False teaching invariably attacks, perverts or (at the very least) distorts the nature of Jesus Christ. Beth Moore, for example, reduces Him to a romantic playmate Who speaks directly to her and is “the bossiest thing.” For proper discernment, therefore, Christians must possess an accurate understanding of Christ’s nature.
Over the past few weeks we studied Paul’s prayer for the Colossian church to be filled with knowledge, wisdom and understanding. We also studied the way God qualifies believers to share in His inheritance. As we closed last week’s study, we shifted our attention from the Father to His Son, and Paul now picks up the discussion with a powerful description of Christ’s deity.
15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. ~~Colossians 1:15-20 (ESV)
Today we’ll work through verses 15-17, worshiping the Lord because we see His exalted nature. Before we do so, however, we should understand a little more about the philosophies that would develop into Gnosticism.
Most importantly, these pre-gnostic teachings drew a strict distinction between the material and the spiritual. They insisted that matter was intrinsically evil while spiritual things were intrinsically good. Later on, we’ll see how they used this philosophy to justify sexual sin, but right now we need to focus on their resistance to Christ’s incarnation. Paul addresses that resistance in this section.
Verse 15 is a frontal attack on the dualism of the philosophers. The Colossians knew that Jesus had come to earth as an actual Man, dying an actual death to provide forgiveness of sin. Now Paul tells them that Jesus is the image of the invisible God. The Greek word for “image” means that He is an exact representation of God (see Hebrews 1:3). That means that He is none other than God Himself.
He quickly adds that Jesus is the firstborn of all creation. Modern day Jehovah’s Witnesses jump on this clause, misunderstanding it to mean that God created Jesus first, and then created everything else. But the idea here, in reality, is that Jesus is preeminent over His creation. I’m not a Greek scholar, but I’ve read enough Greek scholars to know that the sentence construction of the Greek fully supports this meaning. Thus, it augments the statement of Christ’s deity.
As a matter of fact, verse 16 immediately identifies Jesus as having created both the material and the spiritual universe, strengthening the case for His deity. Paul insists that Jesus created everything (see John 1:3). The implication is that He Himself is not a created Being, but is the very Creator! As the Creator, He deserves to be worshiped as God.
Remembering that the pre-gnostics had concocted a false dichotomy between the material and the spiritual, a deeper examination of verse 16 drives home the point that the Lord is involved in both the material and the spiritual realms. Commentators agree that the thrones dominions, rulers and authorities refer to the ranks of angels that form the invisible creation. Paul emphasizes Christ’s authority over angels to counter those false teachers who encouraged the worship of angels — he elevates Christ as the Creator and ruler of angels.
Don’t overlook the last part of verse 16, which affirms that all things were created through Him and for Him. As we’ll see next week, Paul wants to emphasize Christ’s preeminence over His creation. This clause introduces that preeminence by announcing the purpose of creation.
He created everything for Himself.
As the Second Person of the Trinity (and therefore co-equal with the Father and the Holy Spirit), Jesus is worthy to have all creation worship Him. His preeminence only magnifies His deity. This beautiful clause reminds us of the praise and adoration we owe Him. Praise and adoration that belongs only to God.
Needless to say, we could have devoted an entire blog post exclusively to verse 16, and I wholeheartedly encourage you ladies to study it for yourselves. It’s such a marvelous testimony to Christ’s deity that I want you to thoroughly enjoy it.
Before closing today’s study, I want to make a few remarks about verse 17. Paul basically reiterates the points he has already made about Jesus as the divine Creator, although he fine tunes them.
Notice, for example, the statement that He is before all things. You would think that concept would be obvious, given that He is the Creator of all things. But Paul wants to be certain that the Colossian believers understand that Jesus 1) isn’t a created Being, and 2) that He is preeminent over His creation. Nothing and no one else deserves our worship.
Furthermore, Jesus holds all things together. He maintains an intimate involvement with His material creation just as much as He maintains His authority over His spiritual creatures. Indeed, without His constant attention, the universe would fly apart and dissolve into oblivion.
Do you see what a powerful and majestic God Jesus is? I love this passage of Scripture because it compels me to bow before Him in adoration! Thankfully, we have a few verses left in this wonderful passage to enjoy studying next week. Make it a point to join me then.