I was reading Colossians this morning, and felt compelled to journal some of my thoughts and responses to one passage. One translation titles this section “The Centrality of Christ,” and it indeed puts Christ at the center, for the highest worship.
Colossians 1:15-22 (ESV)
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.
And you, who once were alienated 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 above reproach before him,
Jesus Christ is at the center: he is the “firstborn” of all creation. In context of the times, this refers not to birth order but to rank: he stands at the highest rank over creation. Look down two paragraphs and you’ll see it cannot mean he was the first created thing.
He is the “image of the invisible God,” meaning that to see Jesus is to see God. We do not see him physically, but we see his character of love, wisdom, power, and truth.
All things were created by him. A clear statement of his deity, his Godhood. He was not himself created, rather he was creator of all that was created.
All things were created for him. That includes you and me. But this is a relationship of love and even of friendship (John 15:15), for those who accept it from him.
He is the head of the body, the church. The “body” is a frequent metaphor for God’s church, all of the people of God in all times and places.
He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead. Here where the word “beginning” is added to it, we can interpret “firstborn” as meaning the first one. He is the first person to experience resurrection from the dead into an ever-living body.
That in everything he might be preeminent. This position he earns by all of the above, and by what follows as well.
In him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell. How do you fit all of God into one person? It’s not the way the New Agers say, that we’re all God. Christ’s uniqueness has already shone through this passage. No, this is instead another rather clear statement of the unique deity of Jesus Christ, God and Man, two natures in one person.
Through him to reconcile all things to himself, making peace by the blood of the cross. Peace with God, reconciliation with God—when I first trusted in Christ, this was probably the most amazing change of all. I was no longer at war with reality. There was peace. It was peace gained through Christ’s death on the cross, where he took our place, paying for us the penalty of death that was due to each of us for turning away from the Source of life, “alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds.”
In today’s ethical environment, “evil” is hardly thought to exist. (It does.) Whether one considers evil to exist or not, it’s hard to deny when one is alienated and hostile in mind toward God. That’s where I once was; that is what I from time to time still deal with in my own life. I do so in full hope, however, for “he has now reconciled [us to him] in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him.”
This is the good news! Here there is peace, and life, and hope! Here there is forgiveness, wiping the slate clean for all the past errors we regret so much. Here is the chance to stand before God—to stand at the heart of reality—“blameless and above reproach.” Some of us would like just to be able to stand before our boss that way, with a clean conscience, knowing we have done all that is right. The boss doesn’t know our inner selves the way God does, though. We could never hope to stand clean in God’s presence—except by the work of Jesus Christ he has provided a way to make us clean.
This is the benefit we gain from Christ. It is Christ himself, though, and not our benefit, at the core and the center of all of this.