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Colossians 1:15-1:23
Key Verse: 1:20

In the first lesson of Colossians, 1:1-14, we studied about Paul’s thanksgiving and prayer for Colossians. Paul thanked God for their faith, love and hope in Christ Jesus through the gospel and prayed that God might fill them with the knowledge of his will so that they might live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way. For this Paul reminded them of God’s marvelous grace that he has rescued them from the dominion of darkness and brought them into the kingdom of the Son he loves. This marvelous grace was through the redemption, the forgiveness of sins, in the Son Christ Jesus. After talking about the kingdom of the Son, now Paul expounds who the Son is. It is because the Colossians were influence and confused by false teachers, for they did not clearly know who the Son is. No other passage in the Bible shows who Jesus is as succinctly in an overwhelming way as the passage in Colossians 15-20 does with 129 words. We can think of the supremacy of Christ and his sufficiency for our salvation.

First, the supremacy of Christ (15-18). In verses 15-18 are written, “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers of authorities, all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.” Here the word “all” is written 5 times, and “everything”, 1 time. Let’s think one by one.

In verse 14, “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.” The word ‘image’ is ‘eikon’ in Greek which means original prototype. He is the image of the invisible God, so he is the visible God. Jesus himself said in John 10:30, “I and the Father are one.” And when one of his twelve disciples, Philip, asked him, “Show us the Father”, Jesus answered, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.” (Jn 14:8-9). So Apostle John wrote in John 1:18, “No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only who is at the Father’s side, has made him known.” And according to Hebrews 1:3, “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being.” While on earth, his whole life was the visual demonstration of the invisible God. Each word and each act were of divine.

He is the firstborn over all creation. Here the firstborn means, according to John 1:18, “God One and Only who is at the Father’s side.” According to Nicene Creed made in 325, “…very God of very God, begotten, not made; being of one substance with the Father.” Around the time before the council at Nicaea Arius affirmed the Father as the genuine, great God, and the Son as a lesser god. He tried to make Christianity easier to understand. His view was very popular even through using something like a radio commercial. And he was close to the Roman Emperor palace. In the eyes of Emperor Constantine the church seemed to be divided, which would result in the dividing the nation. So for the purpose of the unity of the empire he called all the church leaders from the whole empire and held a conference at Nicaea. The travel expenses would be by the emperor. To him either way was fine if only the nation would not be divided. More than 300 hundred bishops attended. Some bore the crippling disfigurement of suffering and prison. One had lost an eye during the persecution. Another had lost the use of his hands under torture. Sitting in the centre of the conference hall at Nicaea, he spoke briefly to the churchmen, reminding them that they must come to some agreement on the questions that divided them. Division in the church, he said, was worse than war. Having made his point, he stepped aside, committing the resolution of the conflict into the hands of the church leaders. There Arianism was defeated and Nicene’s Creed was signed by all but two bishops. And the two, along with Arius himself, were soon afterward sent into exile. Meanwhile, Constantine was joyful, thinking the issue settled. To my understanding, the important point was that until that time bishops were alive and full of spirit that they could not allow anything that would distort the teaching of the apostles.

The Greek word for firstborn can refer to one who was born first chronologically, but most often refers to pre-eminence in position, or rank (Heb 1:6; Rom 8:29). In both Greek and Jewish culture, the firstborn was the ranking son who had received the right of inheritance from his father, whether he was born first or not. It is used of Israel who, not being the first nation, was however the preeminent nation (cf. Ex 4:22; Jer 31:9). Firstborn in this context clearly means highest in rank, not first created (cf. Ps. 89:27; Rev 1:5). Thus, Jesus is the firstborn in the sense that He has the pre-eminence (1:18) and that He possesses the right of inheritance “over all creation” (Heb 1:2; Rev. 5:1-7, 13)

After writing, “the firstborn over all creation,” right away Paul made it crystal clear with no confusion about the firstborn. He continued, “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.” What an emphatic description of creation by him! According to John 1:3, “Through him all things were made; without him noting was made that has been made.”

St. Paul could have written it simply. But he put much emphasis on the creation by him. For all things were truly created by him. This world and the whole universe were created by him. We can say that now around 7 billion people and 200 nations exist because of him. Human history has been possible because of him. Leonardo Da Vinci was a great mathematician, artist, thinker and inventor. He invested his great talents to find a unifying principle for creation apart from Christ. But he failed and was left with empty meaninglessness. He ended his life in despondency. Apart from Christ, we cannot find the answers to the fundamental questions of mankind. All things have origin and meaning and purpose in him. Things in heaven and on earth were created by him. Not only the visible but also the invisible were created by him. Our eyes are so limited to see. We cannot see the atomic world. We cannot see the end of the universe. We cannot see abstract things such as love, patience, goodness, faith, holiness, righteousness, hope, etc. We cannot see the spiritual world. But he created all these things. He created things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible.

And here “thrones or powers or rulers or authorities” (cf. 2:15; Rom 8:38; Eph 1:21; 3:10; 6:12; 1 Pe 3:22; Jude 6), these are various categories of angels whom Christ created and rules over. There is no comment regarding whether they are holy or fallen, since He is Lord of both groups. The false teachers had incorporated into their heresy the worship of angels (see note on 2:18), including the lie that Jesus was one of them, merely a spirit created by God and inferior to Him. Paul rejected that and made it clear that angels, whatever their rank, whether holy or fallen, are mere creatures, and their Creator is none other than the preeminent One, the Lord Saviour, Jesus Christ. The purpose of this catalog of angelic ranks is to show the immeasurable superiority of Christ over any being the false teachers might suggest. And “all things were created by him and for him.” (cf. Rom 11:33-36. Jn 1:3; Heb 1:2.). All things were created by him and for him. Again, all the creations have meaning and purpose in him. Apart from him life is meaningless and purposeless. All the creatures are to reveal his glory and please him.

And “He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” In John 1:15 John the Baptist testified concerning Jesus: “He cries out, saying, ‘This was he of whom I said, “He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.”’” And Jesus said to the unbelieving Jews, “Before Abraham was born, I am!” (Jn 8:58). And Jesus prayed before the cross, “Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began” (Jn 17:5). Truly he is before all things. And “in him all things hold together.” Wow! How great he is. According to Hebrews 1:3, “he sustains all things by his powerful word.” All the human activities and the movements of the universe are possible because of him, in whom all things hold together. There will be a day on which all things will be disintegrated and so out of join and destroyed completely as we studied in 2 Peter 3:10, “…the elements will be destroyed by fire…” and again, “…the elements will melt in the heat” (3:12).

And “he is the head of the body, the church.” To God’s eyes the church is the most precious and significant community of people in this world. Ephesians 1:22 says, “…God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church…” How awesome and vast the head of the church, his body!

And he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead. The risen Christ said in Revelation 22:13, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.” And he is the firstborn from among the dead. Jesus’ resurrection is the undeniable proof, the historical proof of his divinity. 1 Corinthians 15:20 says, “But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.” We will be his resurrection brothers as he is the firstborn from among the dead (Ro 8:29). All those who are in Christ have victory over death because of him, the firstborn from among the dead. So we can shout like Apostle Paul, “Death has been swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is our victory? Where, O death, is your sting?...thanks be to God! He gives us victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Cor 15:55-56).

Then verse 18b says, “so that in everything he might have the supremacy.” What can be written more than these concerning one’s supremacy? His supremacy is truly overwhelming and pre-eminent. Apparently, a central component of the heresy that threatened the Colossian church was the denial of the deity of Christ. But we see a powerful defence of Christ’s deity. 1 John 5:5 says, “Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.” In our lives what matters in the end is our faith in Christ Jesus. God wants us to firmly believe the supremacy of Christ so that we can have life and overcome the world, in any and every situation.

Second, the sufficiency of Christ (19-23). Now in verse 19, “For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him.” “To have all his fullness dwell in him” could be another expression of Jesus’ supremacy. Not even 99% but God’s fullness was dwelt in him. He is fully God, fully divine. He is the complete, perfect revelation of God. And God the Father was pleased with this. And another thing God was pleased with is written in verse 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.” This verse shows how much God longed for the reconciliation between himself and all things, and how difficult it was. Because of man’s sin there was an enmity between God and all things including all men. That enmity was like an invincible wall. Who can imagine the hostility between God full of wrath upon mankind and man full of hatred toward God? Then amazingly reconciliation would be done, of course that was by God’s initiative. Through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven. God could not do the reconciliation work all by himself. God needed “him”, who had the supremacy in everything. And God would not do the work of reconciliation forcefully, but by making peace, for God is not only the sovereign God but also the God of righteousness and peace (Ro 16:20; Phip 4:9; 1 Thes 5:23; Heb 13:20). Then it is written “by making peace through his blood shed on the cross.” This is really shocking to human mind. “To reconcile” and “making peace” are beautiful words, even people talk a lot about this topic. However, the words, “shedding his blood on the cross”, are not beautiful, but horrifying. In other words the Supreme Being with the supremacy had to be slaughtered on the cross, pouring out his blood. It is because such a blood, pure and precious, was needed to the righteous and holy God for the reconciliation. This God seems to be a crazy God.

In the Old Testament there were various kinds of offerings. Especially, burnt offering, fellowship offering/peace offering, sin offering, and guilt offering required the animal sacrifice. It seemed that the temple of God was mainly the place of animal slaughtering. Every day the animals were sacrificed with their blood shed (Ex 29:28-39). On special occasions more animals were sacrificed. On one Passover more than forty thousand animals were slaughtered (2 Chro 35:7-8). Can you imagine the cry of the animals and the amount of the blood spilt out and the smell of such blood filling the temple? Probably in the history of Israel, millions of animals were sacrificed. Yes, the massacre of animals was on behalf of mankind. However, in those times who could understand God and what he was doing? Many may have questioned, “Why such a sacrifice?” “Why such things needed?” “Who is this God?” Then all such sacrifices found amazing meaning when the Son of God, One and Only, the firstborn over all creation was sacrifice on the cross shedding his blood. All the animal sacrifice was the shadow of the real, true sacrifice of God’s one and only Son. He shed his blood on the cross in God’s sever punishment due to man’s sin, for “without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness” (Heb 9:22). Blood stands for life (Lev 17:11, 14). In this way peace could be possible in reconciliation between God and man and between God and all things.

I work for people with exceptional needs. The mom of one of the individuals I serve really loves her son regardless of his human condition. The son cannot speak and so cannot express himself. Many times he hurts himself, biting and beating, and screaming. Yet, to her the son is the best, more precious than any son in the world. His mom regularly visits him and feeds him. From time to time his mom calls to hear any sound from him, but only with not much effect of such a calling. But several weeks ago, when the mom called, she could suddenly hear the loud laughing of the son, and she was so happy. It was because the son is all the world to her regardless of his worthiness in people’s sight. Then how much more the One and Only Son, the Supreme Son, the firstborn over all creation, to God! To God the Father, he is truly the most precious and the most valuable, surely more precious and more valuable than 7 billion people all together, and even all the people together who have lived on earth since the creation of the world. Such a person was sacrificed shedding his blood on the cross. So the sacrifice of God’s one and only Son, his lifeblood shed on the cross is sufficient to God for our salvation. He is sufficient, more than sufficient, even infinitely sufficient for our salvation. With that sufficiency he is truly supreme and has the exceeding supremacy. Praise God for his One and Only, the firstborn over all creation, who shed his blood on the cross for reconciliation and peace between God and us and between God and all things. So Paul shouts in Romans 5:1, “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” We should keep this peace in right relationship with him at any cost, however difficult out situation is.

Then Paul said in verses 21-22, “Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behaviour. 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--” Enemies are the most hateful people. They are most hostile and repulsive. That was our status before God. We were hideous and disgusting beings like lepers to the holy God because of our sins. But God reconciled us and made us his holy and dearly loved children. What a grace! Again, it is by Christ’s physical body through death. This expression shows that Christ Jesus had both the supremacy and the humility. His body was crushed and out of joint and broken as a sin offering for our sins. His suffering was concrete and visual and sensible. Jesus was not just a spirit as false teachers claimed. He came in flesh and offered his physical body on the cross for the reconciliation and also to present us to be holy in God’s sight, which is the completion of our salvation. Apostle Peter expressed it this way. “He himself bore our sins in his body so that we may die to sins and live for righteousness.”

And then verse 23 says, “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.”

We thank and praise God for his one only Son Jesus, who has the supremacy in everything and truly supreme through his sacrifice on the cross shedding his blood to make peace between God and us. May we keep this unfathomable grace in our hearts by continuing in our faith established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel and living as the servants of the gospel.

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