Vol. 8, No. 6
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When studying about Jesus Christ, it is not difficult to emphasize the unique and incomparable role of our Lord. Nave's Topical Bible lists about 250 names or designations for Jesus Christ. Over several lessons, we have only noted a few of those appellations: Creator, Pre-Incarnate God, the Incarnate God, Master Teacher, at the Cross, Savior, Messiah, King, High Priest, Mediator, Intercessor, Advocate, Lawgiver, Prophet, Head of his church, Head of his Body, Head of his house and Judge. All of the designations for Jesus Christ that we have noticed plus the over 200 others we have not reviewed recently point to Jesus Christ as the Preeminent One. Herein you are invited to "Come Meet Jesus as the Preeminent One."
What do we mean by "preeminence"? Merriam Webster's Collegiate Dictionary defines "preeminence" as "having paramount rank, dignity, or importance." A Hebrew dictionary defines the word for "preeminence" (mowthar, appearing only in Ecclesiastes 3:19; Proverbs 14:23; 21:5) as including the ideas of "literally, gain; figuratively, superiority" (Biblesoft's). A Greek dictionary defines the word for "preeminence" as "to be in the first position, with the implication of high rank and prominence - 'to be the first, to have superior status'" (Louw and Nida). Another Greek dictionary concurs and adds a facet to the definition of "preeminence" (proteuo, appearing only in Colossians 1:18): "to be first (in rank or influence)" (Biblesoft's).
No one enjoys preeminence that rightfully belongs exclusively to Jesus Christ. Satan desired preeminence over Jesus Christ. One temptation that Satan hurled at Jesus Christ was the offer to surrender the kingdoms of this world to our Lord in exchange for Jesus worshipping him (Matthew 4:8-9). As King of kings and Lord of lords, Jesus Christ triumphed over all the kingdoms of this world anyway (1 Timothy 6:15; Revelation 11:15).
Even Christians sometimes seek preeminence that belongs exclusively to Jesus Christ. Unfortunately, some Christians seek preeminence within the Lord's church, as Diotrephes did (3 John 9-10). The Greek word for "preeminence" in 3 John 9 is a related but differing word from the "preeminence" ascribed to Jesus Christ in Colossians 1:18. The word for "preeminence" in 3 John 9 is the compound word philoproteuo, meaning "to be fond of being first, i.e. ambitious of distinction" (Biblesoft's). This wrong use of "preeminence" ascribed to Diotrephes appears only in 3 John 9.
Other religious people also seek preeminence that rightfully belongs only to Jesus Christ. One of the titles of the Catholic pope is "Vicar of Christ," which is defined: "A title of the pope implying his supreme and universal primacy, both of honour and of jurisdiction, over the Church of Christ" ("Vicar of Christ"). The Mormon Church has its "Prophet and President": "The current prophet and President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is Gordon B. Hinckley" ("Living Prophets and Apostles"). Various religious groups have exalted leaders that purport to have the prerogative to change divine law and implement new religious doctrine. However, only Jesus Christ is the Head of his church and the Preeminent One (Colossians 1:18).
In some senses, mankind has no preeminence even over the brutish beasts of the animal kingdom. Of course, though the world in which we live that has been steeped in evolutionary origins does not realize it, mankind is superior to the animal kingdom because God placed within mankind "a living soul" (Genesis 2:7; 1 Corinthians 15:45). The "living soul" is unique to humans and involves the spiritual nature of humanity since God did not act in the same way respecting the rest of creation, including the animal kingdom. However, owing to death and our mortal existence, mankind cannot claim for itself preeminence over other spirit beings (Psalm 8:4-5; Hebrews 2:6-7). Respecting death, mankind is more nearly like the animal world when it comes to the consideration of preeminence (Ecclesiastes 3:19).
Only Jesus Christ can rightfully be identified as the Preeminent One. The preeminence of Jesus Christ is evident in passages exalting him. Speaking prophetically, Zacharias (father of John the Baptist) referred to Jesus Christ as "the Highest" (Luke 1:76). "The preeminence of Jesus is here designated by the 'Most High'" [ASV] (Boles). The "only begotten" passages applying to Jesus Christ speak to his preeminence (John 1:14, 18; 3:16, 18; 1 John 4:9).
In a sense, the preeminence of Jesus Christ exceeds the eminence of God the Father and God the Holy Spirit, too. Jesus Christ has experienced both the majesty of Deity and the contrasting poverty of human creation. Consequently, Jesus Christ enjoys a preeminence that exceeds the consideration of all others including the other members of the Godhead. In Jesus Christ, all things in heaven and on earth speak to his preeminence (Ephesians 1:10). "Ephesians and Colossians are twin epistles, similar in thought and style, extolling the preeminence of Christ..." (ISBE) as evidenced by comparing Colossians 1:18 and Ephesians 1:10.
Colossians 1:18 defines Jesus Christ as the Preeminent One. Being Head of the body and the church (along with all the other appellations applied to Jesus Christ, many that we have noted in our series, "Come Meet Jesus") speaks to the preeminence of Jesus Christ. Having a fleshly body whereby he experienced existence as creation in addition to being Creator, resurrected to die no more, Jesus Christ alone is the Preeminent One. "The terms head, beginning, firstborn, express the pre-eminence of Christ in the new creation, which has its birth in his resurrection (1 Cor 15:22; Rev 1:5; 3:14)" (Wycliffe). "As firstborn of all creation, head of the church, and firstborn from the dead, Christ is proteuon ("preeminent") in everything" (Kittel and Friedrich). "...Christ, being Owner, Lord, and Prince of every creature, as he is God-man, or ordained to human nature, he hath the preeminence of the whole creation, and is the chief, Ps 2:7, 8 Heb 1:2, 6" (Poole). "...that he might come to have first place in everything" (Bauer, Gingrich and Danker).
Several commentators address the preeminence afforded Jesus Christ in the last portion of Colossians 1:18. "The last phrase of 1:18 may also be translated, 'That he might have the preeminence among all,' referring to Christ's preeminence among the dead as well as the living. Christ has preeminence both among all things and among all people, living and dead alike" (Fields 152). "Here begins the second phase of this grand statement of the preeminence of Christ, the first pertaining to all creation, and this pertaining to the new spiritual creation, that is, the church of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Coffman). "'He HIMSELF (and none other) may become the One holding the first place.' Both ideas are included-priority in time and priority in dignity: now in the regenerated world, as before in the world of creation (Col 1:15; Ps 89:27; John 3:13)" (Jamieson, Fausset and Brown).
In conclusion, no one on earth or in heaven and not Satan compares to the matchless Jesus Christ as the Preeminent One. "Pre-eminence of Christianity i.e. the higher power and honor due to Jesus the Christ. This doctrine is laid down in Col 1:18. In all things in nature, in person, in office, work, power, and honor, Christ has the pre-eminence above angels and men, or any other creature" (McClintock and Strong). The Greek word proteuo, meaning "to be first (in rank or influence) and translated "preeminence" only appears in the New Testament at Colossians 1:18 and applies exclusively to Jesus Christ--the Preeminent One (Biblesoft's).
However, Jesus Christ is not the Preeminent One in your life if you are not a true Christian, and not a hyphenated-denominational Christian (Acts 11:26; 26:28; 1 Peter 4:16). Jesus and his spokesman, the apostle Peter, told how one becomes a Christian, whereupon Jesus adds one to his church (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38, 41, 47). The apostles Peter and John also addressed how sins committed by Christians can be removed (Acts 8:22; 1 John 1:9). May Jesus Christ truly be the Preeminent One in your life!
Bauer, Walter, F. Wilbur Gingrich and Frederick W. Danker. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. CD-ROM. Chicago: U. of Chicago P., 1979.
Biblesoft's New Exhaustive Strong's Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary. CD-ROM. Seattle: Biblesoft and International Bible Translators, 1994.
Boles, H. Leo. A Commentary on the Gospel According to Luke. Nashville: Gospel Advocate, 1991. CD-ROM. Austin: Wordsearch, 2005.
Coffman, James Burton. James Burton Coffman Study Library. CD-ROM. Abilene: ACU P., 1989.
Fields, Wilbur. Philippians, Colossians and Philemon. CD-ROM. Joplin: College P., 1969.
International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia (ISBE). CD-ROM. Seattle: Biblesoft, 1996.
Jamieson, Fausset and Brown Commentary. CD-ROM. Seattle: Biblesoft, 1997.
Kittel, Gerhard, and Gerhard Friedrich, eds. The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Abridged in One Volume. CD-ROM. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1985.
"Living Prophets and Apostles." The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. 8 Jun. 2006 <https://www.mormon.org/learn/0,8672,940-1,00.html>.
Louw, Johannes P. and Eugene A. Nida. Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament based on Semantic Domains CD-ROM. New York: United Bible Societies, 1989.
Merriam Webster's Collegiate Dictionary. CD-ROM. Springfield: Merriam-Webster, 1993.
McClintock and Strong Encyclopedia. CD-ROM. Seattle: Biblesoft, 2000.
Nave's Topical Bible. CD-ROM. Seattle: Biblesoft and TriStar Publishing, 1990.
Poole, Matthew. Matthew Poole's Commentary on the New Testament. CD-ROM. Escondido: Ephesians Four Group, 1997.
"Vicar of Christ." New Advent. 8 Jun. 2006 <https://www.newadvent.org/cathen/15403b.htm>.
Wycliffe Bible Commentary. CD-ROM. Chicago: Moody, 1962.