I have a post category section entitled “It’s about Jesus” with 7 parts. I left the series open-ended as I knew I’d eventually continue it. I’ll finally do so with a couple of posts on Christ as portrayed in the book of Colossians. Colossians presents a “high Christology.” Christology simply refers to the study of the person and work of Christ – Who was he and what did he do for us?
In Colossians Christ is emphasized as supreme and preeminent above all things. Some might consider Christology impractical because it is a theological topic. (I know I’ve already lost some of you. C’mon stay with me!) Yet this is a foundational matter. If we get it wrong about who Christ is, it is only downhill from there. Many false teachings, heresies, and cults have grown out of misunderstandings of the person of Christ.
All Christians need grounding in a high Christology, not only to defend the faith, but to live the Christian life. What we believe, affects how we live. Colossians clearly sets forth the absolute supremacy of Christ. Seen in relation to Christ, everyone and everything shrinks down to size. Now lets begin to look at some verses in Colossians…(This post is a bit long but I felt it was best to keep verses 15-20 together.)
This section contains seven unique characteristics of Christ. Christ is the image of God, the firstborn over creation, Creator of the universe, head of the church, firstborn from the dead, the fullness of God, and Reconciler of all things. Geisler states that, “No comparable listing of so many characteristics of Christ and his deity are found in any other Scripture passage.”
Verse 15 states that Christ “is the image of the invisible God.” Note that it says Christ is; not was, shall be, or has become. This hints that Christ, as a member of the Godhead, is eternal and the same throughout time (Hebrews 13:8). While the word image can simply mean similarity or likeness, the Greek word eikwn also includes the idea of manifestation and representation. Christ is the visible manifestation of the invisible God. God is Spirit (John 4:24) and thus invisible, yet in Christ the invisible became visible. House quotes that Christ is “the projection of God on the canvas of our humanity and the embodiment of the divine in the world of men.”
Verse 15 further states that Christ is “the firstborn over all creation.” At first glance, this might seem to imply that Christ was the first created thing. (This false teaching can be seen in ancient Arianism and modern day Jehovah’s Witnesses.) However, it is critical to consider how the term “firstborn” was used in ancient times. Firstborn meant first in rank, supreme, or special. For example, in Psalm 89:27 it states that David would be made the “…firstborn, the highest of the kings of the earth” – yet David was the last born son of Jesse. Or in Exodus 4:22 Israel was called God’s firstborn even though other nations existed before Israel. The use of firstborn in Colossians 1:15 must also be put in the context of the verses that directly follow it.
Verse 16 states that all things were created by Christ, through Christ, and for Christ. Each of these prepositions could be considered separately, but in reference to “through him” McDonald states: “This declaration alone would be sufficient to mark a clear distinction between the creature and the Creator. Thus the Son is set apart from the creation and is not confounded with the universe; while, on the other hand, it is made clear that he is the sole medium of the divine activity.” Verse 16 also states that Christ created all things: in heaven, on earth, visible and invisible. Certainly Christ did not create himself!
Verse 17 further states that Christ “is before all things” and “in him all things consist.” The present tense (he is) emphasizes the preexistence of Christ and the timeless nature of an eternal God – which was also hinted at in 15a. MacDonald says that the present tense is often used in the Scriptures to describe the timelessness of Deity. Furthermore, in Christ “all things consist” or are “held together.” Christ sustains the universe or is the bond that keeps things from falling apart. In these verses, Paul describes a pre-existent Christ and a universe that is Christ-caused, Christ-centered, and Christ-controlled.
Verse 18 states that Christ “is the head of the body, the church.” McDonald notes that there is an evident parallel here between Christ’s relationship to creation and his relationship to the church as his spiritual creation. “What he was to the universe before his incarnation, he is to the church as the Incarnate One.” Verse 18 further states that Christ is “the firstborn from the dead.” Christ was the first to rise from the dead to never die again. He conquered death and His resurrection is unique in history. Finally, verse 18 states “that in all things he may have the preeminence.” Christ cannot be second anywhere. He is double preeminent, in creation and in the church.
Verse 19 states that “it pleased the Father that in him all the fullness should dwell.” There is some scholarly debate on how to best interpret this verse. However, reading it as it flows from the preceding verses it seems to emphasize that all divine power resides in Christ. Christ demonstrated this through his creation of the world and his resurrection from the dead. (The meaning of this verse seems easier to understand in light of Colossians 2:9 which will be discussed next post.)
“and by him to reconcile all things to himself…
having made peace through the blood of his cross.”
Having indicated clearly in verses 15 to 19 who Christ is, Paul now turns to what Christ has accomplished. Reconciliation refers to making peace where formerly there was enmity. Christ is the agent of reconciliation, and his blood the means of it. Also take note of “all things”, as this is the fifth time in this group of verses that the phrase “all things” is used. This seems to emphasize the vast or cosmic significance of Christ.
Next post will consider Colossians 2:6, 9-10.
Geisler, Norman. “Colossians.” In Bible Knowledge Commentary, ed. John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, New Testament vol., 667-686. Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985.
House, H.Wayne. “Doctrine of Christ in Colossians.” Bibliotheca Sacra 149 (April 1992): 180-192.
MacDonald, William. Believers Bible Commentary. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1990.
McDonald, H.Dermot. Commentary on Colossians and Philemon. Waco: Word Books, 1980.