Bible Studies in Colossians
Colossians 1:15-23: The Pre-eminence of Jesus and the Wonders of God
by I Gordon
It is good that we are in Colossians because it is possibly the most
'Christ-centered' book in the Bible. Now the whole Bible, both Old and
New Testaments, is about Jesus... no doubt about it! But Colossians
focuses greatly on the person and work of Jesus Christ, which is good!
In this study we will look at verses 15-23 where the overriding theme
is the pre-eminence of Jesus.
To get a little more specific, it is His pre-eminence:
Based on the unique person of Jesus Christ (vs.15,19)
As creator of Heaven and Earth - All that we see and don't see (vs.
As the head and beginning of a whole new creation (vs.18,20-23)
Now we'll spend more time on the first few verses but there is quite a
bit to do so no more dilly-dally!
The Unique Person of Jesus Christ
Col 1:15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all
Col 1:19 for it was the Father's good pleasure for all the fullness to
dwell in Him
The most important question that anyone can ask and explore is 'Who is
Jesus Christ?' So much rides on knowing the answer to that question.
Jesus Himself, when he walked on this earth turned to His disciples one
day and said 'Who do you say I am?' It is a critical question. Now the
church at Colossae was coming under attack from different groups. You
had what would later become known as Gnosticism and one of their
beliefs was that Jesus was not God but was Himself a created being. So
it doesn't matter if it is 2000 years ago or today - the enemy, if he
is to be successful, always tries to undermine the foundation. And that
foundation is the person and work of Jesus Christ. So it is today -
look at what some of the different religions/cults teach concerning
BUDDHISM - Christ is not recognized as Deity. Zen Buddhism also
does not affirm the existence of the living God.
HARE KRISHNA (ISKON) - Jesus is one of their gurus, but Hare
Krishna is their god.
HINDUISM/NEW AGE - Do not recognise the need for a personal Saviour
as each one can become god through attaining "cosmic
ISLAM - Jesus is only a prophet of Allah who was superseded by
JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES - Jesus created as Archangel Michael/lesser
god; Not God, not Jehovah.
MORMONS - Jesus was born in heaven as the spirit child of Elohim
(Heavenly Father) by one of his wives, and Jesus' brother was
Lucifer, who became Satan. Jesus was just one of many gods.
SCIENTOLOGY - L. Ron Hubbard taught that
Jesus was a false memory implanted into humans as a result of
and that Christianity evolved from an R6 implant.
Ok. Thanks for that Ron... Whatever that is! So the enemy does a good
job sowing seeds of error and doubt. But Paul was in no doubt and
starts off by saying that He, Jesus, is the image of the invisible God.
This means more than just saying that Jesus was like God. It has the
thought of the exact representation and manifestation of God.
This is of course what Jesus said on different occasions during His
ministry. One example is when He said 'Before Abraham was I AM!' The
reaction of those hearing Him was to stone Him to death for blasphemy
because He was making Himself equal with God! (John 8:58)
Jesus explaining His equality with God to His disciples
Some read the gospels and are drawn to Jesus but aren't too sure about
Yahweh/Jehovah from the Old Testament. Some (though misguided) see
Jesus as gracious and kind, but see the God of the Old Testament as
more judgemental and harsh. It is of course a false impression for
Jesus is God. And He sometimes had a hard time even getting His
disciples to grasp that He is God in the flesh. One example is from the
book of John where Jesus said to the disciples:
John 14:7-11 If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well.
From now on, you do know him and have seen him." (8) Philip said,
"Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us." (9) Jesus
Don't you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a
long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father
. How can you say, 'Show us the Father'? (10) Don't you believe that I
am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you
are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is
doing his work. (11) Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and
the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the
So we no longer need to be in any confusion
. He, Jesus, is the image of the invisible God. He who has seen me, has
seen the Father, Jesus said. He was and is, God in the flesh!
And He is the firstborn of all creation. Firstborn, not
Col 1:15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all
Some cults, like the JW's, try to use this verse to mean 'first
created' but that is a different Greek word and it isn't what Paul is
saying. While this term is used in the Bible literally of those that
are 'born first', it is also used to represent a preeminent position.
For example, Israel, as a nation, is called the firstborn in the Old
Testament (Exodus-4:22) as is King David (Psalm 89:27). Yet neither was
'born first'. David was the youngest in his family. But both Israel as
a nation and King David were called the firstborn because of their
position and rank in God. They were exalted and given the rights and
privileges before God that the 'first-born' had. In like manner, this
verse tells us that Jesus is the chief, the master, the head over all
creation. And there is a pretty good reason for that position... He
created it all!
He is the Creator of Heaven and Earth
(16) For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on
earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or
authorities--all things have been created through Him and for Him.
(17) He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.
We live in an age where most don't know who the creator is. In fact
many don't even know if there is a creator at all! They can see a
creation, but they don't want to submit to a creator. They can see
evidence of design everywhere - but they don't want to acknowledge a
designer. Maybe it all just, well, 'happened'. It's all just about
'chance', 'mutations', 'random processes' & 'time'. To quote the
Tui Ads - 'Yeah right!'
Society tells our kids that this world is the product of random force
and chance - that they are really just evolved animals and when they
die they just go back into the dirt. Meditate on that long enough and
it is enough to create an upside down smile on even the happiest
person. It makes it all meaningless in the end.
Nobel Prize winning physicist and Atheist Steven Weinberg famously
'The more we find out about the universe, the more meaningless it
Um, excuse me while I go snuff myself. 'The more meaningless it all
seems?' I don't think so Tim!
Listen to King David: Psalm 19:1-4
the heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work
of his hands. (2) Day after day they pour forth speech; night after
night they display knowledge. (3) There is no speech or language
where their voice is not heard. (4) Their voice goes out into all
the earth, their words to the ends of the world.
Or listen to Job 12:7-10
But ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds of the
air, and they will tell you; (8) or speak to the earth, and it will
teach you, or let the fish of the sea inform you. (9) Which of all
these does not know that the hand of the LORD has done this? (10)
In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all
It doesn't matter what you are looking at... whether it is the heavens,
the animals, the birds of the air, trees or seeds... it doesn't matter
what you look at - there is a wonder and majesty in all of it. There is
a design and there is a designer!
And Jesus, Paul tells us, is the one who created it! John said it like
this: John 1:1-3 '
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the
Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came
into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being
that has come into being'.
Two Examples of God's amazing creation
Let's look at a couple of examples concerning this... namely this
planet and your body. As soon as we take the time to investigate these
things we see that everything just cries out what an amazing creator
Our planet: We live on a planet that is
perfect for human life. You think you are pretty stable and stationary
sitting there reading this study don't you? Well, you are neither!
You are currently doing 30 km per second and spinning at up to 1700
Km per hour! And yet this is totally required for sustaining life. In
fact scientists tell us about the 'fine-tuning' of the universe and
specifically the fine tuning of planet Earth within the universe. As a
quick example, they tell us that our planet is situated in the
'Goldilocks zone'. That is, the zone that is not too hot and not too
cold... it's just right! If we were a few percentages further or closer to
the sun, no life could exist. We are just in the right spot. But that is
only one of hundreds of factors. It turns out that everything is 'just
right'. There are so many constants that have to be exactly as they are
for life to exist, including the force of gravity, the oxygen/nitrogen
ratio, the distance and size of the moon, the force of electromagnetic
fields, and the tilt of the earth, and the location and age of the sun...
Mathematically, taken as a whole it means that it doesn't matter how
large the universe is... it can't just happen by chance! There are too
many factors involved. It all screams out that there is a wonderful
designer behind it all!
Human Body and DNA
'Human DNA is like a computer program but far, far more
advanced than any software ever created.' - Bill Gates
, that is
so true! I write computer programs for a living. I've yet to come
across a computer program that didn't have a computer programmer or
a team of programmers behind it. And yet that is what we are told
when it comes to mankind and this universe. That creation doesn't
have a creator. Regarding DNA, the 'Wonders of God' DVD talks about
the amount of information that can be stored in DNA the size of a
pin head. It could fill a stack of books 500 times higher than from
here to the moon! Now that is incredible. But think of this... We
all start out life as a single cell. How does that cell know how to
multiply and build a body? How incredible is it that you came from
a single cell that multiplied into 100 trillion (or so) cells. And
encoded into those cells in the DNA is all that it needs to know
what its function is and to what part of the body it belongs to,
and what it will become. Each cell is microscopically small, yet
has activities comparable to those of a modern city!
How incredible is our creator? How does Jesus know all these things?
Where did all this limitless knowledge come from? My little pea-brain,
as well designed as it is, soon hits a wall! But this is the God whom
you will one day stand before and see Him face to face.
Science - Can't tell us the 'Who' and the Why'
Lots of people put their faith in science to tell them all the answers
to life's mysteries. Now science tells us many things but science can
only go so far. Consider the following example: Let's say that you're
walking along and you stumble upon a cake on the side of the road.
Granted - it's not an everyday event but you never know your luck!
Curious about the cake you take it to the lab to have it analysed. What
do you think the scientists can tell us about the cake?
The biochemists will inform us about the structure of the proteins.
The nutritionists declare it to be a chocolate cake and calculate the
The chemists give a total breakdown of the elements making up that
And the mathematicians have a nice set of equations giving the total
circumference and volume of the cake
Now that these experts have given us an exhaustive description of the
cake, can we say that the cake is completely explained? Suppose you
were to ask them... "Who made the cake", or "Why was it made? For what
purpose was is made?"
Science can't answer these questions by science alone. Such questions
are outside the scope of science. They would need to somehow find the
source of the cake - that is, the person who made it and ask why they
made it. Now I like that illustration because Colossians tells us both
the 'who' and the 'why'.
Col 1:16 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.
And that, my friend, includes you! You were made by Him and for Him.
You were created to be in a relationship with Jesus Christ and to find
your purpose and joy in Him. Are you giving Him that place in your
His Pre-eminence over the New Creation
(18) He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning,
the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first
place in everything.
When you think of all the wonders of God in creation, it is slightly
staggering that none of what we have been talking about is His greatest
wonder. As marvellous as the first creation is, God's plan and purpose
don't lie there. It says here that He, Jesus, is the beginning, the
firstborn from the dead. In other words, through the resurrection He
began something entirely new - and that is the new creation! The first
creation didn't cost Jesus anything. He spoke it into being. The new
creation cost Jesus His life. The first creation started with the
Heaven and the Earth and mankind was created later on the 6 th day. In the new creation the order was reversed - He
began with mankind and will later create a whole new Heavens and Earth
And when Christ returns to take His bride, His body, the Church, out of
this world, then your physical body that was sown in corruption (as
wonderful as it is) will be raised and changed and we shall be like
Him. Finally the new creation that started within with the spirit will
be manifested outwardly through the body and entire life!
1Jn 3:2, 'Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we
will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when He
appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.'
The Greatest Wonder of All
Col 1:19-22 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. (21) Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in
your minds because of your evil behaviour. (22) But now he has
reconciled you by Christ's physical body through death to present you
holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation.
That is the true wonder of God. That a man, though fallen, desperately
wicked and an enemy of God, could, through the work of the cross and
the shed blood of Jesus, be reconciled to God and be found holy,
without blemish and free from accusation! Spurgeon said,
'Creation and providence are but the whisper of His power, but
redemption is its music, and praise is the echo which shall yet
fill His temple.'
I've focused more in this study on some aspects of His physical
creation (this earth, the universe, the wonder of a single cell growing
into a marvellous indescribable organ called the brain) because we can
kind of grasp some of these things seeing that they are physical and
visible. Kind of! But I totally agree with Spurgeon. These things, as
mind boggling as they are, are only but a whisper of His power. The
real miracle and wonder of God is the miracle of the new birth.
Whatever work of Jesus that you take the time to study is a wonder all
of itself. But none of it comes close to what God has done in the heart
of man. Study that work and you will find it to be perfect as well. And
miraculous! One day we will know. One day you will see all that God did
to draw you and change your heart. We will grasp it all. We see dimly
today. We will see and know even as we are seen and known.
What about the Final 'If'?
Colossians 1: 23 'If you continue in your faith, established and firm,
not moved from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that
you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven,
and of which I, Paul, have become a servant'.
Sometimes when the New Testament talks about your perfect position as
holy and blameless before God, it states it without any conditions.
Sometimes it is stated with an 'if' condition based around maintaining
our faith to the end.
Some passages without any conditions
Some passages with 'if' conditions
1Th 5:23-24, Now may the God of peace Himself
sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul
and body be preserved complete, without blame at
the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. (24) Faithful
is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to
Col 1:22-23 But now he has reconciled you by
Christ's physical body through death to present you
holy in his sight, without blemish and free from
accusation-- (23) if you continue in your faith,
established and firm, not moved from the hope held
out in the gospel.
Jud 1:24-25 Now to Him who is able to keep you from
stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of
His glory blameless with great joy, (25) to the
only God our Saviour, through Jesus Christ our
Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority,
before all time and now and forever. Amen.
1Co 15:1-2, Now, brothers, I want to remind you of
the gospel I preached to you, which you received
and on which you have taken your stand. (2) By this
gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the
word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have
believed in vain.
1Co 1:7-...awaiting eagerly the revelation of our
Lord Jesus Christ, (8), who will also confirm you
to the end, blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus
Christ. (9) God is faithful, through whom you were
called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ
Heb. 3:14, We have come to share in Christ if we
hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at
So what are we to make of this? The Bible is clear, I believe, that
Jesus will not let one true sheep perish. They are eternally secure and
He will lose NONE of all those that the Father gives Him. Yet at the
same time, we see these 'if' warnings given, also through the
inspiration of the Holy Spirit, declaring that we must maintain the
faith until the end. So, again, what do we make of this?
The Believers Bible Commentary states the following useful thoughts on
'The Spirit of God has seen fit to put many of these so-called 'if'
passages in the word of God in order to challenge all who profess
the name of Christ as to the reality of their profession. We would
not want to say anything that might dull the sharp edge of these
passages, for as someone has said: 'These 'ifs' in Scripture look
on professing Christians here in the world and come as healthy
tests to the soul.'
Pridham comments on these challenging verses as follows:
The reader will find, on a careful study of the Word that it is the
habit of the Spirit to accompany the fullest and most absolute
statements of grace by warnings which imply a ruinous failure on
the part of some who nominally stand in faith. ... Warnings which
grate harshly on the ears of insincere profession are drunk
willingly as medicine by the godly soul. ... The aim of all such
teaching as we have here is to encourage faith, and condemn, by
anticipation, reckless and self-confident professors.' '
There is a key verse is this passage that I have not focused on yet but
it needs to be mentioned for it sums up the entire passage! It is this:
"that he should come to have first place in everything"
We have seen that Jesus is pre-eminent because of His unique person -
there is no one else like Jesus! He is pre-eminent because of His role
as creator of Heaven and Earth and all it contains - He made it all!
He is pre-eminent because He is the beginning of a New Creation - Death
could not hold Him down!
And all these things are pointed out by the Apostle Paul so 'that he
should come to have first place in everything' - and that includes you
and your life! So I hope this little study has focused your thoughts
back upon the wonderful person of Jesus Christ and His position in your
life. That is the goal of all these things. He will take His rightful
place in all things at the end of the age when He returns as the king
of kings! But in this age He desires, and deserves, His rightful place
as the king of your heart. May it be so!