Col 1:15-18: This Scripture is considered by many scholars to be a hymn with either two or three stanzas. This may have been something that the early church would sing during their worship services. It is in fact possible that Paul was in a spirit of prayer and that he kind of moves to praise and worship of God as he recites this hymn. I would submit to you that there has not been a preacher or author alive that could do this passage its full justice. It is that awesome of a text.
Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: 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: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist. 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.
Who? Jesus. Jesus is the image. He is in fact the icon, the Greek word for “image” there. Jesus is the visible representation of the invisible God. He is in fact God. II Corinthians 4:4 powerfully communicates that the god of this world has blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ who is the image of God.
John 1:18 No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father he hath declared him.
Hebrews 1:3 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;
And so we need to stop thinking about Jesus Christ as this kind of semi-hippy-feminine-kind-of-dude who walked around with flip flops and wore kind of a dress, and we need to start thinking at all times that Christ was and is God. That He is in fact the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords, and when we see Jesus, we see God. When we hear from Jesus, we hear from God. Three key doctrinal points need to be emphatically jumped on, insisted on, and declared upon.
Number One: The truth that Paul is presenting here is what divides Christianity from cults and false religions. This is the single dividing line; this is the line in the sand. And you say, Pastor, we’ve heard this before and you are right; you have heard it before and we will continue to declare it over and over again any time the text supports it. Why is it so important to do that? Because we are living in this post-modern world that tells us over and over that the Father doesn’t mind the Mormons and the Jehovah Witnesses. The Father is okay with the Muslims, and the Father is okay with the Buddhists, and the Father is okay with the Hindus. But that is not okay at all. In fact, the Word of God teaches just the opposite. The Father is not okay with His Son being ignored as the preeminent one. He is not okay with that! The reason that I need to emphasize this to you is that many of you have co-workers that are Mormon or Jehovah Witnesses, and what you find is that they are morally good people. They are the kind of people who will mow your grass when you are gone. They are the kind of people that will pick up your newspaper in the driveway for you. They are the kind of people that will watch over your house, and if you had a water break they would come running over and help you fix the problem. So in our minds, we think they are morally good people, and they must be fine with God. This is not what Paul teaches at all. This entire passage is dedicated to helping us understand this. We don’t stand in judgment, and we don’t declare ourselves better than them because we are most exceptionally thankful that the light of the Gospel has shined in our hearts and minds, and our prayer is that that same light will shine in their hearts. Our prayer is not that they die and go to Hell. Our prayer is that the god of this world will not have the victory, and that the light will come crashing through like a heat seeking missile and explode in their heart, and show them that Jesus is Lord.
Number Two: The central truth of the New Testament is that Jesus is Lord, that He is the express image of God. He is the walking, talking, breathing, living God. The God of man, born of a Virgin, living a sinless life, is in fact God.
Number Three: Jesus is the Son of God and provides the ultimate, perfect, and final revelation of who God is as God the Son. The commentary here is clear and pointed:
[Jesus] was the unique manifestation of both God and man, always embodying the best of both wherever he was. In choosing the word “image,” Paul stressed that God was present wherever Jesus was. He was the personal manifestation of deity
The New American Commentary, p. 215
So let’s look at the next part of verse 15 in your Bibles: Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: I want you to underline this in your Bibles. I want you to note this so that you will not be surprised by it. I want to make sure that God’s people who come to Berean Baptist Church are well equipped to combat heresy. The heresy that was being taught 1,700-1,800 years ago is the same heresy that is being taught today. And that heretical doctrine is that Jesus is the first and ultimate in created beings. It was heresy 1800 years ago, and it is heresy today. The Scripture does not teach that Jesus was born. The Scripture does not teach that there was ever a time that the Father created the Son, and now the Son is the ultimate in created beings. That is not what is meant by this idea of “firstborn.” It’s exactly the opposite. It is this idea: In Psalm 89:27, David is referred to as firstborn. Although he was not the firstborn in any way, and yet from God’s perspective David was the firstborn king of all the kings of Israel. And what the Father is communicating and declaring about the Son as the firstborn is that He is the preeminent One. He is the One Who is going to get the Kingdom. He is going to get the Dynasty. He is the One Who is exalting Him into a position of preeminence here in this idea of firstborn. It is a term that describes how God sees David among all the kings of the earth and specifically within Israel’s history. The context of the Scripture does not allow Jesus to be a created being. So if someone says to you, the Bible says that Jesus is the firstborn, you need to be able to retort that. You need to be able to explain that it is a way of communicating His position as the preeminent One in the family.