Introduction and Review:
Last time we began considering the glory of the fullness of the King of Kings, Jesus Christ, in Colossians 1:13-20. If we were to summarize the entire message of Colossians in one succinct sentence, it would be this: “Jesus is enough.” To demonstrate the reality of this statement, Paul pauses in the flow of his writing to behold and marvel at the full glory of King Jesus. Today’s post will aim to continue unpacking this wonderful text of Colossians 1:13-20 in the hope that we can behold the full glory of King Jesus. To achieve this purpose we will make mention of the underlying Greek text and provide ample translation of pertinent details so as to enjoy the depths and heights of this text. In the last post we considered Colossians 1:13-15, noting the King’s work, Deity and right to inheritance. Today we continue our explorations in this text.
1. King Jesus – The Agent of Creation. Colossians 1:16 “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….”.
One of things Paul had to combat was a particular heresy at Colosse that taught a popular pagan teaching that suggested that the universe came about by a series of decreasing levels of created energy called “emanations”. In this scenario, the highest, immaterial source of these “emanations” was deemed “the fullness” or “taw pleroma” (τὸ πλήρωμα). The “taw pleroma” produced emanations, like ripple in a pond, with each level containing lower classes of beings and objects. The material realm in this sort of pre-gnostic/mystical Jewish/paganism was regarded as evil and thus the lowest rung and final emenation of the creative activity of the impersonal demiruge.
What makes Paul’s statement all the more remarkable is two things. First, the source of all things, visible and invisible, is Personal and actually came to take upon Himself human flesh. Then secondly, the created order is a “created order”, not a by-product of random, immaterial forces converging to produce lesser and lesser orders of organization. If anything, Paul’s statement presents a highly ordered, well-directioned creation, all made possible by the Personal Agency of the Son – Jesus Christ. This statement sets the whole Colossian heresy on its head and all pagan systems that attempt to portray an impersonal force that is behind a material world that is without purpose or direction.
2. King Jesus – the reason for the creation of all things. Colossians 1:16b “all things have been created through Him and for Him.”
Paul then adds this statement of King Jesus not only being the Agent through which all things came into being, but He is also the reason for which everything was made. The closing phrase “all things were created for Him” (εἰς αὐτὸν ἔκτισται = eis au-ton e-ktis-tie) speaks of “all things being created with Him in mind”. This verse alone ought to lay to rest any notion of Jesus Christ being a mere creation. If it were not for neither His Agency or the Father’s love for Him from all eternity, there would be no creation at all! Incidently the Apostle John uses a title to describe Jesus Christ in John 1:1 as “the Word” or “Logos”, the ground and reason undergirding everything that exists. Both John 1:1 and Colossians 1:16 could be viewed as fitting hand and glove, with Colossians 1:16 being the earlier of the two texts.
3. The King is the Creator. Colossians 1:17a “He is before all things….”
The phrasing in the original language of this phrase literally speaks of the Son as existing prior to the creation. The logic of Paul’s statement here is inescapable: a). God in the Person of the Father existed as Creator before all creation. b). The Son existed before all creation. c). Hence the Person of the Son is as much the Creator God as the Person of the Father.
4. The King Who holds all things together. Colossians 1:17b “and in Him all things hold together.”
The Greek verb underlying the English phrase “hold together” is “συνέστηκεν” (soon-es-tay-ken). The verb speaks of, in the words of Liddel/Scott and Jones in their Greek-English Lexicon, of someone inventing something, contriving something or the verb can also speak of someone who brings things into existence. This word too also speaks of a General organizing an army. The late second century church father Irenaeus often spoke of the Son and the Spirit as being the “arms of God”, thus as we can see here in Colossians 1:17b, without the Son, the Father could not had brought into being anything. The Son is the One who not only was the Agent of creation, all things hold together by His power. As we proceed further and further into this text, the language used to describe the full glory of Jesus Christ becomes more elevated.
5. The King Who rules over His church. Colossians 1:18a “He is also head of the body, the church….”
We now move out out of the sphere of creation into the sphere of redemption. Paul’s argument now is going to deal with the relationship of the Son to the church for which He gave His life. (compare Acts 20:28) In a similar section of scripture recorded in Ephesians 5:22-25, Paul utilizes the metaphor of the headship of a husband to a wife to describe Jesus’ relationship to His church. He forever has and always will share in the Divine nature with the Father and the Spirit. Beginning with His incarnation and virgin birth, the Son began partaking of full humanity and even to this day, being ascended at the right hand of the Father, the Son shares with us in a full human nature. (see Hebrews 2:11-15)
6. The King Who rules all things. Colossians 1:18b ….”and He is the beginning…..”
The word translated “beginning” is the Greek noun ἀρχή (ar-chay) and is used in other place to refer to the Son as the “Ruler” or “King”. Notice for example Revelation 1:5 “and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To Him who loves us and released us from our sins by His blood.” The phrase “the ruler” is in a different form of the noun we find in Colossians 1:18b, however both derive from the same root idea. In Titus 3:1 we find the plural of this noun, and their the word is referring to “ruler”, thus further substantiating our notion of possibly rendering this word as “ruler” and well as the more common rendering “beginning”.
7. The King who is the Risen Lord. Colossians 1:18c “the firstborn from the dead….”
This will be the last phrase we focus upon in today’s post. We have thus far seen the glorious King Jesus portrayed in Colossians 1:13-18 with regard to His work, Deity, as Heir of all things, The Agent of creation, the reason for creation, The Creator, the one who holds all things together and the one who rules all things. The question is: what event demonstrates that the Son is qualified to hold all of these titles and be regarded in such exalted language. One word – resurrection. This particular statement in Colossians 1:18c refers to Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. This pivotal event proves to the reader that He is who He said He is. Incidently we can also translate the phrase rendered here “firstborn” in much the same fashion as we did back in Colossians 1:15. As the Inheritor of all things, the Son’s resurrection from the dead means He is the living Heir of all things. He is the glorious One who will return to take back the title deed of planet earth and thus demonstrate even more how much He is the New Adam with regards to His humanity and how much He is God with regards to His Deity.
More next time…….