Devotional # 147. 7/27/15. Colossians 1:15-18.
Intro. I really like this section of Scripture that we’re studying today. I remember a couple years ago when I came across these verses and being slightly unsure whether it proved that Jesus was God or not. And then I understood that not only does it prove that, but it means so much more!
As always, we have to understand what we read in context of what has come before this. Colossians 1:9-10 over the last couple weeks taught us “being fruitful” was the first step in pleasing God, and then comes “knowledge” then the “wisdom” to use these things. Then in vv. 11-14 we talked about God’s strength for us to receive His patience and longsuffering but also His joy. And we were reminded of the sin and darkness that Jesus’ death brought us out of.
v. 15. Paul says, “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.”
So why does Paul say this after telling us that Jesus’ blood saved us from our sins? Because most people would ask, ‘What gave Jesus the right to save us from our sins? What makes Him perfect? What proof is there that He’s worthy?’ Well, Paul is saying by knowing that Jesus is God, we know that God the Father will accept God the Son’s sacrifice. And beyond that we get some doctrine on how to correctly understand who Jesus is to us. In John 1:18 it says that “no one has seen God at any time.” I have talked to people in another religion that say this means that since people have seen Jesus he can’t be God. If we take the verse out of context and separate them from the light of all Scripture then this would be true. But we’re only interested in all of the truth that God has given us, no more, no less. So John 1:18 is true. No one has ever seen God in His complete glory. Any human would be disintegrated if they saw all of God’s glory! Remember when Moses asks if he can see God (Exodus 33:18-23)? And what does God say? Basically, ‘If you saw Me you would die, but I will tuck you in a cave and only reveal the tail-end of My glory.’ So we learn that fully seeing God is too much for us but we also learn that God will go out of His way to have a relationship with us and for us to see the manageable amount of Him. Well, here in Colossians we read that Jesus made a way to see, hear and touch God! Because God is Spirit (John 4:24) and therefore technically “invisible” to our human eyes, Jesus is the “image” that can be seen of God.
I like that the word “image” is used. Have you ever noticed that it’s like Genesis 1:26, which says, “Let Us make man in Our image” ?! Here “image” is eikon (G#1504) meaning “an image, figure, likeness” and specifically “one in whom the likeness of anyone is seen; Christ on account of his divine nature and absolute moral excellence” (Source 1).
The next phrase here is “the firstborn over all creation.” How do we understand that? There are some religions that say this means Jesus was actually born, and if born then “made” and therefore is not God. But a full reading of Scripture shows this to be inconsistent. For example that same religion has changed John 1:1 from saying “and the Word was God” to “and the Word was A god”, so that Jesus will seem to be created (“a god”) and therefore not the One true “God.” Beyond that looking at the context in Romans 8:29, Hebrews 1:6, 11:28, 12:23 and Revelation 1:5, which all use the same Greek word for “firstborn” (Source 2), will help us understand everything together…and correctly! I think the best explanation comes from Bruce on Romans 8:29 where he notes that Christ “who is ‘the first-born of all creation’ in the old order because ‘all things were created through him and for him’ is also by resurrection the head of a new order, ‘the beginning, the first-born from the dead’ (Col. 1:15-18)” (Source 3). The understanding of Jesus’ raising from the dead is what Paul will talk about shortly in v. 18.
vv. 16-17. Again, like John 1:1 we see that Jesus created all things. I think it’s interesting that He created everything “visible” and “invisible.” Just by Paul stating that there are “invisible” things he implies that there are things we don’t know about, but then he elaborates that some of those things are “thrones” and “dominions” and “principalities” and “powers.” So there is a world and beings that we’ve never seen. The only way we can know this is through Divine revelation, meaning God telling us. So although we can be impressed with how awesome nature is, there is even more beyond that, there are untold wonders that can only be seen with spiritual eyes. We could probably spend all day talking about that but right now Paul’s focus is that Jesus made all of that, and if He made everything then what isn’t He capable of? If He truly is God then what is too hard for Him? Raising someone from the dead? Let’s finish reading this section to find out.
v. 18. Reading this verse we have a better understanding of Jesus being the “firstborn” (from v. 15) as the “firstborn of the dead.” Jesus had raised people from the dead before but they would die again. When Jesus died for our sins and three days later rose from the dead He would never die again. That’s why He was the “first” to be “born” back from the grave! This gives us the assurance that we will also be raised from the dead! He has proved it so when He promises us that He will raise us from the dead we know it’s true. Jesus is the “head of the body” and just so there is no confusion Paul says that means “the church”, which is all of us Christians throughout all of time.
Notice that Paul says Jesus “may have the preeminence”. This is something to apply to our lives. Jesus should not be our top priority because priorities shift like my Netflix Queue! He is to be preeminent. He is above priorities and responsibilities. He is the Beginning and End. Start living like it!
Conclusion. We’ve talked about Jesus’ nature, both fully God and fully Man. He alone has created everything so He is the only one who can perfectly save us from our sins. Not only that but He is the “head” leader of the Church. All Christians throughout time have proof that Jesus can save them from their sins and resurrect them from death, so it is our only proper response to hold Him “preeminent” in our lives. We must put aside our selfish desires, our responsibilities, our families and our lives in order to do the will of Jesus our Savior and our Leader. Since we know Jesus to be good and holy and the Creator of all things, including us and our marriages and our children and our personalities, we can be assured that He will take care of these things. So when we give up our families and responsibilities and give them over to Him, He will correct them and make them what they were intended to be. Many times we hold on to these things thinking our care is the only thing that can make it work but in reality if we have Jesus as preeminent in our lives He will straighten it out better than we could ever imagine!
Source 3: F.F. Bruce, Romans, p. 167.