Summary: Jesus Christ is pre-eminent over all creatures in all respects.
READ: Colossians 1:15-20
This letter of Paul to the Colossians is primarily POLEMIC in nature. That is, Paul is writing to refute a particular error that was threatening the life of the church there at Colosse. Scholars call it "The Colossian Heresy". There is much debate about EXACTLY what the heresy was, and there are a number of theories, but the Apostle Paul, in typical fashion, doesn’t spell out the error — for two reasons:
(1) his readers already know all about it, and
(2) Paul’s clear belief was that the best antidote for error is TRUTH.
Rather than dwell on the heresy, Paul expounded the reality that would show the false for what it was. [There’s a great lesson in that for US!]
From what Paul wrote, however, we are able to conclude that the Colossian Heresy, whatever it was, it was a "mish-mash" of confused ideas; it included at least three separate elements.
(1) There was a Judaistic emphasis on law and ritual;
(2) There was a Pagan concept of Angel-worship; and
(3) There was a form of Christianity blended in as well.
This heresy did not DENY Christ, but it did DETHRONE Him — it gave Christ A place, but not THE supreme place.
So, "wolves" were trying to gain entrance among this congregation of young Christians, and were bringing confusion to the Christian gospel message they had received. Paul confronted this false representation by a positive setting-forth of the exalted nature and unmatched glory of Christ! The result is that Colossians is Paul’s full-length portrait of Christ; and what a marvelous letter it is for that very reason. Paul gives his readers a grand view of the supremacy of the Lord Jesus Christ, and drives home the point that all we could ever need is to be found in Him.
“Thou, O Christ, art all I want,
More than all in Thee I find.”
To come then to the passage that we are addressing this morning (1:15-18 in particular) Paul outlines for us Christ and His relationships in three directions. We have:
1. Christ’s Relationship to God.
2. Christ’s Relationship to the creation.
3. Christ’s Relationship to the Church.
And the Apostle goes through all of this to make his ONE climactic point - his triumphant proclamation — NAMELY, that Jesus Christ is SUPREME (pre-eminent) over ALL creatures, in ALL respects!
Let’s look together at these three relationships and what they involve, and we will come to the same glorious conclusion as Paul. And we will see, as Alexander MacLaren puts it, that "There is no need for a crowd of shadowy beings to link heaven and earth. Jesus Christ lays His hands upon both. He is the head and fountain of life to His Church. Therefore, He is first in all things to be listened to, loved, and worshipped by men.
1. CHRIST’S RELATIONSHIP TO GOD.
He is "the image of the invisible God" (verse 15).
The first point that we must have clear in our minds as Christians is this: outside of Jesus Christ, God is invisible. He is inconceivable to our sinful eyes and unattainable to our grasping but sinful hearts. This fact becomes very clear when you begin to study the other religions of the world — they are dark and shadowy; God is lost in the mists of ignorance.
In Romans chapter 1 we are told that the creation reveals that there is a Creator. (Cause and effect). As you see the wonder of the world around us, it is ludicrous to try and assert that there is no God - there must be a Creator! (Psalm 14:1 — “The fool hath said in his heart, there is no God.”) [Men, of course, do attempt to deny the existence of God, and they come up with fanciful theories to explain away the creation — e-g. EVOLUTION.]
The Bible says that such men have become "futile in their thoughts, and darkened in their foolish hearts. Professing themselves to be wise these men became fools" (Rom. 1:21-22).
BUT, whilst the creation clearly displays that THERE IS A GOD, man cannot conceive of what kind of God He is; what He is like. The separation from God that sin brought about has cut Him off from our perception, and we have NO WAY OF APPROACHING GOD.
You see the frustration of the world’s religions? They know there must be a God, but they cannot know anything of Him!
This darkness is only removed in Christ! He ALONE is the image of the [otherwise] invisible God. NOTE: He is NOT merely the image of God as MAN is made in the image of God - He is far more than that. [READ: Hebrews 1:3]. Jesus is "the brightness of His glory” — THE EXPRESS IMAGE OF HIS PERSON. The NIV translates it best — He is the "exact representation" of His Person. No mere man was ever spoken of in those terms!