Who is Jesus…..Really??
Notes from Elder Jim Shedd
In his letter to the Colossians, Paul’s first 14 verses stress the “content” of the Christian faith as Jesus Christ – the only source of spiritual wisdom and understanding. We are to keep our focus on Him as our center, and not be tempted to follow strange promises of “hidden, secret, and special” knowledge elsewhere. The content of our faith is bound up in our relationship with God through Jesus. So just who is this Jesus, this content of our faith? Glad you asked, as Paul’s next 6 verses answer this.
The Supremacy of Christ (Col 1:15-20)
Col 1:15 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 and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. 19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.
The content of the faith that Paul wants the Colossians (and us) to know is the “beloved Son”, Jesus Christ – the center of our faith – by six key attributes;
1:15 image of the invisible God. Christ is called the “image of God” (Greek “Icon” – the imprint of the invisible God) in accordance with 2Cor 4:4 “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.” Further, Heb 1:3 presents Christ as “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word.” So if you want to know what God looks like, take a look at Jesus Christ. If you want to know God’s character, take a look at Jesus Christ, He is the “imprint” of the invisible God expressed in a human form to whom, as humans, we can relate. Sidebar: One reason Christ came into the world was to show us God the Father in terms and that we as humans could comprehend and relate to. This is necessary, as per 1Jn 4:12, No one has beheld God as He actually is. Consider: Jn 1:18, 14:9-11 — Christ “explained” God, Col 1:15 — Christ is the “image” God, Heb 1:3 — Christ is the “exact” representation of God (Col 1:17), and 2Tim 1:8-10 — God’s purpose (grace) was revealed by Christ’s appearance. Death is abolished and God’s purpose is confirmed.
1:15-16 firstborn over all creation. Just as the firstborn son had certain privileges and rights in the Biblical world, so also Christ has rights in relation to all of creation; priority, preeminence and sovereignty. by him all things were created. Paul notes “all creation,” “all things”, and “everything,” stressing that Christ is supreme over all. Consistently, John begins his gospel by presenting Christ as the “Logos” – the explanation and grounding for everything as the Creator, not as part of creation.
1:17 He is before all things. Referring to time and precedence; Jn 1:1-2 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Jn 8:58 “I tell you the truth,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!”.
1:17 In him all things hold together In the context of today’s science, this is an intriguing statement. Modern physics identifies four basic “forces” (electromagnetism, gravity, and the strong and weak nuclear forces) that form the “glue” which keeps everything together in the physical universe – from the smallest atomic particle to the largest cosmic body. Science calls these “forces” because there is not anything materially substantive to identify, just “forces” – a nebulous concept that is as far as our science can go. Further, as science has delved into what makes up the physical reality we consider “solid”, at the atomic level there is no basic “stuff”, just empty space and “forces” It is interesting that here Paul says that Christ Himself, as the Creator, operates continually to keep everything together and functioning. What would happen if He just got tired, got fed up and quit? OUCH!!
Further, He keeps us together as well as His physical creation
1:19 all His fullness. Paul’s “fullness” means the totality of God [The Total Package] with all his powers and attributes. It is noteworthy that the writer of Hebrews used Psalm 8:5 about Christ; Heb 2:5-9 It is not to angels that he has subjected the world to come, about which we are speaking. But there is a place where someone has testified (Ps 8:5) “What is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him? You made him a little lower than the angels; you crowned him with glory and honor and put everything under his feet.” In putting everything under him, God left nothing that is not subject to him. Yet at present we do not see everything subject to him. But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.” There is no conflict here between God’s “fullness” dwelling in Jesus, while at the same time God the Father had Jesus made “little lower than the angels”. Jesus was not “made” by God, but rather was “made” flesh (human), and in that sense was a “little lower than the angels” who are spirit beings. Note Jn 1:14 “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” Jesus is God’s human expression of Himself!!
1:20 reconcile to himself all things. Reconcile (Greek katallaste) gives us “catalyst” which in chemistry is something that changes what it touches, but is not itself changed. [A catalyst causes a chemical change but is not itself permanently affected by the chemical reaction – e.g. fiberglass and buckets of resin] Jesus Christ does not change, even after absorbing all of our sin; He stays who He is and changes everything He touches. 2Cor 5:17-19 “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.”
Col 1:15-20 points to Jesus Christ as the center of our faith – who He really is. Our center is not an idea, a program, or even the result of all the good things that God is doing, like our “liberation” from the consequences of our sin. Instead Paul focuses not on the result (i.e. liberation), but on the person, the “Liberator”, the one who is the catalyst. The giver of the gift is more important than the gift itself. Jesus Christ is not a mystical, unknowable, indefinable, divine something standing over us as a dominating power. Rather we have a concrete figure – the man Jesus Christ who bears a name, comes from a place, and has a life history in time – He is our Lord. This is the great truth that Paul wants the Colossians (and us) to know, and then to live under this great truth.
Bottom Line; Jesus is God’s Human Expression of Himself
- He is the image (imprint) of the invisible God! John’s gospel begins with describing Jesus Christ as the “Word” (Greek “Logos”), that which gives meaning to everything. [Jn 14:6 “I am the way, truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father except through me.”]
- He is the firstborn of creation; the Lord of Creation, before all things: the Source of all that is, all creation. [Jn 1:1-3 “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.]
- In Him all things hold together! Paul states that Christ is the binding power that keeps everything from falling into complete chaos. He uses this same idea in 2Cor 5:14 (NIV) “For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died” and the KJV says “For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead.” Think of the banks of a river that hold the water together so that it can freely flow and not become a fetid swamp. Likewise, Jesus Christ personally holds us together – he integrates us and makes us whole persons.
- Fully God, Jesus reconciles us to God the father! Jesus stays who He is, but enables our forgiveness and sets us free. So now we can have full fellowship with God the Father. Christ enabled this by making peace through His blood; His life given on our behalf on the cross. He took upon Himself our humanity, our sin, the power of evil, and even the power of death – He absorbed it all at the cross. No one else can be our redeemer, nobody else has taken death and absorbed and conquered it. No one else has taken our sin and the power of evil, and absorbed it in Himself. Now, because of Christ’s willing sacrifice, there is no longer despair, but hope that our sins will no longer control our lives. His life was given for us.
- Is 9:6-7 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this. Note: All these factors (child, son, etc.) are only truly resolved in Jesus Christ, the true Immanuel (God with us). Further, these four titles or throne names in one person represent the totality of this child’s royal power. Counselor. Just as God needed no other counselor when he created the world (40:12-14) nor any other to give him plans for the nations (14:26-27), so this child is his own counselor. Mighty God. This title, which belongs to Yahweh (10:20-21), also belongs to this child. Everlasting Father. The ideal king who provides for his people and protects them, in this case forever (Is 63:16). Prince of Peace. Unlike the princes in the pagan pantheon who were always the source of trouble and upheaval, this child will be the source of “peace,” a biblical concept that includes much more than mere absence of conflict; it speaks of wholeness and integration with no issues left unresolved (Is 26:3; 32:17; 52:7; 66:12).