The Image of the Invisible

The apostle Paul wrote the epistle to the Colossians in order to stem the tide of a menacing heresy greatly affecting the churches in the region (cf. 2:4, etc.,). What is known of this particular heresy comes through the themes which Paul stresses in his epistle. This heresy, among other things, apparently diminished the authority and supremacy of Christ and His work of redemption and distorted the role of knowledge. Paul’s epistle to the Colossians and the Laodiceans responds to these errors.

In part, Paul’s response to these errors is to describe the magnificence of Christ. His description is nothing short of astounding. This brief description gives us only a literary glimpse into the glory of God, we see only the hinder parts as it were, yet we still tremble and shake in fear at His majesty and glory. Even more, we rejoice and are thankful to share in this glory with Him (1:12). Let us turn our minds to fathom the breadth and height of these glories.

First, Paul describes the Lord as the image (icon) of the invisible God (1:15). Not only is the Lord the image of God but He is also the “express image” (kharaktar) of His person (Heb. 1:3). Once Philip asked the Lord, “Show us the Father and it sufficeth us” (John 14: 8). Jesus replied “Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me” (John 14:9). Jesus said “he that hath seen me hath seen the Father.” As Paul observed, “For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (II Corinthians 4:6). It is only through Jesus that we can truly know the Father.

Next, Paul states that the Father has made us suitable to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light (1:12). This is no small task seeing that our sins separate us from His holiness (Is. 59:2). But we have been made meet, or suitable, through His Son Jesus Christ. This inheritance is incorruptible, undefiled and fades not away and is reserved in heaven for us if we remain faithful (I Pet. 1:4). Indeed, it is that everlasting kingdom of Christ which has been prepared from the foundation of the world (Matt. 25:34).

Third, that kingdom of His Son is a Kingdom of Light (Col. 1:12,13). As Christians, we are called out from under the power of darkness and into His kingdom of His marvelous light (I Pet. 2:9). This is because God is light, clothed in unapproachable light, and in Him is no darkness at all (I John 1:5; Psalm 104:2; I Tim. 6:16). Being the image of God He is also the brightness of the glory of God (Heb. 1:3) and His glorious gospel brings the light of truth (II Cor. 4:4).

Fourth, He is the firstborn of every creature (1:15). The point that Paul makes here is that Christ occupies a special place in the world with God. The firstborn received special privilege and was given the place of preeminence (Psalm 89:27; cf. Deut. 21:15-17). This does not mean, as some try to interpret, that Christ had a beginning or was created. This cannot be since Paul further states “for by Him were all things created” (1:16).

Thus, Jesus is the Creator of all things. John wrote that all things were created by Him and without Him was not anything made that was made (John 1:3). John also shows that Jesus, the Word, was with God and was God (John 1:1,2). In the beginning, God said “Let Us…” (Gen. 1:26). That “us” included the Son, as well. Paul said God created all things by Jesus Christ (Eph. 3:9).

Therefore, He is before all things. The Lord is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the ending (Rev. 1:8). He is the first and the last (Rev. 1:11). Micah says that His goings forth have been from of old, even from everlasting (Micah 5:2). Moses said that God was from everlasting to everlasting (Psalm 90:1,2). Jesus, Himself, said, “Before Abraham was, I am” (John 8:58). Paul quotes Psalm 102:24-27 and applies it to Jesus Christ in Hebrews 1:10-12. Paul further states that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever (Heb. 13:8). Not only is He before all things, but by Him all things consist. He upholds all things by the word of His power (Heb. 1:3).

Finally, Paul says that it pleased the Father that in Him should all the fulness dwell (1:17). That is, all the fulness of the godhead was present in Jesus bodily (Col. 2:9). Everything that is God was in Jesus. That is why He is head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fulness of Him that filleth all in all.

Eric L. Padgett

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