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.”
(There is so much packed into these rich verses that I’ve broke it into two sections.)
Paul goes to great lengths to emphasize that all things were created through Christ, whether things in heaven, or things on earth. This leaves no loopholes for anyone to suggest that although He created some things, He Himself was created originally.
The apostle then goes on to state that the Lord’s creation included things visible and things invisible. The word visible needs no explanation, but doubtless the Apostle Paul realized that when he said invisible he would arouse our curiosity. Therefore, he proceeds to give a break-down of what he means by things invisible. They include thrones, dominions, principalities, and powers. We believe that these terms refer to angelic beings, although we cannot distinguish between the different ranks of these intelligent beings.
The Gnostics taught that there were various ranks and classes of spirit beings between God and matter, and that Christ belonged to one of these classes. In our day the Spiritists claim that Jesus Christ is an advanced spirit of the sixth sphere. Jehovah’s Witnesses teach that before our Lord came into the world, He was a created angel and none other than the archangel Michael! Here Paul vigorously refutes such absurd notions by stating in the clearest possible terms that the Lord Jesus Christ is the Creator of angels—in fact, of all beings, whether visible or invisible.
V17, “He existed before anything else, and he holds all creation together”. Paul says, “He is before all things,” not “He was before all things.” The present tense is often used in the Bible to describe the timelessness of Deity. The Lord Jesus said, for instance:”Before Abraham was, I AM” (John 8:58).
Not only did the Lord Jesus exist before there was any creation, but also in Him all things consist. This means that He is the Sustainer of the universe and the Source of its perpetual motion. He controls the stars and the sun and the moon. Even while He was here on earth He was the One who was controlling the laws by which our universe functions in an orderly manner.
V18 The dominion of the Lord Jesus not only covers the natural universe, but it also extends to the spiritual realm. He is the head of the body, the church. All believers in the Lord Jesus during this dispensation are formed into what is known as the body of Christ, or the church. Just as a human body is a vehicle by which the person expresses himself, so the Body of Christ is that vehicle which He has on earth by which He chooses to express Himself to the world. And He is the head of that body. The head speaks of guidance, dictation, control. He occupies the place of pre-eminence in the church.
He is the beginning. We understand this to mean the beginning of the new creation (see Rev. 3:14), the source of spiritual life. This is further explained by the use of the expression the firstborn from the dead. Here again we must be careful to emphasize that this does not mean that the Lord Jesus was the first to rise from the dead. There were cases of resurrection in the OT as well as in the NT. But the Lord Jesus was the first to rise from the dead to die no more, He was the first to rise with a glorified body, and He rose as the Head of a new creation. His resurrection is unique, and is the pledge that all who trust in Him will also rise. It proclaims Him as supreme in the spiritual creation.
Alfred Mace put it well:
Christ cannot be second anywhere. He is “firstborn of every creature,” because He has created everything (Col. 1:15, 16). He is also firstborn from the dead in connection with a redeemed and heavenly family. Thus creation and redemption hand the honors of supremacy to Him because of Who He is and of what He has done; “that in all things He might have the pre-eminence.” He is first everywhere.
The Lord Jesus has thus a double pre-eminence—first in creation, and then in the church. God has decreed that in all things HE may have the preeminence. What an answer this is to those who, in Paul’s day (and our own), would seek to rob Christ of His deity, and to make of Him only a created being, however exalted!
As we read that in all things He may have the preeminence, it is only proper that we should ask ourselves, “Does He have the preeminence in my life?”
Darby translates verse 19 as follows:”For in Him all the fullness of the Godhead was pleased to dwell.” The King James tradition could make it sound as if at some point in time the Father was pleased to make all fullness dwell in the Son. The real meaning is that the fullness of the Godhead always dwelt in Christ.
Gnostic heretics taught that Christ was a kind of “halfway house” to God, a necessary link in the chain. But there were other, better links on ahead. “Go on from Him,” they urged, “and you will reach the fullness.” “No,” Paul answers, “Christ is Himself the complete fullness!” All fullness dwells in Christ. The word for dwell here means to dwell permanently, and not simply to visit temporarily.