Today we are beginning a new book of the New Testament, which normally we study verse by verse, and chapter by chapter. But I am going to break tradition with this one, and start in the middle of chapter one. I may end up circling back to the beginning material at some later date. But I am doing it this way because I want to continue in a series of sorts that was begun in our study of Romans which we finished last week.
As you will remember, starting with chapter 12 of Romans we began to look at a series of expositions about the church. Practical applications of life in the church. And we had a series of messages dealing with the church, such as the worship of the church, the essentiality of the church, the love of the church, the edification of the church, the model for the church, the fruit of the church, and the saints of the church.
Now I had it in my mind that we were going to start Colossians after we finished Romans for quite some time. However as I was studying the book, I was really taken with this particular passage in chapter one vs 13-20, and it’s theme of Jesus, the head of the church. And so I felt this passage was a perfect continuation or better, a consummation of this series of messages on the church. And so I thought I would forego for now the introductory remarks which are at the beginning of this epistle, and jump right in to this passage which makes the case for Christ, the head of the church.
We should all be well versed by now though with the doctrine that to become a member of Christ’s church we do not sign a paper, or submit to a vote by the congregation, or any manner of various means by which people join a church, but if you are to be a member of Christ’s church you must be born again. Jesus said to Nicodemus that you must be born again to enter the kingdom of God, and that means you are born of the Spirit.
How you are born again is spelled out in great detail in Romans. And that rebirth is summarized in Romans 10:9 and 10 which says, “that if you confess with your mouth Jesus [as] Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.”
The key to salvation then is believing, confessing Jesus as Lord. And I would like to lay stress on that for a moment. Jesus is Lord is the confession of a Christian. In Paul’s day, the Christians were arrested and charged with treason against the emperor. They were given the option of saving their life by making the confession “Caesar is Lord.” Caesar demanded to be worshiped as a god. And of course, Christians were unable to make that confession and so many of them lost their life.
So to confess Jesus as Lord is to confess that He is God, that He is to be worshipped. That to Him belongs all power and authority. That from Him is life and peace. If Jesus is Lord, ie Sovereign, Master, Lord of all, then all we have belongs to Him – our life, our possessions, our will, our destiny. Christ is Lord of all. And we must submit to that.
Christ is Sovereign Lord. And a sovereign speaks of a kingdom. Lord is a title given to a ruler. And so as Paul says in vs 13, through salvation God has made us members of Christ’s kingdom. Vs 13 “For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”
What that verse teaches is that we once belonged to another kingdom. 2 Timothy 2:25 tells us that we once were held captive by Satan’s kingdom, to do his will. “with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses [and escape] from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.” So we were held captive by the domain of darkness, or the realm of darkness, the dominion of darkness. All of which is another way of saying the kingdom of darkness. Satan is referred to in scripture as the prince of this world, the prince of the power of the air. And so Satan is the prince of this kingdom of darkness.
We were once held captive in the dominion of Satan. But through salvation we have been delivered, rescued and made part of the kingdom of Christ. And I say to you that the kingdom of Christ is no less than the church of Christ. They are one and the same. They are synonymous. Jesus said in John 18:36 “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm.” The kingdom of Christ is the called out ones, the eklesia, the church of Christ, the assembly of believers, the saints of the Lord Jesus Christ.
We see this echoed in Eph. 1:19-23 These are] in accordance with the working of the strength of His might which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly [places,] far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.”
Notice back in our text that Paul says we were transferred to the kingdom of His Son. The word that is translated “transferred” had a special significance in the world at that time. When one kingdom conquered another, the custom was to take the population of the defeated empire and transfer it completely to the conqueror’s kingdom. I believe that is what Paul referred to in Ephesians 4:8 when he said that when Jesus rose from the dead, he took captivity captive. We that we held captive to Satan’s realm have been transferred completely into God’s kingdom. Everything we have and everything we are now belongs to Him.
But this victory was not accomplished without the shedding of blood. Paul says “In whom we have redemption.” Redemption means the release of the captive by a legal ransom. And the price for our redemption was paid with the blood of Jesus, securing not only our freedom, but also the forgiveness of our sins. Christ’s death was the legal satisfaction for the debt of our sin which we could never pay.
Then starting in vs 15, we have one of the most comprehensive statements of Christ’s divinity and His Lordship that can be found in the New Testament. Many Bible scholars think that Colossians 1:15-20 came from a hymn of the early church that described what Christians believed about Jesus. And that seems to be a possibility, but it can’t be proven conclusively. Nevertheless, it stands as a magnificent statement about the divinity and Lordship of Jesus Christ.
Paul says in vs 15, “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.” We should all be aware that the Bible states that God is Spirit, and thus He is invisible to the human eye, and that no man has ever seen Him. But Paul says that Jesus is the image of the invisible God.
One theologian told a story of a little boy who was drawing pictures on the floor one day as his mother was working nearby. And she said to him, “what are you drawing?” The little boy replied, “I’m drawing a picture of God.” The mother knew her theology though, so she said, “But no one knows what God looks like.” The little boy responded, “Well, they will when I get through!”
The application to Jesus is this. The life and work of Jesus Christ created an exact image of the invisible attributes of God. What Paul meant was that Jesus was the perfect likeness and manifestation of the nature of God. He is the great and final theophany. The word translated image is eikon, from which the word for photography is derived. So that we might say that we see Jesus as a photograph of God. He is the exact representation of the nature of God.
We find that same description by the author of Hebrews in chapter 1 vs 3; “[The Son] is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of the [Father’s] nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power.” We cannot see God, but we can see Jesus, who is the exact image of God. Remember when Philip said to Jesus “show us the Father.” And Jesus said, “if you have seen Me you have seen the Father.” “The Father and I are One.”
Then notice that Paul says Christ is the first born of all creation. Some cults have wrongly used this verse to support their belief that Jesus was created. Some even go so far as to say He is just a higher order of the angels, a brother of Lucifer. That erroneous view seems to be some of the error of the Colossians to which Paul had written this letter, in an attempt to correct a false theology that was creeping into the church doctrine.
But first born has in this sense as Paul is using it as the heir, the owner, the possessor of Creation. Dr. Carl Henry, regarded as one of the greatest theologians of his day said, “it should be translated as the Primeval Creator of all created things.” So Jesus is the one who possesses, as heir or owner, all things that are created.
Therefore, when Paul says, “Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation” He’s not saying that the Lord Jesus was the first created. But in regards to his divine person, he is the eternal Son to whom belongs all things. In the OT, we see in the lives of the patriarchs this principle of the firstborn son who inherited everything of the father’s estate. So firstborn signifies ownership, being the heir of all things, not a created entity.
This word, prototokos, which is used here for firstborn, is a term that has special significance. It is used in the translation of the passage in Psalm 89:27: “I also shall make him [My] firstborn, The highest of the kings of the earth.” Furthermore, in the Greek language, there was another word that meant first created, which is protoktisis. That word is never used of the Lord Jesus. They never say that he was first created, though the word was available to them. But in Scripture as a whole, when it says that He is the first born of the whole creation, it means that He is the heir of all creation.
Then in vs 16 he says Jesus is the Creator. “For by Him all things were created, [both] in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities–all things have been created through Him and for Him.” Jesus is the creator of all things. Perhaps Paul lays stress on this doctrine, again for the sake of the Colossians error, to emphasize that Jesus was not created, but that He is the Creator of all things.
Notice Paul uses three prepositional phrases. “All things were created through Him.” “All things were created by Him.” “All things were created for Him.” All things were created through Him refers to the design of creation. Jesus was the architect of creation. All things were created by Him refers to the fact that He is the builder of creation. And all things were created for Him means that everything was made for His glory.
One may illustrate it by the construction of a building. The architect designs and draws the plans of the building. Then the builder constructs the building according to the plans. And then when the building was finished, the building is used by the owner for their own purposes.
In the case of the creation, to apply that analogy, the Lord Jesus Christ is responsible for this universe as the designer, the architect. Further, he was the builder, all things have been made by Him. John 1:3 says “All things were made by Him; and without Him was not any thing made that was made.” And furthermore this whole creation, not only physically what we see about us, the earth and the heavens that we see, but the whole universe, visible and invisible is designed and built to glorify the Lord Jesus Christ.
Then perhaps again as an effort to correct the bad theology pervading the Colossian church, Paul emphasizes that even the invisible angels, described as thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities are created by Him. Paul uses similar language to describe the dominion of darkness in Eph. 6:12 “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high [places].” So that we might agree with the people of Jesus’s day, who said that even the demons are subject to Him. Jesus created them and thus He has authority over them.
Now he goes on to say, not simply that he’s the architect and the builder and the one for whom the creation has been constructed, but He is superior to all things and He sustains all things. Notice the 17th verse, “He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.” Before all things speaks not only of chronology, but also of superiority. He is over all, before all, superior to all. There is no one before Him. Chronologically speaking, He is before all, because He was from the beginning with God. John 1 says , “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God, The same was in the beginning with God.” So Jesus is before all things and superior to all things and furthermore He sustains all things.
Paul says, “In Him all things hold together.” He is the glue that holds the universe together. Do you know that science tells us that the world is traveling through space around the sun about 67,000 mph? Then in addition to that it is spinning at 1,040 mph. How does the world keep it together with all these forces moving upon it? The answer is that the power of Jesus Christ holds all things together. Now that may be difficult for you to believe. But I say to you that for me it is harder to believe that scientists say we are hurtling through space at 67,000 mlles per hour while spinning over a thousand miles per hour and yet the hair on my head is hardly moving. I’m not sure which takes more faith, to believe in science or to believe that Jesus holds all things together. I choose to believe the scriptures.
So Jesus is the Lord of creation, but he’s also Lord of the new creation. Notice the 18th verse. After having said that he’s the Lord of the first creation, Paul says, “He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything.”
Notice Paul says He is the head of the body, the church. In 1Cor. 12:27 Paul says to the church, “Now you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it.” That’s an amazing thing to consider, that we are called the body of Christ. Not just body as in an assembly, but body as a physical part of Christ. That’s hard to fully comprehend. And yet it is more than an analogy, it’s a reality. The church is a new creation. The Spirit of Christ lives in us, so that we are His body on earth. We are His hands, His feet, and we do His works, His deeds. We speak His words. We accomplish His will.
And Paul says, Christ is the head of the body. That indicates how inseparable the church is from Christ even as our head is essential to the life of our bodies. He’s the head of the body. The head and the body are not the same. The church is called the body of Christ. It’s not called the body of Christians. And the reason for that is very simple because the church is His. The head expresses ownership. Authority is suggested by head. Control is suggested by head. He’s the head of the body. He’s the head of the church. And consequently he controls the church. He owns the church. He has authority over the church. And also the head refers to Jesus’ role as source of the life of the church, similar to how we refer to the head of a river as the source.
So to put it another way the head refers to Christ’s relationship to the church. We are related to the head who is in heaven. And if we are to live a life that is acceptable to the Lord God, we must be submissive to the head, to the Lord Jesus in a personal sense. And as a body of believers who are under shepherds, it’s most important for them and for us to be under Him and to look to him for control and guidance and authority in the things that we do.
He’s the head of the body, the church for this reason, that he is the beginning and he’s the first born from the dead. He’s the firstborn from the dead, because he’s the first and only one to break the power of death. He triumphed over death in His resurrection, and He has the keys of death and Hades as a result. He is head of the church, supreme and sovereign over it. Government is not in control nor does it have authority over the church. Only Christ has authority. We acknowledge Christ alone as our head. Not Peter, not the Pope, not the president or potentate. But Christ alone is the head of the church.
Vs 18 says, “So that He might have first place, or preeminence in everything.” First place, not second place or third place. Jesus is preeminent in our worship. Paul summarizes the doctrine of Christ by saying that Christ is to have first place in everything. Jesus is fully God. Paul speaks in vs19 of the fullness of deity dwelling in Christ by saying, “For it was the [Father’s] good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him.” The noted theologian Lightfoot says, The word fullness was “a recognized technical term in theology, denoting the totality of the Divine powers and attributes.” So Jesus is fully God. And because He is God He is to have first place in our worship. He is to have first place in the church. He is to have first place in our life.
Paul says, “And through Him to reconcile all things to Himself.” One day, the scriptures tell us, every knee will bow, and every tongue will confess Jesus is Lord. Those who do so today, by faith, receive salvation and forgiveness of sins. They receive a part in the kingdom of heaven and are transferred into His church. But one day at the consummation of the age, Jesus will return to earth, and every eye shall see Him, and every knee will bow, and the kingdoms of this world will submit to the kingdom of Christ. Phil. 2:9-11 says “For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
When Paul says Christ made peace through the blood of the cross, that speaks to us of the real, physical death of Jesus Christ in our place, on our behalf, before God by which we are redeemed and receive forgiveness of sin. Faith in HIs literal death in our place, and the literal judgment He bore on our behalf, is what saves us. But those who do not believe will not be saved, but nevertheless, all will one day bow, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven.
I want to conclude today by proclaiming to you that there is a standing invitation by the head of the church to come and be a part of His body, to confess Jesus as Lord. At the end of Revelation, after all the warnings and pictures of those who rebelled against the sovereignty of Christ has been foretold, Christ gives an invitation to anyone who hears to come to Him and be saved, to become a part of His body. He says in Revelation 22:17, “The Spirit and the bride (that is the church) say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost.” That invitation still stands. Redemption has been made possible by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ as the payment for your sins. Come to Him today and find deliverance and be transferred into HIs kingdom, His church.