I was surprised at the poll. In 2015 George Barna found that 56% of all American adults said Jesus is God. And 62% of all Americans said they’ve made a personal commitment to him that is still important at the time of the poll. If so, Paul’s words in Colossians 1:15-18 may not sound so extreme. Yet they do to me; besides, I’m skeptical about polls.)
Christology is the study of Christ. But we can’t study Christ as we’d dissect a frog or explore the history of the hemisphere. Christ is a living person. And Paul’s words about him here move us to reverence and awe. We’re on holy ground.
“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation” (1:15).
“He” refers back to the Son the Father loves (1:13). “He” is ”the image of the invisible God”. “ . . . image” is the translation of the Greek eikown. The Son is the embodiment, living manifestation, form, appearance of “the invisible God”. God is invisible, a spirit not able to be seen. But Jesus is God in bodily form. The unseen God seen.
Philip asks Jesus to show the disciples the Father. Jesus replies, “Don’t you know me Philip? . . . anyone who has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:8,9).
This, as we used to say, blows my mind. Jesus, who walked this earth, who got hungry and thirsty and tired, who surrendered to crucifixion and whose tomb was empty on the third day, was God, the Creator of the universe.
He is “the firstborn over all creation”. Does Paul mean Jesus was birthed first? The Greek prototokos can refer to the first child in the family. Or it can refer to a preeminent one. The context determines the meaning. The words that follow—” the firstborn over all creation (not “in” or “of” ) . . . that in everything he might have the supremacy” (1:15,17)—govern the meaning. Jesus is the firstborn—the preeminent one over all.
Paul is countering the beginnings of a religious philosophy that would blossom in the 2nd century, but was already influencing the Colossians. Gnostics believed that God is spirit, and spirit is good. But matter is evil. The world of matter was mistakenly created by a lesser divinity. Salvation–the escape from the world of matter to the spirit-realm–came by secret knowledge. Jesus is only a heavenly messenger. Gnosticism gained notoriety in the 2016 Tom Hanks movie, “The DaVinci Code”.
“For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him” (1:16).
Paul gives the basis underlying the Son’s firstborn status. He is the means by which all things have been created. This includes “ . . . things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible”. In short, nothing anywhere was not created through the Son.
By him galaxies billions of light years from us in space and dust mites in the air around us were created. So was a summer breeze and the sun’s heat. A giant oak tree and bothersome weeds. A bright full moon and a dark night sky.
“whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities . . . “. Even the invisible realm of angels, good and bad, at work in the world. The scope of the Son’s “firstborn” creative power encompasses all.
” all things were created . . . for him.” All that is–mountains, trees, sky, human, rulers and authorities–was created for the Son of God’s glory and exaltation. As Dr. Sam Storms (Pastor, Bridgeway Church, Oklahoma City) writes, “He’s . . . the consummation and culmination of every molecule that moves”.
“He is before all things, and in him all things hold together” (1:17).
“He is pro all things . . . ” Before you and I were born. Before Lincoln was President. Before ocean waves licked the shores. Before all things, the Son was.
And “in him all things soonistayme>”
“Only recently have astrophysicists been able to offer a substantial hypothesis as to what it is that holds the universe together and keeps it from flying apart. Yet you do not have to be a physicist to know the simple answer!
“Astrophysicists look into the heavens and capture images and data with various scientific instruments. They know that the total mass of all matter is not enough to provide the gravity needed to keep everything in the universe from flying apart. They are left to ponder the question, ‘What is it that is holding the universe together?’
“International teams of astronomers scan stars and galaxies that are unimaginable distances away. Using modern instruments and means of detection, they have detected a mysterious cosmic force and have hypothesized that it may be the answer to the question. They call it ‘dark matter’” (tomorrowsworld.org).
Ah, yes, but what is this “cosmic force”? What lies behind this “dark matter”? The coherent power of the Son on God.
“And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy” (1:18).
” . . . head” means the Son is the sovereign, ruling authority of the church universal and each local church in particular.
That he is “the beginning and the firsrborn from among the dead” means he is the founder of a new humanity. He rose from the dead, never to die again, and is the “firstfruits” of a resurrection promised to all who belong to him.
God’s purpose in all this, writes Paul, is “so that in everything he might have proteuwo”–first place, preeminence, the highest rank, the greatest glory and exaltation.
With the Colossian heresy in mind, the apostle lays stress on the hierarchy of angelic powers. Even the cosmic powers and principalities, which apparently received some prominence in that heresy, were created in Christ. Good or bad, all are subject to him as Creator.
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Barna’s poll claims half the country believes Jesus is God and have made a commitment to him. But before such an awesome One belief and commitment aren’t enough. A desire that he might have the supremacy in all things, in our little lives too, is what we must do.