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Colossians 1:15-23 NOTES

Colossians 1:15-28 - EXEGESIS


CONTEXT:  The Apostle Paul and his coworker Timothy wrote this letter to the church at Colossae (v. 1), a small city in Asia Minor (modern Turkey). Paul had not visited Colossae, but had received reports from Epaphras, the missionary who most likely founded the church there (1:7).

Paul speaks positively of the Colossian Christians' faith, love, and hope (1:4-5) and acknowledges that the Good News is bearing fruit and growing in them (1:6). However, Epaphras has apparently brought Paul news of serious problems at Colossae-problems with false teachings that some scholars have labeled "the Colossian Heresy." Paul's is writing this letter to help the Colossians to deal with those problems (see especially 2:4, 8, 13-16, 18; 3:5, 8, 18-4:1).

While Paul will deal with their problems one by one, he first seeks to ground these Colossian Christians solidly in the basics of the faith-and Christ is at the center of that faith (see especially 1:15-20). If these Colossian Christians can better understand the nature and mission of Christ-who Christ was and is and what Christ came to do for them-that understanding will give them a firm footing to deal with the problems with which Paul is concerned.

We might characterize Paul's strategy as filling these Colossian Christians with true beliefs to the extent that untrue beliefs won't find a place in their hearts for lodgment-in much the same way that a homeowner nurtures the growth of grass to prevent weeds from finding a place to grow.

We might also use the North Star as a metaphor. People who navigate by the stars find the North Star especially helpful. If they can get a "fix" on the North Star, that will help them to orient themselves so that they will know where they are and in what direction they are headed. They can use that knowledge to steer away from dangerous rocks and shoals-and to guide their ship to its intended destination. In this letter to the Colossians, Paul establishes Christ as their North Star­­-the fixed point in the sky by which they can navigate dependably-the truth who will help them to avoid the many falsehoods that threaten to lead them astray.

In verses 15-20, Paul states twelve ways that Christ is superior to things (such as angels) to which Colossian Christians might find themselves drawn. Christ is:

  • The image of the invisible God (v. 15a).
  • The firstborn of all creation (v. 15b).
  • The one by whom all things were created (v. 16).
  • The one who is before all things (v. 17a).
  • The one who held (and holds) all things together (v. 17b).
  • The head of the body, the church (v. 18a) 
  • The beginning (v. 18b). 
  • The firstborn from the dead (v. 18c). 
  • The one who has preeminence (v. 18d). 
  • The one in whom all the fullness was pleased to dwell (v. 19). 
  • The one through whom God has chosen to reconcile al things (v. 20a). 
  • The one who has made peace through the blood of his cross (v. 20b).


15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation: 16 for by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones, or dominions, 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 He is also the head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything. 19 For it was the Father's good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, 20 and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross.

Biblical scholars tend to refer to these verses as a hymn-a song of praise to Christ. They base that assessment on the style, vocabulary, and content, which differ from the surrounding text. Philippians 2:5-11 and John 1:1-18 are also examples of New Testament hymns.  It isn't clear that these verses are original with this epistle. It is possible that Paul is quoting a hymn with which these Colossian Christians would be familiar.  In any event, Paul is emphasizing Christ's deity to people who are tempted to be "vainly puffed up" (2:18) and "not holding firmly to the Head" (2:19). He will exhort them: "Whatever you do, in word or in deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus" (3:17)-but first he must help them understand that Christ is preeminent.


"who is the image (eikon) of the invisible God" (v. 15a). There is a good reason why God is invisible. When Moses asked to see God's glory, God replied, "You cannot see my face, for man may not see me and live" (Exodus 33:20). To see God would be like grabbing a high-voltage wire. We aren't designed to survive contact with that kind of power.

  • "Who" in this verse refers back to the beloved Son (v. 13). It is the Son of God who is the eikon of the invisible God.
  • An eikon is an image or likeness-such as the emperor's image on a coin or a child as the image of a parent. This word eikon is also found in 2 Corinthians 4:4, which says that Christ is the image (eikon) of God. Hebrews 1:3 uses a similar word, charakter, to speak of Christ as the image of the Father's substance. Both words (eikon and charakter) represent something real (God)-and are therefore unlike the kind of graven images that are prohibited by Torah law (Leviticus 19:4; 26:1)-images that represent false gods.
  • It is wonderfully useful to have an eikon "of the invisible God"-to make visible and understandable what would otherwise be unknowable. Christ is that eikon. When Philip said, "Lord, show us the Father" (John 14:8), Jesus replied, "He who has seen me has seen the Father" (John 14:9). He went on to say that he has spoken the Father's words and has done the Father's works (John 14:10). In other words, Jesus' life represents the Father accurately and with integrity.
  • Something of the same idea is found in the Prologue to the Gospel of John where John speaks of Jesus as "the Word"-who "became flesh and lived among us. We saw his glory, such glory as of the one and only Son of the Father, full of grace and truth" (John 1:14). When I asked my theology professor why John referred to Jesus as the Word (Greek: logos), he asked me to explain how we use words. I said, "We use words to communicate something from one person to another. He said, "That's right-and that's what Christ came to do. He came to communicate something from the Father to us. That's why John calls him "the Word."

"the firstborn of all creation" (v. 15b). In Jewish law and practice, the firstborn was accorded a special place.

  • God said, "All the firstborn are mine" (Numbers 3:13)-including firstborn human children (Exodus 13:2)-"the males shall be Yahweh's" (Exodus 13:12).
  • Firstborn cattle, sheep, and goats were to be sacrificed to God (Exodus 13:12-15).
  • The firstborn of other animals (unclean animals) were to be redeemed by the sacrifice of a lamb (Exodus 34:20). Firstborn sons were also to be redeemed (Exodus 13:13).
  • The firstborn son was to receive a double portion of the inheritance (Deuteronomy 21:17).
  • Esau, the firstborn of Isaac, was supposed to receive the birthright, but his brother Jacob persuaded him to sell it for a bowl of stew (Genesis 25:29ff). Esau was also to receive his father's blessing, but Jacob tricked their father into giving Jacob the blessing instead (Genesis 27).
  • It is clear that Jewish custom and law bestowed great privileges on the firstborn. It is in this sense of priority or privilege that Jesus is the firstborn of all creation. Paul is not suggesting that Jesus was the firstborn in the sense that he was part of the created order-like the human race. Instead, Jesus was the pre-eminent one-the ruler over all rulers-the King of all kings. It is in that sense that the Psalmist, speaking of David, says, "I will also appoint him my firstborn, the highest of the kings of the earth" (Psalm 89:27).

The following verse (v. 16) will make this interpretation even more certain.


"For by him (Greek: en auto-in him or by him) all things were created, in the heavens and on the earth, things visible and things invisible" (v. 16a). We get the same sense in the Prologue to the Gospel of John, which says:  "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  The same was in the beginning with God.  All things were made through him.  Without him was not anything made that has been made." (John 1:1-3).  Colossian Christians have been tempted to worship angels (2:18). Now Paul goes to lengths to show them that Christ was involved in the creation of "all things"-things "in the heavens and on the earth, things visible and invisible"-in other words, everything. If Christ was involved in creating them, he must be superior to them. Colossian Christians should reserve their worship for Christ-not for angels or other parts of the created order.


"whether thrones (thronoi) or dominions (kuriotes) or principalities (archai) or powers (exousia); all things have been created through him, and for him" (v. 16b). Thrones, dominions, principalities, and powers are four facets of power:

  • Thrones (thronoi) represent the seat of majesty and power.
  • Dominions (kuriotes) have to do with the authority and power of civil rulers.
  • Principalities (archai) represent preeminence-that which is before all or above all.
  • Powers (exousia) have the authority and ability to accomplish things.

From our perspective, each of the above seems awesome. I have seen Air Force One-the President's airplane-big and unbelievably grand. I have read of majestic palaces owned by Arab princes. Via television, I saw the coronation of Queen Elizabeth and the wedding of Charles and Diana. All those things were so grand as to be almost beyond comprehension. What would it be like to live like that?

  • But these various thrones, dominions, principalities, and powers "have been created through (Christ), and for him." That puts them into perspective. The creator is superior to the creation. The potter is superior to the clay-and the pottery. Christ is superior to all these forms of human power.

"He is before all things" (v. 17a). Once again we hear the echo of the Prologue to the Gospel of John: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God" (John 1:1-2). In this context, the word "before" suggests two things: (1) Christ was before the created order chronologically-and therefore (2) Christ is superior to the created order.

  • In the 3rd and 4th centuries, Arius promulgated the Arian Heresy-that Christ was not pre-existent but was created by the Father and was therefore subordinate to the Father. The Council of Nicea deemed this as heresy in 325 A.D.

"and in him all things are held together" (sunesteken-from sunistemi) (v. 17b). The verb sunestekenis perfect tense, suggesting a completed action. This is another argument by Paul for the primacy of Christ over the created order. He was not only present at the creation, but has held things together ever since.


"He is the head of the body, the assembly" (ekklesia-church or assembly) (v. 18a). Paul uses this same imagery a little later when he speaks of Christ's body, "which is the ekklesia" (1:24). The Greek word ekklesia is related to the word kaleo, which means "to call." The ekklesia, as that word was used in secular settings to speak of calling out people to a public assembly.

  • Early Christians adopted the word ekklesia to refer to Christians gathered together for worship-what we today would call "the church." Most modern translations translate ekklesia as "church" rather than "assembly."
  • Paul introduces an especially helpful metaphor for the church here. It is the body for which Christ is the head. As Paul notes elsewhere, bodies have many parts-feet, ears, eyes, hands, etc.-all of which are important (1 Corinthians 12:12-26). The same is true for the church. There are many members, some distinguished and some humble-but all are important.
  • Now Paul says that Christ is the head of the church. The head, as we know, is the concertmaster in charge of all the members of the body. The head orchestrates their movements-helps them to work in concert-gives them direction-makes it possible for them to accomplish wondrous things. So it is with the church and Christ, its head.

"who is the beginning" (v. 18b). Christ is the beginning in that he was "before all things" (v. 17) and was the one "by whom all things were created" (v. 16). He is also the beginning in that his incarnation, death, and resurrection began a new chapter in God's salvation history.


"the firstborn from the dead" (v. 18c; see also Revelation 1:5). Elsewhere, Paul uses a similar but different phrase: Christ "became the first fruits of those who are asleep" (1 Corinthians 15:20). Both phrases (firstborn and first fruits) tell us that Christ's resurrection was to be the first of many-"Christ the first fruits, then those who are Christ's, at his coming" (1 Corinthians 15:23).


"that in all things he might have the preeminence" (v. 18d). In his letter to the Philippians, Paul talks about Christ, "who, existing in the form of God, didn't consider equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, ...becoming obedient to death, yes, the death of the cross. Therefore God has also highly exalted him, and gave to him the name which is above every name; that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, those on earth, and those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father" (Philippians 2:6-11).  In other words, Christ was first preeminent in service and sacrifice. Now he is preeminent in receiving honor.


"For all the fullness (pleroma) was pleased to dwell in him" (v.19). This word pleroma has to do with fullness or abundance.

  • While this verse does not mention God, Paul later says, "For in him all the fullness of the Godhead dwells bodily, and in him you are made full" (2:9-10a). That makes it clear that verse 1:9 should be understood to mean "For all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell in Christ."
  • A century later, the church would have problems with Gnosticism, which believed that the spiritual is good and the physical is bad. As a result, Gnostics had a problem with the Incarnation-God becoming flesh and dwelling among us. They said that the fullness (pleroma) of God could reach us only through emanations or angels-being gradually drained of its pleroma as it approached our earthly existence.
  • Some scholars believe that the church at Colossae was infected with this kind of dualistic viewpoint. For instance, Paul criticized the Colossian Christians for subjecting themselves to rules such as "Don't handle, nor taste, nor touch" (2:21)-and for seeking spiritual enlightenment by practicing "severity to the body" (2:23)-ascetic practices consistent with Gnosticism. Now, in the opening verses of this epistle, Paul seeks to correct this sort of error by presenting Christ as the one in whom all the fullness of the deity was pleased to dwell.

"and through him to reconcile (apokatallasso) all things to himself, by him, whether things on the earth, or things in the heavens" (v. 20a). Reconciliation involves a change in a relationship from bad to good-from enmity to friendship. When used of nations, it involves establishing peace between nations that were previously at war with one another.

  • There is another Greek word for reconciliation-kataallasso. Adding apo (from) as a prefix, as Paul does here, strengthens the force of the reconciliation. In other words, when God (through Christ) reconciled all things to himself, he took on a really hostile situation and transformed it into a peaceful situation.

This reconciliation is not something we could have accomplished for ourselves. It required God's initiative, because our unholiness was incompatible with God's holiness. Paul says that God accomplished this reconciliation "through him" ("him" being Christ). He did so through the Incarnation, the Crucifixion, and the Resurrection.

  • Reconciliation is related to several other New Testament concepts-forgiveness, grace, justification, and redemption-but is distinct from them:

(1) Forgiveness is the first step in reconciliation, justification, or redemption. We need to be forgiven, and then we need to learn to forgive.

(2) Grace (Greek: charis) is the undeserved favor of God.

(3) Justification involves a "not guilty" verdict.

(4) Redemption involves bringing liberty to a captive, usually through the payment of a price.

  • Paul outlines the scope of this reconciliation. It involves "all things...whether things on the earth, or things in the heavens." This reconciliation is all-encompassing.
  • However, it is clear from Paul's other epistles that, while this reconciliation is available to Jew and Gentile alike, we must accept it-and not everyone will do that. Some people "suppress the truth in unrighteousness" (Romans 1:18). "Therefore God also gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to uncleanness, that their bodies should be dishonored among themselves, who exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator" (Romans 1:24-25; see also Romans 2:1-16; 2 Corinthians 5:10; 2 Thessalonians 1:5-10).

"having made peace (eirenopoieo) through the blood of his cross" (v. 20b). This Greek word eirenopoieo is made up of two parts: eirene (peace) and poieo (making).

Peace (eirene) is a significant word, occurring nearly a hundred times in the New Testament. It has its roots in the Hebrew word shalom, which was used frequently in the Old Testament. The LXX (the Septuagint-the Greek translation of the Old Testament) uses the Greek word eirene to translate the Hebrew word shalom nearly two hundred times.

  • Both eirene (Greek) and shalom (Hebrew) can refer to an inner kind of peace-the kind of well-being that is derived from a deep relationship with God-the kind of wholeness that comes from having the image of God, once shattered by sin, restored in the believer.
  • But both eirene and shalom can also refer to an external kind of peace-the absence of rancor or violence among individuals or nations. That is what is involved in this verse. Christ, through his blood-his cross-has established peace between God and humans.
  • Eirene is one of the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22). It has its roots in the peace that we have with God, who has granted us the gift of grace through Jesus Christ (Romans 5:1-2a). Having received grace from God, we are also expected to extend grace to others. In a community where grace is freely received and given, eirene (peace) will almost certainly prevail.
  • Christ has made peace between God and humans-removing the stain of guilt that made it impossible for humans to approach the divine throne.


21 And although you were previously alienated and hostile in attitude, engaged in evil deeds, 22 yet He has now reconciled you in His body of flesh through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach- 23 if indeed you continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast, and not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you have heard, which was proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, was made a minister.

 "You, being in past times alienated" (apallotrioo) (v. 21a). Our English word "alienated" is an excellent choice for conveying the meaning of apallotpioo. My dictionary says that alienation involves a good relationship gone bad. That is exactly what happened to the human race. We were created in God's image and enjoyed God's favor, but became alienated by our sin.

  • It is likely that many of these Colossian Christians were Gentiles (see 1:27, 2:13), so the following from the book of Ephesians applies: "You were separate from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of the promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off are made near in the blood of Christ. For he is our peace" (Ephesians 2:12-14a; see also Ephesians 4:17-24)

"and enemies in your mind in your evil works" (v. 21b). It was not just their evil works that alienated them from God in times past, but also the way their minds worked. Evil deeds grow out of evil thoughts-thoughts are the starting point. In his letter to the Romans, Paul outlines how that works (see Romans 1:18-32).


"yet now he has reconciled (apokatallasso) in the body of his flesh through death" (v. 22a). See the comments on verse 20a above for the meaning of "reconciled."

  • In the incarnation, Christ took on a human body-a body of flesh like ours (John 1:14; Philippians 2:6-11). Then he took on the role of a sacrificial lamb to die on the cross for all humanity's sins that we might be reconciled to God once again. Christ "gave himself up for us, an offering and sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling fragrance" (Ephesians 5:2). Christ's crucifixion was the core of Paul's preaching. He said, "I determined not to know anything among you, except Jesus Christ, and him crucified" (1 Corinthians 2:2).
  • It is significant that Paul does not say, "except Jesus Christ, and him crucified and resurrected" (1 Corinthians 2:2)-or "having made peace through the blood of his cross and his open tomb" (v. 20b)-or "in the body of his flesh through death and resurrection" (v. 22a). Paul believes in Christ's resurrection (Romans1:4, 4:24-25; 6:4-9, etc.), but his focus in these verses is on Christ's death on the cross-his role as a sacrificial lamb-"our Passover, (who) has been sacrificed in our place" (1 Corinthians 5:7).

"to present you holy" (hagios) (v. 22b). The word hagios is often translated "saints," but in this context, it means "holy"-sinless or upright. God's people are called to be holy, because God is holy (Leviticus 19:2). Holiness is always derivative-derived from a relationship to God. To be holy is to be called out from the sinful world into a deep and abiding relationship with God so that the person becomes more God-like-holier-less like the sinful world-at-large.

  • Our holiness is not something that we attained by spiritual self-discipline. We are all sinners (Romans 3:23), but Christ's sacrifice on the cross has the same effect for us that the sacrifices of the Jewish people had for them-it relieves us of our guilt and makes us holy in God's eyes-sinless and upright.

"and without blemish" (v. 22c). This is language clearly derived from Jewish law regarding animal sacrifices.

  • Priests with any sort of a physical deformity (blindness, lameness, etc.) were prohibited from making sacrifices at the altar (Leviticus 21:16-21). They could eat the holy bread, but could not "come near to the altar" (Leviticus 21:22-23).
  • Sacrificial offerings were to be "a male without blemish.... Whatever has a blemish, that you shall not offer: for it shall not be acceptable for you" (Leviticus 22:19-20).
  • Christ on the cross constituted an offering without blemish (Hebrew 9:14; 1 Peter 1:19).

"and blameless (anegkletos) before him" (v. 22d). This word anegkletos is composed of two parts: an (not) and egkaleo (accused). A person who is blameless (anegkletos), therefore, is a person against whom no accusation has been brought.

  • Once again, we should emphasize that our blamelessness is not due to our sterling character, but rather to the work of Christ on his cross. We have sinned (Romans 3:23) and-continue, in spite of our best efforts, to sin (Romans 7:15-20)-but are "being justified freely by (God's) grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus" (Romans 3:24).

"if it is so that you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the Good News (euangelion) which you heard" (v. 23a). Christ is pleased to "present (us) holy and without blemish and blameless" (v. 22), but he requires our continuing faithfulness. While there are those who say, "once in grace, always in grace" (in other words, a person, once saved, can never lose that salvation) this verse makes it clear that Paul is concerned that these people who are in a state of grace could move "away from the hope of the Good News which (they had) heard."

  • Later in this epistle (3:12), Paul will call these Colossian Christians to persevere-to endure. That kind of steadfastness is needed so that Christians are able to "continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the Good News" (v. 23).

"Good News" (euangelion). Paul uses this word euangelion almost fifty times in his epistles to speak either of (1) the salvation that Christ makes available to us through his death, burial and resurrection or (2) the proclamation of that message. The euangelion is "the power of God for salvation for everyone who believes" (Romans 1:16).


"which is being proclaimed in all creation under heaven" (v. 23b). That which is being proclaimed is the Good News (v. 23a).

  • Paul cannot mean that every creature under heaven has already heard the Good New proclaimed, because his missionary efforts have just begun to scratch the surface.
  • Perhaps he means that God has somehow made the Good News accessible even to those who have not heard it preached. We get a hint of that in Romans 2:13-16, where he acknowledges that some Gentiles, who haven't had the benefit of the Jewish law, nevertheless show that they have the law written on their hearts.
  • But he could be looking to the future-confident that God will insure that the Good News is proclaimed to all the earth.
  • In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus' last words to his disciples were what we call the Great Commission: "Go, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I commanded you.  Behold, I am with you always, even to the end of the age" (Matthew 28:19-20).

Note:  Paul has become known as the apostle to the Gentiles, because he emphasized the universality of the Good News. Yes, it was for the Jew first, but now the rest of humanity is also invited to become part of God's people-God's chosen people.


"of which I, Paul, was made a servant" (diakanos) (v. 23c). Diakonos (servant) is the Greek word from which we get our word "deacon." The New Testament makes it clear that being a diakanos (deacon) involves humble service. "Whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant" (diakonos) (Matthew 20:26; see also Matthew 23:11).

  • It is interesting that Paul says that he has been made a diakonos (servant) of the Good News rather than an apostolos (apostle-"one who is sent") of the Good News. Paul is an apostle-the church's highest office. However, he understand that Christ's call to an apostolic office was a call to servant ministry.


Colossians 1:15-23: The Pre-eminence of Jesus and the Wonders of God


It is good that we are in Colossians because it is possibly the most 'Christ-centered' book in the Bible. Now the whole Bible, both Old and New Testaments, is about Jesus... no doubt about it! But Colossians focuses greatly on the person and work of Jesus Christ, which is good! In this study we will look at verses 15-23 where the overriding theme is the pre-eminence of Jesus.

To get a little more specific, it is His pre-eminence:

  1. Based on the unique person of Jesus Christ (vs.15,19)
  2. As creator of Heaven and Earth - All that we see and don't see (vs. 16,17)
  3. As the head and beginning of a whole new creation (vs.18,20-23)

Now we'll spend more time on the first few verses but there is quite a bit to do so no more dilly-dally!

The Unique Person of Jesus Christ

Col 1:15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.

Col 1:19 for it was the Father's good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him

The most important question that anyone can ask and explore is 'Who is Jesus Christ?' So much rides on knowing the answer to that question.  [1]  Jesus Himself, when he walked on this earth turned to His disciples one day and said 'Who do you say I am?' It is a critical question. Now the church at Colossae was coming under attack from different groups. You had what would later become known as Gnosticism and one of their beliefs was that Jesus was not God but was Himself a created being. So it doesn't matter if it is 2000 years ago or today - the enemy, if he is to be successful, always tries to undermine the foundation. And that foundation is the person and work of Jesus Christ. So it is today - look at what some of the different religions/cults teach concerning Jesus:

BUDDHISM - Christ is not recognized as Deity. Zen Buddhism also does not affirm the existence of the living God. HARE KRISHNA (ISKON) - Jesus is one of their gurus, but Hare Krishna is their god. HINDUISM/NEW AGE - Do not recognise the need for a personal Saviour as each one can become god through attaining "cosmic consciousness". ISLAM - Jesus is only a prophet of Allah who was superseded by Mohamed. JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES - Jesus created as Archangel Michael/lesser god; Not God, not Jehovah. MORMONS - Jesus was born in heaven as the spirit child of Elohim (Heavenly Father) by one of his wives, and Jesus' brother was Lucifer, who became Satan. Jesus was just one of many gods. SCIENTOLOGY - L. Ron Hubbard taught that Jesus was a false memory implanted into humans as a result of the Xenu  space opera  and that Christianity evolved from an R6 implant. 

So the enemy does a good job sowing seeds of error and doubt. But Paul was in no doubt and starts off by saying that He, Jesus, is the image of the invisible God. This means more than just saying that Jesus was like God. It has the thought of the exact representation and manifestation of God.  [2]  This is of course what Jesus said on different occasions during His ministry. One example is when He said 'Before Abraham was I AM!' The reaction of those hearing Him was to stone Him to death for blasphemy because He was making Himself equal with God! (John 8:58)

 Jesus explaining His equality with God to His disciples 

Some read the gospels and are drawn to Jesus but aren't too sure about Yahweh/Jehovah from the Old Testament. Some (though misguided) see Jesus as gracious and kind, but see the God of the Old Testament as more judgemental and harsh. It is of course a false impression for Jesus is God. And He sometimes had a hard time even getting His disciples to grasp that He is God in the flesh. One example is from the book of John where Jesus said to the disciples:

John 14:7-11 If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him." (8) Philip said, "Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us." (9) Jesus answered: "  Don't you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father  . How can you say, 'Show us the Father'? (10) Don't you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. (11) Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves.

So we no longer need to be in any confusion  [3]  . He, Jesus, is the image of the invisible God. He who has seen me, has seen the Father, Jesus said. He was and is, God in the flesh!

1. And He is the firstborn of all creation. Firstborn, not first-created! 

v. 15: Col 1:15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.

Some cults, like the JW's, try to use this verse to mean 'first created' but that is a different Greek word and it isn't what Paul is saying. While this term is used in the Bible literally of those that are 'born first', it is also used to represent a preeminent position. For example, Israel, as a nation, is called the firstborn in the Old Testament (Exodus-4:22) as is King David (Psalm 89:27). Yet neither was 'born first'. David was the youngest in his family. But both Israel as a nation and King David were called the firstborn because of their position and rank in God. They were exalted and given the rights and privileges before God that the 'first-born' had. In like manner, this verse tells us that Jesus is the chief, the master, the head over all creation. And there is a pretty good reason for that position... He created it all!

2. He is the Creator of Heaven and Earth

vv. 16-17: (16) For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions 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.

We live in an age where most don't know who the creator is. In fact many don't even know if there is a creator at all! They can see a creation, but they don't want to submit to a creator. They can see evidence of design everywhere - but they don't want to acknowledge a designer. Maybe it all just, well, 'happened'. It's all just about 'chance', 'mutations', 'random processes' & 'time'. To quote the Tui Ads - 'Yeah right!'  [4] 

Society tells our kids that this world is the product of random force and chance - that they are really just evolved animals and when they die they just go back into the dirt. Meditate on that long enough and it is enough to create an upside down smile on even the happiest person. It makes it all meaningless in the end. Nobel Prize winning physicist and Atheist Steven Weinberg famously remarked,  'The more we find out about the universe, the more meaningless it all seems.'  Um, excuse me while I go snuff myself. 'The more meaningless it all seems?' I don't think so Tim!

Listen to King David: Psalm 19:1-4  the heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. (2) Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. (3) There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. (4) Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world. 

Or listen to Job 12:7-10  But ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds of the air, and they will tell you; (8) or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish of the sea inform you. (9) Which of all these does not know that the hand of the LORD has done this? (10) In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind. 

It doesn't matter what you are looking at... whether it is the heavens, the animals, the birds of the air, trees or seeds... it doesn't matter what you look at - there is a wonder and majesty in all of it. There is a design and there is a designer!  [5]  And Jesus, Paul tells us, is the one who created it! John said it like this: John 1:1-3 '  In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being'. 

Two Examples of God's amazing creation

Let's look at a couple of examples concerning this... namely this planet and your body. As soon as we take the time to investigate these things we see that everything just cries out what an amazing creator Jesus is!

Our planet: We live on a planet that is perfect for human life. You think you are pretty stable and stationary sitting there reading this study don't you? Well, you are neither! [6] You are currently doing 30 km per second and spinning at up to 1700 Km per hour! And yet this is totally required for sustaining life. In fact scientists tell us about the 'fine-tuning' of the universe and specifically the fine tuning of planet Earth within the universe. As a quick example, they tell us that our planet is situated in the 'Goldilocks zone'. That is, the zone that is not too hot and not too cold... it's just right! If we were a few percentages further or closer to the sun, no life could exist. We are just in the right spot. But that is only one of hundreds of factors. It turns out that everything is 'just right'. There are so many constants that have to be exactly as they are for life to exist, including the force of gravity, the oxygen/nitrogen ratio, the distance and size of the moon, the force of electromagnetic fields, and the tilt of the earth, and the location and age of the sun... Mathematically, taken as a whole it means that it doesn't matter how large the universe is... it can't just happen by chance! There are too many factors involved. It all screams out that there is a wonderful designer behind it all!

Human Body and DNA -  'Human DNA is like a computer program but far, far more advanced than any software ever created.' - Bill Gates , that is so true! I write computer programs for a living. I've yet to come across a computer program that didn't have a computer programmer or a team of programmers behind it. And yet that is what we are told when it comes to mankind and this universe. That creation doesn't have a creator. Regarding DNA, the 'Wonders of God' DVD talks about the amount of information that can be stored in DNA the size of a pin head. It could fill a stack of books 500 times higher than from here to the moon! Now that is incredible. But think of this... We all start out life as a single cell. How does that cell know how to multiply and build a body? How incredible is it that you came from a single cell that multiplied into 100 trillion (or so) cells. And encoded into those cells in the DNA is all that it needs to know what its function is and to what part of the body it belongs to, and what it will become. Each cell is microscopically small, yet has activities comparable to those of a modern city! [7] 

How incredible is our creator? How does Jesus know all these things? Where did all this limitless knowledge come from? My little pea-brain, as well designed as it is, soon hits a wall! But this is the God whom you will one day stand before and see Him face to face.

Science - Can't tell us the 'Who' and the Why' 

Lots of people put their faith in science to tell them all the answers to life's mysteries. Now science tells us many things but science can only go so far. Consider the following example: Let's say that you're walking along and you stumble upon a cake on the side of the road. Granted - it's not an everyday event but you never know your luck! Curious about the cake you take it to the lab to have it analysed. What do you think the scientists can tell us about the cake?

The biochemists will inform us about the structure of the proteins. The nutritionists declare it to be a chocolate cake and calculate the calories. The chemists give a total breakdown of the elements making up that cake. And the mathematicians have a nice set of equations giving the total circumference and volume of the cake

Now that these experts have given us an exhaustive description of the cake, can we say that the cake is completely explained? Suppose you were to ask them... "Who made the cake", or "Why was it made? For what purpose was is made?"

Science can't answer these questions by science alone. Such questions are outside the scope of science. They would need to somehow find the source of the cake - that is, the person who made it and ask why they made it. Now I like that illustration because Colossians tells us both the 'who' and the 'why'.

v. 16: Col 1:16 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.

And that, my friend, includes you! You were made by Him and for Him. You were created to be in a relationship with Jesus Christ and to find your purpose and joy in Him. Are you giving Him that place in your life?

3. His Pre-eminence over the New Creation

v. 18: (18) He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything.

When you think of all the wonders of God in creation, it is slightly staggering that none of what we have been talking about is His greatest wonder. As marvellous as the first creation is, God's plan and purpose don't lie there. It says here that He, Jesus, is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead. In other words, through the resurrection He began something entirely new - and that is the new creation! The first creation didn't cost Jesus anything. He spoke it into being. The new creation cost Jesus His life. The first creation started with the Heaven and the Earth and mankind was created later on the 6 th day. In the new creation the order was reversed - He began with mankind and will later create a whole new Heavens and Earth  [8]  .

And when Christ returns to take His bride, His body, the Church, out of this world, then your physical body

that was sown in corruption (as wonderful as it is) will be raised and changed and we shall be like Him. Finally the new creation that started within with the spirit will be manifested outwardly through the body and entire life!  1Jn 3:2, 'Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when He appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.'


4. The Greatest Wonder of All

vv. 19-22: Col 1:19-22 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. (21) Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behaviour. (22) But now he has reconciled you by Christ's physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation.

That is the true wonder of God. That a man, though fallen, desperately wicked and an enemy of God, could, through the work of the cross and the shed blood of Jesus, be reconciled to God and be found holy, without blemish and free from accusation! Spurgeon said,  'Creation and providence are but the whisper of His power, but redemption is its music, and praise is the echo which shall yet fill His temple.' 

I've focused more in this study on some aspects of His physical creation (this earth, the universe, the wonder of a single cell growing into a marvellous indescribable organ called the brain) because we can kind of grasp some of these things seeing that they are physical and visible. Kind of! But I totally agree with Spurgeon. These things, as mind boggling as they are, are only but a whisper of His power. The real miracle and wonder of God is the miracle of the new birth. Whatever work of Jesus that you take the time to study is a wonder all of itself. But none of it comes close to what God has done in the heart of man. Study that work and you will find it to be perfect as well. And miraculous! One day we will know. One day you will see all that God did to draw you and change your heart. We will grasp it all. We see dimly today. We will see and know even as we are seen and known.

5. What about the Final 'If'?

v. 23: Colossians 1: 23 'If you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant'.

Sometimes when the New Testament talks about your perfect position as holy and blameless before God, it states it without any conditions. Sometimes it is stated with an 'if' condition based around maintaining our faith to the end.

The Spirit of God has seen fit to put many of these so-called 'if' passages in the word of God in order to challenge all who profess the name of Christ as to the reality of their profession. We would not want to say anything that might dull the sharp edge of these passages, for as someone has said: 'These 'ifs' in Scripture look on professing Christians here in the world and come as healthy tests to the soul.'

The reader will find, on a careful study of the Word that it is the habit of the Spirit to accompany the fullest and most absolute statements of grace by warnings which imply a ruinous failure on the part of some who nominally stand in faith. ... Warnings which grate harshly on the ears of insincere profession are drunk willingly as medicine by the godly soul. ... The aim of all such teaching as we have here is to encourage faith,

and condemn, by anticipation, reckless and self-confident professors.' 

Col. 1:15-23 - Overview of Verses:  Paul's goal in this passage is to give the Colossian church an accurate picture of who Jesus is and what he accomplished on the cross and to encourage them to remain faithful to Jesus in spite of the pressures they are facing.

In verses 15-20, Paul writes the Colossian church a poem about Jesus. In verses 20-23, Paul reminds them of the impact Jesus' sacrifice has had on their lives. Paul challenges them to keep faith and to not lose hope in the gospel.

The first stanza of Paul's Poem (v15-17) depicts the Son as the creator and ruler of all things. The second stanza (v18-20) explains that Jesus is bringing about a new creation through his death and resurrection.

Let us learn three things from this passage:

1. Jesus is the exalted King and demands our allegiance and loyal service.

2. Through his death on the cross, Jesus has broken down every barrier that separated us from God.

3. Jesus is the most valuable and important being in the universe. We don't need to look anywhere else for contentment. When we have Jesus, we have all we need.

Break it Down: Verse-by-Verse (NIV)

v15a: "The Son is the image of the invisible God,"

In Jesus, we have a perfect picture of the person and character of God. He is the Word of God in human flesh (John 1:14). If we as Christians want to know what our God is like, we must get to know Jesus. This is what the author of Hebrews meant when he said, "the Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being" (Hebrews 1:3A NIV). Jesus put it plainly: "Whoever has seen me has seen the Father" (John 14:9 NIV).

v15b: "the firstborn over all creation."

The word firstborn (also in v18) does not imply that Jesus is a created being. In the ancient world, the firstborn son inherited his father's estate. The word is used here to show Jesus' preeminence and supremacy over all things.

v16: "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."

Don't overlook that three-letter word, for. A synonym for this word is because. Paul is telling the Colossians that Jesus is supreme over all of creation because it was all created through him and for him, the visible things of earth and the unseen things of the spiritual realm. "Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made" (John 1:3 NIV).

v17: "He is before all things, and in him all things hold together."

Jesus existed before anything else (Genesis 1:1; John 1:1-2) and is the sustainer of all things (Hebrews 1:3).

v18a: "And he is the head of the body, the church;"

Several times in Paul's letters, he refers to the church using the metaphor of a body. Jesus is the head, and we are all different parts of the body. Like parts of a body, we have different roles, but are interconnected and dependent on each other, and are all under the authority of Christ, who is our head and our King.

v18b: "he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy."

Jesus is the ruler of all things. Everything belongs to him. He is even preeminent among the dead, for he died and rose again, demonstrating his authority over death.

v19: "For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him,"

Remember,  for means because. Jesus has supremacy over all things because he possesses the fullness of God. All of God's "God-ness" came and dwelt in the human body of Jesus of Nazareth. Later in the letter, Paul will reiterate " Christ the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form" (Colossians 2:19 NIV),

v20: "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."

Since the fall (Genesis 3), humans and spiritual forces have been in rebellion against God. As a result, all of creation was infected with the consequences of human sin; subjected to futility and in bondage to decay (Romans 8:20-21). However, when Jesus died on the cross, he took upon himself all of the consequences of our sin, so that all things can be made new and brought back into their rightful place, under the peaceful reign of King Jesus.

v21-22: "Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ's physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation-"

Paul follows his powerful poem by using an example of Christ's reconciliation that the Colossians can relate to: their own redemption story. The Colossian Christians, like the rest of humanity before coming to Christ, were enslaved to sin and were therefore separated from God and subject to his wrath (Ephesians 2:1-3). They were God's enemies. But Jesus' death on the cross was a sufficient sacrifice for all of their sins, and God now looks at them and sees them as holy and without blame, free from the guilt of their sins.

v23: "if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant."

As we're going to see in the fourth movement of the letter (2:6-23), the Colossians are under intense pressure to abandon Jesus and follow false teachings and ways of life that contradict the gospel. Notice how simple Paul's instructions are: continue in your faith, and let your hope be unmoved, remaining as it is. This truly is an easy yoke and a light burden (Matthew 11:28-30).

~The good news is bearing fruit all over the world, in our day just as much as in Paul's. May our God and Father strengthen us through his Spirit in our innermost being so that we may remain established and firm, unmoved by the winds and waves that come our way. May we hold tightly onto the Son, for we were made by him and for him.