Colossians 1:15-20 (NLT)
“Christ Is Supreme
15 Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation, 16 for through him God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth. He made the things we can see and the things we can’t see—such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world. Everything was created through him and for him. 17 He existed before anything else, and he holds all creation together. 18 Christ is also the head of the church, which is his body. He is the beginning, supreme over all who rise from the dead. So he is first in everything. 19 For God in all his fullness was pleased to live in Christ, 20 and through him God reconciled everything to himself. He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of Christ’s blood on the cross.”
In the next four verses, we have the Lord Jesus described: (1) in His relationship to God (v. 15); (2) in His relationship to creation (vv. 16, 17); and (3) in His relationship to the church (v. 18).
The Lord is here described as the image of the invisible God. Image carries with it at least two ideas. First, it conveys the thought that the Lord Jesus has enabled us to see what God is like. God is Spirit and is therefore invisible. But in the Person of Christ, God made Himself visible to mortal eyes. In that sense the Lord Jesus is the image of the invisible God. Whoever has seen Him has seen the Father (see John 14:9). But the word image also conveys the idea of “representative.” God had originally placed Adam on the earth to represent His interests, but Adam failed. Therefore, God sent His only begotten Son into the world as His Representative to care for His interests and to reveal His heart of love to man. In that sense, He is the image of God. The same word image is used in 3:10, where believers are said to be the image of Christ.
Christ is also the firstborn over all creation, or “of every created being.” What does this mean? Some false teachers suggest that the Lord Jesus is Himself a created being, that He was the first Person whom God ever made. Some of them are even willing to go so far as to admit that He is the greatest creature ever to come from the hand of God. But nothing could be more directly contrary to the teaching of the word of God.
The expression “firstborn” has at least three different meanings in Scripture. In Luke 2:7, it is used in a literal sense, where Mary brought forth her firstborn Son. There it means that the Lord Jesus was the first Child to whom she gave birth. In Exodus 4:22, on the other hand, it is used in a figurative sense. “Israel is My son, even My firstborn.” In that verse there is no thought of an actual birth having taken place, but the Lord is using this word to describe the distinctive place which the nation of Israel had in His plans and purposes. Finally, in Psalm 89:27, the word “firstborn” is used to designate a place of superiority, of supremacy, of uniqueness. There God says that He will make David His firstborn, higher than the kings of the earth. David was actually the last-born son of Jesse according to the flesh. But God determined to give him a place of unique supremacy, primacy, and sovereignty.
Is not that exactly the thought of Colossians 1:15 — the firstborn over all creation? The Lord Jesus Christ is God’s unique Son. In one sense all believers are sons of God, but the Lord Jesus is God’s Son in a way that is not true of any other. He existed before all creation and occupies a position of supremacy over it. His is the rank of eminence and dominion. The expression firstborn over all creation has nothing to do with birth here. It simply means that He is God’s Son by an eternal relationship. It is a title of priority of position, and not simply one of time.
False teachers use verse 15 (especially in the KJV) to teach that the Lord Jesus was a created being. Error can usually be refuted from the very passage of Scripture which the cultists use. That is the case here. Verse 16 states conclusively that the Lord Jesus is not a creature, but the very Creator. In this verse we learn that all things —the whole universe of things— were created not only by Him but through Him and for Him. Each of these prepositions conveys a different thought. First of all, we read that by Him all things were created. Here the thought is that the power to create was in His Being. He was the Architect. Later in the verse we learn that all things were created through Him. This speaks of Him as the Agent in creation. He was the Person of the Godhead through whom the creative act was performed. Also, all things were created for Him. He is the One for whom all things were created, the goal of creation