Understanding Colossians 1:15-21

Anyone who has talked to a Christian evolutionist knows how frustrating it can be to try to convince a brother or sister that their position has tremendous problems. For similar reasons, it can be just as difficult to convince non-Christians.

A number of Christians, along with their worldly counterparts, seem more than happy to live with cognitive dissonance. Christians can happily worship the Creator God on Sundays and then bow at the altar of the god of chance the rest of the week. All the while they justify their position by appealing to the supposed arbiter of all truth—science.

I believe the solution is to show the real reason they struggle with science: their faulty worldview.

Most people have been inundated with secular humanism and Marxist socialism without the slightest inclination to examine how our beliefs about science have been colored by the human-centered way we’ve been conditioned to think.

Unless we learn to help others reevaluate their worldview critically, they will fail to see how their mistaken, humanistic assumptions drive their stands on issues like creation and evolution. More importantly, unless Christians learn how to challenge people to examine their worldview from a biblical perspective, we will fail to communicate the gospel effectively.

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Life’s Ultimate Questions

Every human being who has ever lived or will ever live has asked, is asking, or will ask four basic questions. They are the same four basic questions no matter where you live, whether you are in Asia, Africa, Europe, or North America, whether you lived in the first century, the twenty-first century; or, if the Lord should tarry, the thirty-first century. In fact, virtually every serious question can be boiled down to one of these four:

  1. Who am I?
  2. Why am I here?
  3. What is wrong with the world?
  4. How can what is wrong be made right?

We may not all articulate those questions with those exact words, but in our soul each of us wrestles with those four basic questions.

If we ask our culture these four questions we get one set of answers. But their answers leave us wanting and empty.

How then should we respond? Colossians 1 shows how the Christian worldview responds to these same issues. By learning what it says about the supremacy of Christ, we can answer life’s ultimate questions. Let’s begin with verse 15 as we take these questions in turn.

Question One: Who Am I?

Our Culture’s View

You’re an accident. You’re a mistake. You’re a glorified ape. You’re the result of random evolutionary processes. That’s it. No rhyme. No reason. No purpose. You’re ultimately nothing. This is the pathetic reality when evolution runs its ideological course. Carry the idea to its logical conclusion: man has no more value than a field mouse; and if the field mouse is an endangered species that happens to share the man’s property—guess who has to move.

The Bible’s View

[Christ] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him (Colossians 1:15–16).1

Now you might be puzzled as to how this text is an answer to the question “Who am I?” The answer is that you cannot figure out who you are until you first discover who He is. Jesus is the image of the invisible God. He is God with us, God among us. He is the Almighty, “for by Him all things were created.” He is the Creator of all things.

Which things did Jesus create? All things in heaven and on earth. Thrones, dominions, rulers, authorities—all things were made by Him. All things were made through Him.

This hearkens back to John 1:1: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God,” which in turn hearkens back to Genesis 1:1: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” If we continue to read, we find these marvelous words: “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness.”

While our postmodern culture says that I am the result of random processes, the Bible says I am the crowning glory of the creation of God.

So who am I? While our postmodern culture says that I am the result of random processes, according to the Bible I am the crowning glory of the creation of God (see Psalm 8:5). The Bible says He knit me together in my mother’s womb (Psalm 139:13). I am no accident. I am not the result of random processes. So whether I am tall and beautiful or small and not so handsome, whether my body functions perfectly or is deformed severely, I am the crowning glory of the creation of God, and as a result I have inherent dignity, worth, and value. The biblical view cannot comprehend ideas like racism, classism, or eugenics.

Who am I? Who are you? You are the crowning glory of the creation of God.

Question Two: Why Am I Here?

Our Culture’s View

You’re here to consume and enjoy. Get all you can. Can all you get. Sit on the can. That’s why you’re here. That’s the only thing that matters.

We even look on children as blight and as a burden. Why? Because they get in the way of our consumption and our enjoyment. They cost too much. That’s the fruit of postmodernism and secular humanism.

When you put consumption and pleasure together, you get terrible results. If I have no rhyme or reason for my existence—if I am no more than the result of random evolutionary processes and I exist only to consume and enjoy, the only things that matter are whether I’m more powerful than you are and whether you have something I want for my enjoyment. If so, then it is okay for me to take from you whatever I desire for my own satisfaction.

That is the overarching mentality in our culture, both inside and outside the church, resulting in unquenchable materialism. We even look on children as blight and as a burden. Why? Because they get in the way of our consumption and our enjoyment. They cost too much. That’s the fruit of postmodernism and secular humanism.

The Bible’s View

All things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent (Colossians 1:16b–18, ESV).

The Bible answers the question of why I am here very differently from our culture. Again, we turn to the supremacy of Christ.

“All things were created through him and for him.” The ultimate purpose of all things is to bring Christ glory and honor, and that He might have the supremacy in all things. So who am I? The crown and glory of the creation of God. Why am I here? Not just to consume and enjoy, but to bring glory and honor to the Lord Jesus Christ. That’s why I exist. That’s why you exist. That’s why He breathed into us the very breath of life.

Christ is to have supremacy and preeminence in all things. He is to have supremacy and preeminence in your life, supremacy and preeminence in the church, supremacy and preeminence over death and hell and the grave—supremacy and preeminence over all.

Question Three: What is Wrong with the World?

Our Culture’s View

If you ask secular humanists what is wrong with the world, the answer is very simple. People are either insufficiently educated or insufficiently governed. People either don’t know enough, or they aren’t being watched enough.

The Bible’s View

For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds (Colossians 1:19–21).

What is wrong with the world? You are. “Hostile in mind, doing evil deeds.” Despite the fact that you are the crowning glory of the creation of God, created to bring glory and honor to the Lord Jesus Christ, you are instead hostile toward the One by whom and for whom you were created. That is what’s wrong with the world. In short, sin like yours is what’s wrong with the world.

The problem isn’t “out there” somewhere; the problem with the world is me. The problem is the fact that I do not acknowledge the supremacy of Christ in truth. The problem is that I start with myself as the measure of all things. I judge God based upon how well He carries out my agenda for the world, and I believe in my own supremacy. And as a result, I want a God who is omnipotent but not sovereign; I can wield His power. But if my God is both omnipotent and sovereign, I am at His mercy.

Who am I? The crowning glory of the creation of God, knit together in my mother’s womb. Why am I here? I am here to bring glory and honor to the Lord Jesus Christ. What is wrong with the world? Me. I don’t do what I was meant to do.

Question Four: How Can What is Wrong Be Made Right?

Our Culture’s View

More education. More government. That’s the only answer our culture can propose. How do we combat AIDS? AIDS Awareness. How do we combat racism? Anti-hate classes. What about the man who beats his wife? Anger management classes. Just give people more information, and everything will be fine.

But if you take a sinful, murderous human being and educate that individual, he merely becomes more sophisticated in his ability to destroy. The world is far more educated today than it was during World War I. So how are we doing? Are we seeing fewer wars? No. Just more sophisticated killing techniques.

If more education is not the answer, perhaps the solution is more governance. Really? There are two problems with that kind of thinking. First, who’s governing the governors? Second . . . forget a second problem; the first one’s enough.

The Bible’s View

Yet He has now reconciled in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach—if indeed you continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel that you have heard, which was proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, was made a minister (Colossians 1:22–23, ESV).

How can what is wrong be made right? Look again at this part of Colossians. The little word yet is one of the most beautiful words in the whole Bible. Can you imagine what life would be like if yet and if did not follow the Bible’s statements about what is wrong?

So, how can what is wrong be made right? We see two things in Paul's last set of statements. First, we see that what is wrong can be made right by the penal, substitutionary, atoning death of Christ. And second, by that if statement (v. 23), we see that it can’t be made right by any other means.

The supremacy of Christ in truth and redemption is found in His exclusivity. There is no other means by which man can be justified. “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God” (1 Peter 3:18, ESV). “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6).

How can what is wrong be made right? The Bible says, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21, ESV). There came a day when God the Father crushed and killed His one and only Son in our stead in order to satisfy His wrath, “so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (Romans 3:26, ESV).

The spotless, sinless Lamb of God is crushed, rejected, and killed to pay a debt that He did not owe on behalf of sinners who could never pay Him back.

Can you hear the rhetorical questions from Calvary? Was that enough for your sin? Was that enough for you to recognize the supremacy of Christ in truth as it relates to redemption? Nothing else could have been done that would have allowed God to be both just and justifier. But in the humiliation and exaltation of Jesus Christ we find the resolution to the question, “How can what is wrong be made right?”

Listen as the hymn writer proclaims: “There is a fountain filled with blood drawn from Emmanuel’s veins; and sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stains” (William Cowper’s “There Is a Fountain Filled with Blood,” 1772).

How can what is wrong be made right? The spotless, sinless, Lamb of God is crushed, rejected, and killed to pay a debt that He did not owe on behalf of sinners who could never pay Him back.

Conclusion

  1. Who am I? The crown and glory of the creation of God.
  2. Why am I here? To bring glory and honor to the Lord Jesus Christ.
  3. What is wrong with the world? Me and everyone like me who refused to acknowledge the supremacy of Christ and instead chose to live in pursuit of the supremacy of self.
  4. How can what is wrong be made right? Through the penal, substitutionary, atoning death of the Son of God, and through repentance and faith on the part of sinners.

When you juxtapose these two worldviews—the culture’s versus the Bible’s—something very interesting happens.

On the one hand, you see emptiness and hopelessness. Man is worthless. You are left to pursue your own satisfaction but can never find it.

On the other hand, you are precious and have purpose. Although you are powerless, that’s okay because you were purchased. Our answers come from recognizing the supremacy of Christ in a postmodern world.

As we walk through the highways and byways and look into the lifeless eyes of individuals who have bought the culture’s lie, let us rest assured that by the grace of God we possess the answer and we are possessed by the Answer. The answer is Christ and His supremacy in truth. Let us weep that those who walk aimlessly through this life will never be satisfied with the answers that our culture has seen fit to give.

The farther we have run away from the supremacy of Christ, the farther we have run away from the only thing that will ever satisfy and the only thing that will ever suffice. The supremacy of Christ in truth also means the sufficiency of Christ in truth. We preach Jesus and Him crucified (1 Corinthians 1:23). “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek” (Romans 1:16, ESV).

This is the supremacy of Christ in truth in a postmodern, dying, rotting, decaying, and hurting world. Let us therefore embrace it and proclaim it passionately, confidently, and relentlessly. After all, that is why we are here.

Adapted by Voddie from his chapter in The Supremacy of Christ in a Postmodern World, John Piper and Justin Taylor, eds. (2007), pp. 51–68. Used by permission of Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, Illinois (www.crossway.com).

Dr. Voddie Baucham, Jr., a pastor, professor, conference speaker, and author, earned his degrees from Southwestern and Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminaries. His latest book, What He Must Be (Crossway), is now available in stores.

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Footnotes

  1. Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture quotations are taken from the New American Standard Bible. Back