15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; 16 for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross. 21 And you, who once were estranged and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, 22 in order to present you holy and blameless and irreproachable before him,…
Christianity, Judaism and Islam, three monotheistic religions, have certain essentials in common. However, the New Testament insists that God is the eternal and unique Father of the Lord Jesus Christ. Colossians 1:15-20 is one of the most profound, concise statements about Jesus.
John’s Gospel makes a similar point. In John 1:1 we read: In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. And in 1:14, John tells us: And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. John makes the connection between the Word of God and God in terms of a Son / Father relationship. This tells us so much about God’s very nature: He lives and behaves as a Father.
Let’s think about this. **To be a father carries the ideas of someone who gives life and who loves. This is what John’s Gospel and Paul’s Letter to the Colossians are saying. From eternity God the Father has given life to a Son.
Some theologians use the analogy of a fountain to illustrate the relationship. In the same way that the essential nature of a fountain is to pour out water, so God the Father is eternally flowing with life and love, eternally begetting his Son who, to use Paul’s words, is his image. Jeremiah 2:13 tells us the Lord says of himself that he is the ‘spring of living water’.
God did not become a father at some point. His very nature is to beget a Son. In the same way a fountain is not a fountain if it does not pour out water, so God the Father would not be who he is, unless he was giving life to his Son. No wonder Paul wrote, Jesus Christ is the image of the invisible God. Jesus is not just God’s image from a certain point in time. The Son of God, whom we know as Jesus Christ, has always been and will always be, the true, outward manifestation of God.
Consider what Paul goes on to say: for in him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or authorities — all things were created through him and for him.
From eternity God the Father’s nature is to give life and to love which we see in Jesus. It is entirely consistent that he would hand over to His Son the task of creating others also to love. God doesn’t need to do this to make up something lacking in his nature. This is who he and what he does. He loves and he gives life.
To draw this together: Jesus Christ, the eternally begotten Son of God, is the eternal image of the invisible God. Created in the image of God we are designed to conform the image of God’s eternal Son – in our love for God and our love for one another. As Michael Reeves in his, Delighting in the Trinity notes (p.43), our existence is all part of ‘the continuation of that outgoing movement of God’s love’.
So, what went wrong? Paul tells us, You, who once were estranged and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds (1:21). Estrangement and alienation are words that describe our human tragedy. We didn’t stop loving – we were made for that. Our problem is that our love turned away from God. Yes, our relationships with one another are broken, but our primary problem is that we have broken our relationship with the God who has made us to love.
So what has God done? In profound, beautiful words Paul tells us: You, who once were estranged and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and irreproachable before him,..
God could have written us off. Instead he chose a very costly path for himself. Indeed, through Jesus’ death on the cross we see deeper into the very being of God. For the crucifixion of Jesus awakens us to the seriousness of our sin, and also what it means to say that God is love. As Michael Reeves comments (Delighting in the Trinity, p.76), ‘Knowing God as our Father through the Lord Jesus Christ, not only wonderfully gladdens our view of God, it gives us deep comfort and joy… This God welcomes and embraces us as his children, never to send us away’.
You may want to consider:
- the nature of the unique relationship Jesus has with God;
- the relationship Jesus has to the cosmos;
- the relationship Jesus has with the church.
Let me encourage you to pray:
© John G. Mason, Reason for Hope – 40 Days of Bible Readings and Reflections – 2016. All Rights Reserved.