THE WORD preeminence comes from the Greek word proteuo, meaning to be first in rank or influence. The word proteou is derived from the word protos, meaning foremost in time, place, order or importance; also before, beginning, best, chief, first and former. The word preeminence therefore very aptly describes our Lord Jesus, who is first in time and rank, as we shall see. Of course, we recognize that God is the exception, for He is beyond all comparison (1 Corinthians 15: 27). The best way to put it is: God first, and Christ preeminent above all others.
Jesus Preeminent with God
Let us consider the many ways in which our Lord is preeminent above all others. First, He is preeminent with God, that is, He is the most highly favored of all God’s creatures. Verse 15 of our text states that Jesus is “the firstborn of every creature.” Jesus was the first creature to be created. In Revelation 22: 13 Jesus siad, “I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last.” Jesus was the first and last direct creation of God. Jesus in Proverbs 8: 30 expresses the close relationship He had with His Father following His creation: “Then I was with him, as one brought up with him: and I was daily his delight, rejoicing always before him.”
Verse 16: “All things were created by him.” Following Jesus’ creation, God has used Him as His great Agent for all of His creative work, including the various orders of angels, the universe, ordering the earth in preparation for man’s creation and man himself. Continuing with vs.16 and 17, “and for him; and he is before all things, and by him all things consist.” This shows Jesus’ providential care, under God, over the universe, the earth, man, the lower animals and God’s people.
Firstborn from the Dead
Verse 18: “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.” Jesus was also the firstborn from the dead. Though some had previously been awakened from the sleep of death, Jesus was the first one to experience a resurrection from the dead to full perfection of life, which in His case was to the Divine nature.
Verse 19: “For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell.” It pleased the Father that Jesus should have complete authority – not merely over man, but over all things – both heavenly and earthly (Matthew 28: 18) (Philippians 2: 9-11).
Jesus as Revealer
Another one of our Lord’s offices is that of the Revealer of God’s ways and purposes. We recognize that the Bible is God’s revelation to His people, and that Christ is the very center of His Word, just as the sun is the center of our solar system. Every writer and book of the Bible speaks of Christ, as our Lord testified in John 5: 39: “Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.” In fact, Jesus is even called “The Word of God” (Revelation 19: 13).
Furthermore, Jesus’ character is preeminent over all of God’s other creatures, such as the following passages show: “Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person” (Hebrews 1: 3). The thought of “express image” is that of character. Jesus’ character is a perfect copy of God’s character. “The chiefest among ten thousand,” “he is altogether lovely” (Song of Solomon 5: 10, 16). “We beheld his glory . . . full of grace and truth” (John 1: 14).
Ministry of Jesus
Jesus’ ministry is preeminent above all others. 1 Corinthians 1: 30 reads: “But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption.” Let us consider the four offices of Jesus mentioned in this passage.
(1.) Christ our Wisdom: Jesus is the Prophet or Teacher of God’s people, and as such, He provides us with true knowledge regarding: (1) the greatness and justice of God; the Mosaic Law was a “schoolmaster” intended to lead the Jews to Christ, but Jesus’ obedience magnified the Law and God, the great Lawgiver.; (2) our weakness and fallen, sinful and helpless condition; and our need of a Savior; (3) the human race fell through Father Adam, and therefore Jesus’ ransom sacrifice pays for Adam and the world through him; (4) the penalty for sin is death, therefore the Redeemer had to die; and (5) our faith in God results from true knowledge.
(2.) Christ our Righteousness: Jesus as Justifier provides a number of benefits to God’s people now, and will provide several benefits to the world in the next Age: (1) because we are unjust in God’s sight, Christ’s righteousness stands good for us; (2) those with the proper knowledge, repentance and faith become justified by faith, so that God “might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus” (Romans 3: 26); (3) in due time Jesus will release the world from the Adamic death sentence; (4) all will eventually “come unto the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2: 4); and (5) He makes us holy.
(3.) Christ our Sanctification: Sanctification may be defined as the condition in which one is set apart, consecrated, devoted to, or marked out for a holy use or purpose. God through Christ sets apart or marks out the consecrated for a special share in His Plan. The object of consecration is to attain a share in God’ coming Kingdom, whereby we will be given a share in blessing the world. Christ as our Sanctifier enables us to carry out our consecration – to remain dead to self and the world, to serve God acceptably and to develop a character pleasing to God.
(4.) Christ our Redemption: The word “redemption” in the King James Version should have been translated “deliverance.” Christ as our Deliverer delivers us in this present life from the power of sin, error, selfishness and worldliness. For the non-spirit-begotten He will continue that work and deliver us from all the effects of the Adamic curse in the Millennial Kingdom. What a wonderful ministry Jesus has been given!
Preeminent in Millennial Age and Ages of Glory
Jesus will continue to be preeminent during the Millennial Age and the endless Ages of glory to follow. At the very end of the Gospel Age the Father in addressing our Lord will say, “Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession” (Psalm 2: 8). Then the work of His Mediatorial Reign will begin, “For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet” (1 Corinthians 15: 25). At the end of His Mediatorial Reign, “He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied” (Isaiah 53: 11). Witnessing a perfect human race, Jesus will recognize that all the suffering which He endured resulted in a grand, glorious and satisfying outcome. But in another sense, His reign over the earth will continue forever, for “The Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: and he shall reign over the house of Jacob forever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end” (Luke 1: 32, 33). And He shall not only reign over the earth, but over the entire universe forever, for the Father has set Him down upon His throne of the universe” (Revelation 3: 21).
Preeminent in our Lives
Finally, Jesus should be preeminent in our lives. He died on our behalf, and since our consecration, has become the Lord of our lives. If we allow Him to be the chief influence in our lives, it will make our fellowship with the brethren sweeter, and our homes happier and more orderly. By following the Golden Rule in our employment, it will make our work lives more pleasant, and provide a good witness to others because they will see that we have “been with Jesus” (Acts 4: 13). If we allow Jesus to influence our thoughts, motives and hearts, our words and actions will become more Christlike.
The Apostle Paul wrote, “But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ” (Philippians 3: 7, 8). May the Apostle’s words be our sentiments, and may we grow in appreciation of, and love for, our Savior, and the Savior of the world, “the author and finisher of our faith” (Hebrews 12: 2), the preeminent One.