Summary: This sermon outlines the main ideas of Col 1:15-20 emphasising the pre-emminence of Christ over the cosmos.
Col 1:15-20 (Part 1)
[Illustration] When I was in the Army me and a few mates were tasked with piqueting a truck laden with ammunition on a Friday night. Well, as you can imagine most young men had other things planned rather than guarding a truck on a Friday night. So we sat around moping, not terribly pleased with the situation. Finally, an old man in a tank top and a pair of thongs approached us and asked us why we looked so frustrated. We told him about the stupid job we had and how we’d rather be out partying with our friends. He then asked us about the unit and what we thought about the hierarchy and officers. It was a time for us to unload a heap of stuff we weren’t happy about. He then asks us what we thought about the new commanding officer. We then told him that he was some pen pushing looser from Canberra who we hadn’t met yet called Lieutenant Colonel Power. He then asked me my name and I told and I asked him his and he said, “Bob Power”. It didn’t click automatically. I said, “Hey, that’s amazing. That’s the same name as our new. . .” Suddenly it dawned on me that this WAS the new commanding officer. My mind was filled with horrendous images of me cutting the lawn with a pair of nail clippers or washing floors with my tooth brush. Lucky for me Col. Power had a sense of humour. One thing I did learn from that episode was that my relationship with him changed radically when I had realized who he was and the extent of his authority. In view of this new information I was able to treat the Commanding Officer in a manner appropriate to his rank. Similarly the more I learn about my wife the more I find my relationship with her grows. There is a link between the depth of your knowledge of someone and the depth of your relationship with that person. In Col 2 Paul talks about how having our knowledge of Christ enriched can deepen our relationship with Christ.
Col 2.2-3: My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge
In Col 1.15-20 what we have here is a great opportunity to deepen our knowledge and therefore also our relationship with Jesus our Lord and Saviour. So lets embark on what is an immense and extravagant feast of the person of Christ. It is a feast with seven mouth watering courses awaiting to be ravenously devoured. Sadly however, today we will only get through the first four courses.
Course One: Christ the Image of God (v.15a)
The first thing we learn in the passage is that Jesus is the Image of God. Now this causes us a problem because the way we use the word ‘image’ may not correspond to the same way as Paul means it here. For instance, sometimes we say that “He is a spitting image of his Father”. In this context it means very much alike but not quite. Or we say “I’m trying to get a new image” which means a new fashion identity which is purely external. But this is not the biblical meaning of ‘image’. In fact ‘image’ as biblically used has two meanings:
The first meaning is that of representation. Now the Greek word for image is “eikon” which is where we get our word ‘icon’. You can imagine several Aussie icons: Opera House, Vegemite, Paul Hogan, the Crocodile Hunter etc. An icon doesn’t mean a cheap imitation or a rip off made in Taiwan. The word means “ being an identical copy of the archetype”. Thus Jesus is the icon of God and he represents the presence and person of God in the very fabric of his being. Jesus represents something above and beyond himself, that is the Father. The second thing denoted by image is manifestation. In 2 Corinthians 4:4 the Apostle writes:
The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.
Previously Paul believed that it was the Tabernacle and Temple that displayed the glory of God. Now he attributes the same glory to the risen and exalted Christ who Paul witnessed on the road to Damascus. Just as a mirror gives a reflection of its image, the Son gives a revelation of the Father. The Image manifests and reveals what is hidden – it makes the invisible, visible. It is not a copy but is a projection of the real thing – Jesus expresses the reality of God. Since Jesus shares in the divine life he manifests the divine character. Jesus, as the Wisdom of God, reveals the Father whether Incarnate or not. They didn’t pick straws in the Trinity to see who went to earth and to become incarnate, the Son went because of who he is. It was appropriated to him in view of his relationship within the Godhead. Jesus so perfectly represents the Father that to see him is to behold the Father. That’s why it says in John 14.9: