Colossians 1:16 For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities or powers, all things were created by him and for him.
Wow! You can see immediately from reading this verse, (and all of Colossians chapter 1), that God had seen the advent of all the cults that would come along in our day. Belief systems such as Jehovah’s Witness, Islam and Mormon all lower Jesus Christ from His rightful throne and make him to be ‘just a man.’ How does this verse combat these false theologies and bring us to an understanding of Christ as Creator God?
As always, we must read the verse into context:
Colossians 1:13-1613 Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son:14 In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins:15 Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature:16 For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him:
As you can see from verse 13 (his dear Son), verses 14-16 are referring to the “dear Son” of the Father. So we know that we are talking about Christ. In 15, Paul calls Jesus the image of the invisible God. Then he calls him the firstborn of every creature! Shallow reading would make it appear that Jesus is a created being, but we are trying to dig deep. Jesus as a created being would seemingly contradict other scriptures, so we must look deeper to see what this sentence could possible mean, especially when verse 16 is clear that Jesus created “all things!”
What does firstborn mean in verse 15? Was Jesus born? That is to say, is Jesus a created being; was He produced? Before we can understand verse 16, we must understand the verse which precede it. Your defense of the faith relies on it. False religions and cults will invariably do one of the following: elevate man to a status above that which he deserves, or lower God from His rightful place. If Jesus is truly God, he must not be a created being, he must be eternal. We must be ready to defend His God-ness, just as we are ready to defend his lordship, kingship and his role as savior and redeemer.
What does the “image of the invisible God” mean? Or, maybe an easier question to tackle is “what must it NOT mean?” Allowing scripture to speak for itself, we can trust that God’s Word is always true. One thing we know we can always trust is that God cannot sin. He is unable to sin; he is of purer eyes than to look upon evil, in fact. Before considering what “image of the invisible God” may mean, review Exodus 20:4-5 –
Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth:5 Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;
Can God create an idol? Can God commit the sin of idolatry? Think about this logically for a moment. God has commanded that men shall not bow to any image or likeness of anything that is in heaven above. That is to say that we do not worship things that aren’t the “real thing.” We are to bow down to Him alone. Even if our intention is “good,” he sees this as idolatry and an abomination. It is a rejection of Him as Holy and perfect. It could be similar to your spouse loving a picture of you. It’s absurd. The image or likeness of you, even if somewhat accurately portrayed is NOT the same thing. If someone said they loved a picture of YOU, would you equate that with “they love you?” You would never do that. You would hope that people would love you, not an image or likeness of you.
But what does God command us to do with Christ? Is He nothing more than a likeness of God? Are we to see Him as a reflection of God? Reflections are things that do not absorb light and simply show you back the light that is hitting it. If Christ is a reflection, He is not a source of light. Christ doesn’t “reflect” God’s glory – He IS God’s glory. He is the brightness of His glory! (Hebrews 1:3) God’s command to worship Christ is idolatry if Christ is nothing but a portrait. If Christ isn’t the real thing but just a likeness: a physical representation of the spiritual, then your bible is worthless and so is your faith. We would be, a Paul puts it, to be most pitied. (1 Corinthians 15:19.
Let’s see the scripture.
John 1:1-9 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 The same was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4 In him was life; and the life was the light of men. 5 And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not. 6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe. 8 He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. 9 That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.
This passage is talking about Jesus Christ. Notice the terminology. Jesus is the light. He is not a mere reflection of light. Jesus created all things. Not a single thing was made that He did not make. He is explicitly declared ‘Creator’.
Look at how God’s people react to Him. Philippians 2:10 That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth. 11 And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Throughout the New Testament there are records of worship of Jesus Christ. Thomas calls Him, “My Lord and my God.”
Now tell me, how can it be that confessing Jesus Christ as Lord is to the glory of God the Father if Jesus were a created being? That would contradict Romans 1:25 where God expresses immense disdain for them that have gloried in creatures rather than the Creator. God cannot simultaneously command men NOT to worship idols and that which is NOT God and also command men to worship Christ unless He is, in fact, God Himself. So Colossians 1:15 “the image of the invisible God” is a declaration of Christ’s deity. He is as much fully God as the spirit of God.
Is His incarnation mysterious? Yes? Unfathomable? Certainly. Believable? Without a doubt. Trust the scripture that proclaims the glory of Christ.
So what does it mean to be the ‘firstborn’ over all creation? Keeping in mind what we’ve just proved (not exhaustively by the way, the bulk of scripture is evidence for Christ’s Godship), we must begin by understanding that the word ‘born’ as we understand it to mean, that is, to be produced, cannot be the implication here. God cannot and will not contradict Himself. The firstborn, as it is frequently used in scripture implies pre-eminence. To assume that this term literally means “the first to be born: or produced” is a mistake. If we are to keep in accord with scripture, we must understand that Christ has already been declared deity. He is the firstborn over all creation in the sense that He is pre-eminent. He is in charge. He’s the boss. He is the rightful inheritor of all. Just as in ancient times, the firstborn had special rights, God uses this imagery to give us an anthropomorphized understanding of Christ as “one with the Father.” John 10:30. For Christ to be the firstborn implies not that he is produced, but rather that he is of the same nature as God. It’s a hard passage, but using scripture to interpret scripture, we can conclude that Colossians 1:14-15 explicitly and implicitly proclaims Christ as God.
Hebrews 13:8 – Here’s a verse we’ve already seen. Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today and forever. He cannot be “created” if He is immutable. This is more evidence from scripture of Jesus as God. Do not let the mystery and shame of the incarnation sway you. Oh too many people I meet tell me Jesus cannot be God because “he was just a man,” or “God cannot die, Jesus died.” This is the great mystery and humility he possesses. He wants us to believe His Word and the preaching of the cross, even if it is foolish according to the wisdom of the world.
So finally, here we are: verse 16 of Colossians chapter 1. What’s the point of Jesus being the Creator? Think of it this way: by now, it’s clear that He’s God and Creator of all. Read the verse – for by him were all things created…then a list of “everything.” All thrones and dominions are still created by him. Why do we need to know this, what does this tell us?
Read Colossians 1:9-10 For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding;1:10 That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God;
Colossians 1:17-18 And he is before all things, and by him all things consist. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence.
Wrapped around Colossians 1:16 which defines and describes Christ as God, redeemer and Creator of all is a command. A command to be Holy, to walk worthy of the Lord: increasing in the knowledge of God: fruitful in good works. Not only does Paul tell us to “be this way,” he tells us why. Because God is Creator, because Christ is Creator, He is sovereign. We are ‘owned’ by him like we own property, like an author owns a story or an artist a piece of artwork. We are like the clay and he is the potter, and he has the right to tell the clay what to do!
Christ, the Creator of all, the rightful heir of all, the pre-eminent being over all has created all things. All things were created for him. Even you. You are his property and He will do with you what He wishes. Thank God He will choose perfectly wisely in that regard.
David Caldwell says
Thank you so much for this. What a wonderful, Christ-exalting and God-honoring writing on this verse. I am so blessed to have read it! I agree that this is a pivotal verse in proclaiming truth against the false religions of the world. The Gospel is the “power of God for salvation to everyone who believes,” and this verse is premier in identifying who and what the Gospel is about.
Another passage I thought of as I read is from John 8 when Jesus is proclaiming His identity as the Messiah and as the Jews keep responding with versions of “Abraham is our father” Christ tells them, “I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am.” Wow! They knew He was equating Himself with God and is definitely why the next verse tells us they then picked up stones to throw at Him. This is just one of many examples of Christ identifying Himself as the Messiah and eternal and equal with God.
Well done, brother! Thanks for being a man who accurately handles the Word of truth and shares it with others for our benefit. To God be the glory!