One of the most glorious pictures of our Lord Jesus is found in the first chapter of Colossians. Here, in these few words, Jesus is revealed as God Himself. He is the imprint, the exact representation, the perfect image of the invisible God. Jesus is presented as the Preeminent One, the “firstborn of all creation” (Col. 1:15).
But what does that mean? What are the specific implications of these verses? And what impact does it have for me today?
Theologically or Devotionally?
Do you mean theologically? Or do you mean devotionally? Let me explain.
Sometimes, actually most of the time, I tend to look at things from a theological vantage point and not a devotional one. For example, when I view a passage of Scripture theologically I am wanting to know what it says and what it means. I want to define the original words and terms in the passage and I want to make sure I understand them in their proper contextual meaning. I then want to make sure my understanding of the truths of a passage fits within the framework of the other truths expressed elsewhere in Scripture on the same subject. It’s pretty much an intellectual study whereby I cognitively hope to comprehend new truths or understand old truths in a new way. And when I am done, I now intellectually know something new. Or I know something I already knew— better. Either way, it’s academic at best. Why? Because I may, or may not, be changed by what I have just learned. God’s Word may remain stuck in my mind as just theology and never be allowed to move down into the core of my being, into my soul, my heart, to the place where I live and feel and believe and trust. It remains lodged in my head, and not my heart. After all, theology is defined as “the study of God.” And the operative word is study. Academic. Mental. Sterile. Non-emotional. Simply the acquiring of knowledge and data and facts.
Is there Something I’m Missing?
But when I view a passage devotionally, I’m asking a whole new set of questions of God and the text. And those questions have to do with me personally. They may sound something like this:
“I believe that Jesus is God. But how can I become more like Him by just knowing that fact? Is there something I’m missing?”
“I understand the “just shall live by faith” (Rom. 1:17). But I’m not sure what faith really looks like. And how can I have more faith? (Luke 17:5). How can I be more like my Lord and trust in Him like He trusted in His Father? Is there something I’m missing?”
“I acknowledge the Holy Spirit as the third Person in the Trinity. I got that. But Who is He and how does He live in my life? How can I please Him and how can I keep from grieving Him? (Eph. 4:30). How do I turn my life over to the Holy Spirit and how do I let Him live through me? Is there something I’m missing?”
These are the “so what?” questions, the “how does that help me get through today?” questions, the never-ending “why?” questions. They are the questions we all asked in Algebra class in High School but never got an answer. “Uh, teacher. Why do I have to study this stuff? I’m never gonna have to use it. Geez. What’s the big deal?”
The Doctrine of the Trinity. Important? Yes. But why?
The Doctrine of Man. Important? Very much so. But why?
The Doctrine of the Atonement. Important? Absolutely. But why?
The Doctrine of the Church. Important. You bet. But why?
While I don’t, in any way, want to downplay the vital importance of understanding correct doctrine and theology (1 Tim. 4:16), I do want to point us to the opposite side of the continuum. I want to focus on the devotional meaning of the passage. I want for us to experience, deep down in the depth of our soul, where we live and breathe, what this says about our Lord and what that means for each of us on a day-to-day basis.
One and the Same
So, let’s put on our devotional hats and dig deep into Colossians. And pray, before we even being, that the Holy Spirit will guide us into a fuller understanding of Christ and we will see Him, maybe for the first time, in living color and not just in black and white.
Colossians 1:15 – He (Jesus) is the image (or, exact representation, the imprint, likeness, icon) of the invisible God (or, that which cannot be seen by the physical eye), the firstborn (or, preeminent) over all creation (or, that which is formed, created from nothing).
Let that single verse sink in for a moment. Then read it again. Slowly. Out loud. Can you begin to feel what our Lord is saying about Himself?
Jesus said that He, Christ, the One who walked on the water (Matt. 14:22-33), who broke bread with His disciples in the upper room (Matt. 26:26), who held little children in His arms (Mark 10:16)— He, Jesus, is the exact representation, the perfect replica, He is the “image of the invisible God.” He is the exact likeness of His Father, and our Father— God. He said, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father” (John 14:9). How? Because “I and My Father are one” (John 10:30). Jesus is the “express image of His person” (Heb. 1:3). In other words, all that God is, Jesus is, and all that Jesus is, God is.
But what does that mean for me today? How does that fact help me love Him more?
Simply this, God has chosen to reveal Himself to us in the person of Jesus. It was His choice, mind you, and not something we earned or deserved ourselves. Remember, He didn’t have to reveal Himself to us at all. It was a profound gift of grace that He wants to have anything to do with us since we’ve all “sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23). So when you see Jesus, you’ve seen the Father (John 14:9). If you want to know what the Father is like, look to Jesus. They’re one and the same. “I and my Father are one” (John 10:30). So when you’re alone, discouraged, and faced with your dark night of the soul and wonder aloud, Is God loving?— ask yourself this, Is Jesus loving? Yes. Then so is God. Or, will God forgive me for all I’ve done wrong? Would Jesus? Yes. Then so would God. Why? Because they are one and the same. When you see Jesus, you see the Father (John 14:9). When Jesus forgives, the Father forgives. When you pray to Jesus, you are, in effect, praying to the Father. They’re exactly the same. Jesus is the exact representation, the perfect replica, the express image, of the Father (Heb. 1:3).
So rejoice! For as much as you love and know and understand Jesus, you also know and love and understand the Father, the “invisible God” (Col. 1:15) the Great, I Am” (Ex. 3:14).
But the verse continues by saying that Jesus is “the firstborn over all creation.” What does that mean? What does being the firstborn imply?
First, the word does not mean, in this context, being chronologically born first as we would understand it today. It doesn’t mean Jesus was the first one born to a family of other brothers and sisters. No, the word refers to position or rank. It means preeminence. It denotes an exalted position, one “high and lifted up” (Isa. 6:1). It means a place of priority and sovereignty. In other words, Jesus is the firstborn, the preeminent, the One having priority. Jesus has the position and rank of sovereignty over all that was created or that ever will be created. He’s Number One. There’s no one greater than Jesus. Ever. Anywhere. At any time. There’s no one worthy of more honor, more glory, more praise, or more love. And Jesus, the “firstborn over all creation” (Col. 1:15)— that’s over the heavens and the earth, the sun, moon, and stars, the angelic realm, all life, you and me, everything!— this Jesus has chosen to reveal Himself to us, to fallen humanity, and to call us His friends (John 15:15). That fact alone should take your breath away. It does mine.
Why would Jesus, the exalted One, choose to stoop down and reveal Himself to something of so little worth and value as me? Or you, for that matter? Why would He do that? What does He gain? Where’s the payoff for Him?
And then He goes a step further and calls us His friends (John 15:15). Really? Jesus considers me His friend. Why? Being a friend of someone opens one up to the threat of betrayal and hurt and rejection. We’ve all suffered that from our own friends, haven’t we? So why would Jesus expose Himself to me, or you, like that? He’s sovereign and knows all things. Nothing gets past Him. He knows what I am and what I’m capable of and what a terrible, fickle and unfaithful friend I could prove to be (John 2:25). And He knows about you too. What type of friend are you committed to be to Him?
Jesus, who is the exact image of God the Father, has chosen to become a man like me in order that I may become like Him. He put on flesh so I may someday put on immortality (1 Cor. 15:54). He took my nature and replaced it with His nature so I would become the “image of the glory of the Lord” (2 Cor. 3:18). Just think, what Jesus was to the Father, the “express image of His person” (Heb. 1:3), He wants to be with me and you (Rom. 8:29). He offers us sonship, to be joint heirs with Him as the firstborn, the One who inherits all from the Father (Rom. 8:16-17). And He did all this for us for no other reason than the “good pleasure of His will” (Eph. 1:5,9). Or, to put it bluntly, because He wanted to.
But as overwhelming as all this may seem, there’s something even more amazing.
Christ Has Longings
Jesus, as God Himself, doesn’t have needs. How could He? For to have needs would imply that He is lacking something that must be supplied by someone else. For Jesus to have needs or longings or desires means He was incapable of being all-powerful and all-sufficient. Somehow, He comes up lacking. And God cannot lack anything.
But Jesus does say in His Word that He has a desire. And the object of that desire should again, take your breath away. Why? Because the object of Christ’s desires and longings is— you. That’s right, Jesus longs for those He loves and those He redeemed. Look at what Jesus said in His last prayer before the cross:
“Father, I desire (or, will, wish, purpose, seek, crave) that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, (why) that they may behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world” (John 17:24).
Did you read His words? Do you see what the longing, the desire, the craving of our Lord is? It’s for you and me to be with Him in heaven, where He is. And why would He want us with Him? Jesus said, “that they may behold My glory” (John 17:24). Jesus wants us, His friends, to come to His home that He is preparing for us (John 14:2) to behold His glory given Him by His Father. That’s an honor reserved for only the closest of family. And Jesus offers it to you and me.
Again, why? Because He wanted to. Because He felt like it. Because it made Him happy. Because He could. Just think, we are “chosen in Him before the foundation of the world” (Eph. 1:4) for no other reason than Christ wanted us to be with Him where He is (John 17:24).
That’s how much we are loved and chosen in Him.
What Do I Do Now?
So, tell me what problems you have that compare to this blessing? Tell me what you lack in this life compared to what you already possess in Him? You are the Almighty, Sovereign, Eternal God’s friend (John 15:15). You are His chosen child (Rom. 8:16-17), His special possession (1 Cor. 16:19-20). You have been redeemed by the blood of Jesus Himself (1 Pet. 1:18-19).
That’s who you are. And we have only looked at one verse, Colossians 1:15. Take a look at what else is in store for us:
Colossians 1:16-17 – For by (or, through) Him (Jesus) all things (or, the whole, in totality, all without exception, the entire, absolutely all, each and every one) were created (or, to produce from nothing) that are in (or, at, with the primary idea of rest) 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. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist.
But we’ll look at these verses next time.