Paul begins this astonishing letter by offering up a prayer of thanks for the believers in the church at Colossae because they are faithful and believing brothers and sisters in the Gospel. It is a prayer that in response to the good news he has heard about their faith in Jesus Christ. That he is working through them and consequently they are living for him: Evident, by the love they have for all saints (1:4) They are not just a church that claims to Love God, the love is evident to all because of the love that they have for one another.
It is their current status as ‘faithful’ believers that then encourages the next section of Pauls letter. ‘For this reason’ (v9) as in: “because of the good report we have heard about how Christ is working through you and that you desire to live for him we want to encourage you to know even more of him. So that when the world looks at you, they see him.” Paul desired that through the power of the Holy Spirit working in them they would become more like Christ. Thus, as a result, Christ would be made known to those around them. Paul was praying that as believer’s in Christ, they would live a life that is worthy of such a calling and belief. A reminder to all (then and now)that If we are in Christ then he is working through us, and, as a result of external actions will display an inward reality. The more we know of Christ; then the more we want to know him; and, the more we want to know him; then the more we want to live for him: It is an endless cycle of seeking him; finding him, and being satisfied fully in him; yet, left wanting more and knowing there is more. Why? Because we know that all things are from him, through him and for him.
Just to affirm all that has been said, Paul reminds them about who they were (without Christ), and what they are now(in Christ): through the invoking of the Old Testament imagery of rescue and transfer. Whereas, in the Old Testament God rescued his people from the grip of Hostile oppressors. Now, Believers (in Christ) are rescued from the clutches of Satan and the domain of darkness and transferred into the kingdom of Christ, because of the Cross. ‘Redemption’ (14) is the invaluable price paid by Jesus through his blood shed on the cross, an act which results in the forgiveness of the sins of all of those who place their trust in Him. The most significant rescue in Human History is all about Jesus, it is from him, through him and for him.
For Christians, Jesus is central to everything: a proper understanding of who he is, and, what he has done for us is needed for real spiritual growth. Furthermore, if the scriptures are true (and they are) then a proper understanding of Jesus, is of central importance to everyone and everything.
A Hymn of Praise (1:15-20)
Paul now proclaims in even more detail the wonder of the ‘who’, and, ‘what’ of Jesus. Through the use of a hymn that reinforces all that Jesus had achieved for them on the Cross. Some Scholars would suggest this Hymn would have been a well-known piece, typical in the worship of the early Church. Throughout it expresses everything Paul has already taught: the supremacy of Christ as both Creator and Redeemer. Paul is using this hymn to counter the false teaching that has seeped into his Church; instructions that were diluting the person of Christ. Thus, lessons that were creating a false gospel.
For Him (15-16)
You know the logic of the iceberg? That there is far more to it than meets the eye. Here in verse 15, the word ‘image’ is like an Etymological Iceberg in meaning. In our modern understanding we hear it as denoting: ‘ representation of the external form of a person or thing in art’, or, ‘the general impression that a person, organisation, or product presents to the public.’ So when we read the majestic words here: ‘He is the image of the invisible God’ we might think that Paul is saying that Jesus is a representation of Yahweh on earth; or, that in Jesus we see something of God, yet not the fullness of God. To read verse 15 like this would be dangerous and stupid because Paul is saying the exact opposite. The word Image here refers to an exact visible representation of something/someone. Thus, Jesus the visible son of God represented the reality of the invisible God of the Old Testament fully. Not only is Jesus Christ the incarnate God, but the invisible nature of God also made visible in human flesh, he is the firstborn over all of creation. Not Created, but first in rank and power and it is because of this power and rank that everything is for him. Paul goes on to exclaim that no matter what it is: created in heaven or on earth; visible or invisible to the human eye; power’s on earth or below – it is all under Christ’s Authority. He has authority over all things because he created and sustains all things: everything that comes into being through him and For his Glory.
Sovereign Over All (17-18)
Not only is Jesus Christ the initial spark of all creation, he is the active sustaining force that holds everything together: In that, he is before all things (he has been about since before time), and by him all things hold together (he is the sustaining agent of creation, active and involved). Verse 17 is short and potent, enforcing to us the equality of the Godhead, Jesus Christ even though not explicitly mentioned in the Genesis creation narrative was fully present in it. Jesus Christ, although not mentioned in the Old Testament, was fully active throughout it and is today, because: by him, all things come together and are held together. Jesus is sovereign over all of creation, even when the things in our life are going in a way that might suggest otherwise because all things form part of God’s Greater Plan. So whatever we find ourselves in situationally, we can trust and obey God because we know that he is working all things towards his ultimate purpose (his Glorification).
Secondly, he is sovereign over the Church: He is its head in a literal and metaphorical sense. He is the head of the church as its ruler, the one whom wields supreme authority and directs her path and actions. Furthermore, he is the head of the church in the metaphorical sense, that she is his body on earth; active and working on his behalf. The image of his headship is added to through the use of the second sentence of verse 18, where he is the beginning and firstborn of the dead. It is language that parallels Christ’s role in creation (v15) and for us today identifies the church (his body) as part of the new creation that was brought about through his resurrection. Under the covenant, Christ is still active and incarnate in this world, through his church.
In Christ’s dying and rising he fulfilled the purpose given to him by God the father meaning that from that point he has first place in everything. He is sovereign over all things and worthy to be placed first in all things.
This is My Son with whom I am well Pleased (19-20)
The final two verses of this section enforce everything Paul has been teaching through these five verses: In Christ we have all we need; All things are From Him; all things are sustained by him; without him God would not be fully known in the world; and, all things work for him and his Glory.
It is a hymn that captures the beauty of the hypostatic union: fully man and fully God. Furthermore, it shows us what resulted for humanity because the God-man went to the cross. It was a reality in which God the father took delight in because it meant the restoration of the broken relationship between God and humanity. Christ would reconcile (reestablish a right relationship) all things to himself on the cross, no matter where those things where. Whether they where in heaven, or on the earth all things would be reconciled to God the father through what Christ won on the cross.
That means that no matter who we are, what we have done in our life. Whether we have attended Church for years or never – that we can do nothing to reconcile ourselves to God, empty to the cross we come, but, when we grasp all that Christ has done – that all things come from him, through him and work to his Glory and will then we understand the beauty of the Gospel.
These five short verses carry so much depth and truth in them. They remind us that Jesus the Son of God has been active since before time, present at creation and active in the world from it. Furthermore, we see that all things were brought into being from him and now all of creation works for his glory which is to our good. Moreover, out of the overflow of his love, he holds all things together until his purpose has been achieved. Additionally, we see and now through his incarnate body (the church visible) of which he is the head.
Finally, this chorus affirm’s to us the necessity of the duality of Christ’s nature for our salvation. A union of states, not wills, that without humanity would not be able to be reconciled to God. A duality of which is the fulfilment of the Image of God in Genesis. We are all created from him and for him. He is sovereign over our lives; the question is how are we going to respond to him and the wonderful news of the Gospel? Are we going to live a life that is for him, seeking his glory in all we do? Allowing him to work through us and make us more into his image. Or would we still rather live for our own glory, like a child settling for playing in the mud when there is a majestic ocean just over the hill.