Week 4 – Colossians 1:15-23 “Who is Jesus?”

Welcome to Week 4!  We are digging into Colossians 1:15-23 today, which is known as one of the greatest “Christological” segments in the entire Bible.  In plain English that means Paul explains exactly Who Jesus is, what He has done, and what He continues to do as the Messiah.  I suppose this is one of those subjects that we could explore the rest of our days on earth, then get to heaven and have our minds absolutely blown at how extensive is the greatness of our God.  So, let’s get going!  I am convinced there is NO better use our our time as humans than to meditate on the Lord Yeshua.  He is awesome and we’re about to see that in Colossians 1:15-23. Here are your notes & homework for this week:  Col PN 1.15-23

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

  1. He is the visible image of the invisible God (v.15)

John 1:1-5

In the beginning the Word already existed.     The Word was with God,     and the Word was God. He existed in the beginning with God. God created everything through him,     and nothing was created except through him. The Word gave life to everything that was created,     and his life brought light to everyone. The light shines in the darkness,     and the darkness can never extinguish it.

Those truths are highly reflected in Colossians 1.   So true is it that He IS God, yet His humility was such that He did not consider his equality with God something to cling to, which is what allowed Him to come and save us all. We learn this in Philippians 2:5-11

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Something we will study on Day 1 of your homework this week is the question of Who Jesus is, and how you look at Him.  Every other world religion or cult has to do something with the person of Jesus, and what they do with Him tells us immediately if it is something we should renounce or accept.  What Paul teaches in Colossians 1 about Who Jesus is will help us answer those questions and help us to relate to people with different views or wrong beliefs about Him.  It was his entire point of writing to the church in Colossae, so they could stand strong in the truth of the Gospel, knowing exactly Who Jesus is and how to view Him rightly.

  1. He is the firstborn of all creation (v. 15)

NLT: “He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation…”

“Jesus is God’s agent of creation. The One Who knelt down in the red clay of the Tigres/Uphrates River valley and formed man out of the dust and breathed into him the breath of life was no one less than the pre-incarnate Jesus Christ.” – Bob Utley

NIV Commentary:

He is the firstborn over all creation, a phrase which the Arians made to mean that Christ was a created being and not co-eternal with the Father, but the context rules this out completely. The title here given emphasizes the thoughts of priority and superiority, declaring, as Lightfoot states, “the absolute pre-existence of the Son.” The reference here is to His deity rather than His humanity, to the Son in His eternal being rather than the incarnate Son.

Hebrews 1:2-4 NLT

And now in these final days, he has spoken to us through his Son. God promised everything to the Son as an inheritance, and through the Son he created the universe. The Son radiates God’s own glory and expresses the very character of God, and he sustains everything by the mighty power of his command. When he had cleansed us from our sins, he sat down in the place of honor at the right hand of the majestic God in heaven. This shows that the Son is far greater than the angels, just as the name God gave him is greater than their names.

Cross References: 2 Cor 4:6,  Psalm 89:27,  Romans 8:29 Jesus as firstborn:   Rabbis used term to speak of His Pre-eminence;  In the Old Testament, firstborn is used to describe the eldest son as heir & mgr of the family, (which is consistent with Jesus as the head of the church which we will get to, head of the family of God);  It also speaks of His pre-existence, that there has never been a time when Jesus was not.

Colossians 1:16 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.

  1. He created all things in heaven and on earth; all things created through Him and for Him (v.16)

NIV Commentary

Christ is the source of life as He is also the agent of all creation including the heavenly and invisible, and those very powers whom they were being urged to placate. (speaking of the false-teachers in Colossae). Christ is outside creation, prior to it, distinct from it, and He is sovereign to it all, for it was created by Him and indeed for Him. In Him, the purpose of the universe is found, in Him is its principle of coherence, and it is He that ‘impresses upon creation that unity and solidarity which makes it a cosmos instead of chaos’ (Lightfoot).

If we really believe this is true – why would we doubt at all? Why would we ever fear? IN sharing the gospel, how could we ever worry about offending or be embarrassed, if we really believe that our God is the One Who made everyone! He is in charge, it is Him who is moving in hearts, are we willing to carry His message to whomever He calls us? I want to give you links to 2 sermons I have heard within the past month that speak so much to this topic…if we really believe that Jesus created it all, why do we fear anything?   If you struggle in this whatsoever, please take the time to listen to these sermons. 1st:  Dr. Kyle Martin, a sermon given at a Revive Indiana service; go to this link, you will get an audio file, his sermon begins in hour 2 of the recording.    http://www.sermoncloud.com/maple-city-chapel/revive-indiana-day-87/ 2nd:  Go to iTunes and search “Bethel Church Sermon of the week”, you will then select the sermon from 4/1/15 called  Activate Session #4 “Hearing God’s Voice”

Colossians 1:17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 

  1. He is before all things (v.17)

Paul repeats himself here, it’s emphasizing that there is nothing that was before Jesus. John 1, in the beginning the Word was with God. In John 8:58, Jesus revealed this to unbelieving Pharisees, that He is the Messiah, the pre-existing One. “Jesus said to them, “Truly, Truly I say to you, before Abraham was, I Am.””

  1. In Him all things hold together (v.17) 

Jesus is what holds it all together, by His power, by His grace, by His sufficiency.  Even at the crux of how we divide time is His time on earth.  Someday we will be able to understand what this sentence fully means, until then we can know that Jesus Christ is the center of it all.  And by all, God’s Word means ALL… Recommendation: Watch Louie Giglio’s 6 minute sermon about “Laminin”.  We will learn about Laminin in Day 2 of the homework…but this is well worth the 6 minutes:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F0-NPPIeeRk

Colossians 1:18 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.

  1. He is the head of the body, which is His church (v.18)

As a Chiropractor by profession, you know I have to comment on this!  It utterly fascinates me how complete and how true is God’s word.  Our human bodies work better when they are aligned.  It’s just a simple fact.  It is actually true in the cases of machinery, architecture, and probably thousands of other examples in the universe.  The body of Christ works only when we are aligned under the Head, His Name is Jesus.  He is our Savior, He makes us full and complete, we collectively make up the whole body but we are individual members of it.  This means that we must be diligent to align ourselves under Jesus.  That’s when we can be highly effective for the Kingdom of God.  I will never be effective for Jesus if I’m not aligned with Him.

Ephesians 1:23 And the church is his body; it is made full and complete by Christ, who fills all things everywhere with himself. Ephesians 5:23 For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ is also the head of the church. He Himself being the Savior of the body. 1 Corinthians 12:27 Now, you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.  Romans 12:5 …so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.

  1. He is the beginning, firstborn from the dead, He is first in everything (v.18)

He is the beginning:  Some scholars believe that Paul reiterates that Jesus began the Church, in the context of the beginning of verse 18.  The Translator’s Handbook notes that it can also be translated, “the source.”  This would support the thought that Jesus is the source of the Church, the founder. This can also be translated standing alone (beginning as the Creator of the Universe).  Either is true, and both ideas are clearly portrayed by Paul in this segment of scripture.  Revelation 3:14 says ““And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: ‘The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God’s creation.”  We know that Jesus was part of the creation process with the Father and Holy Spirit, not only was He there, He was active in it.  Here are a few other Cross References for “He is the beginning”:  Rev.21.6, Rev.22.13, Prov.8.22

Firstborn of the dead:  The little girl in Luke 8 or Lazarus may come to mind if you think of people who were raised from the dead before Jesus.  But, Jesus was the first to rise from death without dying again.  There is also another way of looking at it:

“Firstborn of the dead” is who He is coming out of the grave, He started the Church, the beginner of a brand new people not Jew or Gentile.” – Bob Utley

 1 Corinthians 15:20-23 NLT

But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead. He is the first of a great harvest of all who have died.  So you see, just as death came into the world through a man, now the resurrection from the dead has begun through another man. Just as everyone dies because we all belong to Adam, everyone who belongs to Christ will be given new life. But there is an order to this resurrection: Christ was raised as the first of the harvest; then all who belong to Christ will be raised when he comes back.

Cross References for “firstborn of the dead”:  Col 1:18, Ps 89:27, Acts 26:23, 1Cor 15:20

First in Everything:  This phrase in the KJV is stated “that He might have the preeminence” and the word preeminence is the Greek “proteuo” which is a verb.  He acts as the first. First place is what He does.  Isn’t that interesting?  It’s root-word is “protos” is an adjective would describe Him as:  first in time or place, first in rank, first in influence, chief, principle, and first in any sucesssion of things or persons.  I’d say it’s safe to see Him as supreme in everything, don’t you?!

Colossians 1:19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell,

  1. In Him, all the fullness of God dwells (v.19)

The Translator’s Handbook for Colossians says that the more accurate rendition of this idea is that “The Son has in Himself the full nature of God, and it was God’s plan to have all the fullness dwell in Him.”  I really love and appreciate how it appears in the Amplified Bible:   “For it has pleased [the Father] that all the divine fullness (the sum total of the divine perfection, powers, and attributes) should dwell in Him permanently.” Paul makes this point again in

Colossians 2:9,  “For in Christ lives all the fullness of God in a human body.”

Colossians 1:20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. 

  1. Through Him, all things in heaven and earth are reconciled and peace is made by His blood on the cross. (v.20)

All things in heaven and earth need reconciling to God, all things were estranged and separated from Him by the fall when sin entered the world and curses came upon creation.  God does not need reconciliation, but we desperately do, and He provided a way through Jesus’ blood on the cross for us to be completely restored. In studying reconciliation, I read a sermon by John MacArthur from 1976 about these same verses.  He explained that the Greek word Paul uses for reconcile in Colossians here in verses 20-21 is “apokatallassō”, it is only used 3 times in the whole NT, 2 of which are found here in Colossians 1.  MacArthur explained that by putting “apo” in front of the regular word for reconcile (which is “katallasso”), he was intensifying it.  It implies that Paul was passionately arguing against the heresy that had made its way into the Church in Colossae by false teachers. You may remember from week 1 that the false teachers did not believe that Jesus Christ was God, they put Him in some strange lineage of emanating spirits from God.  To them, He was just one in a long line of levels of getting to God.  Here Paul is saying absolutely positively only ONE way to God the Father is through reconciliation, total, utter, complete reconciliation through the blood shed by Jesus on the cross!  He is the peacemaker between us and God, there is no other way. In 2 Corinthians, Paul does not use the intensified version of reconcile, but it is the same concept of us being brought back to God by God:

2 Cor 5:17-19 Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, Who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. Now to address the idea of creation being restored as well, when Paul says “all things on earth”:

“What is being claimed is quite simply and profoundly that the divine purpose in the act of reconciliation and peacemaking was to restore the harmony of the original creation…resolving the disharmonies of nature and the inhumanities of humankind, that the character of God’s creation and God’s concern for the universe in its fullest expression could be so caught and encapsulated for them in the cross of Christ.” James D. G. Dunn, The Epistles to the Colossians and to Philemon: A Commentary on the Greek Text, The New International Greek Testament commentary (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1996), 104.

Even creation will be reconciled to God. When He says ALL, He means ALL.  Isaiah 11 is where Isaiah prophesies about what things will look like when ALL things are reconciled and Jesus is in full-reign.  It’s the amazing passage that talks about leopards lying down with young goats and where nursing babies will play over the holes of cobras.  These are things unimaginable in the human minds that we currently possess, yet when our God promises something will be, it will always inevitably be.  Thank You, Jesus, you are the Reconciler!

Colossians 1:21-23 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, if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.

  1. He is the personal Savior, He did it for me & for you. (v.21-23)

Romans 5:6-11

When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good. But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, he will certainly save us from God’s condemnation. 10 For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of his Son. 11 So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God.

The hallmark of true repentance and reconciliation and redemption is the word: CONTINUE.  If we have really accepted the free gift of salvation, then our lives with show evidence of it.  We discussed this thoroughly in Week 2 about how our lives will bear the fruit of having been changed by Jesus.  He came to exchange our guilt for victory – while we were still hostile toward Him!  Paul encourages them to hold on to the hope (remember Col 1:5-6?) of the True Gospel that they heard from Epaphras.  He urges them to be steadfast and stable in their knowledge of Who Jesus Is, not to be swayed by lies.

“We meet Christ in an initial decision initiated by Him, then we follow in the lifestyle of faith & repentance, which then validate that the initial decision was genuine & had validity.” – Bob Utley

The work of Jesus is too much to comprehend for any human mind.  I have the most confident feeling that when we get to Heaven and we fully know things as we are fully known by Him, that we will be flat-out astounded at how extensive and all-encompassing His work was in our lives, and in the world around us.  Jesus, the One and the Only, He is so great and so greatly to be praised!  I pray that today and everyday moving forward that we will have a deeper reverence for Him, a deeper understanding of Who He Is, and a deeper desire to live a life pleasing and worthy of His sacrifice.
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