13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. 15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. 17 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 and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. 19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.
This is a wonderful hymn to Christ. You can feel Paul's inspiration in his praise of the Savior. It is wonderful to glimpse the greatness of the mystery of Christ. How we would like to join more and more in this song of praise with our faith, with our words and our lives!
Anybody can realize that what stands written in this piece of scripture is closely linked together with the doctrine of God creating through His Son. Even more how intensely and even literally it is linked to the story of the Creation in Genesis you can not clearly understand until you realize that the writer was an Israelite, that he spoke from a Jewish education in interpreting the Bible, and that he was thinking in Hebrew even when he was writing in Greek.
He expected that those who would expound his words would understand his intentions and perspective:
He is the image of the invisible God...
In Genesis 1:27 it stands written:
God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him...
God's own image was the Son.
Words for meditation:
No one has ever seen God, but the only begotten Son who is at the Father's side, has made him known, John 1:18.
This is the image we have of God, the image that has been portrayed before our eyes — Jesus Christ as crucified, (Gal.1:3).
Whose portrait is this? And whose inscription?… Give to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's (Mark 12:16-17).
It is very important that it is the same Image as once in the act of creation that now in redemption shall 'coin' us. For God wants once more to make us images of God. It is not a foreign God, that intervenes in our world in order to rescue us from the dominion of darkness, it is the Creator of all mankind. He comes to his fallen creation, with redemption and restoration. He came to that which was his own (John 1:11).
The First Article of Faith is the foundational basis for The Second Article. What God has done for our redemption and salvation is of the same purpose as that of God's first creating all that there is. God of Creation and God of Redemption are not two different Gods, but He is one and the same God. He is the good God!In the times of the old Church this was an extraordinary important point of doctrine. For the so called gnostic sects at times influenced the Church. The gnostics, for example Marcion, meant that the God whom had created matter was an evil God and that there had come to the world a good God of salvation to rescue us (= our fettered souls) from matter and body. The Savior they recognized therefore was understood to be a foreign God. The Second Article of Faith was, so to say, hanging loose in the air. It had for them no foundation upon The First Article, i.e. matter and body they regarded as something evil, that should not be saved, but that man should be saved from them.
When Christian people in our days believe in the theory of evolution, there appear some similarities to these marcionism beliefs with regard to their view of creation. For according to the theory of evolution man has come up from an evolution in which the "struggle for existence" and the stronger one's victory over the weaker is meant to have been the law of life from the beginning of the world. And as a man thinks the beginning to have been, so becomes the continuation — and the end! It does not matter, how romantically, respectfully and beautifully they try to picture evolution in films about nature. The consequences of a belief in such a beginning will show up sooner or later. The 'God' of evolutionary creation is (comparitively speaking) from a Christian ethical point of view 'an evil God of creation'. A Paradise (as described in Genesis) in the beginning could obviously not have existed. Sin and death must have been there from the beginning. A Fall could never have been. Realize what this means. See the mystery of this wickedness working secretly to break down faith and human dignity.
In such a faith system Christian moral law, human dignity, charity and salvation becomes totally foreign and unrealistic. And the thought of God as judging you for sin and as claiming anything good seems meaningless. For hasn't he himself created you as you are now?
Christ's sacrifice of himself and his act of redemption and my repentance, salvation and the last judgment — The Second and The Third Articles — really all become meaningless in that system. Christ then, as recognized by the Christian faith would in such circumstances surely not be the true image of the invisible God.
Some in fact have drawn the logical moral conclusions. For ordinary people the conclusions are not consciously drawn; but unconsciously they have absorbed arguments against repentance and a new life. Many Christians as well are influenced by evolutionary assumptions. Their Christan faith then has a gnostic touch, it becomes something mainly 'experienced', 'felt', 'religious' — outside the 'real' world. So we get difficulties in intellectually arguing for the existence of the Christian Creator and for living a respectable life according to God's commandments.
We get a better starting-point, when we listen to sober scientific analysis against faith in evolutionism and instead let this foundation present an alternative logical interpretation of the many fossils resulting from the Great Flood; and when we thus proclaim Christ, creation's Savior, He is the image of the invisible God!
In verse 15 it is also said about Christ:
…the firstborn over all creation.
In the Greek original text there is no 'over'. It stands written: …all creation's firstborn.
It is also possible to translate the words:
…every creation's firstborn.
(Greek: protótokos páses ktíseos).
This does not mean that Christ is a created being or a part of God's creation. 'The firstborn of the creation' is a phrase that describes the glory of our Savior.
Remember the importance of the rights of the firstborn in the story of Jacob and Esau (Gen. 27 etc.). Think upon the genealogical tables (Gen. 5 etc.). The firstborn was not only the person that inherited external things. A much more important aspect was that the firstborn was the person to be the bearer of the line of election, pointing forward till Christ. The firstborn is a prophetic word for Messiah!
Esau was not interested in the spiritual aspect of the rights of the firstborn. He was thinking according to the flesh: He was the first born! But God had given the promise to Jacob. God had elected Jacob before the twins were born. And now when Isaac, their father, evidently had forgotten Gods word about whom God wanted as the bearer of the spiritual tradition, both mother Rebecca and Jacob lost a bit of their trust in God. And so much later went wrong in the family. They all sinned and they severly damaged their relations with one another. And Jacob had to suffer the consequences of his deceit! But God, of course, kept His promise.
Jesus Christ is all creation's firstborn. He is the Person in God through whom God created the world — the good, sin free creation, described in the Biblical story of Creation. He is the one who has the right over everything and who fulfills everything, Col.1:15-16: …the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created… all things were created by him and for him.
Christ is also — as the words are translated — the firstborn of every creation of God: He is not only The Firstborn of the creation of this universe, but also The Firstborn of the invisible world of thrones and powers and rulers and authorities as are created by him and for him.
And He is The Firstborn of the redemption. God's work of salvation is done through the same Person as the one through whom God made the original creation of earth. He redeems, renews, recreates this fallen creation. Therefore it stands written that Christ is The Firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have supremacy (Col.1:18).
In vers 18 we read that Christ is the head, the beginning and has the supremacy (this last word is in the original simply 'the first').
The allusion to the story of Creation is still evident in modern translations when Christ here is called the beginning. The story of creation begins with the phrase: (Genesis 1:1) In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
However there is a much richer and more intensive allusion to the story of creation than that which is possible to see in our translations.
In order to understand Paul's idea it is not enough to read the original Greek. Paul must have thought in Hebrew, though he was writing in Greek. If we translate these key words into Hebrew, we can immediately see, that Paul must have had Genesis 1:1 in his thoughts:
You should be able to se, that the three Hebrew words in the third column has the same word-stem. The stem consists in this transcription of the two consonants R and SH. The vowels o, e and i together with the endings -ith and -on are forming new words from the stem.
There is a fine logic in this word-formation. The head normally comes forth first, when someone is born. Head is also a word for leader. He comes first. The one who is the head therefore is the beginning too.
The Apostle Paul here gives us a deeper interpretation of The Beginning. We usually think it means the beginning of time. But the apostle reads it as a name of Christ. Christ is mentioned first of all in the Bible. His name is the first word, that is born, from God's lips, when God begins to speak to us about the background of the salvation history. For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks (Matth. 12:34). God's heart is overflowing by love to the Son. See, how God loves his Son! This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased (Matth. 3:17). His name is the first word in God's word. It is actually possible to state this as the first word in the Bible, not the second word, for in the Hebrew the words 'In the beginning' are really combined into only one word.
We have often read the interpretation of John about Christ as the Creator's Word (In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God… The Word became flesh… , John 1:1 etc.). But the New Testament doctrine about Christ is still greater in its interpretation of Genesis, chapter 1.
The teaching about Christ as The Beginning you can also find in the Apostle John's scriptures. John is using exactly the same reference words in the Greek version as does Paul. In Revelation 3:14 Christ says: These things says the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God.
He really is the Beginning of the creation: He is the Beginning of the story of the creation of God. It may well be that there are other instances where the Bible uses the word beginning with an underlying allusion and in the sense of The story of creation — Genesis 1, and as a name of Christ.
Remember also the names Alpha and Omega — The Beginning and The End - The First and The Last, used about God and His Son.
Christ is holding everything from the beginning to the end in His hands.
It is Him (from the beginning) whom we are longing to see in the future:
Look, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him… I am the Alpha and the Omega, says the Lord. … Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades. (Revelation 1:7-8, 17-18. Compare Rev.21:6 and 22:13.) What a wonderful end there can be for us, if we begin in Jesus!
God has given to His Son the first place everywhere. The apostle praises Him rejoicing. So we too may show him our love and praise him with our faith, with our words and with our lives!
"A Study on Biblical Belief in Creation", by Erik Gislén, © 1999
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