Thanksgiving and the Supremacy of Christ

Two weeks ago I visited a ministerial colleague and friend in hospice. He was days away from entering eternity to be with Christ and is now with Christ. For just under a year he battled cancer. In that short time he went from receiving a clean bill of health to lying in a hospice bed in great pain. Through it all he gave thanks to God. Two weeks ago he could not speak without great labor. But what he did say, I pray, will never leave my mind. As I walked into the room and stood next to him, he said, “Thank you for praying, Jesus does all things well. Jesus does all things well.” He repeated these words before I left. It was the shortest message this minister preached. And given the circumstances, his best.

In this season of Thanksgiving my mind thinks on my friend’s words, and on Paul’s letter to the Colossians and the supremacy of Christ. Like my pastor friend, Paul was a man who knew how to give thanks in all things, even suffering. Paul prayed often for the believers in Colossae and gave thanks to God for them. In doing so he instructed them and us how to live thankful lives. Central to Paul’s expressions of thanksgiving to God is the supremacy of Jesus Christ in his Person and Work.

The Supremacy of Christ as the Basis of Our Thanksgiving

            Paul gives thanks unto the Father because Jesus Christ is supreme in three chief ways. First, he is the image of the invisible God, and therefore, supreme in his person (Col. 1:15). The remarkable fact of human history and the great fulfillment of redemptive promise is God manifest in the flesh. The invisible God is seen in Jesus Christ. Second, he is supreme over creation as the firstborn of every creature. He is the preeminent one over creation as the agent of creation, the sustainer of creation, and the goal of creation (1:16-17). As such there is nothing that has dominion over Christ, whether thrones, dominions, rulers, or powers. Christ is over all. Third, he is supreme over the new creation, the church (1:18-20). He is head over the body that he has redeemed and reconciled through his shed blood on the cross. By the work of Christ God the Father graciously rescues sinners from the dominion of darkness and brings them into the kingdom of his Son (1:13). He guarantees the full redemption of the church because he is the firstborn from the dead. As the resurrected Lord, he is over death and all those in him will be raised. Each point Paul makes for the supremacy of Jesus Christ in his Person, over creation, and over the new creation could be further developed and meditated upon at great length. Yet, even without elaboration it is evident the supremacy and preeminence of Christ forms the basis of thanksgiving for the Christian.

The Benefits of the Supremacy of Christ Inform the Expression of Our Thanksgiving

As you ponder and meditate upon the supremacy of Christ over all things in these days, take time to express thanks to God for all the benefits that you have in union with him. Many blessings can be identified in Colossians as Paul works out the implications of the supremacy of Christ. I will list just a few (by no means exhaustive).

  • Because Jesus is supreme you can see God. May we never cease to give God thanks for the sending of His Son in the flesh. Christ told his disciples, “he that has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9). We see God in Christ now by faith and one day by sight.
  • Because Jesus is supreme you are delivered from thinking you have to hold things together. Challenges and trials in life bring us to the realization that we are not in control. That is a discovery for which to be thankful. Jesus is in control (1:17). Hard providences do not take a break for holidays. But thanks be to God because neither does Jesus.
  • Because Jesus is supreme you are delivered from thinking this world is about you.  The antidote to the narcissism that plagues the human heart is that Christ is the goal of human history and of our lives. Gratitude for who Christ is reminds us that our lives are for him and not for ourselves.
  • Because Jesus is supreme you are reconciled to God by faith and not by works. The liberating discovery that Jesus has done all that is necessary to reconcile you to God through his shed blood motivates you to praise him. That you do not work for God’s acceptance but receive it by faith propels you to live for him with thanksgiving.
  • Because Jesus is supreme you are not identified by the past that Christ has conquered. The benefits of Christ’s work to believers include forgiveness of all trespasses and new life in Christ. He blotted out all that was against you and removed it. He nailed it to the cross (2:13-15). He triumphed over the principalities and powers. Your life is now hid in Christ, who is your life (3:3-4).
  • Because Jesus is supreme you are a member of a family that cannot be broken. To be a part of the family of God, the church, is one of the greatest benefits of Christ’s work. Holidays can be hard times because not every family can be together as they once may have been. Sometimes it is because of broken relationships. Sometimes because of geographical distance. And sometimes because of death. All those united to Christ are united to one another. Christ’s work of redemption reminds us that this spiritual family, this communion of saints, will one day sit down and dine with Jesus, the one who is supreme. Circumstances in this life move us to yearn for that great day when all the family of the redeemed will be together.

Take time this Thanksgiving to focus on the supremacy of Jesus Christ and all that you have in him. Not everything might go as you wish. I think of the family of my pastor friend who is now with Jesus. There will be an empty chair around their dining room table. I am thankful for his testimony and for his wife and children. They have already testified in the midst of their grief the truth that came from his lips, “Jesus does all things well.” Thanks be to God!

Charles Barrett