Colossians 1:15-20. 15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 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. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 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. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.
We all know and love Jesus, don’t we? The man from Galilee. The “carpenter’s son.” The one who went around doing good, healing the sick, feeding the hungry, raising the dead, speaking in parables, preaching sermons.
But do we know and love Christ?
The cosmic Christ. The pre-existent Christ. The pre-eminent Christ. The supreme Christ.
Isn’t it interesting that when the Apostles like Paul, Peter, James, John, and Jude wrote their letters to the church they didn’t rehearse the stories of Jesus. They didn’t repeat his parables, or recite his miracles. They didn’t tell us the story of Jesus. They introduced us to the cosmic Christ. The supreme Lord. Why is that?
Because the most important things that a Christian needs for growth is a knowledge and faith is the supremacy of Christ. As we’ve said many times, Christianity is not simply an example to follow. It is not a new way to be religious or moral. It is not a new system of salvation, or a program for holiness. It is faith in the gracious work of a supreme savior. We simply cannot understand God, ourselves, or our salvation without knowing both the story of Jesus and the reality of the eternal Christ.
And this means primarily knowing Christ as the image of God.
The glorious “Christ hymn” that Paul either wrote or quotes in Colossians 1:15-20 begins by calling Jesus Christ the image of the invisible God. But what on earth does this mean?
In ancient times, in the temple of a god, an image (idol) was placed at the center to be the representative or reflection of that god. It was believed that the image of the god had the very nature and essence of the god.
So is that what Jesus is? A created idol? No. In fact, our Christ Hymn makes it clear that he is the pre-existing creator of all things – 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.
So how is Christ the image of God? OK, here’s where we get a little theologically deep. Christ is the “only begotten son of God” (Jn. 3:16). This means that Christ has been eternally begotten of God the Father. He is eternally generated from the Father. Eternally born of the Father. His eternal life is FROM the Father. All without having a beginning. All without being created. All while being God.
This means that Jesus has always been both God and the eternal image of God the Father.
This is why, in the Old Testament, even before the incarnation of Christ, when we see an image of God – the Angel of the Lord, Daniel’s “Son of Man” vision, the “fourth man” in the fiery furnace, Ezekiel’s “human likeness” on God’s throne – we should assume it is Christ, the archetypal image.
But the idea of image also has implications for you and me, doesn’t it? When we read the word image, as we do here in Colossians 1, our minds should immediately go back to Genesis 1 – “Let us make man in our image and after our likeness” (day 2). If Christ is the image of God, then we are the image of the Image. We are meant to be a copy of God’s Son. The eternal Son born of the Father, receiving and reflecting his life.
Here’s the takeaway from our theology lesson today – Jesus is the blueprint for our humanity. And we are being built into his blueprint. This is what the gospel offers us in Christ. In making peace by the blood of his cross and reconciling to himself all things, we are being led into true humanness. No longer must we settle for a lesser version of life. No longer must we slog through each day experiencing anything less than the reception and reflection of God’s life and love.
“To live is Christ” is to be this image of the Image. The receiver and reflector of the grace, power, love, and wisdom of God that is Christ Jesus our Lord.
To what degree does your life flow from imaging the Image (Christ our Lord)?
You in Christ
In Christ we become the image of Christ, the image of God. How does this change how you see your life?
Christ in you
Verse 18 says Christ is the head of the body, the church. That’s us. How can you follow your head today?
Playlist: The Supremacy of Christ