The article below is an excerpt from The Story of God, a new group study for adults and students from Eric Geiger.” The Story of God explores the overarching redemptive narrative of the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, helping participants discover the story of Jesus on every page of Scripture and how to live as part of that story. Click here to preview a portion of the study for free.
Sometime between AD 161 and 180, Marcus Aurelius wrote his famous Meditations. Some believe Marcus Aurelius was a great leader, a great emperor. He is portrayed favorably, for example, in the movie Gladiator as the elderly leader whom Russell Crowe loves and admires. We also know, from history, that persecution of Christians escalated under his rule. He either directed or allowed the torture and death of believers. In his classic work, Meditations, Marcus Aurelius wrote: “Nature. All things come of you, have their being in you, and return to you.”
Clearly, the apostle Paul and Marcus Aurelius held two very different perspectives on what is ultimate. Marcus Aurelius’ perspective was that nature is supreme—that what we can taste, touch, see, and smell is where we find our meaning. Many men live as if they believe what Aurelius wrote, searching for meaning and identity in nature, in the things of this world. The Christian perspective is very different, though. We believe that the one God, who created all things, is ultimate and we find meaning and significance in Him. And we believe that Jesus the Christ is God.
In the following incredible passage, the apostle Paul reminded his readers and us that Jesus is above all.
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For everything was created by him, in heaven and on earth, the visible and the invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and by him all things hold together. He is also the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him – Colossians 1:15-20.
HE IS THE IMAGE OF THE INVISIBLE GOD
God created us in the image of God, but we are not the image of the invisible God. Jesus is different. He is not created in the image of God because He is not created; He is the image of God.
Remember the second commandment in the Ten Commandments? (See Ex. 20:4- 5.) One of the reasons God was so adamant to His people not to make any image of Him was because every image we create falls woefully short of the reality of who God is. But Jesus is different. He is not a created image. He does not fall woefully short. He is the image of God.
THE FIRSTBORN OVER ALL CREATION
The word, firstborn, in the original language refers primarily to position or rank, not chronology. The firstborn son, in this culture, was given authority and rank from the father. The firstborn would receive the inheritance. Jesus is the firstborn. He is first in rank, position, and authority, and He has received all that is the Father’s.
FOR EVERYTHING WAS CREATED BY HIM
Jesus did not come into existence when He was born into this world. He has always existed. He was present in creation. He created the whole world and everything in it. He created the great foods we eat, the beaches we enjoy, the sunset and sunrise we observe. He created Mary, His earthly mother, and He created the trees, which formed the cross He would embrace. Everything was created by Him.
IN HEAVEN AND ON EARTH, THE VISIBLE AND THE INVISIBLE, WHETHER THRONES OR DOMINIONS OR RULERS OR AUTHORITIES
The language of “thrones or dominions or ruler or authorities” is used elsewhere in the Scripture, and it describes evil supernatural powers that we do not see. In Ephesians 6:12, Paul wrote that “our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, … against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens.” God created them too. He created all things, even the evil spirits that seek to deceive and destroy. But understand this: the demons were not created evil; they became evil. They sinned against God and were cast from His presence. In the same way, there are good things that God has created that we distort and ruin in our sinfulness. But this does not change the reality that He has created everything.
ALL THINGS HAVE BEEN CREATED THROUGH HIM AND FOR HIM
Not only has Christ created all things, but also all things have been created for Him. All things have been created to bring Him glory. He created the sunset and the sky so we can see visibly the creativity of our invisible God. He created the food we enjoy so when we taste it we might say, “Wow, God is really good to us.”
He created all things so that all things could bring Him glory. One day even the demons will bow to Him and declare He is God.
HE IS BEFORE ALL THINGS, AND BY HIM ALL THINGS HOLD TOGETHER
Marcus Aurelius said that all things have their being in nature. However, the text from Colossians teaches and reminds us that everything is sustained by Christ. You are sitting here in this moment because He is holding the universe together. He is, by His mercy, keeping the sun the exact distance it needs to be from the earth. He is the One keeping the blood flowing through your body. He holds all things together.
HE IS ALSO THE HEAD OF THE BODY, THE CHURCH
He started the church. He is the One who sustains His church. He is the One who keeps us to Himself, who holds on to us despite all our sin and all the junk in our lives. He is the head of the body of Christ.
HE IS THE BEGINNING, THE FIRSTBORN FROM THE DEAD
Just as the firstborn of creation indicates Jesus’ rank as the One above all creation and the One who owns all creation—the firstborn from the dead speaks to His supremacy in the resurrection. He is the One who conquered death and has ushered in a new after-death existence for those who follow Him. There is no one greater.
SO THAT HE MIGHT COME TO HAVE FIRST PLACE IN EVERYTHING
Jesus desires to be first in your life, to have first place over everything in your life. Just as He is the head over all creation, the head over His church, the head over all things, He insists on having first place in your life. He does not want to be a phase in your life, but rather the ruler over all of your life. He is not content to be something you are into for a season or something you think you will get to later. Christ does not want to be a part of your life, but the King over all of your life. He is not a supplement, something we just add to our already full lives. He is not a consultant to give you advice when you think you need it. He is the King who wants first place in everything. His insistence on being first place in everything is good for you.
Because you are giving up less than the best to enjoy Him—who is ultimate.
FOR GOD WAS PLEASED TO HAVE ALL HIS FULLNESS DWELL IN HIM
Because Jesus is fully God, the holiness, righteousness, power, providence, and sovereignty of God dwell fully in Jesus. The love, mercy, compassion, grace, and kindness of God dwell fully in Jesus. And what is absolutely amazing is that when we become Christians, we dwell in Jesus, too.