THE INCOMPARABLE CHRIST
we come to this section of Paul’s epistle to the Colossians, we are going to
hear his say some amazing things about Jesus.
He is going to say some things about Jesus that you don’t
say about anyone except God. What is
more striking is that Paul did not always believe these things about
Jesus. To the contrary, there was a time
when Paul looked at the followers of Jesus as being blasphemers and heretics
worthy of death. That all changed on the
day Paul actually met Jesus.
remember the story. It took place on the
blinding light and a beseeching voice brought the young Christian-hater to his
knees, not to be destroyed, but to be converted into
perhaps the greatest missionary Christianity has ever known. Paul went through a complete paradigm shift
as he came to recognize the true identity of Jesus of
Nazareth. That identity will be unveiled
for us in these verses.
passage can be divided into two parts. The first deals with Christ and His
relationship with creation; the second deals with Christ’s work in redemption:
is the image of the invisible God
firstborn of all creation
Him all things were created
• Both in the heavens and on
• He is also head of the body
firstborn from the dead
things reconciled to Himself
• Whether things on earth or
things in heaven
PREEMINENT IN CREATION
is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by Him all things were created, both in the
heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or
rulers or authorities__ all things have been created through Him and for
Him. 17 He is
before all things, and in Him all things hold
together. (Colossians 1:15_17).
Image of the Invisible God: He is the
image of the invisible God (1:15).
Most of the gods of the ancient world were
visible. You went to a temple and you saw an idol and you prayed to it. By contrast, the true God is invisible. But God took on
flesh and came among men.
Various sorts of fictional literature have played with
the idea of invisibility. H.G. Well’s book in 1897 was a short science fiction novel
about a man who found a way to make himself invisible. Though he was invisible, his image could still be seen if he put on visible clothes or wore a
hat or moved this or that object. Though
he was invisible, he could leave a visible image.
The Greek term for “image” is eivkwn (eikon). It is
from here that we derive our English word “icon.” God is a spirit. Spirits are invisible and this means you
cannot see God. John 1:18 says that no
one has seen God at any time, but that Jesus has explained Him. When you look at Jesus
you are seeing the image of the unseeable God.
This same word for “image” is used in Genesis where we
read of God’s plan to create mankind in the image and
likeness of God. Indeed, the Septuagint
uses the same Greek word found here to describe how man was
made in the image of God. It is
for this reason that Paul elsewhere refers to Jesus as the Last Adam (1 Corinthians 15:45).
The First Adam
The Last Adam
Was created to be in the image of God
He is the image of the invisible God.
He was created
on the sixth day as the apex of the creation.
He holds a position of preeminence over
He was placed
into a garden where he was tempted and fell into sin.
He was tempted in a garden and then went
forth to pay the penalty for our sins.
Because of his sin, he was cast out of the presence of God.
Because of His obedience, we are brought into the presence of God.
Moses stood in the presence of God and asked, “Show me
Philip asked something very similar when he asked Jesus to show the
said to Him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” 9 Jesus said to him, “Have I been so long with you, and
yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me
has seen the Father; how do you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Do you
not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me?
The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own
initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works.” (John
When you looked at Jesus, you got to see the imprint
of the Father. He not only communicates
who God is, He is that communication. He
is in the Father and the Father is in Him.
There is a sense in which we also bear the imprint of
God. We are born with this image. It is a limited image and a reflected
image. It is the image
that the Creator has stamped upon His creation. We could perhaps describe it as a self portrait. It is
not the same as the real thing. This is
quite different from Christ being in the image of God. He bears the image of God, not because of an
imposed or created image, but ontologically and by His very eternal nature and
power. It is for this reason that
theologians correctly make a distinction between the communicable attributes
versus those attributes that are incommunicable; those attributes which are
passed onto mere creatures versus those attributes that are found only in the Creator.
With this limitation in view, we can affirm with the
Scriptures that we share in the image of God.
To be sure, it is an image that has been
affected by the fall. Yet there is a
sense in which even fallen man continues to reflect the image of God. But because it is a
fallen image, there is in Christ a redemption of that image and the process of
sanctification involves a restoration to that image.
When we come to Colossians 3:9_10, Paul is going to
warn us not to lie to one another “since you laid aside the old self with its
evil practices, 10 and have put on the new self who is being renewed to
a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him.” The work of sanctification in our lives
involves our being conformed to the image of God.
whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His
Son, that He might be the first_born among many
brethren; 30 and whom He predestined, these He also called; and
whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also
glorified. (Romans 8:29_30).
Notice the correlation between our being
made in the image of God with the position of Jesus as the first_born among many brethren. A part of the preeminence of Jesus is the
fact that we have been predestined to be conformed to
His image. He is the master image. The goal of our sanctification is that we
might come into conformity with that image.
we all, with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are
being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the
Lord, the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3:18).
Firstborn of All Creation: He is the
image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation (1:15).
The term “firstborn” can have one of two possible
meanings. The literal meaning describes
the first of a series of children to be born in a family. For example, Esau was the first to be born to
Isaac and Rebecca and is appropriately called their
firstborn (Genesis 27:19). There is also
a non-literal use of the term that is regularly found
in the Bible. The firstborn can refer to
one who holds a position of preeminence.
Such a use can be seen in a number of
• Ephraim was called the firstborn of Joseph and he was not the
literal firstborn (Jeremiah 31:9).
• Solomon was
described as the firstborn of David and yet he was not the literal firstborn
(Psalms 89:27 ).
• God says in
Exodus 4:22, “
describing the ravages of disease, Job 18:13 speaks of
how “the firstborn of death” devours a person’s limbs.
• The Hebrew
text of Isaiah 14:30 speaks of how “the firstborn of
the poor” will be fed. The New American
Standard correctly understands this to be a figure of speech and therefore
renders this “those who are most helpless.”
• Later in
church history, Polycarp refers to the heretic Marcion
as the “firstborn of Satan” (Polycarp to the Philippians 1:7).
Hebrews 12:22_23 has an interesting use of the term
when it refers to “the church of the firstborn who are enrolled in
heaven.” This is part of a larder
you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly
Jerusalem, and to myriads of angels, 23 to the general assembly and church of the firstborn
who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the Judge of all, and to the spirits of
the righteous made perfect (Hebrews 12:22_23).
Though you cannot tell from the English translation
the term “firstborn” as it appears in the Greek text in Hebrews 12:23 is in the
plural and therefore speaks of “those who are the firstborn.” It is a description of the church. We are the firstborn in that we share a
portion in that inheritance that belongs to Christ.
In the ancient world, the firstborn always occupied
the position of preeminence. He received
the inheritance and the double portion.
He was the number one child. What
we see here is that it is Jesus who is preeminent over all
Creator of All Things: For by Him all
things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible,
whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities__ all things have been
created through Him and for Him (Colossians 1:16).
The clause translated “for” (o`ti – hoti) serves to introduce why Jesus holds the
position of the firstborn. We are going
to be told why He is to be considered preeminent.
Before anything was created,
Christ existed. John opened up his
gospel account with this message: In the beginning was the Word and the Word
was with God and the Word was God. He
goes on to identify the Word as the One who became flesh and who dwelt among us
It was by Christ that all things were
created. When Paul speaks of Him
creating all things, he wants you to be very sure that you understand there are
which is the heavens and that which is on earth.
• That which
visible and that which is invisible.
which holds power.
Sustainer of All Things: He is before
all things, and in Him all things hold together (1:17).
Christ not only created all things, He also holds all
things together. His work in the
creation is both past and present. He
created in the past and He sustains in the present.
CHRIST’S WORK IN REDEMPTION
is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn
from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in
everything. 19 For it
was the Father's good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, 20 and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself,
having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether
things on earth or things in heaven. (Colossians 1:18_20).
Paul now moves from Christ’s work in creation to His
role in redemption and as the head of the church. While this is a distinctive role, it will be presented, at least in part, using phrases and words
that were already seen in verses 15-17 to describe Christ’s role in
creation. We can therefore view this as
being Christ role in re-creation.
of the Church: He is also head of the
body, the church (1:18).
We have already seen Christ as preeminent and head
over all things. He is preeminent over
all creation. He stands at the head of
creation as its sovereign and lord. Now
we see that He holds a similar relationship to the church. He is the head of the church.
The body of Christ is an organism. It is a living body. He is the head; this points both to His being
the source as well as the leader of the church.
from the Dead: He is the beginning,
the firstborn from the dead (1:18).
We have already seen where Jesus is
called the firstborn of creation in verse 16. We saw in the passage that this was a
reference to His preeminence over all creation.
Now we see a similar use of the term firstborn. This time He is called
the firstborn from the dead. This does
not mean Jesus is the first to have ever risen from the dead. He is not.
There have been several resurrections described in the Bible that took
place before Jesus rose from the dead. But His resurrection was like no other. His is the preeminent resurrection. It is because He rose from the dead that we
shall also one day rise from the dead.
Dwelling of God’s Fulness: For it was the Father's good pleasure for
all the fullness to dwell in Him (1:19).
The translators have supplied “the Father,” even
though it is missing from the text. On
the other hand, it is evident that we can supply the idea of either God or the
Father who is the source of the “good pleasure” that is being referenced in the
Purpose of Preeminence: So that He
Himself will come to have first place in everything (1:18).
Here is the conclusion. It is introduced
with a purpose clause. The logical
conclusion to which we are drawn as we look at the
preeminent position held by Christ is that He is to have the first place in
everything. He is to be the first in my
life. He is to be the first in my
loyalties and in my devotion.