Paul comes to the heart of the gospel and the heart of his letter to the Christians in Colossae. Paul is going to tell us why Jesus is great and why we must follow him and serve him.
Jesus, The Image of the Invisible God (1:15)
Paul begins with the amazing point that Jesus is the image of the invisible God. Jesus reveals God perfectly. The point is simply this: if you have seen Jesus, you have seen the invisible God.
Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?” (John 14:8–9 ESV)
He is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being, and he sustains all things by his powerful word. (Hebrews 1:3 NRSV)
In Christ the invisible God became visible. We need to consider why this is so great. As we have already noted, Jesus is our opportunity to see God. God was one of us, a human, who walked on the earth. Through Jesus we see God. If you want to know God, learn about Jesus. The point goes much further. Recall what God had commanded about images that represented God.
“You shall have no other gods before me. 4 “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. 5 You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments. (Exodus 20:3–6 ESV)
The people were not to have any images. No representations of God. No images of things in heaven or on the earth. There is no image that can properly reflect and express the image of God. Except Jesus. Jesus is the image of God. Nothing else. No one else. Only Jesus appropriately reflects the character and nature of God.
Jesus, Firstborn Over All Creation (1:15-16)
There are many false interpretations about what it means for Jesus to be the firstborn over all creation. Some falsely take Paul to mean that Jesus is the first created being. Of course “firstborn” can have this meaning. However, “firstborn” is also used in the scriptures to refer to being supreme over something. Notice this usage in the scriptures.
And I will appoint him to be my firstborn, the most exalted of the kings of the earth. (Psalm 89:27 TNIV) Notice the point is not being first in a created order. Rather, being “firstborn” means that he is supreme over all other kings of the earth. This is the point Paul is making in verse 15. Christ is supreme over all creation. Paul is distinguishing Christ from all created things. Christ outranks all things in creation. We know that this is the right understanding because of Paul’s explanation in verse 16.
Christ is “the firstborn over all creation because by Him everything was created.” Christ is supreme over all creation because he created all things. There is nothing created that Christ was not involved with in creating. Things in heaven and things on earth were created by Christ. Things visible and things invisible were created by Christ. Christ is greater than angels and spiritual beings. Scholars note that these four descriptions, “thrones, dominions, rulers, and authorities” were Jewish terms used for various rankings of angels. Angels are created by Christ. Christ is superior to all these things in every way because he created all things.
Paul goes further at the end of verse 16 declaring that not only have all things been created through Christ, but all things were created for Christ. Jesus is the goal of all creation. Everything exists to display Christ’s glory and ultimately he will be glorified in his creation. Creation is to praise and honor Christ.
Jesus, Eternal Sustainer (1:17)
Christ is before all things. This means that he existed before creation. He existed before anything else. Christ is before all things in terms of time. He is eternal. He has no beginning because he was before everything. Not only is Christ eternal, but he holds all creation together. He keeps the cosmos from becoming chaos. Christ sustains the creation. This is an important doctrinal thought. Christ did not create the world and leave. He did not start things off and walk away. Christ is very much involved with the creation.
Jesus, The Head of the Body (1:18)
Further, Paul tells us that Jesus is head of the body. When referring to the body, Paul means the church. It is important to take just a moment to define what Paul means by the term, “the church.” Unfortunately, religion has developed a concept of the church that is not biblical. Many make the church to mean some sort of institution as if the church were a corporation and Jesus is the CEO. However, the word “church” in the scriptures simply means an assembly of people. Particularly, the church is a group of people that are followers of Christ. Sometimes the scriptures speak of the church as all the followers of Jesus who have ever lived. Sometimes the scriptures speak of the church as the followers of Jesus in a particular city where Christians gather. Therefore, when Paul says that Jesus is the head of the body, the church, he simply means that Jesus is in charge of our lives. He guides and governs his followers. We are not in charge. We are not the head. Christ is the head. Christ is in charge. It is a very simple, yet important picture.
Consider why this is important. What would it mean if you did not have your head? What would happen to your body? You cannot exist with your head. The head controls everything. Your body is completely and fully dependent on your head being on shoulders. This is the critical point that Paul is making that we can easily miss. We are incomplete without Jesus. We cannot exist without Jesus. We must stop thinking that we are the head and stop acting like we are in charge. We follow directions. We serve the head. The body does what the head says.
Jesus, Firstborn From The Dead (1:18)
As we pointed out before, the term “firstborn” has a broader meaning than just the first. Jesus was not the first person to raise from the dead. We see Elisha miraculously raising a child from the dead. Jesus was the first person to raise from the dead never to die again. It is the implication of the resurrection that is the point Paul is making. Christ is supreme because of his resurrection from the dead, never to die again. Christ is preeminent in rank because of the resurrection. Notice that this is the point of verse 18. In being the firstborn from the dead that means that he might come to have first place in everything. The resurrection shows that he is supreme in all things. Earlier we noted that Christ is supreme over creation because he created all things. Paul continues to speak about the supremacy of Christ noting that the resurrection proves that he is to have first place in everything. Christ is to have first place in our families. Christ is to have first place in our marriages. Christ is to have first place in our jobs and careers. Christ is to have first place in our time. Christ is to have first place in our hearts. Christ is to have first place in our worship. Christ is to have first place in our love. You name it, Christ is to have first place in it. Christ first in everything else in creation. We must also be first in our lives.
Why does the resurrection from the dead give Christ supremacy in all things? Raising from the dead never to die again proves you are God. This is the next point Paul describes concerning Jesus.
Jesus, The Divine (1:19)
In Christ all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell. The simple point is that Jesus is divine. Everything that makes God God dwelled in Jesus. Jesus is God. The full nature of God is in Christ. Christ is the full embodiment of God.
Jesus, The Reconciler (1:20)
Paul has spent all of this time praising the greatness of Jesus. This greatness and supremacy has a tangible benefit for us. Jesus has the right, authority, and power to reconcile. Everything is reconciled to him. For there to be reconciliation means that something has gone wrong. We do not need to reconcile with one another unless something has gone wrong. Something has gone terribly wrong. Sin is in the world and sin has changed everything. Sin has changed the creation. Sin has changed the relationship God can have with us. We cannot have a relationship with God because of our sins. We have made the relationship go bad. Our sins have severed our relationship with our God. Remember what we have learned. Christ is the head. Christ is the ruler. He is in charge over all creation and rules over all creation. Christ is to be the first place in everything. Christ is to be first in our lives. But this has not happened. God has not been first and therefore we have severed our relationship with God. Christ has made peace between us and God through his blood in his death on the cross. Paul is going to explore this thought further in this chapter and we will examine this reconciliation in greater detail in our next lesson. Christ is supreme and his used his supremacy to make peace between us and God. We deserve God’s wrath for our sins. Christ made peace through his death.
So what is so great about Jesus?
- When you know Jesus then you know God. When you see Jesus then you have seen the invisible God. If you do not know Jesus then you do not know God. If you do not have a relationship with Jesus then you do not have a relationship with God.
- Jesus is the head and has first place in everything. Jesus must have first place in everything in your life. He created you and he must be first.
- We come to God through Jesus who reconciled us. Jesus is great because he made peace between God and us. Jesus brings us near to God. Jesus made a relationship with God possible.