Summary: Year C. Christ the King November 25, 2001 Colossians 1: 11-20 Title: “The “image” of God.”
Year C. Christ the King November 25,2001 Colossians 1: 11-20
Title: “The “image” of God.”
After the customary thanksgiving to God following the letter’s opening remarks, Paul tells his readers that he constantly prays for them that God will give them knowledge of his will in verse nine, and the power to carry it out in verses ten and eleven, and that he is grateful, as they should be, for all he has done, is doing and will continue to do in verses twelve to fourteen, through Christ. He quotes an early Church hymn to Christ verses fifteen to twenty, because it fits so well with the themes he has mentioned- redemption, forgiveness and entrance into Christ’s kingdom- in verses thirteen and fourteen. Verses one to sixteen, sing of Christ as the agent of creation; verses eighteen b to twenty, as the agent of redemption and reconciliation; and verses seventeen to eighteen a, form a transition from the creation motif of verse seventeen to the redemption motif of verse eighteen. Christ, then, is the agent of the entire purpose of God from creation through redemption into the fullness of the new creation. He is not only God’s agent; he is God himself.
In verse twelve, giving thanks. Paul has just prayed that the Colossians have patience, refusal to let difficult people determine their behavior or response, endurance as a refusal to let difficult times determine their behavior or response and joy, the end result of patience and endurance. He continues by stressing the response they are to have to the Father for giving them these virtues and much more. God’s action and attitude toward them can be summarized as grace and their action and attitude toward him can be summarized as gratitude.
In verse thirteen, he delivered us transferred us. Using the Exodus as a paradigm of God’s grace, Paul emphasizes that, even though its fullness lies ahead, in eternity, God’s deliverance has already begun to transfer us into his eternal kingdom. This foretaste of glory is a genuine experience, not merely a legal or theological fiction or technicality. Once the Hebrews left Egypt, darkness and slavery they started enjoying the Promised Land, light, and freedom even though they had not fully arrived. The same is true with Christian Baptism.
In verse fourteen, redemption. Christ secured this. He purchased our freedom at the price of his life. This once-for-all ransom is appropriated individually at Baptism.
Forgiveness of sins: Only here and in Ephesians, do the Pauline letters characterize redemption as “forgiveness of sin,” preferring instead, “justification.” Redemption was not from political, economic, military power, but from the power of sin, past, present and future.
In verse fifteen, the image of the invisible God. The hymn proper begins with this verse and continues through verse twenty “Image” Greek eikon; English icon stands for two ideas; representation and manifestation. An “icon” or “image” was no plastic model of an object. It was thought to participate in the substantial reality of the object it represented. Christ, as God’s image, was not a copy of God, but his embodiment. All humans were made in the “image” of God, but only Christ reflected, represented, manifested, the true image because only he did not sin.
The firstborn of all creation: This is a scriptural way of saying Christ was actually prior to all creation without explaining how that is so. As “firstborn” he would also be heir to it all.
In verse sixteen, in him were created all things In Genesis God created “in the beginning.” Here he created “in him,” Christ, called “the beginning” in verse eighteen. Christ is the “sphere,” within which the work of creation takes place. Now many believed that their were super-human, supra-human, angelic powers, both friendly and hostile to humans, which ruled other realms, dimensions, spheres of the universe invisible and inaccessible to humans. The hymn does not argue about all that; it simply states that all these powers are under Christ. If they exist at all they came into being through his creative power and exist for his purposes.
In verse seventeen, before all things in him all things hold together This verse recapitulates verses fifteen and sixteen, namely, Christ, as agent of creation as well as creator, is both pre-existent and presently involved in the maintenance of what he created. No matter how far our imagination may take us back we can never even imagine a time when Christ was not. More than that, he is “before,” all things in the sense of superior to them and not merely temporally prior to them. This clarifies the meaning of “firstborn.” Christ is supreme over all creation, a position held only by God himself. Christ is God.
In verse eighteen a, the head of the body, the church. If, as some think, “the church” was added later to the original hymn, perhaps by Paul himself, then the original meaning of “body” would be the cosmic “body,” the entire cosmos. Since “body,” was used by the Stoics, and indeed many other schools of thought, to signify the body social and the body politic, common interdependent social life, it would be a small step to have it refer here to the Church, the body, social and spiritual, of Christ. Earlier in Pauline writings he referred to the Church as body, but did not specify Christ as the “head.” Here and in Ephesians Christ is seen as the “head,” of the body in two senses: its origin and its leader. He supplies its life, origin and directs it leader. Like Adam, the head of the human race, Christ is head of the Church. As such he lives, must live, in each member, corporate personality. Members of the Church are “in Christ,” by Baptism, and he is “in them,” because his risen life animates them. See John 15: 1-8, the allegory of the vine and branches, for a similar conception.