And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead…
So supreme is the glory of Christ, that he occupies a similar position in the moral as he does in the material universe. We may linger on the exhaustless theme of the glory of Christ us we see further illustrations of it -
I. IN HIS RELATION TO THE CHURCH.
1. "He is the Head of the body, the Church." For he is its Founder; the Church is his creation (Matthew 16:18; Matthew 18:17-20). Having "all power in heaven and earth," his glory and grace are so great that he can sustain the whole Church in life, and rule and guide each member of it. Our life is bound up with his life; our interests are made his own by the sympathy of our living Head. (Illustrate from Acts 7:56; Acts 9:4; Acts 18:9, 10; Acts 23:11; Acts 27:23, 24; 2 Timothy 4:17, 18.)
2. "Who is the Beginning - the first in time and the first in power in relation to the Church. Because he is the First and the Last," "the Beginning of the creation of God," he is also the Fountain, "the Prince [or, 'Author'] of life" (Acts 3:14) to his Church. Every act of pardon granted, every shower of reviving grace bestowed, every interposition of Providence, is from him. (Illustrate from Jesus Christ's use of "I" and "me" in John 14-16.)
3. "The Firstborn from the dead." He is the supreme Lord from among all who have entered the grave, by virtue of his being the first to rise to the new life from the dead. Note the contrast between the resurrection of Christ and of others. Dying voluntarily, though sinless (John 10:17, 18), he rose by his own power (John 2:20), not to die again (Romans 6:9), in an immortal body (Romans 1:18). Thus he is the Cause, the Pledge, and the Pattern of our resurrection, and has supremacy over his Church in both worlds (Romans 14:9). Already we have seen that he is Firstborn, and Lord of the material creation; and he has the same position in the spiritual creation, "that in all things he might have the pre-eminence." He is the Image and Manifestation of God, the First Cause and the Final Cause, the Creator and Preserver of the universe, the Head and Lord of the Church, the Author and Pattern of our glorious resurrection. Yes; and in all things he shall have the pre-eminence (Psalm 72:17; 1 Corinthians 15:25). The day will come when commerce, science, art, literature, shall all be consecrated to him; when the minority shall become a majority, and an innumerable multitude shall "honour the Son even as they honour the Father" (John 5:23; Revelation 7:9-17).
II. IN HIS WORK AS THE UNIVERSAL RECONCILER. Whichever of the alternative renderings of ver. 19 in the Revised Version we adopt, the precious practical truth is the same. The pre-eminence of Christ is assured by "the fulness" that abides in him. All the Divine perfections are his (Colossians 2:9). We may take the term in its widest signification - a fulness of life and power and glory, of goodness and grace, without limit and without end. Thus the Man Christ Jesus, full of a Divine life (John 3:34; John 5:26), was qualified to be the Agent by which the great reconciliation in the universe should be accomplished (ver. 20). "The well is deep;" the place is "holy ground." The reconciliation of "things upon the earth" is a mystery; how much more of "things in the heavens"! Notice:
1. Sin introduced discord into the universe, which spread to this earth. It not only separates men from God, but brings thereby calamities to "the whole creation." Sin left to itself works universal ruin; "when it is full grown it bringeth forth death." God must stand in a different relation to sinners and to the unfallen. If the guilty are to be saved, a new relation must be established between them and God. This is" the reconciliation" (Romans 5:11). The change in man's heart is a result, but the sequel of the change of relations established by "the reconciliation" (2 Corinthians 5:18, 19).
2. To effect this reconciliation a propitiatory sacrifice was needed. To show righteous grace to the guilty both the holiness and the love of God called for a Divine sacrifice. No theory can fully clear up this mystery of Divine mercy; but faith accepts it and Christian experience attests it (Luke 7:35). No sacrifice less than "the death," "the blood of the cross," could effect this reconciliation (Romans 5:6-10; 2 Corinthians 5:21). O paradox of mercy! The shedding of human blood stirs up strife; Christ's blood brings down peace. Innocent blood cries for vengeance; the blood of the cross pleads for pardon (Hebrews 12:24).
3. But what is meant by the reconciliation of the things in the heavens? It is not universal restoration of the devils and the damned; for Paul is speaking of what God has already done by the blood of the cross, and in ver. 23 he speaks of the final salvation of believers as conditional. The passage which best illustrates ours is Ephesians 1:10. We can only throw out hints as to the meaning. We know that angels are intensely interested in the work of redemption (Ephesians 3:10; 1 Peter 1:12). The entrance of sin and its spread among the human race may have produced, though not distrust, yet something like dismay. But the death of Christ revealed the majesty and mercy of God as they had never been combined before. The very fact that the lost sons of men could be "made nigh" by the death of Christ brought these celestial sons of God still nearer. The bends which unite these unfallen yet finite creatures to God become firmer than ever, and thus the harmony of the universe becomes more complete. Such are some of the jewels in the crown of our Divine Mediator and Redeemer. Learn:
1. The glory of the cross. Though "all the fulness" dwelt in Christ, even he could not effect a reconciliation except by death (Galatians 6:14).
2. The efficacy of the cross. Though erected on this tiny globe, its power extends throughout the universe.
3. The motives from the cross (2 Corinthians 5:14, 15, 20). - E.S.P.
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.