Crowning Him King
Introduction – In this Session, we will continue in Colossians chapter 1 and explore verses 15-20. In verses 15-20, we have some of the most glorious and descriptive language about the identity of Jesus, the Son of God. We could say that this second portion of Colossians chapter 1, describes the divinity of Jesus Christ in ways that undeniably declare that Jesus is God in the flesh. Paul writes things, under the influence of the Holy Spirit to combat the Colossian heresy head-on and to protect the Colossian Church from the damage already done by mixing Jewish mysticism and angelology with the Apostolic Christianity that they received from Epaphras.
As Paul writes these verses under house arrest, and chained to Roman soldier, I wonder of the revelation that the Spirit gives Paul about the Person of Christ brought great encouragement to him. If the universe is Christ-centric, then even Paul’s suffering arrest would be reconciled in Christ and all things would work in favor for the cause of Christ in Paul. No hardship, situation of suffering is in vain, but redeemed and reconciled in Jesus.
Many scholars believe that Colossians 1:15-20 is a verse to ancient hymn or confession of the First Century Church. It is entirely possible that Paul either quotes or authored this hymn so that the Church would be safe from false teachers who denied the divinity of Jesus Christ.
The text is so rich in verses 15-20, that we need to proceed to the text for the sake of time.
a) In Colossians 1:12-13, Paul gives thanks to the Father for giving the Son to humanity as the rescue and redemption from dominion of darkness for those who believe. Now Paul shifts the subject from giving thanks to the Father, to describing the Son, Jesus Christ, who worked salvation.
b) Paul gives us 2 descriptions regarding the nature of the Son, Jesus Christ. 1 – Jesus is the Image of the Father. The Greek word eikōn is used here and this Greek word possesses a 2-fold meaning. 1 – Likeness as in a mirror. 2 – Manifestation; implying that Jesus is the manifestation of what the Father is like. Jesus Himself says in John 10:38 – “the Father is in Me, and I am in the Father.” John 8:29 – “I always do what pleases the Father.” John 5:19 – “Whatever the Father does, the Son also does.” John 14:9 – “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.” When we look at Jesus, we see the perfect character and nature of the Father revealed. Jesus makes the unseen, unsearchable Godhead knowable and relational to humanity that is made in His image.
c) The second descriptive is “firstborn”. This descriptive has nothing to do with
Jesus being created, but everything to do with Jesus being preeminent in all things created. The Greek word prōtotokos is used here and describes priority in time or supreme rank. This word communicates that Jesus was before creation, and Jesus being supremely set apart from the created order. This word is used as descriptive for the divinity of Jesus as the God the Son. This title, “firstborn” is used in Romans 8:20, Hebrews 1:6, and Revelation 1:5.
d) Interestingly, ancient rabbis used “Yahweh – The Firstborn of the World” as a title for God. Ancient Rabbi Bechai is quoted by the great scholar J.B. Lightfoot, using this title as a Messianic description of the God to Israel. Certainly, Paul being a former Pharisee Rabbi would be familiar with this thought and applies it to the divinity of Jesus Christ.
a) In verses 16-17, Paul begins to attack the Colossian heresy as he describes Jesus in theological descriptions that clearly state that Jesus is God in the flesh. Paul describes attributes that only God possesses and applies them to Jesus.
b) Jesus the Creator. When we consider the process of the creation narrative in Genesis 1-2, we can say this; The Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit were all active in the work of creation. The Father works in His Son, through His Spirit.
c) When we meditate on Christ being the author of creation, we are awed by the majesty and magnitude of space. We are awed by the intricate intelligent design of human DNA and the cell structures of plants and animals. We are awed by the science of physics, and we are awed by the consciousness of humanity and our self-awareness that does not exist any other species. Romans 1:20 – For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.
d) The reference to thrones, powers, rulers, etc. is a direct attack against the intricate angelology of the mystic Judaism practiced in Colossae. Paul corrects this by teaching that Jesus is Deity incarnate.
e) He is before all things – This describes Jesus’ self-existence as God the Son. There was an ancient heresy from Arius (AD 256–336) who taught that Jesus was begotten by God the Father at a point in time, is distinct from the Father and is subordinate to the Father. Verse 17 destroys that position. The modern-day cults that hold the teaching of Arius are the Unitarians and JW’s.
f) In Him all things hold together – The thought here is that creation is Christ-centric and is sustained and preserved by Jesus. When we consider the high thoughts of Christ in verses 16-17, it should cause us to worship Jesus with more reverence and passion.
a) Jesus is the Head – The thought here is that all things regarding the Church flow from Christ like rivers flow from headwaters. Jesus is the Source for all things in the Church. Paul describes the Church as the Body of Christ in Romans, 1&2 Corinthians, and Ephesians. The Church being the Body of Christ describes the Church being that which does the works of Christ in the world, reveals the Person of Christ in the world, and proclaims the words of Christ to the world. Our challenge is to align with Christ, who is the Head.
b) He is the beginning – The source or fount of creation.
c) Firstborn among the dead – This is the description of Jesus being the first to be resurrected. When Jesus raised others from the dead, they lived, and then died again later. However, the resurrected Christ is raised imperishable and is the example of what we should expect when we are resurrected to eternal life in our resurrection bodies. See 1 Corinthians 15 for a detailed description of what that will be like.
d) Supremacy in all things – We never have to be afraid of any circumstance because Jesus experienced all things and conquered all things. In Him we are victorious over the issues of life, satan/demons, sin and even death.
a) In Christ is the fullness of God. Paul is using strong language against the Colossian heresy and forcefully declaring that Jesus is truly God. Fullness – Greek – plērōma – that which fills or with which a thing is filled. Dwell – Greek – katoikeō – to dwell in, inhabit, to always be present. We could describe Jesus being the always present fullness of God as the distribution point from which all heavenly access and resource flows.
a) Reconcile – Greek – apokatallassō – to reconcile completely, to reconcile back again, bring back a former state of harmony. Notice that the atonement of Jesus Christ was a wide and comprehensive work. Jesus is the promised Messiah that redeems creation from the curse of the Fall and redeems humanity from their sin nature and the punishment for sin in the Law. Paul is not teaching Universalism, look at Colossians 1:21-23 and we can clearly see that Universalism is not a true doctrine.
b) The cross was God’s method of bringing peace to creation and people because the justice of God and the outrage of God over the crime of sin was satisfied in Jesus Christ as He suffered on the cross and was the acceptable sacrifice that pleased the Father.