Some Bible students have suggested that of all the letters which were written to first-century Christians, the book of Colossians is the most Christ-centered message. When one reads this epistle, he finds extensive instruction about the nature, character, and roles of the Christ.
Before we get to the passage on which we want to focus, let us glance at the context which precedes it. Paul wrote about giving thanks to the heavenly Father (Colossians 1:12), Who delivers people from the power of darkness into His Son’s kingdom (1:13). In God’s Son, Jesus, we have the forgiveness of sins via His blood (1:14).
When the text flows into verse fifteen, the pronoun “He” has reference to the One just noted in the previous verse – that would be the Christ. Now, as we read Colossians 1:15-18, it is clear that Paul is writing about Jesus. What did he say about Him?
15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. 17 And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. 18 And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence.
From this passage, what are some of the obvious takeaways about the Son of God?
Jesus – the Image of the invisible God (1:15). The Christ is the likeness of the Father, possessing the same characteristics. When Jesus was in the flesh, He told His apostles, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father” (John 14:9). The Christ also proclaimed publicly, “And he who sees Me sees Him who sent Me” (John 12:45). The Son and Father are two distinct Persons, yet they possess the same nature.
Jesus – the Firstborn over all creation (1:15). Some mistakenly conclude that if Jesus was “firstborn,” then He was what God created first. The word “firstborn” is from the Greek “πρωτότοκος/ prototokos,” which “is used of Christ . . . in His relationship to the Father, expressing His priority to, and preeminence over, creation, not in the sense of being the ‘first’ to be born . . . (a) Colossians 1:15, where His eternal relationship with the Father is in view, and the clause means both that He was the ‘Firstborn’ before all creation and that He Himself produced creation” [Vine’s, word no. 4416; www.studylight.org/dictionaries/ved/f/ first-begotten-firstborn.html].
Jesus – the Creator of all (1:16). Though some Christians have failed to recognize this truth, the Bible text clearly says that “by Him all things were created . . . All things were created through Him and for Him.” Again, the pronouns in this verse refer to the Christ.
Jesus – before all things (1:17). In order for that to be correct, what must be true about Jesus? He must be eternal. He was not known by the name “Jesus” until after He was born and circumcised (Luke 2:21), but, as the Word, He was in the beginning with God (John 1:1). The coming Messiah was described as “everlasting” (Isaiah 9:6), and Jesus referred to Himself as “I AM” (John 8:58). He created all things, so, of course, He existed before they did!
Jesus – the Head of the body (1:18). First of all, what is the body? The Bible leaves no doubt about the correct answer: “And He is the head of the body, the church” (1:18). The church is Jesus’ spiritual body, and He stands as its Head. The church’s duty is to submit to the Christ in all things (Ephesians 5:24), and as a body, each individual member/saint has a role to play and the responsibility to help the body function at its most efficient level (1 Corinthians 12:12-27).
Jesus – the Firstborn from the dead (1:18). In connection with this, Paul also wrote, “But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1 Corinthians 15:20). Jesus was the first one to rise from the dead, never to die again, making Him “the firstborn from the dead,” the “firstfruits.” “Firstfruits” indicates that other “fruits” will follow. Jesus’ resurrection gives all of His followers the hope of being raised to live with Him eternally.
Jesus – Preeminence in all things (1:18). The Greek word from which we get “preeminence” (“πρωτ ω pr teu ”) means “to be first, hold the first place” [Thayer, word no. 4409 via e-Sword].
Jesus is the Preeminent One, holding top rank, and having all authority in all spiritual matters (Matthew 28:18). He shares His authoritative position with no human! He alone is Head over His body (Colossians 1:18), King over His kingdom (Hebrews 1:8), and High Priest over God’s house (Hebrews 10:21).
The message of Colossians 1:15-18 helps us understand why the Father would want every knee to bow at the name of Jesus (Philippians 2:10). Let us live for Him and tell others of His greatness.
— Roger D. Campbell