Monday, June 1, 2009

Some thoughts on Colossians 1:15-17

As in the case of all Bible study done rightly it is important that we first look to the context of what was going on when that passage was written, to whom was it written, and why was it written to them. A key in understanding the Bible is to enter into it knowing that whatever it meant to the original audience is what it means now.

In Colossians chapter 1, Paul is directly addressing a heresy that was threatening the health of the Colossian church. Specifically the heresy was the denial of the deity of Christ. Paul is comes to the defense of the Jesus Christ with an aggressive statement of Christ's divine authority here in Chapter 1, for our purposes, verses 15-17.

Colossians 1:15-17 (New American Standard Bible)

15He is the (A)image of the (B)invisible God, the (C)firstborn of all creation.

16For (D)by Him all things were created, (E)both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether (F)thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities--(G)all things have been created through Him and for Him.

17He (H)is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.

Let's take a look at the implications of verse 15-17. "He is THE image".

Such profound truth just in those 4 words alone. To begin, "He" here is referring to Jesus Christ. We know that because just prior to this Paul had described the reason God sent Jesus to begin with. So it is established that Jesus is referred to here and what "IS" Jesus? He "is" the image. Not A image, but THE image and this image we are about to discuss... is the only image and none other share in that title. This alone gives deity to Christ. It places Him on an equal level with God. Jesus is not a separate God or a lesser God, but one with God the Father. Paul is giving divine equality to Jesus here. Do you see that? No one else can lay claim to His royalty, to His sovereignty, to His deity and oneness with God the Father. How amazing and how complex is the God what we serve that He can manifest Himself in this way? Providing Himself as the propitiation for our sins. The atoning sacrifice.

Furthermore, the definite article "He is" means there is no other way. Acts 4:12 (New American Standard Bible)- 12"And there is salvation in (A)no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved."

Moving on... Jesus is the image of what? What sort of image? He is the image of the "invisible God, the firstborn of all creation". Jesus was the physical representation of God the Father. All of God's heavenly and Holy attributes were perfectly manifested in Jesus the Son.

The word used for "image" here is the Greek word eikon. We get the English word "icon" from it. It means copy or likeness. Jesus Christ is the only perfect image and exact likeness of God. This qualifies Him to make provision for our sin because He is perfect and Holy.

He is the very form of God and He IS God. By describing Jesus in this way Paul is establishing Christ's deity and that He is both the representation of God and fully God in every way.

Paul says that Christ is the "firstborn of all creation". This can be tricky if you just breeze past it. Make no mistake here, Jesus is God and thus was not "created" in the sense that God created everything else. Calling Him the "firstborn of all creation" is not a reference to God having created Christ. It is a reference to Christ's preeminence. To His rank and position as Sovereign over ALL. Remember, what is Paul addressing here? He is addressing this heresy that Christ wasn't fully God.

In both Greek and Jewish culture the firstborn was the one who received the inheritance... the authority... and so on... How do we know that God is not speaking through Paul that Christ was "created". Well first of all Christ cannot be both the "first begotten" and "only begotten" Son of God. Implying that He was the first Son also implies there were other sons. In addition, if Paul were saying Christ had been created he would be agreeing with the heresy that he was writing to refute.

Verse 16 then says that Christ created all things. This establishes that Jesus was involved in the creation of the world. I would submit that from this we can also know that Jesus was involved at this point even in the plan of redemption.

God created the world and us knowing that we would sin but having already worked out a plan of redemption with Jesus the Son so that God's attributes could be seen and Glory could be given to His name. Jesus did not try and persuade God to not punish sinners, but so that the full extent of the amazing Love of God could be shown He offered Himself up as the substitute for those sins. Christ did not ask for God to overlook our sin, but put Himself between us and God to take the wrath of God for our sin. Next week we'll probably look at implications of John 3:16-18, and oft overlooked passage because of its familiarity and popularity.

"All things were created through Him and for Him." Before the foundations of the world were laid, Christ's death was the plan of redemption for fallen man. How astounding is that to ponder? Does it not even bring us to a point of tears an weeping possibly? At the love of Christ? At the love of God?

It is all for the Glory of Christ. Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 15 that if Jesus isn't resurrected then our lives are wasted. That implies that our lives are built around Jesus Christ being alive and all that means.

Jesus created the material and spiritual universe for His pleasure and glory...

Verse 17 - He is before all things and in Him all things hold together.

Ok now a while back Louis Giglio preached a sermon and at the end of that sermon he used an illustration about a protein in our body known as Lamnin that holds apparently holds our bodies together and without it we'd fall to a pile of goo. He said that THAT was the meaning of Colossians 1:17. All due respect to him, that is not at all what is going on here.

Ponder that verse a little. Paul is establishing the deity of Christ. He is talking about how Christ has created all things and is over all things. He's adequaltely demonstrated that Christ hems us in and created us. Would it be necessary to make a statement about something called laminin that wouldn't be discovered until 100's of years later? I don't think so....

So what could be going on here? Well First off, when the universe had its beginning, Christ already existed, thus by definition He MUST be eternal. And since only God is eternal we get the picture that Christ IS God.

Christ sustains the universe. Not just holds our bodies together. Sure He does that too... but let's not limit this and make it too much about ourselves. Keep in mind, everything is for HIS glory. All of creation is for HIS glory. Not only is He at this very moment holding you together but He is controlling the vastness of the entire universe and keeping it exactly where it needs to be. He keeps the earth on its orbit though it is travelling at some 60,000 miles per hour (I think that number is right). He is keeping the heat of the sun and the power and such hemmed in so that is performs only the tasks He has set for it to perform.

Paul is using this language to show the VAST nature of Jesus and thus equate Him with (and as) God the Father.

Also, think about this... All things are held together by Him. My breath, my heart, etc... but if God were not holding all things together and holding back His full judgment for sin He would have already destroyed us. A fitting punishment for multiplied sinners. That alone should drive the unregenerate to their knees, crying out in repentant prayer and the Christian to his face, pleading with God to continue growing them in righteousness and holiness. Thanking God for His innumerable blessings and unyielding mercy and grace.

In closing, I am reminded of the wonderful hymn "How Great Thou Art" by Mr. Carl Gustaf Boberg. **History of that song can be found here.

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