In Christ alone. Who is this Jesus at the centre of Christianity and what did He do? What does this mean for us?
This study goes back to these basic, but wonderful truths.
(A) Who is Jesus Christ? (v.15-19)
Paul gives a long description of Jesus in verses 15 to 19. How does he describe Him, and what does it mean?
| "image of the invisible God" |
|God cannot be seen, but according to Paul here, God has made himself visible. No one could see God in his full glory and live. Moses, were are told in Exo 34:29, was radiant because he was speaking with God at the top of Mount Sinai. The people knew that no one could see God, yet in Jesus Christ, as we are also told in John 1:18, we can finally see God. |
|"firstborn of all creation" |
|What does "firstborn" mean? Does this mean that Jesus was created, or less than God? Ps 89:27 tells us that firstborn does not refer to the order and sequence of things, but speaks more of the position and status. This is the language of primogeniture. Col 1:15b simply means that all that God has, belongs to Him. |
Rom 8:29 also tells us because He is the perfect great Son. God has designed our lives to undergo a process so that we become like this Son. This is one of the key purposes of our lives -- to be made like the One who lived a perfect life as life was meant to be!
|"by him all things were created... all things were created by him" |
|"All things"? This includes realms, visibility, and spiritual authorities. Paul is trying to connect for the Jewish minds that the man Jesus is the Creator. This is blasphemous teaching for a Jew because Paul is lifting up this man Jesus to the highest levels reserved for God! But this was Jesus Himself declared, that "before Abraham was, I am" (John 8:58).|
|"...and for him" |
|He is not only the means of creation, but also the end. It was made for Him. What is the purpose of all things? Not us, but Jesus. |
This means that the good and the bad in life exist to serve a purpose in Christ. This also means that nothing in the universe can be properly enjoyed until it finds its purpose in Christ. What a comfort and sobering reminder this is!
|"He is before all things..." |
|He is eternal and without beginning.|
|"in him all things hold together"|
|Not only did Jesus create all things. Not only do all things exist for Jesus. All things also exist only because Christ holds it together. Every single molecule. Not merely in a metaphorical sense, but literally.|
Since all things are sustained by Him, all things are due Him and must be asked of Him. This means that all things only make sense when He is in the centre. Things cease to make sense when He is not there holding all things.
Therefore, verse 18 also tells us that He is the head of the body, the church. As the head, He holds together the church and all its members. The cohesion of Christ-centredness extends also to the church. Paul knows this. His very conversion(Acts 9) occurred when this God, the head of the church confronted him for persecuting the members of the body. He holds all things together, even the church.
|"the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent" (v.18b)||How is Jesus preeminent? He is supreme over everything because He came back from the dead. |
Death affected all things, and because He overcame death, He is victorious over all things. More than that, He is the new Adam, the beginning of perfection. In Phil 2:5-11 we read of how because He humbled himself and obeyed even to death, God raised and exalted Him and enthroned Him. He was given a new status.
Today, we see his glorious and splendid honor and glory only imperfectly and not in its entirety. Like seeing through a mirror darkly, what we see are only mere glimpses. But one day we will see it completely! What a great day that will be!
"In him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell"
| The word dwell here carries with it the idea of the tabernacles in the Old Testament. The tabernacle was a sign of God's physical presence among His people. Jesus was the true tabernacle, God who came to live among His own (c.f. John 1:14). |
How would you describe Paul's attitude here? Was he merely gifted with great language and descriptive skills? If we pause and notice his tone, we realise how excited he was at talking about and describing as best as he could who Jesus is. We cannot exaggerate and be too excited when talking about Jesus! Paul knew that He is way better than anything here on earth. In Phil 3:8, Paul boldly declares that he counts everything as rubbish compared to knowing Him, and commits an entire life to getting to know Him more and more.
What about you today? How would you talk about Him? Do you know Jesus this way? Is He truly all-satisfying, and does everything else look like crap in comparison?
(B) What did He do? (v.20-22)
Verses 19 also tells us what Jesus did. He reconciled to himself all things, by the blood of his cross. "All things" were separated and alienated, and needed to be brought back to Him, only by the cross, through the blood of His cross. He needed to act.
Paul then moves from the abstract into the more concrete and direct. He provides a description of the Colossians (and us). In verse 21, we are told that they were "alienated" because they were "hostile in mind" and did evil deeds. In this description which applies to us too, we learn that bad thinking (from a hostile mind) leads to 'bad doing' (the evil deeds). Paul does not mince his words about the state of their minds and the nature of their deeds. Sinners are not merely naughty people. He states plainly that we had a mind that was hostile to God, and our deeds are flat out evil.
In verse 22, Paul also repeats the idea of reconciliation to God, which was previously mentioned in verse 20. In verse 22, we are told that Jesus "has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death". Paul is tell us that Jesus was fully human when He died, and when His body was broken for us. His death was a physical one, and it was a fact and not merely an idea. Jesus suffered real pain on the cross. Jesus bled real blood just like any other human. And all this happened so that we might be reconciled to God.
(C) What does this mean for us? (v.22-23)
Paul wrote about the glorious Christ, and the work that He did, but also gave the Colossians the purpose for Jesus' reconciliation. What is the point of the cross and of being made clean? It is not merely just removal of sin, where some debt is being erased. It is not merely that now we have access to God. God did it all, because He wants us to be in HIs presence. The sin of the Garden of Eden in Genesis 3 started with doubts about whether God really loved, cared and could protect us. In Jesus, through his work on the cross and His resurrection, the root of our sinful, unbelieving heart has been dealt with. Finally, the barriers that separated us can be removed, and He can have us, and us, Him. The gospel is good news because of this. Our restless hearts that have been searching for home can finally find our rest. He came to bring us home in Him.
Our thinking in our sinful state only serves our own evil desires and interests. This recognition of sin is important for Christians, because this is what we have been rescued from. But though the gospel offer is news, it also holds out a promise that has to be received in faith. In verse 23, Paul states a condition with the word "if". We learnt this previously in our study on faith alone, that if we have faith in the gospel (a righteousness that does not come from the law), He will cound us as righteous without a single act of "righteousness" on our part. But Paul knows that this is not merely one big decision in life, and that's all. There is an idea of continuity -- "if indeed you continue in the faith". He exhorts them to be stable and steadfast, people that are not pushing the gospel to its imbalances or taking it to the extremes, but always moving forward in the hope of this good news with a promise. A life of continunal repentance and faith means a change of mind, always dying to ourselves and our desires, and learning more to pray, "not my will by yours be done".
The first followers of Jesus were dubbed "Christians" by those around them because it was plain to see that these people followed Christ and Him alone. Col 1:15-23 lays out plainly for us who He is, the one that we too say we follow. And this glorious, wonderful Christ, came and did what we could never do -- reconcile all things, even those who were alienated from Him because of sin. As Christians, this is the one we follow. This is the one that we are being transformed to resemble. He is the one who holds all things today. He is the one that we will meet face to face at the end of all things.
Today, let us heed the words of Paul and continue in the faith, remaining stable and steadfast and not shift from the hope in the gospel that we have heard. Let us not forget who we were -- alienated and hostile in mind -- and let us not forget who we are now in Jesus.
In Christ alone my hope is found;
He is my light, my strength, my song;
This cornerstone, this solid ground,
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm.
What heights of love, what depths of peace,
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease!
My comforter, my all in all—
Here in the love of Christ I stand.