When peace was made between Argentina and Chile, they melted down the cannons of war and made a statue of Christ holding high a cross. They mounted it on the high-ranging Andes Mountains that separate those two countries. There is a cross on the roof of South America. It says dramatically that Christ is above all.
When Sir Edmund Hillary became the first person to scale Mt. Everest, he took with him to the world's highest mountain a crucifix. He left it there among the clouds of that snowy peak. There is a cross on the roof of the world! That is a symbolic way of saying that Christ is above all.
The Bible says it best. "Christ Above All" is the theme of the book of Ephesians, the book of Colossians, and the book of Phiippians. It is the theme of all four Gospels. It is the triumphant theme of the book of Revelation. Nowhere is it put better than in this text:
That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of Glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: and hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all (Ephesians 1:17-23).The text sets Christ above all powers: "Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion." The text sets Christ above all priorities: "and hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church." The text sets Christ above all persons in verses 20 and 21, for God "set him at his own right hand . . . [above] every name that is named."
Christ Above All Powers
In 1 Corinthians 15, as in our text, Paul says that all things are under the feet of Christ. At the Cairo Museum you may see the ornately carved footstool of King Tut. Depicted on it are all of Egypt's enemies. When Pharaoh used his footstool, his enemies were symbolically under his feet. But all things are under Christ's feet.
He is above all military power. There is no army like His army. Without weapons they conquer the world. Their strategy is love and their armament is grace. They accomplish more with the gospel than any have accomplished with guns, achieve more with the Bible than any have done with bullets, reach farther with the sword of the Spirit than any have done with the sword of carnal warfare.
He is above all economic power. Jacob Fugger was rich enough to buy the Holy Roman Empire for Charles V. Jesus had to borrow a boat to cross the sea. But His empire lasted far longer and reached much farther than that of Charles V. Croesus was rich enough to supply the pillars for the temple of Diana at Ephesus, one of the seven wonders of the world. Jesus owned neither house nor shop. Yet He is the pillar and the ground of truth and His spiritual temple has endured. The Rothschild family was rich enough to prevent wars simply by refusing to lend money to the kings of Europe. Jesus owned neither bank nor business, but "He maketh wars to cease to the end of the earth; he breaketh the bow and spear in sunder."
Christ is above all political powers. Kipling reminded us that "the captains and kings depart." A beloved hymn notes that "crowns and thrones perish, kingdoms rise and wane." Every British monarch is crowned in Westminster Abbey, before the high altar, on which are these words from the book of Revelation: "The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdom of our God and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever."
Christ is above that awful final power, death. He must reign, says Paul, until He has put all enemies under His feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death. Death is the monster who foils our plans and shatters our dreams. Death is the tyrant who stalks our path, clouds our days, and disturbs our nights. Death is the last enemy, but Christ is stronger than death.
Whenever Paul thought about Christ's power, he always thought about the resurrection. In our text, he emphasizes the working of God's mighty power which He wrought in Christ when He raised Him from the dead.
We have all enjoyed the beloved hymns of William J. Kirkpatrick. He wrote "Jesus Saves" and "Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus." One night when Mrs. Kirkpatrick retired for the evening her husband said that he was going into his study. He often worked late. It was after midnight when she awoke to find the lights in the study still burning. She found him at his desk, dead. The pencil was still in his hand. Before him were the words of a newly completed hymn, his last hymn:
What a way to die! What a way to live! Christ's power over death is such that we need fear it no longer. It is only "coming home." A Christ with such power is larger than our problems.Coming home, coming home,
Nevermore to roam,
Open wide Thine arms of love,
Lord, I m coming home.
We are sometimes like the little boy who was independent. He didn't want to take his father's hand when they crossed the street. "I'll hold my own hand," he said. Sometimes we foolishly try holding our own hand, but we discover soon enough that it doesn't work. Our problems are bigger than we are; but they are not larger than Christ's resources. During His earthly ministry, Jesus confronted every sort of problem - sickness, handicaps, hunger, loneliness, the threat of the elements, grief, and death itself. He proved His power was adequate for all human problems. He proves it still. It has been well said that while all of our problems may not be solved, all of them can be managed. It is Christ who enables us to manage them.
Christ Above All Priorities
They knew something about priorities in Ephesus. The great temple of Diana was there. It was one of the seven wonders of the world. The worship of Diana had made the city rich and famous. Then Paul came preaching Jesus Christ. His conversions cut severely into the idol business. You recall the account in the book of Acts, of the riot at Ephesus and the mob that set on Paul and his fellow Christians. Those Ephesian Christians had to set Christ above all other priorities. There was the priority of custom. In Ephesus, when one spoke of the old-time religion, he was not talking about Christianity. How easy it would have been to have argued that Diana was "good enough for my father and good enough for me." It was hard to go against custom, but Christ must come first.
In 1092, the Bishop of Rome chastised the Count of Flanders for un-Christian acts. Anticipating the Count's defense, he wrote:
Does thou claim to have done only what is in conformity with ancient custom in the land? Thou shouldst know, not with standing, thy Creator hath said: My name is Truth. He hath not said, My name is Custom.They faced also the claim of family. There must have been many at Ephesus like the man who came to Jesus volunteering to follow Him as soon as he had buried his father. Because then burial was always on the day of death, we know that his father was not yet dead. He was saying, "It would break my father's heart if I adopted a new religion. But once he is gone I am ready to follow Jesus." There must have been many at Ephesus who were tempted to say that, but Christ had to be put above family.
They faced the claim of wealth. How powerful the labor movement is in the world today. How powerful the business community is in the world today. They were equally powerful then, and they were united in their opposition to Christianity. Huge investments were at stake. Men's jobs were at stake. Many must have suffered financial loss because of Him, but they knew Jesus had prior claim. Someone has said that if your Christianity has never cost you anything, you may not have any.
There is the elementary need to simply make a living. "A person has to live," is the excuse we often give for our little compromises. They could have made that excuse at Ephesus, but Christ took priority over making a living.
We are sure that Christ must take first priority in our lives. God has already made Him head over the church. We have always argued that just as a human body can have only one head, so the church can have only one head. In theory, we are perfectly willing to let Christ be the sole head of the church. In practice, we have a bit more difficulty. If Christ is truly to be head of the church then He must come before my pet projects. How readily we assume that our own programs are the will of God. The natural result of such a view is to suppose that those who are not in favor of our projects are opposing God. But Christ must come before our personal aims and our private ambitions. He stands above all priorities.
When we have prayed, "Thine is the kingdom," has it occurred to us that such a phrase stands over against "Mine is the kingdom?" That's what many have been saying: "Mine is the kingdom." The man who decreed dogmas others must believe, doctrines others must accept, disciplines others must obey, is saying, "Mine is the kingdom." The assembly that decides ritual or right and wrong by majority vote is saying, "Mine is the kingdom." The person whose pet project must become the program of the church, the one who says, "my way or no way," the one who confuses his own plans with evangelism, his own ideas with the gospel, and his own little circle with the church is saying, "Mine is the kingdom." They are saying it so loudly they cannot hear God declaring, "This is my beloved Son, hear ye Him!"
Christ Above All Persons
Jesus stands taller than all other personalities of history. It is a self-evident truth that there is none like Him, "no, not one." He stands alone among the long train of history's great. The libraries of the world are filled with volumes attesting to His greatness. "Jesus," said Emerson, "whose name is not so much written as ploughed into the history of the world." Robert Spear said of Him, "It is not enough to say that the central things of Christianity is Christ. Christ is not only the center. He is also the beginning and the end. He is all in all." Moody's word was equally emphatic: "He is all in all or he is nothing at all."
Hadrian was one of the greatest Roman emperors. He built palaces, temples, and monuments all over the Roman world. Jesus put not one stone upon another, yet He left a far more indelible mark. Alexander the Great conquered the whole of the eastern Mediterranean world. On and on his armies swept from victory to victory. He died as Jesus did at age thirty-three. Yet Alexander's kingdom did not last as long as it took to win it. Christ's kingdom endures still!
He is above all persons because of His deity. There have been great prophets and great priests and great kings. Sometimes you find two of those offices combined, as with the priest-kings in the days of the Maccabees, but only Christ is prophet, priest, and king. All other prophets said, "That is the way." Jesus said, "I am the way." All other priests came often with the blood of animals. Jesus came once for all with His own blood and entered the Most Holy Place. All other kings hoped to see their sons sit upon the throne when they were gone. His is an eternal kingdom and He reigns forever and ever.
Once the Hapsburgs ruled half of Europe. Their domain included Germany, Switzerland, Austria, and Italy. Today, one Hapsburg monarch still stands as king Prince Franz Joseph II, who rules tiny Liechtenstein, only sixty-one square miles, the fourth smallest country in the world. The reign of Christ grows larger with each succeeding generation, and so it will continue until time is no more.
Christ is above all persons in His wisdom. Wisdom and power are key words in this chapter. God's wisdom and insight are shared with us through Christ. That wisdom must determine our course. Christ shines forth as the greatest of all teachers and so stands above our opinions, our parties, our platforms and our partitions.
I do not have a brother in the flesh, but I have a sister. We do not always agree. She does not accept some of my opinions, great as they are! But we still are brother and sister. The tie of blood is stronger than the tie of opinion.
I have many spiritual brothers. We do not always agree, but the ties of blood are stronger than the ties of opinion. We must all do homage to the one infallible teacher, Christ. When we use the hymn "Blest Be the Tie That Binds," we ought to capitalize the "T" in "Tie." Christ is the Tie that binds our hearts in Christian love. It is not emotions, nor ideas, nor opinions. It is Christ who draws us together, as verse 10 emphasizes. If we cry "heresy" at the drop of an opinion, even a tentative one, we make ourselves a laughingstock to the world and we bring pain to Christ. Have you ever tried to fathom the intricate divisions of Islam or Buddhism? They are so subtle no outsider can understand them. If we likewise appear incomprehensible to the world, they will not give us a hearing.
In 1869, Isaac Errett, who founded Standard Publishing, wrote:
It is fatal to assume that we have certainly learned all that the Bible teaches. This has been the silly and baneful conceit of all that have gone before us. Shall we repeat the folly and superinduce a necessity for another people to be raised up to sound a new battle cry for reformation?Christ, then, stands above the claims and the counterclaims of a divided Christendom. He stands as well above the confusion of a troubled world.
In Philippians 2:9 and in our text we see this emphasis upon Christ as the one whose name is above every name. Thus Christ stands above all persons. He is above angelic persons. In Hebrews it is written, "being made so much better than the angels, as he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they." He is above demonic persons. There is much emphasis these days upon the subjects of the devil and demon possession. Such studies must not distract us from Christ. We dare not become more interested in the Antichrist than we are in the Christ, more enthralled by the second coming than we are by the first, more informed about His return than we are about His redemption, more expert in eschatology than we are in Christology.
You can draw a much bigger crowd if you announce a study of Revelation than you can if you announce a study in the life of Christ, but the latter will be far more productive.
He is above all spiritual persons. From time to time, there recurs an emphasis on the Holy Spirit; but Christ is the heart of the gospel. The Holy Spirit inspired Paul to write to the Cobssians that in all things Christ is to have the preeminence. It is a shame that in some quarters the dove has replaced the cross. The change in symbols is terribly significant. The Holy Spirit did not die for you! Only Jesus saves! The Holy Spirit convicts, but Jesus saves! The church proclaims, but Jesus saves! Man witnesses, but Jesus saves!
Look at the scene in Heaven described in Revelation 5:
And I beheld, and I heard the voice of many angels round about the throne, and the beasts, and the elders: and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands; saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and glory, and blessing. And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honor, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb forever and ever (Revelation 5:11-13).He is above all human persons. He is above all princes, popes, and potentates, above all bishops and superintendents, above all preachers and teachers, above all editors and elders. He is above all persons. That must mean that He is above me! There's the rub! I can put Him above prophets. I can put Him above priests. I can put Him above kings. I can put Him above government. I can put Him above wealth. I can put Him above the church. But can I put Him above me? That's the challenge of the hour. That's the challenge of this text. And that's the challenge of William Cowper's beloved hymn:
The dearest idol I have known,
Whate'er that idol be;
Dear Lord, I tear it from my heart
And worship only Thee.