The Centrality of Christ

The Centrality of Christ

Placing Jesus at the Center of Our Lives

by Guest Writers, NR Johnson | February 25, 2019

I have long been fascinated with space, planets, and faraway galaxies. In college, I took an astronomy course taught by an elderly professor who worked at NASA during the Apollo 13 crisis — and his stories captivated me, increasing the mystery and wonder of the universe in my mind.

Genesis chapter one tells us that God spoke light into existence on day one of creation but on day four He created the “lights in the expanse of the heavens” — specifically the sun, moon, and stars.

Have you ever seen NASA pictures online? Whether it be pictures of planets or of the countless galaxies swirling in space, such pictures are breathtaking to look at especially when you realize how small our blue planet is compared to the vastness of the whole. 

Earth sits as a relatively small planet within our solar system, which sits within the larger Milky Way Galaxy … and it is estimated that there are more than 100 billion galaxies in the observable universe. And yet God reminds us that it is “He [who] upholds the universe by the word of His power” (Heb. 1:3 ESV) and “He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together” (Col. 1:17 ESV).

Despite the vastness of the universe, God is not distant and removed but rather intimate, close, and personal. He doesn’t govern from afar but is actively involved in the smallest details of our lives. What an incredible thought!

In God’s perfect design, He placed the sun at the center of our solar system. Each planet, though on different orbits, all rotate around and are fixated upon a single point — the sun.

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The same is true for us — there is one point around which all is fixated and centered upon — Jesus Christ. The centrality of Christianity is the Son. Paul writes that “in all things He may have the preeminence” (Col. 1:18). The word “preeminent" means to have first place, a position that surpasses others, or having prominence. Jesus, in all things and at all times, is to be the center point, the focus, the standard, the most important, the head, and that which all else revolves around.

As you continue through Colossians, Paul makes several incredible statements about the preeminent position Christ is to have in our lives:

1:27 — “To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.”

2:9-10 — “For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power.”

3:2 — “Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.”

3:4 — “… Christ who is our life …”

3:11b — “… but Christ is all and in all.”

3:14 — “But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection.” (Also see 1 Corinthians 13 and 1 John 4:8, 16.)

3:16a — “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly …”

Paul consistently writes throughout his epistles that Christ is to be first, the focus, the centrality, and the One we build our lives around and upon. In Ephesians, Paul uses the phrases “in Christ,” “in Him,” and “in Whom” 30 times in the first three chapters to talk about our position as believers.

The Christian life is to be built upon and around Jesus Christ. Christians are to be marked by the life of Christ, where, as Ian Thomas once wrote, the only explanation of our lives is Him. When someone looks at your life, how do they explain the way you live? Can they explain away your life by your own effort, wisdom, and ability, or is the only way to explain your life Jesus? Ian Thomas writes:

“The Christian life can be explained only in terms of Jesus Christ, and if your life as a Christian can still be explained in terms of you — your personality, your willpower, your gift, your talent, your money, your courage, your scholarship, your dedication, your sacrifice, or your anything — then although you may have the Christian life, you are not yet living it! … It has got to become obvious to others that the kind of life you are living is … beyond all human explanation!”

The centrality of Christ is the essence of Christianity.  Jesus has been given a position at the right hand of the Father, far above every principality, power, might, and dominion. His Name is greater than every other name that could be named, not only in this age but for all eternity (past and future). All things have been placed in subjection under His authority, and He has been made head over all things. For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. (See Ephesians 1:20-23 and Romans 11:36.)

He is preeminent! All we say, think, and do should flow out of a position of being IN Him. Our lives are to be marked by Christ. He is to be center. He is the North Star we fix our compass to. He is to be the sun which all things revolve around. He is the way. He is the truth. He is life and everything outside of Him is death.

Put It Into Practice 

In this eight-week Bible study guide, I want us to walk through a simple book study of Colossians (a book that is all about the centrality and preeminence of Jesus Christ). I invite you to dive deep and join me on this exciting journey of saturating in God’s Word to know Him more. Though this guide may appear simple, it has the potential to radically change your life as you seek to grow in intimacy with Christ through His Word. Know I am praying for you and cheering you on into the endless depths of Jesus and His Word.

Week One: Overview

Read Colossians several times this week (daily or multiple times a day is best).

Before and after you read or study, be still and spend time with the Author. This is about spending time with Him, getting to know Him, and being transformed by Him.

Questions to ask and thoughts for study — take a big picture view of Colossians:

  • What do you know about the author Paul?
  • What can you discover about his audience? (See 1:2 and 4:7-18 specifically.)
  • After reading the book several times, how would you articulate the main purpose/theme/focus of Colossians?
  • Take time and outline the book.  What are the major sections and subsections of the book? For example, 1:1-14 is the introductory section with three potential subsections — 1:1-2 is the greeting; 1:3-8 is the praise/thanksgiving to God; 1:9-14 is the prayer of Paul on behalf of the Colossians. Though this is rather subjective to you, go through the book and outline the book into sections, giving each section and subsection its own name. (Note: If your Bible has headings above each section, try to ignore their sections and titles and create your own. Also, note that your sections will likely look different than how I’ve organized this eight-week study.)
  • Simple Overview: Colossians was written by Paul between 60-62 A.D. while he was imprisoned in Rome (likely the same time he wrote Ephesians and Philemon). Colosse was a city in the Lycus Valley — a part of “Asia Minor” (modern day Turkey) — about 100 miles east of Ephesus and 12 miles from Hierapolis and Laodicea, the other two cities in the Lycus Valley. It appears that Paul never visited Colosse (see 1:7; 2:1; 4:12) but was concerned about heresy creeping into the church of Colosse and therefore wanted to establish the deity, supremacy, and preeminence of Jesus Christ as they grew in spiritual maturity (see 1:18; 1:28; 2:6-9).

Week Two: Praise and Prayer (Colossians 1:1-14)

Read Colossians several times this week (daily or multiple times a day is best) and focus specifically on 1:1-14.

Before and after you read or study, be still and spend time with the Author. This is about spending time with Him, getting to know Him, and being transformed by Him.

Questions to ask and thoughts for study:

  • Read the greeting of Paul’s other letters. What similarities and differences do they have with Colossians? What significance do “grace” and “peace” have as an introductory statement?
  • Make a list of why Paul praises God and prays for the Colossians. What insights do you gain from looking at the list? Do you have those same qualities? Do you pray for and praise God for others who are marked by those attributes?
  • Spend time analyzing 1:9-14. Look up or do a word study on any keywords you don’t understand. (To learn how to do effective word studies use a free online program like blueletterbible.org and visit deeperChristian.com/wordstudy for a tutorial.) Summarize your observations and conclusion.
  • Notice how 1:13-14 gives a simple but grand overview of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
  • If someone asked you to explain Colossians 1:1-14 in ten minutes, what would you say? What would you emphasize, what words would you explain in detail so they would properly understand what Paul is saying? I encourage you to find someone this week and actually do it — you might be surprised what additional insights you gain and how it begins to make more sense to you as you explain it to someone else.
  • How does this passage practically apply to your life? Don’t engage in Bible study just to have more information, rather seek to be transformed ever more into the likeness of Christ. Spend time in prayer and, in light of this passage, ask God to change how you live.

Week Three: Preeminence of Christ (1:15-23)

Read Colossians several times this week (daily or multiple times a day is best) and focus specifically on 1:15-23.

Before and after you read or study, be still and spend time with the Author. This is about spending time with Him, getting to know Him, and being transformed by Him.

Questions to ask and thoughts for study:

  • After talking about the redemptive plan of God for the Colossians, Paul transitions into his main message about the exaltation and preeminence of Jesus Christ.
  • What are the characteristics or attributes of Jesus Christ mentioned in the passage which qualifies Him for being preeminent?
  • Do a word study on “preeminent.” What other passages in Scripture deepen your understanding of this concept? To get started, check out: Deuteronomy 6:4-9; Psalm 16:11; Matthew 13:44-46; Mark 12:30; John 5:39; Ephesians 1:19-23; Philippians 2:6-11; Colossians 2:9; Hebrews 1:2-3; Revelation 1:8, 11.
  • If someone asked you to explain Colossians 1:15-23, what would you say? I encourage you to find someone this week and actually do it.
  • How does this passage practically apply to (or change) your life? Don’t rush through a passage without taking time to understand what it says and apply it into your life.

Week Four: Paul's Position and Proclamation (1:24-2:5)

Read Colossians several times this week (daily or multiple times a day is best) and focus specifically on 1:24-2:5.

Before and after you read or study, be still and spend time with the Author. This is about spending time with Him, getting to know Him, and being transformed by Him.

Questions to ask and thoughts for study:

  • Do a word study on “mystery.” Where else in Scripture is a mystery mentioned (for example Ephesians 1:9 and 5:32) and how are they similar or different to Colossians? Though Scripture often says different things are a mystery, are they different mysteries or different aspects of one great mystery?
  • What does it mean for Christ to be IN you? For a great exhortation on this concept, listen to Eric Ludy’s sermons called In Christ and The Power to Do It — these sermons are available for free at BraveheartedChristian.com.
  • If someone asked you to explain Colossians 1:24-2:5, what would you say? I encourage you to find someone this week and actually do it.
  • How does this passage practically apply to (or change) your life? What needs to change in your life so that you begin to live out the message of this passage?

Week Five: Living in Light of Christ's Preeminence (2:6-23)

Read Colossians several times this week (daily or multiple times a day is best) and focus specifically on 2:6-23.

Before and after you read or study, be still and spend time with the Author. This is about spending time with Him, getting to know Him, and being transformed by Him.

Questions to ask and thoughts for study:

  • Note the shift Paul makes from exhorting believers to be established in Christ (2:6-7) to the dangerous heresies that were distracting and diverting them from Christ.
  • What were the heresies Paul was so concerned about? Why is this thinking/lifestyle a problem? Was this a 1st Century problem or do we face a similar distraction? If so, what does it look like in our modern time?
  • What does Paul say to counter and correct the heresies swirling in Colosse?
  • Though we shouldn’t highlight or focus on our past sin, why does Paul often remind believers of where they came from and what Jesus did in them? (See Colossians 2:13-15 and Ephesians 2:1-22; 4:17-24.)
  • If someone asked you to explain Colossians 2:6-23, what would you say? I encourage you to find someone this week and actually do it.
  • How does this passage practically apply to (or change) your life? What needs to change in your life so that you begin to live out the message of this passage?

Week Six: The Position & Practical Lifestyle of a Christian (3:1-17)

Read Colossians several times this week (daily or multiple times a day is best) and focus specifically on 3:1-17.

Before and after you read or study, be still and spend time with the Author. This is about spending time with Him, getting to know Him, and being transformed by Him.

Questions to ask and thoughts for study:

  • What are the “things that are above” which we should desire (3:1-2)?
  • Do a word study on the fleshly/sinful aspects that must be put to death in our lives (3:5-9). As you study, if the Holy Spirit exposes any of these in your life, pause your study to spend time in prayer, confession, and repentance.
  • What is the new nature we are to have (3:10)?
  • Why should we embrace love above all else (3:14)? What does this practically look like lived out day-to-day? For further study, also see: John 13:35; 15:1-17; 1 Corinthians 13; 1 John 4:8-16.
  • Compare Colossians 3:1-17 to Ephesians 2:1-22 and 4:17-5:12.
  • If someone asked you to explain Colossians 3:1-17, what would you say? I encourage you to find someone this week and actually do it.
  • How does this passage practically apply to (or change) your life? What needs to change in your life so that you begin to live out the message of this passage?

Week Seven: Living in Relationship with Others (3:18-4:1)

Read Colossians several times this week (daily or multiple times a day is best) and focus specifically on 3:18-4:1.

Before and after you read or study, be still and spend time with the Author. This is about spending time with Him, getting to know Him, and being transformed by Him.

Questions to ask and thoughts for study:

  • Paul gives a list of relational interactions and how we are to practically respond (submit, love, obey, do not provoke, give). Do a word study on each of those words. How does understanding the word help you understand the context and concept Paul is writing? Note that these words are imperatives, meaning they are commands.
  • Though 3:23-24 is in the context of servants obeying masters, how does this passage apply to every area of our lives as Christians? Also see Romans 14:8; 1 Corinthians 10:31; Ephesians 6:7; Colossians 3:17.
  • Compare Colossians 3:18-4:1 with Ephesians 5:22-6:9.
  • If someone asked you to explain Colossians 3:18-4:1, what would you say? I encourage you to find someone this week and actually do it.
  • How does this passage practically apply to (or change) your life? What needs to change in your life so that you begin to live out the message of this passage?

Week Eight: The Prayerful Lifestyle of a Christian (4:2-6)

Read Colossians several times this week (daily or multiple times a day is best) and focus specifically on 4:2-6.

Before and after you read or study, be still and spend time with the Author. This is about spending time with Him, getting to know Him, and being transformed by Him.

Questions to ask and thoughts for study:

  • Slowly work through these five verses and do word studies on any keywords (prayer, be watchful, thanksgiving, etc.). What other observations can you make on this passage? What questions can you ask that might help illuminate the passage? (e.g. What does it mean to be watchful with thanksgiving? How can you do both at the same time?) Try to find answers to your questions.
  • Step back and using the observations, word studies, and questions from earlier, what is Paul saying to the Christians in Colosse? Remember, Paul is not writing to you in the 21st Century, but to a group of saints and believers in a 1st Century Roman-controlled Asia Minor city called Colosse. When we interpret a passage, we must understand it in light of its context — both the words on the page and the historical culture to which the author is writing.
  • If someone asked you to explain Colossians 4:2-6, what would you say? I encourage you to find someone this week and actually do it.
  • How does this passage practically apply to (or change) your life? What needs to change in your life so that you begin to live out the message of this passage?

Bonus Final Greetings & Commission (4:7-18)

If you have time, use a similar style of study from the last eight weeks and finish the last section of Colossians — Paul’s final greeting and commission.