Over 2,000 people, including family, friends, dignitaries, and common folks were assembled under one big tent in celebration of the life of evangelist Billy Graham.
What the people repeatedly heard in the 90-minute service was the name of Jesus. Not 15 seconds into the ceremony Jesus was mentioned. And before it was concluded Christ was referred to almost 100 times.
“Everyone who spoke was clear in their message. They honored his wishes by making this less about Billy and more about Jesus,” commented the Southern Baptist preacher Jonathan Falwell.
Regardless of what you think about Graham, his message, his ministry or his theology, you have to respect that he was not ashamed to speak the name of Jesus as the way to the Father. Graham’s son, Franklin, seems to be even more vocal in that regard.
Our world today is willing to give Jesus a place of prominence, but not His God-ordained place of preeminence. Many today are like Oprah Winfrey who believe “there are many ways to God” and that “Jesus is not the only way heaven.”
In reading the first chapter of Colossians, yesterday, I was struck by the emphasis on the preeminence of Jesus. Paul writes that “in all things, he might have the preeminence.” Interestingly, this is the only time this word is used in the New Testament. It literally means “to be first” or “to hold the first place.”
Jesus is first. In rank. In honor. In importance. And in influence. In direct contrast to the Roman Emperors that sought to wear august titles of honor demanding worship, Jesus ranks #1. He is the Supreme Lord. The Lord of Lords and King of Kings.
This great chapter highlights the preeminence of Jesus.
(1) The Gospel Message Magnifies the Preeminence of Jesus.
The Gospel was preached at Colossee. It was a message of faith, love and hope that exalted Jesus. Paul preached the same message as Peter. “Neither is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Ax 4:12)
(2) The Cross Extols the Preeminence of Jesus.
On the cross, Jesus’ sinless blood was shed. Paul affirms that through it “we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins” (Col. 1: 13-14). Alexander McLaren did not overstate the case when he wrote, “The cross is the center of the world’s history; the incarnation of Christ and the crucifixion of our Lord are the pivot around which all the events of the ages revolve.”
(3) The Creation Acclaims the Preeminence of Jesus.
Christ was not a created being. He was co-creator with the Father and the Holy Spirit. Jesus is the image and essence of Godhood. He existed prior to creation. Brought everything into existence. And He is the glue that holds it all together. (Col. 1:15-17).
(4) The Church Exalts the Preeminence of Jesus
Ironically, many who exalt the name of Jesus fail to give Him glory in His church. The one He purchased with His blood (Ax 20:28). The one that He built (Matt 16:18). The one that belongs to Him (Eph 5:23-32). The One of which He is its head (Col. 1:18). No man can occupy that position. So, let us not demean, diminish, or defile His church.
(5) Our Ministry should Proclaim the Preeminence of Jesus
Paul’s ministry was “in Christ” and all about Christ. Jesus was proclaimed as “the hope of glory” (Col. 1:24-29). Our stewardship, our ministry and our labor for the Lord today should be Christ-centered.
Let us not be guilty of merely giving lip service to the name of Jesus. As Curtis Hutson observed, “Our lifestyle, language, attitudes, and manner of dress reflect on His name.”
Jesus Christ must be preeminent in our lives. Augustine was right when he wrote, “Christ is not valued at all, unless He is valued above all.”
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman