Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The Image of the Invisible

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 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. (Colossians 1:15-16)

Paul breaks into doxology now to sing the eternal glory and greatness of Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God’s love, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

He is the image of the invisible God. It sounds almost like a koan , a paradoxical saying. Like, What is the sound of one hand clapping? How can Jesus be the image of what is invisible?

God is invisible. He is Spirit. The material world was created by Him, but it is not Him. Though the world was created to be seen, God is not subject to that condition nor is He in any way limited by our inability to see Him. It is a matter for the eyes of faith. “By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible” (Hebrews 11:3).

We can see manifestations of God’s glory, but we cannot see Him in His essence, for He is the one who dwells “in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see” (1 Timothy 6:16). But Jesus is the image of the one who is invisible. God created man in the image of God to be like Him on earth (Genesis 1:26-28), but Jesus is not only like God, He fully represents Him in every way. He is the “brightness of His glory, the express image of His person” (Hebrews 1:3).

Paul links the image of the invisible God with the firstborn of creation. Literally, “firstborn” speaks of one who is born first in a family. However, because the firstborn son was given the double portion inheritance, “firstborn” came to be used to speak of pre-eminence, of one who was worthy of the highest honor.

The Son of God was not created. Indeed, He is Himself the creator of everything. “All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made” (John 1:3). To declare this is to exalt Jesus as God, for “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). Which was exactly the point John makes in his Gospel: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1). Jesus is the perfect image and expression of God because He is God, the creator of the heavens and the earth. John goes on to say of Him, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). That is why Jesus could say of Himself, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father” (John 14:9).

Paul is careful to note that Jesus is the creator of all things in heaven and on earth, “visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers.” He may be alluding to the false teaching that was coming around the church at Colosse. The Gnostics taught that there were angelic hierarchies emanating from God, the lowest of which was the architect of the material world. They considered the physical world to be flawed and therefore evil, so they denied that the Word, who is God, became flesh. Against this, Paul asserts that all things, even the invisible things, were created by Jesus — by Him and through Him and for Him. The angels did not create Him; He created them.



The Focus of Our Faith
The Focus of Our Faith
Paul’s Letters to the Jesus Believers at Colosse
Bite-Size Studies Through Colossians
by Jeff Doles

Preview with Amazon’s “Look Inside.”

Available in paperback and Kindle (Amazon), epub (Google and iTunes) and PDF.