About Jesus     Steve Sweetman

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Chapter 1:15 -23

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The Supremacy Of Christ  (ch. 1:15-23)


The content of these particular verses gets to the reason why Paul wrote this letter in the first place.  The Gnostics, those to whom Paul was refuting, believed in the worship of angels and the reducing of the essence of Jesus Christ to angelic status. 


Verse 15 reads, "He (Jesus) is the image of the invisible God." This is simple to understand.  God is invisible. He canít be seen by humanity.  So in His love and willingness to communicate with man, God became a man.  That man is Jesus.  Jesus was the one and only visible expression of who God is.  The writer of the book of Hebrews says something similar in Hebrews 1:3.  He says that Jesus is the "exact representation of His (Godís) being."  In every detail of who God is, Jesus is a mirror image. 


The Greek word "eikon" is translated into English as "image" in verse 15.  This Greek word involves two concepts; representation and manifestation.  Jesus is the exact representation of who God is and He manifests the nature of God exactly as God's nature is.


The verb "is" in verse 13 is a present active indicative verb in Greek.  This means that right now, not only when He was on earth, Jesus is the image of God.    


In John 4:24 Jesus told us that God is a spirit.  Here in verse 15 Paul says that God is invisible.  This begs the question; "Can man or will man ever see God?"  Jesus, in John 6:46 tells us that no man has seen God except the Son.  John, in 1 John 4:12 says that no man has seen God at any time.  I believe, therefore, at least in man's humanity, in his human likeness, has ever seen God.  Some might suggest that Moses saw God but that's not so.  If you study the text, He saw the glory of God.  Exodus 33:20 tells us that no man can see God and live.  I think these Scriptures make it clear.  We cannot see God, but, will we be able to see God in the next life?  Revelation 22:3 speaks of the "throne of God and the Lamb."  Then, the next verse tells us that "we will see His face."  Does this mean we will see the face of God?  Note that there is one throne but two sitting on the throne, God and the Lamb.  Note also the singular verb "His".  I know that this gets into the discussion of the Trinity, which I will not get into here, but, it seems to me that at this point in eternity, somehow, and probably because we will be like Jesus at this point with a glorified body (1 John 3:2), we will not only see Jesus but see God, maybe like Adam and Eve saw God prior to the fall, assuming they actually saw God and that's an assumption becaue the text does not say they saw God.             


The last half of verse 15 is a little tricky and has been misinterpreted by many over the years.  It even could be seen as an argument on behalf of the Gnostics. Paul says that Jesus is the firstborn over all creation.  Does this mean that Jesus had a birth?  He did have a human birth, but He existed prior to His human birth.  John 1:1 says that He is both with God and is God, thus, He existed prior to His birth into humanity.  The word "creation" confuses some too, like the Jehovah Witnesses.  They believe that Jesus is a created being, much like an angel.  In this sense the Jehovah Witnesses line up with the Gnostics of Paul's day. 


The Biblical fact is that Jesus was not created.  He co-exists with God from eternity past into eternity future, if you can actually say it that way.  


Paul goes on to confirm what John has said in the first few verses of his gospel.  John says that "all things were made by Him (Jesus) and without Him was nothing made (John 1:1-3)."  In verse 16 Paul says that all things were created by Jesus and for Jesus.  Jesus was there in the creation of all things.  He played a key roll in creating all things.  Paul makes sure you know what all things means.  He says, "Things visible and things invisible."  He goes on to say that all rulers and authorities, both earthly authorities and spiritual authorities, were created by Jesus.  Jesus created all of the angels, including satan.  Nothing was created without Jesus.  They were all created for His pleasure and purposes.  Anyone of us who creates or makes anything makes it for his pleasure and purposes.  We like making things.  For the artist, painting a picture is enjoyable.  To the photographer, taking a picture is pleasurable.  For a song writer, writing and performing a song gives a sense of accomplishment.  The same is true with Jesus.  His creation was made for Him and His enjoyment and purposes.


We should make special note here that Paul says that Jesus has created earthly authorities.  Daniel 2:21, Romans 163:1, and elsewhere clearly tell us that God is behind all human authority.  He causes leaders and nations to both rise and fall, and He does so to accomplish His will on earth.  That being said, I believe Paul is not merely talking about human authorities here.  I believe he also has spiritual authorities in mind as he did in Ephesians 6:10 and following where he speaks about our fight against spiritual rulers in the heavenly world.             


Note that Paul says that all things were created for Jesus.  He created all things for His own good pleasure.  That means He created Lucifer (satan prior to his rebellion) who obviously had the ability to rebel. For some reason unknown to me, and I believe to us all, the concept of evil somehow was in the plan of God. That may be hard to comprehend but if God is God then there can be nothing outside of God that is not a product of Him.


In verse 17 Paul says that "He (Jesus) was before all things and in Him all things hold together."  The writer of Hebrews, (who maybe Paul) says the same in Hebrews 1:3.  He says, that Jesus "sustains all things by His powerful word."  This can be understood as a simple physics lesson.  The reason why the universe and all of the atomic structure of things are held together, and donít fly out of control from their orbit, is because Jesus holds all things together. 


The basic element of life is the atom.  It consists of protons that spin rapidly around an electron, similar to our solar system.  Why do these protons stay in their orbit?  Why does our earth and Mars and other planets stay in their orbit?  Why donít we have an atomic holocaust of protons exploding throughout the universe?  Because Jesus holds all of these protons in place. He keeps each and every proton in its orbit.  He does the same with each and every solar system in the universe.  From the smallest of atoms, to the largest solar system that spin in their orbits, Jesus is there holding everything together.  You didnít know that the Bible taught eleventh grade physics, did you.  If for any reason anything flies out of its orbit you can be certain that Jesus is in control. 


In verse 18 Paul goes on to say that Jesus is the head of His body, the church.  This is one Biblical truth that the church often forgets, neglects, and even rejects.  I once heard a Bible teacher prophesy saying that Jesus wants His church back.  Jesus would say such a thing because in many areas of what we call church we have hijacked His church and taken it from Him.  I believe this prophetic word is relevant for today's western world church.        


Note that Jesus is Head of the body, the church.  I believe many Christians understand the word "body" as it is used in the term "Body of Christ" to be symbolic.  That is to say, the church is like a body.  It's not a literal body.  I don't see it that way and I don't think Paul saw it that way either.  The word "body" in this verse is not an adjective describing the word "church".  The word "body" is a noun that does not describe the word "church".  Both "body" and "church" speak of the same thing.  The church is the body and the body is the church.  In fact, the Body of Christ inn which the Spirit of God lives is the replacement body of Jesus on earth.  Once Jesus passed through the clouds and returned to Heaven He was no longer on earth in human form.  To make up this loss He returned to earth in the form of His Spirit and lives in a new body, a body that consists of a multitude of believers we call church.        


At this point I'd like to insert a short article that I wrote on the word "firstborn" that we've seen in the last few verses.  It is as follows.


Those who say that Jesus was created by God at His human birth and base it on Colossians 1:15 are not being orthodox or Biblical in their thinking. 


Colossians 1:15 says that "Jesus is the image of the invisible God (aikon in Greek - exact representation and manifestation)".  An image is an exact replication of something, but yet separate from that which it replicates.  When the text states that Jesus is the image of the invisible God, it means that Jesus is the human face of the invisible God, separate from God, yet being God.  Hebrews 1:1 to 5 confirms this fact Ė Jesus is "the exact representation of His (God) being." 


Colossians 1:15 goes on to say that Jesus is the "firstborn over all creation" (NIV Ė 1984 edition).  Note the words "over all".  Some texts say "of all".  Good hermeneutics suggest we don't build an argument based on words like "of", "the", and "over".  Besides, in this case, there are more important words to build an argument on.


The word "firstborn" is the controversial word here.  Some say that Jesus was born, thus He was created.  The obvious conclusion then is that Jesus is not eternal.  He is God's creation, not God Himself.  This flies in the face of the long standing Christian doctrine known as "the Deity of Christ".  I believe it also flies in the face of Biblical teaching about Jesus.    


The word "firstborn" here does not suggest that Jesus was created as Adam was created.  It's clear that Jesus was born into humanity.  John 1:1 to 3, along with Colossians 1:16 and 17 state that Jesus existed in a non-human form before His conception and birth into humanity.  All things in heaven and earth, whether visible or invisible were created by Jesus and for Jesus. 


All this being understood, if we want to understand what the apostle Paul meant by the word "firstborn", and in Greek, the word means just that, "first born", we need to look at how the word is used in verse 18 of Colossians 1.  Paul says that Jesus "is the firstborn from the dead". 


Jesus was raised from the dead, but He wasn't the only one who has been raised from the dead.  He is however, the first to be born into a new bodily existence.  He is the first one to be bodily transformed into a new style bodily creation. 


The simple meaning to the word "firstborn' in Colossians 1:15 then is the fact that Jesus is the first one who has been transformed into what Christians have termed "a glorified body".  Colossians 1:15 has nothing to do with Jesus being born or created in eternity past.  This is simply a "doctrine of demons" with the intent to destroy the very foundation of who Jesus is.


You can read 1 Corinthians 15 for further understanding on this issue.   


Now we go back to my commentary.           


Verse 19 says that God ďwas pleased to have all of His fullness dwell in Jesus.Ē  This means that all of who God is, in every last little detail could be found in Jesus.  This shows us the Deity of Christ.  Imagine what it must have been like to meet such a man.


Paul goes on to say in verse 20 that the reason why God came to earth in Jesus was to reconcile Himself to all things, whether things on earth or in Heaven.  This is interesting.  Jesusí work on the cross not only made it possible for mankind to be reconciled to God, but for all things to be reconciled to God.  Salvation is for mankind but it exceeds beyond us.  Salvation is for all that God created on this planet.  Creation was subject to the curse when Adam and Eve initially sinned.  As can be seen clearly in Romans 8, creation itself is waiting for the day when Godís plan of salvation is realized in its fullness.  Creation is waiting with eager anticipation because it knows that it will be restored to Godís original purpose along with mankind as Paul states in Romans 8:20 and following. 


All this is accomplished through the blood of Jesus that was shed on the cross, as Paul puts it in verse 20.  The death of the only perfect life was the only way for Godís extreme anger and sense of justice to be satisfied.  Only the death of Jesus could please God.  Any other sacrifice made to fix our sin problem could not be good enough.  God is a perfect God.  Anything less than total perfection is unsuitable.  Any human way to fix our sin problem would not do.  Godís way only would do.  Godís only perfect solution was to execute Jesus, His exact representation, for the punishment of manís sin. ďThis was a perfect sacrifice, perfect in every way, perfect in every aspectĒ, as I once heard Derek Prince say.  He is totally right.  God is absolutely perfect.  He does not do anything outside of perfection. 


Note in verse 19 that all the fullness of God dwells in Jesus.  All of who God is in His essence is found in Jesus.  This speaks to the Deity of Christ.  This is the most fundamental truth of Christianity.  It's sad to say that in some parts of what we call church these days; people no longer believe this basic truth of the Bible.                   


In verse 20 Paul says that Jesus reconciles all things to Himself.  Some take this to mean that eventually all people will be saved and that eternal punishment isn't really eternal.  It's temporary.  This verse must be understood in light of what the rest of the Bible says.  Eternal punishment is eternal or else the Bible would not say it is.  What I believe Paul is saying here that all things, even those who reject Him, will be reconciled to His purpose for them, which is, eternal punishment.  It's not that they will be reconciled in the sense of being saved.  They're reconciled, brought back, to God's purpose, which for them is eternal punishment.    


In verses 21 to 23 Paul gives us some of the results of our reconciliation with God that was provided by the death of Jesusí physical body.  We are now holy, without blame, and free from any and all accusations.  Can you believe this?  Mankind, depraved and worthless as we are, can be holy, blameless, and without any kind of accusation from satan or anyone else.  This is now our position in which we stand before God, that is, if we trust in who Jesus is and what He has done for us by His sacrifice on the cross.  Donít get proud or boastful over this exalted position.  We have done nothing to deserve it.  It is all because of Godís mercy that the believer stands before Him free of all guilt.   


In verse 20 Paul speaks of the reconciliation of all things, whether these things are in Heaven or on earth.  Universalists have taken this verse to say that in the end, all things, all beings, including satan, demons, and the lost wicked, will eventually be reconciled to God.  Although that's a nice thought, and if true that would be great, but, when considering the rest of what the Bible says on this issue, it just isn't true.  The Lake of Fire is the eternal, not temporal, place of the unbeliever. 


In verse 21 Paul says that the Colossians were once alienated from God.  Most of these Colossian believers were Gentiles.  In every aspect they would have been alienated from God.  In this verse Paul just points out one form of alienation and that was their sinful behaviour. 


Paul also says that in their minds they were enemies of God.  The human mind is so corrupt and defiled that we are enemies of the one who created us.  Jeremiah 17:9 tells us that we are so desperately wicked that we just don't know how wicked we really are.  How true that is.  This is what Paul is saying here.


As I said earlier, verse 22 tells us that we now stand before God guilt free and it's all because of Jesus' physical body, as Paul puts it.  This is obviously in reference to Jesus' death.  He was the sacrifice that would end all sacrifices.  His sacrifice alone can satisfy the justice of God.  We must know that God is just.  Being human, I do not believe we can fully understand just how God's justice works.  He hates evil, yet He loves us, who are evil.  This is a paradox that only God Himself could fix, and He did so by becoming human and taking on our penalty for our sin.  In that sense, we have received the penalty due us, or in another sense, Jesus was penalized on our behalf.  Both the sin and the punishment are in the past and we stand before the Judge of all things without a trace of guilt.


In verse 23 Paul says that "if you continue in your faith Ö"  Continuing in your faith, your trust in Jesus is vitally important.  If you are saved by faith, then it is only logical to conclude that you stay saved by your faith, or your trust in Jesus.  Nothing you can do can get you saved and nothing you can do can keep you saved.  The other thing this tells me that if you do not stay in your faith; if you stop trusting your life with Jesus, you will lose your salvation.  I know that's not accepted by all Christians, but that is my position on the issue.


In verse 23 Paul also speaks of being established and firm in the hope that the gospel gives us.  Christians don't hope as the world around us hope.  We don't hope in the sense of winning a lottery.  I hope I win the lottery.  Our hope is based on a certain future with Jesus in Heaven and on the new earth for all of eternity. Our hope is more of an anticipation of a certain future.  It's not based on luck.


Paul also says in verse 23 that the gospel has been proclaimed to every creature under Heaven.  We certainly can understand how the gospel of Jesus has been, is, and will be, proclaimed here on earth, but to me Paul is suggesting that the gospel was proclaimed to the heavenly world as well.  Was it proclaimed so the angels could find salvation?  I don't think so, but that doesn't mean it could not be proclaimed.  A close study of the book of Revelation tells us that the angels have heard, know, and understand the meaning of the gospel.  It must have been proclaimed in the heavenly world.  Revelation 14:6 tells us that an angel is flying preaching the eternal gospel.  Angels are obviously well informed in matters concerning the gospel of Christ.     


The last phrase in this section tells us that Paul was a servant, a slave, of this very gospel.  He served Jesus by laying aside his life to proclaim the gospel to anyone and everyone.  That was his mission in life.  He had given up everything in his life for this mission


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