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Colossians 1:15-20

Posted on September 22, 2019

The text is a great deep, we cannot explore it, but we will voyage over its surface joyously, the Holy Spirit giving us a favorable wind. - Charles Spurgeon

There is no text throughout the rest of Gods word that is as detailed about who Christ is than this passage. I call it a passage but truthfully it is debated among scholars because it is believed to be a poem or a song. So Far in Paul's letter to the Colossians we have hit the literary forms of greeting, thanksgiving, prayer, and now a Song or poem, so Paul is well on his way to having a written church service, that would only be complete in the baptist tradition if he wrote about a meal at the end. 

This hymn is a response to the false teachings Paul has heard that the Colossians were facing. 


15 He is the image of the invisible God,

the firstborn over all creation.


Vs. 15 presents what may seem like a contradiction but in fact is not. The Son is described as both the “image of the invisible God” and as the “firstborn.”

In Genesis 1:26 we read “Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness. They will rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, the livestock, the whole earth, and the creatures that crawl on the earth.” What I want to point out here is yes we were made in his image, according to his likeness,  but Christ was and is the image of God. What does that mean?

‭As the image (eikon) of God, Jesus is more than a mere man. We hold to the truth about who Christ truly says he is because there were false teachers impressing upon the Colossians and there are false teachers now who will also try to twist and distort who Christ is out of ignorance, malice, or through the deceit of the enemy. Why? Because if you change Him, if you change Jesus, it changes everything about who God is. Because Jesus was and is God. 

The Jehovah's Witnesses use this very verse to try to say that Jesus was a created being, they clarify him as some sort of minor deity, like an angel, I think technically the head angel, but the text will disprove that here in a minute. The Mormons claim he was a Man just like us who experienced the fullness of the divine nature God offers those that follow him so that we can one day die and be Gods of our own planets. 

All of these are lies and the truth is so much greater than that. Jesus is both fully God, and Fully Man. He is the visible expression of what the God who cannot be seen is like.This is a statement about His divine nature. So Paul intends not to undercut this statement but to affirm it with his next one, that Jesus is the “firstborn.” Used 132 times in the Septuagint, you don’t have to be a Hebrew scholar to know that firstborn can refer to the firstborn child. But you do need to be a Hebrew scholar to know that “firstborn” or (prototokos) often refers to a person of superior rank, it means the exalted one, as in the superior rank of a firstborn son who is the inheritor. Jesus was the exalted one. Psalm 89:27 “I will make him the firstborn, the highest of the Kings of the earth”.  So Jesus, who is the exact expression of God’s very person, was not created, we actually read in John 1 that he was there at creation, “in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the word was God,” and later, “the word became flesh and dwelt among us”. So not only is Jesus the image of God, he is also the firstborn  which means he is supreme in rank. None are above him. How supreme?“Of all creation” is a prepositional phrase that contains The genitive “of” in vs. 15 is not to be mistaken as describing Jesus as a part of the creation. It is a genitive of subordination, rightly translated by NKJV and CSB as “over;” Jesus is the firstborn over all creation. Everything in creation is submissive to him. We who are made in God's image are to submit to the one who is the image of God. 

16 For everything was created by him,

in heaven and on earth,

the visible and the invisible,

whether thrones or dominions

or rulers or authorities —

all things have been created through him and for him. 

Vs. 16 describes the first reason for Jesus’ rank above creation, the creative agency of the Son: all things were created “by” and “through” Him. Everything seen, everything unseen, all the powers of heaven and earth submit to him are under him as creator, as God. 


‭‭John‬ ‭1:3‬ “All things were created through him, and apart from him not one thing was created that has been created.”


He has supreme rank over creation because He is the agent of creation. Vs. 15 also describes the telos of the created order: all things were created “for” Him (the preposition eis has a sense of direction here, in the sense of “moving toward”). So what the text is saying here is that, As Creator, Jesus is the end, the goal, for which everything exists, the goal toward which everything is moving.

You and I exist to move towards Christ, He is the Goal, we were created through him, for him, and because of his work we now exist in Him and can share in his new kingdom to come. 


17 He is before all things,

and by him all things hold together.


Vs. 17a describes the second reason for Jesus’ superior rank, His preeminence in time and priority: He is before all things (pro panton). This could refer to the Son’s existence before all things temporarily or His priority in rank. It is best here to view this as a case of semantic density, wherein the word contains both a reference to time and status: Jesus retains supreme rank because He existed before all things and comes before all things in priority.

This is an easy application point here. Does Jesus come before all things in your life? Is he your priority? I could sit on this point and hammer and hammer, but that is really up to you, no words I can say could ever cause you to live for Jesus, to have him as your priority over everything else in your life. But he can, I pray you’ll be open today to hear God’s word, to listen to the spirit as it moves from the text, to your heart and mind and that you would be changed by it, that no matter where you are at in your walk with him, that we would see him in his rightful place today, before all things. 

Vs. 17b describes the third reason for Jesus’ superior rank, His sustaining work over creation: by Him all things hold together. Not only is the Son the agent of creation, He is the sustainer of creation. All things find coherence and consistency in Him.

Goldilocks placement of earth, The laminin are a family of glycoproteins that are an integral part of the structural scaffolding in almost every tissue of an organism. Laminin, on a molecular level holds everything together, and they are shaped like a cross. 

18 He is also the head of the body, the church;

he is the beginning,

the firstborn from the dead,

so that he might come to have

first place in everything.


Vs. 18a gives the second major heading of this paragraph. Jesus is the head of the body, the church.

Now that we have solidified that he has authority over all, it almost seems a back step to define how he is also the head of his church, his people. But it is not, it’s Paul’s way of ministering to the believers at colossae by saying, “Christ is over all, and that means you too, especially you.” Sometimes in our faith we tend to forget some things also apply to us, sometimes this is just a mistake as we mature in our understanding, but sometimes it’s selective hearing, like if I tell you God loves you, some of you will take it to heart, and I only say some because even I have to remind myself sometimes that my sins are forgiven, forgotten washed cleaned when talking about his grace to others, I am no different, but then there’s the other side, the rebellious side.  some of our ears shut down or our excuse machines start running when we read how fasting would bring us closer to God, how we should rest in Him and not in Netflix, how we are to repent of our sins. How we are to serve, love, and forgive each other, yes we can get selective in our application of God's word, And that is why as Paul ministers here, he adds how In addition to His rank as supreme over creation, Jesus also ranks as supreme over the church. 


So the Colossians learn how Jesus himself leads the church and that it’s not dependent upon mankind, for epaphras their leader, the one that brought them the gospel that formed the church, is with Paul in prison, so he sends them the truth and comfort that Christ is in control, and I hope that brings comfort to us today. 


I know many struggle or have struggled with me as the pastor because of my age and innumerable other reasons both you and I could come up with, but we can take comfort that Christ is over all, especially this church, his church. left up to me alone it would fail, and even just in my place as pastor, if I just depended on me, I would fail too, both you and God. That’s why it’s so important that we recognize his headship over the body, so that we can cling to it desperately, so that we can rely on it, and so we can rest in it. 


So Vs. 18b-20 give three supporting reasons for Jesus’ headship over the church for us to depend on. First, vs. 18b states that He is “the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He might come to have first place in everything.” Simply put, Jesus is qualified to be head of the church because He rose from the dead. “Beginning” and “firstborn” should be read here to mean that Jesus is the first of many to be raised from the dead. 


But you might say wait a minute we have seen and read through the Gospels and other books of people coming back to life, such as Lazarus in John, but here the text isn’t talking about life on this earth, that would be too simple to garner Jesus the headship, no Jesus was the first to go from death in sin, to eternal life. When Christ shed his blood and his purity on the cross and took upon him the weight of all the sin, all the shame, all the death, all the seperation, the dept, the darkness, for the first and only time he experience sin/seperation from the father, no wonder he cried out at that time, my God My God why have you forsaken me, God had not foresaken him, but Jesus felt that because in that moment he had our darkness on him and God is light and were sin is, he cannot be. But because of his divine nature Jesus could bear it and overcome it, and yes he rose after three days so that we would know him as lord, so that we could know him as savior. So Paul writes how he is the firstborn from the dead, firstborn out of sin to life eternal, and firstborn in name because many have followed and by God's grace will continue to follow. His resurrection makes our resurrection possible. 

The resurrection of Jesus is the dawn of a new creation, a new era that we get to partake in, a privilege our forefathers in the OT could only dream and prophecy about. And still the best is yet to come when Christ returns or takes us home. Still The benefits of the Age to Come break into the midst of this present evil age through the resurrection of Jesus.

19 For God was pleased to have

all his fullness dwell in him,


The second reason for Jesus’ headship of the church is given in vs. 19, “for God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in Him.”


Mr. Durbin’s tests in High School. 

What is here spoken of-"all fullness." Where is it placed-"in him," that is, in the Redeemer. We are told why, because "it pleased the Father;" and we have also a note of time, or when, in the word "dwell." "It pleased the Father that in him should all fullness dwell." Those catch words, what, where, why, and when, may help you to


what In these words, "all fullness," we hear the echo of his death-cry, "It is finished." We are to bring nothing, but to find all in him, yea, the fullness of all in him: we are simply to receive out of his fullness grace for grace. We are not asked to contribute, nor required to make up deficiencies, for there are none to make up-all, all is laid up in Christ. All that we shall want between this place and heaven, all we could need between the gates of hell, where we lay in our blood, to the gates of heaven, where we shall find welcome admission, is treasured up for us in the Lord Christ Jesus.


Where - in him, because as the son he could contain it, though man to be approachable, relatable,both a servant and a king, both a carpenter and a creator, the lamb, for its tenderness and its sacrificial use, 


Why, because only God could pay the debt, only the blood of Jesus could wash away the sins of all mankind, only God could bring us back to Him, again we could ask why, because God so loved the world, he sent his son, so that through our faith in what Jesus has done we can share an everlasting life with him, in him. 


WHEN. When is all fullness in Jesus? It is there, past, present, and the future. "It pleased the Father that in him should all fullness dwell." Fulness, then, was in Christ of old, is in Christ to-day, and will be in Christ for ever. Perpetuity is indicated here; all fullness was, is, shall be in the person of Jesus Christ. Every saint at colossae was saved under the same grace from the same savior that we proclaim today. 


From the streaming fount of the wounds of Christ on Calvary, redemption flows evermore; and as long as there is a sinner to be saved, Christ's blood shall never lose its power, the fullness of merit and grace shall abide the same.


 Paul states clearly that the fullness of God’s very being dwells in Jesus. This qualifies Him uniquely to be head of the church.


20 and through him to reconcile

everything to himself,

whether things on earth or things in heaven,

by making peace 

through his blood, shed on the cross.

The third reason for Jesus’ headship of the church is in vs. 20, “and through Him to reconcile everything to Himself…by making peace through His blood, shed on the cross.” Jesus reconciles all things through His saving work on the cross. The hostility between God and humanity caused by humanity’s rebellion ceases because of the work of Jesus that makes peace between humanity and God. The cross puts the world to rights and serves as the line of demarcation between those who will be reconciled to God in judgment and those who will be reconciled to him in salvation. Jesus is qualified to be head of the church because the church is the community of the redeemed people Jesus has reconciled through the cross.


To clarify, This does not point to universal salvation, for all will stand before God, and Jesus will intercede for us that not only call him Lord but follow him as disciples. “Again, not all who say Lord Lord shall enter the kingdom of heaven but only he that doeth the will of my father which is in him,” but there will also be those that do not hear or that reject the truth, the Gospel and they will have to face the just judgement of God on their own, and his wrath means eternity in Hell, separate from him. 


There will be no relief from hell, his word says “all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven,“ the word for heaven here meaning heaven, his kingdom, specifically, not referring to the heavens or things unseen, so hell is not included here, hell is eternal, hell is separation from God, and it will forever be. That’s why we must be urgent in spreading the Gospel, not comfortable or complacent in the great commission Jesus gave us with all of his authority, to take his gospel to the ends of the earth. 

So surely since Jesus is Lord over all and the head of His church, since all the fullness of God abides perpetually in Christ, there is no reason to wait. submit yourself to him. people don’t like that word, submit, because anywhere else it is a resignation, it’s a defeat, it costs you something. But not in Christ, to submit to Christ is to gain, eternal life, relationship with the one who created you, loves you, died for you so that you could know him and he could dwell in you. Submission to Christ is to give up your death so Christ can give you new life. Submission to Christ is to trust him as you fall upon forgiveness, grace, and mercy he made possible for us, and especially for you. This is how we know God’s love, that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us, he died for you as you are, lost in your sin, he loves you for you, not for what you have done or what you’ll become, God, existing in his trinity, in his purity, became one of us, and took on our sin for us, literally tearing himself apart, separating the son from himself, for us. That is why I trust Jesus. 

So for those this morning who do not know him, for those who are not right with him, submit yourself to him, because he is both servant and king, carpenter and creator, fully man, fully God, Lord and savior. May the Holy Spirit show you that there is enough in Jesus Christ to meet your wants, that your weakness, your sins, need not keep you back, not even the hardness of your heart, not even the rebelliousness of your will; for Christ is greater and he is able to subdue all things to himself. If you seek him he will be found in you. If you knock he will answer. So Seek him now while you still can, because today will soon be gone and tomorrow is never promised. Don’t leave this room until your soul is bowed at his feet. To us he is unseen, but he sits on a throne of Glory, a throne of mercy for you and me, but he is the same man who was nailed to the cross, the holes still in his hands after his resurrection, not because he couldn’t remove the blemish, but to show them to his disciples as trophies of his victory over death. Heaven and earth shall pass away but this word of God shall never pass away. "Whosoever believeth in him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.".