NIV Colossians 1:15-20
15 The Son is the image of the invisible God,
the firstborn over all creation.
16 For in him all things were created:
things in heaven
and on earth,
whether thrones or powers 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.
18 And he is the head of the body,
he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead,
so that in everything he might have the supremacy.
19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him,
20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things,
whether things on earth
or things in heaven,
by making peace through his blood,
shed on the cross.
- Paul in verse 12 began talking specifically about the Colossians’ salvation: “…the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.”
- In verse 13 he tells what the Father has done: “…He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son,”
- Paul in verse 14 answers the question, “Why the Son?” by stating: “… in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”
- Now in verses 15-20, Paul expounds in great detail how the Son is especially qualified to be the ruler and Lord of the kingdom in which God has placed the Colossian believers. There is no one higher than Christ–it would be impossible for anyone to be higher than he except God himself. (1 Corinthians 15:27) This lays the foundation for the admonition to them, which Paul speaks later in Colossians 2:4,8-10, 16-23.
I. Christ as Mediator
A. Through Creation of All Things and of the First Humanity–Christ the Creator: verses 15-17
B. Through the New Creation of a Second Humanity and Provider of Salvation–Christ the New Creator, the Lord in Reconciliation: verses 18-20
II. Christ Mediates Between Pure Spirit (God the Father) and Matter Before the Fall. He is the Creator: verses 15-17
A. Verse 15
1. Verse 15a, Christ reveals the Father: “The Son is the image of the invisible God,…”
b. Can we draw pictures of qualities such as beauty, happiness, might, love, or holiness? Of course not! Although we have concepts of these things, they are themselves invisible. In order to make an “image” of them, most likely we would draw pictures of concrete scenes that evoke or simulate those kinds of qualities. But Christ is very amazing–he is the likeness of all that his Father is. Christ bears the image of his Father, and he has capacity to make himself visible to us, first in his incarnation and secondly, in his resurrected body. Yet even before the incarnation, Christ was still the exact representation, the outward expression, of all that God is.
2. Verse 15b, Christ is the Creator: “…the firstborn over all creation.”
a. “Firstborn” can mean “born first” in chronological order.
b. “Firstborn” can also mean sovereignty of rank, as the translation “over all creation” indicates.
c. “Firstborn” can also refer to the one who has a special place in the Father’s love. See Exodus 4:22 as regards Israel, and the New Testament examples in Romans 8:29; Colossians 1:13b; Hebrews 1:6; and Revelation 1:5.
d. Meanings b and c seem to be what Paul intended. Meaning a is excluded, because the verse states that Christ created everything. If this were so, it would be impossible for him to be part of the creation that he himself created (O’Brien, 40-41; Wright, 74).
B. Verse 16, Christ the Creator: NIV Colossians 1:16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him.
1. What is included in this list?
2. What is excluded from the list?
3. The phrases, “in him…through him…for him”
♦ signify that creation lies within the realm of Christ’s power and is dependent on him
♦ that he is the agent through creation was created
♦ that he is the goal, the ultimate purpose of the whole creation and of history.
♦ Therefore, everything in the universe is subject to the authority and lordship of Jesus Christ, the carpenter of Nazareth, the crucified, risen, ascended, soon-to-be-revealed-in-glory Lord.
♦ Do we think the Colossians might respond, “What? Me worry?”
♦ How should we respond?
♦ Where should we go FIRST with a problem of any sort?
C. Verse 17, Christ the Sustainer: He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
1. Once again, Christ as Creator: He is before all things,… “before” once again meaning both in time and in precedence
2. …and in him all things hold together. Christ sustains all things. This is a great anti-evolutionary statement. The universe did not create itself nor pop of its own accord out of nothing (vs 16), nor does it maintain itself through natural processes and its own properties. Life is not evolving according to naturalistic principles. Christ who created in himself, through himself, and for himself also maintains everything. (See also Hebrews 1:2-3)
III. Christ Mediates Between God and All of Creation in the Reconciliation–the New Creation After the Fall: verses 18-20
A. Verse 18
1. And he is the head of the body, the church; Headship over the body refers to Christ’s preeminence over his people, as well as the dependence of the members on him.
2. …he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead,
♦ temporal (John 15:27)
3. …and the firstborn from among the dead,
a. This phrase may be a synonym for “beginning,” or an explanation of it.
c. As the Church is the body and Christ the Head (see above, number 1), the Church is organically related to Christ in a spiritual way.
♦ totally dependent on him (John 15:5)
♦ as united with Christ, the Church also is united with God (John 17:21-24)
♦ Christ is the Mediator between God (pure Spirit) and humanity (material and spirit)
4. …so that in everything he might have the supremacy. Supreme in Creation and supreme in Resurrection–the New Creation
B. Verse 19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, (his Son, his Beloved, the Son of his love)
1. ALL that God is–Spirit, Word, Wisdom, Glory, and everything else–is perfectly displayed eternally in Christ.
2. Christ is the ONE Mediator.
3. God was pleased to express himself this way. Christ is not a usurper, as Satan is.
C. Verse 20, Christ the Reconciler of everything
2. whether things on earth or things in heaven,
a. Every hostile spiritual power and earthly power has been subjugated.
b. Some will bow the knee in awe and reverence and others because they have no choice. (Philippians 2:10-11)
3. by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. All of the above is the “glory” of the cross. Because all three Beings of the Trinity gave themselves this way, and Christ as the actual one who died–for this reason he has earned the name which is above all other names (Philippians 2:5-11).
♦ Does knowing all this about Christ change how we think about what it means to be “created in his own image“? (Genesis 1:27)
♦ At what level are you in even beginning to comprehend the nature and stature of Christ? How do you apply this knowledge to your day by day life? To each and every problem that you face?
♦ If the Colossians grasped what Paul was saying, would they still find it necessary, as some have said, to listen to and obey (submit to) false teachers who were telling them that in order to live a full Christian life they needed to obey such and such a teaching or to go to such and such an expert to find a further, fuller deliverance than what Paul had shown them was already theirs in Christ?
♦ If Christ is everything Paul says he is, do we think that Christ might find a way to communicate with even the most thick-headed (etc., etc.) of his children? Are we able to rest in Christ and to surrender our spiritual growth and education to him, or do we feel we need to go here and there anxiously seeking out an “expert” for a bit of knowledge or some bit of “power” we feel we lack?
♦ Do these verses help us to understand why reading the Bible for ourselves is important?