Colossians 1:15-23 | Christ is Preeminent
15He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.
- To say that Christ is the image of God is that Christ is the representation of God, by which we can see, know and experience God. He is not all of God, but we can know all that is of God through him. God is invisible/unseen but he has revealed himself through the person of Christ.
- Image = Greek word ‘eikon’ where icon/iconic comes from. Jesus is the iconic resemblance of God, his supreme exrpression
- Christ is described as firstborn over all of creation, not that he was created but that he comes first and is ‘chief’ over all creation (the firstborn would possess leadership rights to the family).
16For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.
- All things were created in (en) Christ, through (di’) Christ and for (eis) Christ
- In (en) Christ – Christ is the context of creation
- Through (di’) Christ – Christ is the agent of creation
- For (eis) Christ – Christ is the purpose of creation
- Paul makes clear that all things in creation exist in, through and for Christ. Whether things of natural, visible and earthly nature, or of supernatural, invisible and heavenly nature. All creation is consumed in Christ.
- Also, the power and authority of these various things does not matter, even though they might have a sense of origin or beginning. Rulers (arché) means to have a beginning/origin. Whatever sense of authority or origin these things possess, is absorbed in the ultimate authority and origin of Christ.
17And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
- To summarise verse 16, Paul makes clear that Christ is before (pro) all things, he is their beginning and origin.
- hold together – (synistáō) which comes from sýn (being in sync) and histémi (to stand). Literally means ‘stand in sync’, meaning there is no departing from the sovereignty of Christ. All things ‘stand in sync’ and are held together in Christ
- In all this, Christ is shown to be preeminent over all creation, over all heaven and earth
18And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent.
- Head of the body – this insinuates that Christ is one with the church, as a head is one with the body. But that he holds sovereignty and authority over the body, just as a head controls the actions of the body
- Christ is firstborn from the dead, not that he was first to be raised from the dead but that he holds power over death, and with that power is able to raise us from the dead too.
- 1 Thessalonians 4:14 “For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep” – Christ is firstborn from the dead and will bring us with him through the veil, by which he has made a way.
- Christ is firstborn over all creation (v15) and firstborn from among the dead (v18). By this, Christ is not just preeminent over (this) creation, but over the new creation too
19For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.
- God was pleased that Christ contained and displayed the fullness of God, being the very image of the invisible God (v15). It pleases God that his fullness is seen and made accessible through the person of Christ, nothing of God is hidden.
- It also pleased God that Christ would reconcile all things through himself. In doing so, he would have a people for himself (Titus 2:14) to whom he may reveal his fullness
- The mention of earth and heaven continues the theme that Christ is preeminent over all creation, but also shows that there are created things in the heavenly realms which need to be reconciled too – i.e. demons, principalities.
- Our reconciliation and redemption came at a cost; the blood stained cross of Christ.
21And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him,
- Christ has had to make peace by the cross because we were alienated, hostile in mind and doing evil deeds.
- Hostile in mind – this is very strong language here as exthrós means to be ‘openly hostile and animated by deep-seated hatred’. It ‘implies irreconcilable hostility, proceeding out of a “personal” hatred bent on inflicting harm’
- Because of our alienation/estrangement from God, we were not only hostile in mind but evil in our deeds too.
- body of flesh – Paul makes clear that Christ suffered in his body of flesh and by this suffering and death he has reconciled us. It is true that Christ endured the wrath of God on the cross, as propitiation for our sin. We can say that Christ endured spiritual wrath through physical means.
- The cost of Christ’s sacrifice was so great because it was in order to present us holy, blameless and above reproach before God so that we might be pleasing in his sight.
23if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.
- If ever there was the assumption that there was no duty on man, since Christ is preeminent and sovereign over all creation, Paul makes clear that our reconciliation to God is dependent on our stable, steadfast and unshifting hope in the gospel.
- The language here is likened to a building, which has stable (established) foundations, is seated firmly and does not move away from its foundations. As Christians we need to have deep rooted convictions in the gospel and a stubborn resilience against anything that would move us away from that hope.
- proclaimed in all creation under heaven
- Galatians 3:8 shows that God “announced the gospel in advance to Abraham” and through faith Abraham looked forward to a ‘heavenly country’ (Heb 11:16). So before Jesus, God had already been proclaiming a ‘partially revealed’ gospel, the ‘serpent crusher promise’ that he would make all things new.
- This gospel has not just been proclaimed to mankind but all creation, for in the gospel God is making all things new. Romans 8 shows us that all creation is groaning under the bondage of sin. In Ezekiel 36, God tells Ezekiel to prophesy to the mountains of Israel, as they had endured the sin of the people. The gospel has a universal impact, therefore the proclamation is universal too.