of Melchizedek [Hebrews 5:6]. Flowing from the wounds of Calvary [Luke 23:33], is a stream never diminishing. To the last day of God’s age of ages, and to the last one of God’s elect who turn and accept our Lord, for us all there is grace upon grace upon grace [John 1:16].
And it is available for us. “It pleased God that in Him all the fullness of the Father should dwell” [Colossians 1:19]. If a man dwells in a house, there he is at home; thus Christ in His dwelling is at home for us. When we knock at the door in prayer, He answers; He is at home. When a man cries, “Lord, be merciful to me, a sinner,” He hears the cry [Luke 18:13-14]. Mercy has not gone on a journey; it lives, it abides, it dwells in our Lord [Titus 3:2]. And when a man seeks life and hope and salvation and heaven, he finds it in our Lord who dwells in our midst, who lived our life, who understands all about us, who loves us, knowing us. There’s no more beautiful description of our living Lord than the author of Hebrews wrote in Hebrews 4:15-16:
For we have not a Priest who cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tried as we are, though He without sin. Wherefore, wherefore, come boldly to the throne of grace, that ye might find help in time of need.
Any day, any hour, anytime, anywhere, Christ is at home. Knock at the door, and He, the fullness of God, He answers our call.
Once again, this fullness is extended not only in redemptive mercy [Titus 3:2] and mediatorial love for us [1 Timothy 2:5], but it extends to all of our needs, all of our needs. “It pleased the Father that in Him should all fullness dwell” [Colossians 1:19]. Do you remember that magnificent verse of John 1:16? “And of His fullness, plērōma, and of His fullness have all we received, and grace unto grace, and grace on top of grace, beyond grace, grace for grace.”
The saints in heaven partake of that fullness of Christ. They are nothing without Him. If they drink of the river of the water of life, it flows from the throne of God and of the Lamb [Revelation 22:1]. If they are kings and priests and reign forever, it is by His appointment and in His grace and power [Revelation 5:9-10, 22:3-5]. If their robes are washed white, it is in the blood of the Lamb [Revelation 7:14]. He is their temple [Revelation 21:22]. He is their light [Revelation 21:23]. The marriage of the Lamb is their joy [Revelation 19:7-9]. And the theme of Christ our Savior is their song forever and ever, “Worthy is the Lamb to receive honor, and riches, and glory, and power, and dominion, forever and ever” [Revelation 5:12-13]. It is of His fullness that the saints in heaven partake. It is for us no less, down here in this weary world. He giveth strength to the faint [Isaiah 40:29]. It is His forgiveness that washes us clean and white from our sins [Isaiah 1:18; 1 John 1:7; Revelation 1:5]. And we receive of our Savior without cost and without price [Isaiah 55:1-3]. All of the riches of God in Christ Jesus are ours for the having, for the taking, for the asking [Ephesians 3:8].
Tell me, who would bear a pail of water to pour into the river of life? [Revelation 22:1]. Who would take a cold sandwich to the marriage supper of the Lamb? [Revelation 19:7-8]. Who would bring a tarnished piece of gold to add to the streets of that beautiful city? [Revelation 21:21]. Who would seek to fasten on the tree of life a basket of summer fruit? [Revelation 22:2]. Who would bring a string of cultured pearls to decorate the glorious gates of that new and heavenly Jerusalem? [Revelation 21:21]. All we need is to feel our need of Him.
Could my tears forever flow,
Could my zeal no languor know,
These for sin could not atone,
Thou must save, and Thou alone.
In my hands no price I bring,
Simply to Thy cross I cling.
[from “Rock of Ages,” Augustus M. Toplady]
Without money, without price [Isaiah 55:1], how could I come before the great High God and say, “Lord, in my own worth and in my own goodness I stand in Thy presence”? Oh, unapproachable holiness, indescribable deity! When Paul met Him, he said, “I fell blind at His feet” [Acts 9:3-4, 22:11]. When John saw Him, he said:
I fell at His feet as dead; but He laid His right hand upon me,
and said, Be not afraid, I am the First and the Last;
I am He that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen. And I, I have the keys of Hell and of Death.
In the presence of our glorious and living Lord, naught do I bring [Isaiah 55:1-3]. I couldn’t buy it; I’m not rich enough. I couldn’t possess it in worth; I’m not good enough. But it is ours, it’s mine, it’s yours for the having, for the asking, for the taking. All that God has in store for those who love Him is ours for the receiving [1 Corinthians 2:9].
And that’s our invitation to you. Just as you are, looking in faith to our blessed Lord [Romans 10:9-10; Ephesians 2:8], “I receive from Thy gracious hands this unspeakable gift of salvation. Lord, here I am. In mercy and in grace, remember me [Titus 3:5; Ephesians 2:8]. Write my name in the Book of Life [Revelation 20:12, 15, 21:27]. Remember me in the great and final day of our judgment [2 Corinthians 5:10]. And open the door, Lord, for me, into Thy gates of glory.”
May we stand? Our heavenly Father, who revealed Thyself to us bodily in the fullness of Jesus our Lord [Colossians 1:19], how could we ever praise Him enough, thank Him enough, love Him enough for what He hath done for us? Without our worth, without money, without merit, just to come and to receive from His nail-pierced hands the gift of eternal life [John 3:16, 10:27-30], forgiveness, mercy, strength, help, encouragement; O the glory of what Jesus means to us!
And our Lord, this day may there be many who say, “I have found that love, that salvation, that forgiveness, that grace that has brought me to bow at His feet this day.” Please, God, may the Spirit speak [John 16:7-15], and may these listen and answer with their lives.
With no one leaving for this sacred moment, down one of these stairways, down one of these aisles, “Pastor, the Spirit of God has spoken to me, and I’m on the way. Here I am.” A family you, a couple you, or just one somebody you, make the decision now in your heart, and in just a moment when we sing, take that first step, the most meaningful you’ll ever make in your life; do it now. In this sacred, holy moment answer with your life, and God speed you in the way, while we wait, while we pray, and as we sing.