Colossians 1:15

“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.” Colossians 1:15.

The word firstborn is used twice in verses 15-18, and they mean different things in each instance. This being the case and considering how they have often been misused it is a good idea to tread carefully in this area; which we will do.

But first consider that Jesus is “the image of the invisible God”, this is a difficult thing to conceive of if you just let it wash over your mind; the infinite God in a finite body.

Perhaps the best place to start this train of thought would be with our great grandfather Adam.

“Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’ So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” Genesis 1:26-27.

There are several things here that stick out and it will be hard not to go off on a rabbit trail, these things are quite interesting.

First, note that God says, “Let Us…in Our image, according to Our likeness…in His own image”, these words are all plural, with the exception of the last one, “God created man in His own image” which is singular meaning that our first parents were made in the likeness of God.

However when reading the plural references, Us and Our it should be distinctly noted that He is not speaking to angels or anyone else other than the members of the Godhead, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.

This is further augmented by the words, “…God created man in His own image”; not “ours and God’s image” or “in the image of God and us.”

Another interesting thing is that it does not say here that God created Adam in His own image, though that is what He did. Scripture says, “…in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.”

With this all inclusive statement, Adam, Eve, and every human being ever born were created in God’s image, whether they are marred by sin or not.

“Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness…’”, the wording means literally image, likeness just as it states in the verse. However the image is after the likeness of God which is not the same as Jesus being the image of God. Speaking of man’s likeness to God James phrases it as follows.

“With it [the tongue] we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude [likeness] of God.” James 3:9.

So in the sense that man is in the image and likeness of God, he is a reflection of who God is, even in his fallen state. For it appears that there is a physical resemblance, as well as other likenesses such as man’s ability to love, hate (God hates sin), desire (desires all men to be saved), to express happiness, joy, show kindness, anger, wrath, or grief. These likenesses come readily to mind.

Christ on the other hand is called, “…the image of the invisible God”, meaning that He is not a reflection of God the Father as can be seen by the following translation from the Amplified New Testament, published by Zondervan.

“He is the exact likeness of the unseen God – the visible representation of the invisible…” Colossians 1:15, Amplified New Testament.

That this is so is borne out clearly in other Scriptures.

“No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.” John 1:18.

“Jesus said to him, ‘Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, “Show us the Father”?’” John 14:9.

Stop and consider Jesus’ words above for a moment. Anyone who would seriously make such statements about himself, if you have seen me you have seen God would be quite mad. Yet Christ’s actions on this earth were always sane and selfless throughout His life.

“And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifested in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen by angels, preached among the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up in glory.” 1 Timothy 3:16.

And finally the clearest of all the Scriptures confirming that Christ is the express image and exact representation of God the Father is found in Hebrews.

“God, who at various times and in different ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds; who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high…” Hebrews 1:1-3.

When you consider the absolute purity of God in His holiness and the fact that sin does not even come into His mind it then becomes very sobering to think of what it would be like to talk face to face with someone like this.

Men talked daily with Jesus, and yet did not seem to get it; perhaps His gentleness and humility made them miss the point altogether.

“And they [the men of Judah] built the high places of Baal which are in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, to cause their sons and their daughters to pass through the fire to Molech, which I did not command them, nor did it come into My mind that they should do this abomination, to cause Judah to sin.” Jeremiah 32:35.

The evils committed by Judah and Jerusalem did not even enter God’s mind, evil does not enter God’s mind, nor do so many of the things that we all dwell on in our hearts.

“Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.” James 1:13-15.

When cruel sinful men nailed Jesus to the cross, they did so knowing full well that they were killing someone extraordinary for He never once cursed at them, showed anger, or protested His innocence.

“He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He opened not his mouth.” Isaiah 53:7.

He was a Man who showed the Jews His credentials as their Messiah plainly, leaving them no excuse for ignoring or deriding them.

His trial before Pilate, who represented the Gentiles, was such a mockery that Pilate made every attempt to release Jesus, even though He was presented to him as King of the Jews.

“Pilate therefore said to Him, ‘Are You a king then?’ Jesus answered, ‘You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.’ Pilate said to Him, ‘What is truth?’ And when he had said this, he went out again to the Jews, and said to them, ‘I find no fault in Him at all.’” John 18:37-38.

How can it be that anyone would find fault in Jesus Christ, God the Son who is, “…the image of the invisible God”; only those deluded as follows:

“…whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them.” 2 Corinthians 4:4.

Yet, not only is Jesus “…the image of the invisible God”, He is also, “the firstborn over all creation.” This latter phrase has often been misused to infer that Christ had a beginning, a time when He came into being. Christ is an uncreated being, God the Son from eternity past.

“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.” Colossians 1:15.

And in the next verse it says of Christ that, all things were made through Him and for Him and this carries a little more the meaning of “firstborn”. Notice too that He is “the firstborn over all creation” not the firstborn of all creation setting Him entirely apart from all creation and over it.

Being the eternal Son of God He has the preeminence over all creation since it was created through Him and for Him by God the Father, and as the only Son it is rightfully His as it would be for the firstborn in any earthly household.

“All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.” John 1:3.

So Jesus Christ is called firstborn over all creation because of His authority and preeminence.

Colossians 1:15 taken from posted on 12-5-13, updated on 2-11-20.

Scripture taken from the New King James Version, copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission, all rights reserved.

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