3. Jesus Is Lord over All! (Colossians 1:15-23)Related Media
Day One Study
Read Colossians 1:1-23.
Colossians 1:15-20 is called the “Christ hymn” of Colossians We will enjoy this hymn today!
- What grabs your attention in verses 15-23?
- List the things said about Christ to show His supremacy.
- What clues do we get about the heresy (false teaching) being taught in Colosse? (For example, repeated or stressed words or ideas.)
Paul’s answer is to emphasize who Jesus Christ is in relation to God, to Creation, and to the Church.
Jesus in Relation to God
- Look up the following verses, then write in your own words the meaning of the phrase “image of the invisible God (verse 15)”.
- John 1:1,14,18 —
- John 14:9-11 —
- Hebrews 1:3 —
“Image of the invisible God” means:
- Reread verse 19. What else is true about Jesus?
- “Fullness” to the Greek philosophers means “the sum of the supernatural forces controlling the fate of the people.” Regarding God, this fullness is the totality of the Divine powers and attributes. “Dwell” means to be permanently at home. If the fullness of God is permanently dwelling in Jesus, what part of God is missing in Jesus?
Jesus in Relation to Creation
- What is revealed about Jesus’ relationship to creation in this passage? Be sure to include all the details given.
Scriptural Insight: Christ is the sustainer of creation (“hold together,” v. 17). Christ is the Person who preserves and maintains the existence of what He has created…Every law of science and of nature is, in fact, an expression of the thought of God. It is by these laws, and therefore by the mind of God, that the universe hangs together, and does not disintegrate in chaos. (Constable’s Notes on Colossians, p. 22)
- Remembering the people and the purpose for which this letter was written, why do you think Paul expounds on the supremacy of Christ over everything, including the highest orders of the spirit world?
- To understand Paul’s use of the term “firstborn” in verse 15, read Exodus 13:2, 11-15 and Deuteronomy 21:15-17. What were the rights of the firstborn? How does that fit in here?
Focus on the Meaning: Just as the firstborn son had certain privileges and rights in the biblical world, so also Christ has certain rights in relation to all creation—priority, preeminence, and sovereignty (vv. 16-18). (NIV Study Bible, p. 1814)
- From this passage (Colossians 1:15-20), how do we know that “firstborn” cannot mean that Christ was the first created being (a commonly taught error since the second century AD)?
Christ in Relation to the Church
- Looking at verse 18, what other role does Christ have and why?
- Paul uses “firstborn” with a different meaning in verse 18. Examine this phrase in light of these verses: 1 Corinthians 15:20, 23; Romans 8:29.
- Read Romans 1:4; Hebrews 2:14. What else does Jesus’ resurrection demonstrate?
Think About It: The Christ-hymn of Colossians 1:15-20 is a powerful statement about the Person and work of Jesus Christ. Christ’s supremacy is seen at every turn. The first portion focuses on His preeminent role in creation, while the second emphasizes His work as Redeemer. To any Christian, in Colosse then or elsewhere today, who may have been or is confused about Christ’s role in the world, these six verses testify to Christ’s absolute authority, which is not to be shared with any person, angel, or demon. (Constable’s Notes on Colossians, p. 25)
- Deeper Discoveries (optional): Read aloud these three other “Christ hymns” found in the New Testament written by different authors—John 1:1-5; Philippians 2:6-11 and Hebrews 1:2-4. How are these similar to the one here in Colossians? What, if any, are the differences? Do these confirm that the same information about Jesus is being taught everywhere by all the apostles?
- Staying Healthy: Considering everything you have learned about who Christ is, how does this affect your faith? In what ways does this change your thoughts and expectations? Think specifically.
Day Two Study
Read Colossians 1:15-23.
- Concentrating on vv. 20-22, use a dictionary to define the word “reconcile?”
- According to Colossians 1:21 and Romans 5:10, what was our problem?
- Restate Colossians 1:20-22 in your own words describing what Christ has done for you to solve that problem.
Scriptural Insight: “It is important to note that people are reconciled to God (“to Himself”) not that God is reconciled to people. For mankind has left God and needs to be brought back to Him.” (The Bible Knowledge Commentary New Testament, p. 674)
- How should you respond to the truth that you are completely reconciled to God by your faith in Jesus Christ? (Hint: If you can’t think of a response, look at Colossians 1:12, 2:7, 3:15, 3:16, and 3:17.)
- According to verse 22, how does Christ present believers to God? How does that make you feel?
From the Greek: In our English translations, “holy” and “sanctified” are used interchangeably to translate the Greek word hagios, meaning “set apart, separate.” For the Christian, to be holy or sanctified means to be set apart from sin and to God as His possession for His exclusive use. Paul refers to the Colossians as “holy” in 1:2 and 1:22.
- Staying Healthy: How does the reconciliation (v. 22) that Christ has accomplished for you as a believer affect the way you relate to:
- those closest to you?
- to your PAST?
- What is the “hope” from which we are not to be moved (v. 23)?
Focus on the Meaning: In Lesson 2 and Lesson 3, we have covered three terms related to what Christ has done for you through His death on the cross. These are all part of your identity in Christ and the hope to which we are not to be moved (v. 23).
• Redemption = “You have been purchased by the blood of Christ out of slavery to sin and released into freedom.”
• Reconciliation = “The barrier of sin has been taken away, and a bridge has been built. You are able to be saved.”
• Sanctification (made holy) = “You are set apart as God’s possession for His exclusive use.”
- What do these other verses refer to as our “hope”?
- Colossians 1:5 —
- 1 Thessalonians 5:8 —
- Titus 2:13 —
- 1 Peter 1:3-4 —
Summary: What promises are included in our hope?
Focus on the Meaning: Biblical hope is not wishful thinking but confident expectation based on the character of God to back up His promises.
- According to verse 23, what is your responsibility in order to enjoy the relationship with God you have already received?
- Staying Healthy: What are some specific things you do to stay established and firm in your faith and not moved from your hope? What will you trust God to help you do in the future?
- Staying Healthy: What did you learn for yourself regarding how truly great our Lord Jesus is? Feel free to express your thoughts using a creative means (poem, prose, song, art).
Day Three Study: TRUTH—the Prescription for Healthy Living
Dwell in Truth You Can Know
- Review the Colossians passage we studied in this lesson. List the truths about God and His relationship to us that we can KNOW.
Humbly Accept the “I Don’t Know or Understand”
- Make note of anything in the Colossians passage we studied in this lesson that you do not understand at this time.
Discern Teaching through the Complete Revelation of God’s Word
- Evaluate something you have read or heard in light of the TRUTH you are learning—books, social media, billboards—things that sound nice and comfy but may actually lead to or be based upon error in biblical thinking. Does anything come to mind that fits with today’s lesson? Discern truth from error using the following process.
- Step #1: Define the terms and issues involved.
- Step #2: Ask questions and support your answers with Scripture, looking for truth you can know and what you can’t know.
- Step #3: Think of a graceful response to someone holding to that type of thinking.
Read “Truth about Christ Prevents Infection” to gain additional insight and application. Reflect at the end on what you read.
Truth About Christ Prevents Infection (Message on Colossians 1:15-23)
Picture this scenario. It’s 2 a.m. A baby is very fussy and restless. The mother awakes, goes to pick her child up out of the crib, and realizes that her infant who was healthy the day before is now burning with fever. There’s an infection in the small child’s body! The worried parent knows she must treat the infection through medicine and/or a visit to the doctor followed by rest and patiently waiting for the treatment to take hold. The baby will hopefully soon return to healthy living.
Heresy is an infection in the Body of Christ. It’s not just error; it is anti-truth! And like an infection in the human body, it always affects life so it must be addressed. Thankfully, the answer to all heresy is in the New Testament.
Paul made a diagnosis. There was an infection in Colosse, a very serious one. It must be addressed and removed for healing to occur.
There were five aspects of this infection:
- Jewish legalism — Gentile converts may have been encouraged or forced to follow the Old Testament Law as part of their new Christian faith. This included observing the Jewish ceremonies and festivals as well.
- Greek philosophy — This included an emphasis on deeper knowledge and mysteries. The Greeks liked “mysteries” so there were quite a few mystery cults in the Hellenistic world. By following their systems of thought, one could gain a higher plane of knowledge than everyone else could have.
- Asceticism — This taught that special privileges and “perfection” were available to a select few initiates who followed specific guidelines to attain that perfection. This was primarily practiced through denying oneself the normal activities and pleasures of life.
- Worship of angels or spirit beings — These were revered as mediators to God. Since a perfect God could have nothing to do with matter (considered evil), this God created several levels of beings, including the angels, to reach mankind, the last of whom was the man Jesus.
- Jesus, the Semi-Christ — This denied the Deity of Jesus, saying that Jesus was only a man. The divine spirit of Christ came upon the man Jesus at His baptism and left Him at the cross so that only the man Jesus died. Or, some taught that Jesus may have been God but had a ghost-type body, not a real one. This view held that in no way could Jesus be fully human and fully God at the same time. Paul also addressed this group in Philippians 2:5-11.
Among these false teachings, there was something for everyone, which is so dangerous! This heresy was not denying the Christian faith but lifting it to a “higher level.”
The last two were based upon the thought that matter is all evil and that spirit alone is good and perfect. This philosophy or system of thought developed into a full-blown epidemic called Gnosticism in the second century. Even at this early stage, the heresy said that Christ couldn’t be fully human and fully God. The religious sect called Christian Science today is a modern Gnosticism, emphasizing spirit as being perfect and flesh being evil. This kind of teaching gives credit to Jesus as a great teacher whose teaching can be applied to our lives. But it devalues His atonement because He was not the Son of God, and it devalues His resurrection. In fact, a number of theories have been concocted to disprove the resurrection.
The false teachers didn’t deny that Christ came, but they dethroned Him. They took Him off the throne of the universe and made Him something else. The infection was making the Colossians seriously ill. It will do the same to us!
Immune System — Fights & Prevents Infection
Thankfully, we have a spiritual immune system that fights and prevents infection. There are 3 things upon which we who are truly believers ought to be absolutely immovable. These three things are 1) justification by faith alone, 2) the authority and inerrancy of the Scripture, and 3) the deity of Jesus Christ. The Protestant reformation was founded on these tenets of faith, what they held to be absolutely firm. If any of these three is watered down or compromised, infection results.
- Justification by faith alone — Adding works to faith is called legalism. I liken that to a stroke that paralyzes you.
- Authority and inerrancy of the Scripture — saying Scripture is only man’s work and has errors is like strep throat because it spreads germs whenever you open your mouth to speak.
- Deity of Jesus Christ — negating the Deity of Christ is like meningitis because it attacks the protective covering of the brain, and therefore of our mind, causing our minds not to work correctly. This infection negating the deity of Jesus Christ deals with the basic question: Who is Jesus and What has He done?
And Paul writes a diagnosis and a prescription for the Colossians and for us. He writes the strongest statement of the supremacy and deity of Christ found anywhere in the New Testament! The Greek words he used are specific for this infection, just like a doctor’s prescription for an antibiotic. There was no way those reading or listening to this letter could possibly misunderstand anything that Paul was telling them.
The prescribed antibiotic is TRUTH, the truth about Christ in three areas of relationship—His relationship to God, His relationship to Creation, and His relationship to the Church. There are four parallel passages. If anyone questions you about the deity of Christ, these 4 parallel passages give you a lot of information, probably anything you need to know to show that Jesus Christ is truly God. These passages are John 1:1-18; Philippians 2:5-11; Hebrews 1:1-6; and Colossians 1:15-19. I will draw from these in this discussion.
First, let’s look at the truth about Christ in His relationship to God.
Jesus’ Relationship to God
In this lesson, you studied Colossians 1:15 that proclaims Jesus to be the image of the invisible God. He is the exact representation of His being, the exact likeness (Hebrews 1:3). In John 14:9, Jesus said, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father.” He spent His life showing us who the Father is. All of the gospels teach who Jesus is and, therefore, who God is. You should read the gospel stories to your children over and over. And read them to yourself! We should know the stories about Jesus because if you’ve seen Jesus, you’ve seen the Father. You know who God is.
In Colossians 1:19, Paul uses one of the very words that the false teachers were using the word “fullness.” The false teachers were claiming that if you went through special rites and ceremonies, you could get to the deeper knowledge of God. You could get a fuller understanding of God. This heresy said that Jesus was good but not enough; you needed more.
Paul writes using this word “fullness” in verse 19,
“For God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in Him.” (Colossians 1:19)
That word “dwell” means to be permanently at home. It cannot mean “to leave” or “to come and go.” The fullness of God permanently dwells in Jesus. The word “fullness” means the totality of the Divine powers and attributes. There is nothing missing. There is nothing more of God that they could get apart from Jesus.
About Himself, Jesus said,
“And now, Father, glorify Me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.” (John 17:5)
That phrase, “I had with you,” means completeness. Jesus the Son and God the Father had completeness together before the foundation of the world. Jesus wasn’t any less God before the foundation of the world. He had everything that God the Father had.
The false teachers distributed all the divine powers among spiritual beings. What they said was that God was 100% spirit so He was 100% perfect. He created a being that was 90% spirit, and that being created another being that was 80% spirit. This continued until you got to the bottom where you had a spirit being created that was only 10% spirit. So, you were getting closer and closer to matter. And, that last being created matter, the universe, the physical stuff that we see and feel, which was all considered to be evil. A lot of divine power was divided between all of these invisible beings, which is why they started worshiping them. But, Paul gathers them all up in Christ in this word “fullness.” It is a full and flat statement of the deity of Christ. And, as we’ll see in our next lesson, the wonderful thing is that God was pleased to put His fullness in Jesus and pleased to put Jesus in us. So, He is pleased to put the fullness of God in us. Christ in us! It was God’s pleasure to do so.
Conclusion: By looking at the relationship He had with God, we see that Jesus Christ is God!
Jesus’ Relationship to Creation
The second relationship Paul discussed was Jesus’ relationship to Creation.
Firstborn over all creation
In Colossians 1:15, Paul writes that Jesus is the firstborn over all creation (“over” is a better translation than “of”). The word “firstborn” refers to the heir who has priority to and superiority over everything that the father owns. It was a term regarding privilege and rank. The people of that time understood what it meant. We have a hard time with it. We think of firstborn as being a child of mine who is not me; it has part of me but not all of me. Paul and the Colossians knew exactly what it meant. The heir. The one who had priority over everything the Father owned. And, that describes Jesus.
The Jehovah’s Witnesses say that Jesus was the firstborn over all other things. In their Bible translation, they insert the word “other” 6 times in the passage though “other” is not found in the original Greek document! They claim that Jesus was created first then created everything else. Sound familiar? It is an attempt to devalue Christ as the supreme Creator and the Son of God but yet still give Him credit for doing something.
Created all things
In Colossians 1:16, we read that Jesus created all things. Paul didn’t use that phrase just one time. Did you happen to notice that he used it several times? “All things” was a specific, well-known Greek phrase universally understood to mean “everything in the entire universe” visible and invisible. Paul clarifies his meaning for us by saying things in heaven, things on earth, the visible, and the invisible. That’s all there is! Jesus created the invisible beings; He was not created by them. This again refutes the false teaching about levels of spirit beings.
But, someone might say, “I thought God created the heavens and the earth. Genesis 1:1 says so.” Where was Jesus at this time? There is no contradiction here. God created the heavens and the earth. When you turn to John 1:1-3, 14, it tells us where Jesus was.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was fully God. The Word was with God in the beginning. All things were created by Him, and apart from Him not one thing was created that has been created… Now the Word became flesh and took up residence among us.” (John 1:1-13, 14)
Who was the Word? Christ. Through Christ, things were made.
In Hebrews 1:2, we read that God made the universe through Christ. Creation was planned by the Father but done through the Son and for the Son. The Son was the “Master Workman” of Creation. It was done for His pleasure. He made all these things that we know and enjoy, including our own bodies, for His pleasure.
Holds all things together
Not only is He firstborn, not only did He create all things, but Colossians 1:17 says that He holds all things together. This is one of my favorite passages of Scripture. He is why we are not floating or flying apart! He is why we continue to exist.
The phrase “holds together” means “to cohere, to hold together” like glue is holding things together. Hebrews 1:3 says that “He sustains all things by His powerful word.” Christ is the controlling and unifying force in nature. This sweeps away that early gnostic view that matter is evil and was created by a remote spirit so that the creator of the universe could not have any hands-on experience with what He created. The Son of God is the “hands-on” Creator and sustainer of the universe. Therefore, it (the universe) cannot be evil.
There are two unexplainable forces that govern our everyday lives. These forces can be described, can have mathematical equations that measure them, and can be overcome. You see their effects all over the place. But, they cannot be explained. Those are the force of gravity and the force that holds the nucleus of an atom together. Just as the north poles of two magnets will always repel one another, the protons in a nucleus should be repelling each other causing the atom to break apart. They don’t. What is holding that atom together? Scientists still do not know in spite of the many theories proposed. I know who is holding that atom together. I know who is keeping us on this ground. That is Christ.
This is why I love science. It is a visible manifestation of God’s Creative work. You cannot study any aspect of science without gaining a greater appreciation of our great God. Scientists who dismiss God are blinding themselves to what they actually see because if they acknowledge God, they must be accountable to Him. It is easier to pretend that He doesn’t exist.
You see, the fact that there is a Creator means that He owns everything. He owns each person. He has total right over our lives and has a right to set the rules (and thus tell us what is right and wrong) because He is the Creator, the Absolute Authority. We can know what is good and bad because there is ONE who is good and who can, therefore, define right and wrong. We as humans need to submit ourselves totally to the One who owns us. It is not mere human opinion.
Conclusion: By looking at the relationship He had with Creation, we see that Jesus Christ is God!
Jesus’ Relationship to the Church
The third area of Jesus’ identity is His relationship to the Church.
Head of the Church
In Colossians 1:18, we read that Christ is the head of the body, the Church. Ephesians 2:15 says that He (Christ) created the Church by combining Jews and Gentiles into one body of believers, and He appointed Himself head of that body. Not only is Christ sovereign over the natural universe and the invisible world, He is also sovereign over the newly created Church.
Firstfruits of the resurrection
But, we also see in Colossians 1:18 that Christ is the firstborn from among the dead. Jesus received a new body. He was the first one to receive an immortal body. When Lazarus was raised from the dead (John 11), he was raised in His same earthly body only to die again. The same thing was true of the widow’s son (Luke 7) and the synagogue ruler’s daughter (Luke 8). When Jesus was raised from the dead, He was raised in a brand-new body, never to die again.
In 1 Corinthians 15:20, Paul uses the same phrase except he uses “firstfruits” instead of “firstborn.” The firstfruits was the first part of a harvest brought by a farmer as a sacrifice of thanksgiving to God. This was a down payment that declared the promise of more to come. And, though not brought for sacrifice, the farmer was declaring that the rest of the harvest belonged to God as well. Christ is the guarantee of the resurrection of all of God’s redeemed people. Again, He was first in this. He is first in everything. Paul is trying to let the Colossians and us know that Jesus is first in everything!
Reconciles and restores people
Jesus is also the reconciler and the redeemer (verses 20-22). That word “reconcile” in the Greek stands for complete reconciliation, not ever to be broken again. It doesn’t leave room for breaking off that reconciliation. We are reconciled once and for all when we accept Christ, when we believe in Him. It is a completeness; it is done.
People are reconciled to God, not vice versa. It is man who left God; God didn’t leave man. We are reconciled through Jesus’ physical death on the Cross. Paul left no room for any teaching that the Christ spirit came to the body at Jesus’ baptism and left His body on the cross before death. It was the Christ who died on the cross. There is only one way!
This reminds me of two women whom I had the privilege of discipling in the early 80s. Both of them wanted God badly. They had a hunger for spiritual things, longing for them. But, they could not accept Jesus. That was a stumbling block to them. Their thinking was, “Why can’t I have God without Jesus? I believe in God. Isn’t that good enough?” It wasn’t until they understood that God made a certain plan. If you want the benefits of His plan, you are going to have to enter His plan His way. You don’t have to take His plan. But, if you want salvation, if you want to be reconciled to God, you are going to have to go through Jesus. They both took that step of faith and afterwards the Holy Spirit opened their minds to understand what God’s wonderful plan was. They both embraced Jesus as the author of life and the pioneer of our faith.
Reconciles and restores Creation
In Romans 8:19-22, we read that the whole creation groans under the corruption that sin brought into the world, as if the whole universe were somehow out of harmony. Sin has put the universe out of joint, and Christ will set it right again.
In Colossians 1:20, Paul once again declares that “all things” will be reconciled—things on earth and things in heaven. What’s left out? Things under the earth, the invisible, and demons. Those in hell are not reconciled to God. They’ve lost the opportunity.
Why does God do all this through Jesus? The answer is in verse 18,
“So that in everything He might have the supremacy.” Colossians 1:18)
God wanted Jesus to be first in everything. First in creation. First in the resurrection. First in the Church. In everything, He is to be first. He became flesh to show us God (John 1:14). He humbled Himself (Philippians 2:8) to reconcile and redeem us. He was exalted by God (Philippians 2:9) to sustain us.
Modern Virus — the Religion of Evolution
Gnosticism was easily identified and contained. But today, we have a virus seriously infecting the Church, not just locally either. And, most of us don’t realize how much it has already affected our minds. This virus is masquerading as a religion—the religion of evolution. It says that man is not at enmity with God and that man can get better through genetic engineering and environmental controls. Evolution rejects God as Creator and, therefore, rejects His rules. People then logically accept anti-God philosophies.
There are many Christians saying, “Why can’t we just believe that God used evolution?” This is a very common belief among the churches of today. But the Bible teaches clearly that death came into the world after Adam sinned, and not millions of years before man evolved.
“Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death came to all men, because all sinned” (Romans 5:12)
“World” translates a derivative of “kosmos,” a Greek word used often by Paul. We see his use in this well-known verse:
“For since the creation of the world, God’s invisible qualities have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.” (Romans 1:20)
It is also used in Acts 17:24:
“The God who made the world and all things in it.” (Acts 17:24)
The word “kosmos” means order, arrangement. The Greeks understood this to mean the entire universe because of the order observable in it. It was not just the world of humanity. It is not just death coming to men. Death came into the whole universe, the whole world, because of the one man’s sin. I mentioned above that the creation is groaning because of the corruption of sin (Romans 8:19-22).
In fact, the very reason for death is because God, as a God of love, provided a means for man’s deliverance from sin. When man rebelled against God, he immediately died spiritually (separated from God) and began to die physically. Consider the phrase, “ for you are dust, and to dust you will return” (Genesis 3:19). In order for that to be a curse, it had to be something new. It must not have been a natural, normal thing. Death is a curse. Mankind was cut off from God and would have remained so for eternity. But, God provided a means by which man could come back to God to spend eternity with Him.
“Without shedding of blood there can be no remission of sins.” (Hebrews 9:22)
God introduced death and bloodshed so man could be redeemed (Genesis 3:21). There was no death before Adam fell. In fact, if death and bloodshed had existed before Adam sinned, the message of redemption would be nonsense. God, in His love, introduced death so we could die and leave our sinful bodies. Otherwise, we would have to live forever separated from Him. But, Jesus Christ came to die and shed His precious blood on a cross and be raised from the dead so we could spend eternity with Him.
The evolutionary process is one of death and struggle over millions of years, eventually resulting in man coming into existence. The evolutionist sees today’s world of death and suffering as an evolutionary one. The Bible teaches that the world we see is a cursed one. It is a world originally created in a perfect state by God and it has suffered the degenerative effects of the curse and the catastrophic effects of a global flood. But, God is in the process of restoring His creation through the reconciliation work of Christ.
Thus, evolution and the Bible are in total conflict. The first would have us believe that death and bloodshed is the means by which man evolved. The Bible clearly teaches that death will be cancelled and man will be redeemed through belief in Christ! Therefore, evolution destroys and undermines the whole message of the Cross. Christians who believe in evolution need to recognize that they are really denying Jesus as Creator and destroying the foundations of the Gospel message they are trying to preach.
Are you holding fast to all that He is and all that we have in Him? Is there a spiritual infection in your body? In your church body? Here’s how you get back to Healthy Living.
- Take your antibiotic of TRUTH and get well.
- Engage in preventive care —stay away from what makes you sick.
- Bolster your immune system by holding on to the 3 tenets of faith: 1) Justification by faith alone, 2) Authority and inerrancy of the Scriptures and 3) the Deity of Jesus Christ.
Reflect on What you Just Read
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