Summary: Paul, Pt. 21
WHO ARE YOU, LORD? (COLOSSIANS 1:15-20)
Delighted at seeing a Hispanic man wearing a bold and beautiful cross while in the swimming pool, I asked him, “Are you a Christian?” He surprised me by saying, “No. I am Catholic.”
The disciples of the early church were not known by outsiders as Catholic, Protestants or Orthodox, but Christians or the disciples of Christ (Acts 11:26). Christianity is not about religion, morality and spirituality; it is about Christ. It is centered around Jesus of Nazareth (Matt 10:47).
So who is Jesus? Does he have a halo, a beard or long hair? Is He Byzantine Jesus, Broadway Jesus or Hollywood Jesus? The portrait of Jesus has undergone tremendous change through the centuries. As painted by modern artists, he is a hippie (Jesus Christ Superstar), a revolutionary (Che Guevara) or even black. http://www.religionfacts.com/jesus/image_gallery.htm
“Who are You, Lord?” Paul asked famously as a light from heaven blinded him (Acts 9:5). Who is Christ, or Why did He come? What did he say and do? Why was he so controversial and divisive? Paul answers his own question in Colossians, emphatically and expertly presenting and teaching Christology – the study of Christ – like no other author, introducing Him as the Creator, the Lord and the Savior of our lives.
Christ is the Maker of the Heavens and the Earth
15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 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. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. (Col 1:15-17)
Renowned theologian Karl Barth was lecturing to a group of students at Princeton when a student asked him, “Sir, don’t you think that God has revealed himself in other religions and not only in Christianity?” With a modest thunder he stunned the crowd, replying, “No, God has not revealed himself in any religion, including Christianity. He has revealed himself in his Son.”
The first council of the Christian church held in 325 B.C after persecution ended was called the Council of Nicaea. The top agenda was to resolve disagreements over the nature of Jesus in relationship to the Father. The most provocative and popular of these new teachings was Arianism, as promoted and represented by Arius (c. AD 250-336), who taught that Jesus was not one with the Father, and that he was not fully, although almost, divine in nature. Merely two of over 300 attendees sided with Arius. Subsequently, a noted historian says, “The books of Arius were burned and his followers branded as enemies of Christianity.” (Schaff’s History of the Christian Church, Volume III, Nicene and Post-Nicene Christianity, § 120. The Council of Nicaea, 325)
One of the classical and critical passages on the identity and nature of Christ is found in Colossians 1. “Image” (v 15) is basically “icon” (eikon) in Greek, or “likeness” in English. Simply put, the icon is the image, not the individual. Christ is the image of the Father, but not identical with the Father. He is like the Father, but not alike the Father. They are similar but not the same. This is important, not to confuse or exchange the Son with the Father. Christ is the splitting image of the Father in perfection, power and purpose, but not in person. The Son is coequal, coexisting and coeternal with the Father, but not exactly or essentially the Father. Christ’s role is to make visible God the Father, who is invisible. The word “invisible” occurs five times in the Bible - twice in the passage – all describing God and none other (Rom 1:20, Col 1:15, 16, 1 Tim 1:17, Heb 11:27). Christ resembles, represents and reveals the Father, but not replaces Him. He is the reflection but not the replica of the Father.
“Firstborn,” or “prototokos” (vv 15, 18), is derived from the word “first” (protos).
Norman L. Geisler says first-born (prototokos) is not the same as first-created (protoktisis). In the Old Testament (cf. Ex 13:2-15; Deut 21:17) a firstborn child had not only priority of birth but also the dignity and superiority that went with it. (Bible Knowledge Commentary) It also does not mean sequence in time, but superiority over all - not chronology in time but chief over all.
The words “creation” (ktisis) in verse 15 and “created” – twice in verse 16 - share the same root word. Verse 16 introduces three prepositions before the personal pronoun “Him” to help readers understand His supremacy and His sovereignty over all creatures, all that has life and breath, all living beings. The first preposition “by him” (v 16) is actually not “by,” but “in” (en), as attested by the Revised Standard Version and the American Standard Version. It is not the same preposition as the “by” at the end of next verse – “by him and for him.” In Greek syntax and parallelism, “in Him were created” (not “in him all things were created) is contrasted and coupled with “by him and for him were created” (not “all things were created by him and for him”) at the end of verse 16. I prefer “through (dia, as in diagram, diagnostic) him and for (eis) him,” the position taken by RSV, Updated NASB and New KJV – the last two differing from “by him” in previous versions. “By him” refers to His initiative and inspiration, “through him” is His involvement and intercession, and “for Him” as His instrument and for His influence.